Atlas Shrugged

Posted on Sep 27, 2011


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Atlas Shrugged was the 8th book in my summer book project.  Wow!  Wow!  This book completely blew my mind.  I hadn't expected that at all.  When I picked up this brick of a book with 1084 pages, my first thought was that I was in for a mighty long haul.  I hadn't read a book this large since Infinite Jest and I'm still scarred from that experience.  

 

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I was skeptical when I sat down and opened to page one, but after only a few sentences, I was hooked.  Hooked like mad.  I couldn't put this tome down.  It consumed my whole life and my husband got very, very tired of me commenting on any and all subjects with "that is so very Atlas Shrugged".  

 

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Who is John Galt?  This simple question drives the story.  The story follows Dagny Taggart, the head of the biggest railroad company in the nation.  Dagny, a tough, no nonsense industrialist, is on a quest to make her railroad even greater while all around the nation important industrialists start disappearing.  The folks left in charge start promoting propaganda stating that the worst things you could do are think and make a profit.  Quickly the nation and the world begin a downward spiral that it can't recover from.  

 

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This epic battle between the free thinking industrialists and the sheep of the nation (who are content to die because they can't bring themselves to do anything that would help keep them alive) was riveting.  I saw so many parallels to things happening in this day and age.  From the world political stage to the microcosm of my job, it was eerie how similar themes and ideas where to this story written in 1957. On a personal level, it's helped me re-evaluate my work philosophies and helped me realize why I always find myself extending myself more than I should.  Caring more than I should.  Do things that aren't my job because they need to be done and nobody else will do them.  This book has helped me see how I'm enabling folks, so they don't have to do their jobs and they can remain indifferent. And while I still go above and beyond too often, I now have an inner peace about my actions.  I'm conscious of my decisions and have a better handle on when to accept more.  I'm also having an easier time say no.  A word that has been so hard for me to utter in the past, now has a positive purpose to help keep me a bit more sane and not try to take on the world.

 

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I'm glad I didn't read this book when I was younger.  I had read The Fountainhead when I was 15.  I loved the book, but now I'm thinking if I re-read it at 37 I'd get much more from it.  Much would have been lost on me if I had read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager.  Having been in the workforce for over 20 years, I have that experience to draw from to really understand the themes and philosophies of Atlas Shrugged.  I re-read more passages in this book than any other.  I also slowed way down when reading because I wanted to savor every word.  It was really that great of a book.  I'm definitely a different person after reading it and I have a much more positive outlook on life.

 

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 Physically this was a hard book to read.  It was very ragged at the start, but it got more ragged as I read because of the very thin fragile pages.  This was another book that I had to read with two hands.

 

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I've deduced that this book is actually my husband's and not mine.  Since we've lived together for 17 years, our books have co-mingled for ages.  He thinks an ex-girlfriend made him read this book.  She is a very smart woman!

 

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I know it's a big time investment, but I really hope everyone reads this book.  The great thing is: it's a total page turner.  It has a who-dun-it quality to it that makes it hard to put down.  The story is great; it's even better because of its moral.  

 

7 Comments

  1. Honestly I’ve never been interested in Ayn Rand’s novels for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the length. I’m a big fan of clean, economical writing. When so little says so much. Secondly, her work and ideas have been co-opted by the Tea Party fringe of the country and that puts me off as well. After reading your review though I’m really intrigued by its accessibility and its relevance to your life. No promises that I’ll read it though. I’m just more open. Perhaps if a new edition inserts a vampire or zombie or GBTL character? (kidding!)

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  2. @Danifesto: You’ll be happy to know that Rand was a big fan of clean, economical writing as well. The book is long because of the volume of information it has to convey, not because it contains long, obtuse sentences or unnecessary filler.
    As for the Tea Party, Rand’s work is co-opted my many groups and individuals that don’t fully grasp it. They seem to pick a few ideas that they like and latch on, completely oblivious to the fact that other (often more fundamental) ideas in her work are antithetical to the ones they espouse. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

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  3. @Jonathan Powers; I don’t know, John Galt’s 59 page speech might be a little long-winded. just a bit.

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  4. Canto, Galt’s speach is the summation of Rand’s philosophy, it provides a philosophical stance and the basic background of it as well as it’s applicability to life. What Galt said in 59 pages took Aristotle dozens of books. Consider the philosophical tomes of Plato or Kant, where entire books of obtuse writing never manage to present a clear, let alone rational, philosophy.

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  5. I recommend the audio book version.

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  6. George – I put the audio version on my Christmas gift list, because that’s the only way my husband will read the book and I really want him to read it. I also would love listen to it all over again.
    Danifesto – I agree with Jonathan, while the book is huge, there really isn’t unnecessary filler. I never felt the need to scan pages like I will with other books. The book is so fast paced, that you just can’t wait to see what happens next. I think you would love it.
    John Galt’s speech is often talked about in a dreaded fashion and it is very long. But I looked at it as the thesis statement of the book. Rand does such a great job of making the story entertaining, that I think it’s valuable that she has a spot to really put down her philosophy and state what changes need to be made to create a better world. I think the book would lose a lot without the speech.

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  7. Also, the speech is part of the action and moves the story forward. As do all the speeches in the book–in fact, the intellectual dialog is never just tacked on in any of her novels.

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