51. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)
Dates: 2/11/20 – 3/20/20 (38 days)
Basic Plot: Some of the biggest industrialists in America disappear leaving their companies to fail.
Experience Before Reading: This is one of the only books on the list I knew nothing about. I had heard the name of the book before, but knew nothing of its plot. I knew Ayn Rand had some crazy philosophical thoughts, but I didn’t know what they were. My boyfriend claims it’s his favorite book and I know a few others who consistently praise it.
Takeaway: You want my honest opinion? Read it just like I did: with no context. Stop reading this post here and come back once you’re done. I won’t put heavy spoilers below, but still, it’s extremely impactful if you don’t know anything.
The 1,000 page book was most definitely a roller coaster. It took me a month to get through the first 30 pages, a week for the next 900, and another 10 days to get through the last 100. It starts so slowly, rapidly speeds up, and while the ending was certainly just as fast-paced there was one part of the book that was absolute torture to read through.
Okay, here comes the one spoiler: There’s a 56 page philosophical speech. It’s entirely abstract, no mention of other characters, not even any mention of the character giving the speech – just speech.
It. Was. Painful.
Remember the part when I said Ayn Rand had some crazy ideas? Here they were. Right there. For. Fifty. Six. Pages. Don’t get me wrong, they were interesting, but it was certainly beating a dead horse.
Pacing aside, the story line of this book was incredibly creative. Being that it’s over 60 years old, it aged actually pretty well – with the one exception being the descriptions of radical technology. What even was that laboratory lock??? Not very accurate, but I digress.
Regardless of your political or philosophical beliefs, these characters are so complex and beautifully written it’s very easy to attach to them. My boyfriend even pointed out one night while I had my nose buried in it that he said that he felt like I was hanging out with his friends without him. I’d particularly like to point out Dagny Taggert, she’s extremely human and quite frankly, badass.
Another character, Francisco d’Anconia, reminded me so much of men I had fallen in love with. From my current boyfriend to my first crush, he had so many qualities of them all that I often found myself subconsciously reading his lines in the voices of these men.
Whether you agree with Rand or not on her take on a better world, some of her words can leave you thinking. Because of that, I did pay attention for lines that stood out to me. This is an excerpt from that speech and is actually a part of the same sentence that was much, much longer than what I transcribed here:
… Your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human – that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay …
… Your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live …p.933
All in all, this book jumped quickly up to one of my favorite books of all-time.
Would I Recommend It?: Who is John Galt?