Okay, so I’ve been putting off this post for a good while because…well…I literally didn’t finish Utopia until last night. I started it ages ago, and then left fifty pages for who-knows-what. My goodness. I’m in this weird slump where I always leave a book without having read the last fifty pages or so. Isn’t that strange?
Anyway, I really wanted to write a post on Utopia, so I sat down last night and began to type. I soon remembered, however, how I had a little chunk to read, and I suddenly felt very, very guilty. So, like any self-respecting book-blogging person, I decided to stay up until midnight to finish Utopia. I can’t say the experience was very pleasant, because that would really just be a lie. The thing is, no matter how good a book truly is, reading the last chunk after you’ve taken a two-week break from it is never, ever fun. But that’s okay; at least I learned a lesson!
Alrighty then! Let me tell you all about Utopia:
This book was first published in 1516 by Sir Thomas More, also known by some as Saint Thomas More. Sir Thomas More’s own story is perhaps almost as interesting as the one he documents in his book, so even if you aren’t going to read Utopia, I definitely recommend looking up Thomas More and reading about him!
Now, most everyone, at least in the English-speaking part of the world, throws around the word ‘utopia’ without really knowing what it means or where it came from. I was astounded to hear that the word ‘utopia’ that we use quite often actually originated from this book. Utopia literally means ‘no place’, indicating that the perfect world we always envision is impossible here on earth.
Utopia is told through conversations. In the first book, we are introduced to Raphael Nonsenso and his way of thinking. In the second book, Raphael tells us all about Utopia and describes the Utopian way of life. I enjoyed the first book more than the second book, which is a little funny since the meat of the story is in the second part, but I found Raphael’s little anecdotes from the first part very interesting. In addition, I thought that the first part of Utopia exuded a tone of reproach. Thomas More was not a yes man, and it’s pretty obvious from not only the things he did in real life, but also from how he wrote his book that he found many aspects of England problematic. The first book of Utopia may have addressed a few of these aspects, and I found More’s take on their resolution very fascinating.
So the question posed once I ‘finished’ reading Utopia was, “Would you like to live in Utopia?” The answer did not take much thinking: NO WAY. Funny, isn’t it? Thomas More, in creating a ‘perfect world’ somehow made me desire never to live in it. That ties into the fact that a utopia is impossible, because you can never make on thing perfect without slighting another. I think I read this book at a very appropriate time, seeing as I’ve been kind of thinking about a world, or place where certain characteristics don’t exist. And maybe, due to our current climate, I’m not alone. But Utopia was a gentle reminder that, as bad a things are, it’s important to try to fix what you can in whatever location you’ve been placed, just as Thomas More tried to affect the people of England towards some sort of improvement.
I must say, Utopia impressed me. It’s a very small book, only 113 pages, but packed full with. the most interesting ideas and opinions. If you’d like to pick up this book, I recommend getting the Penguin Classics edition, because the translation (Utopia was originally written in Latin) is very clear and easy to read, and the book itself contains notes in the back that allow you to better understand the context of certain scenes. Thomas More was writing to a public that would easily recognize many Greek and Roman myths, orators, and historical figures, but since we’ve mostly lost that touch, the notes section in this edition is very, very helpful.
Utopia, was, without a doubt, either a ‘closet’ book or a ‘beneath my bed’ book. Everyone should have a copy at home – it’s a classic that no one talks about anymore, and I’m very, very grateful to have had the opportunity to read it. If you are extremely confused as to what I’m talking about in terms of this book being a ‘closet’ book, check the infographic down below and realize that I am sometime a little…crazy. But it’s all good…I think.
If you’ve read Utopia, do let me know in the comments what you thought and whether you liked it or not! Also, I’d love to know if there are any other books like Utopia that are worth a read! Finding good books to read is oddly difficult for me, so I’m always open to suggestions!