The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else, by Christopher R. Beha
Published: 2009 by Grove Press
I seem to be drawn to these “project” memoirs, where someone takes on some grand goal over the course of a year and then writes about it. Some of them have been more interesting than others (A.J. Jacobs is the best, in my opinion), but at the very least I find it admirable that one has the discipline to carry out such undertakings.
I am especially impressed with Christopher Beha’s quest to read over the course of one year the entire Harvard Classics, a selection of great books of literature intended to fit on a five-foot shelf. While a challenge in itself, it is compounded by the illness and death of a close family member and Beha’s own health emergency which, as a cancer survivor, he does not take lightly. Heavy on Greek and Latin works, and with a seemingly appropriate volume on medical-themed texts, the Classics provide Beha a respite from all that was going on in his life and in a way gave him some comfort:
Reading these words that others had set down while they suffered and before they were gone made things easier for me.
This is a serious memoir, and also encouraging. Not all of us have the time to undertake an entire collection of great books, but Christopher Beha does make a good case for reading them.
I read this book for the What’s in a Name Challenge 4, for the category “Book with a size in its title”.