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How many times have you read Atlas Shrugged?

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Three times. The first time in high school, about ten years ago, and I didn't really absorb much of it. The second time about three years later, when I really understood the idea of the intellectual strike. The third time about two years ago.

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Probably about half a dozen times as straight through readings. I've been known to simply read the first few chapters of Part III in isolation as self-administered psychotherapy also.

Fairly recently, I decided to read a chapter a day just for the hell of it (note: If you try this, time this so as to have Chapter 7, part III, be on a day you have lots of time, like a weekend). I oftentimes fell asleep while doing the reading (I read in bed), but would finish the chapter off off the next day and at least *start* a chapter a day. Shortly after that an Atlas Shrugged Reading Group started and before too long, enough time had elapsed since my Atlas Shrugged Month that I found myself needing a refresher as to plot details, so I picked up somewhere late in Part I and read it again... It will probably be a couple of years before I do it again.

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Once.

I couldn't get through it a second time. I really couldn't. I loved the Fountainhead, but Atlas Shrugged isn't among my favorite books. For me, it's simply impossible to get through the book. I understand that she's trying to get messages across with Atlas Shrugged, but for me it's like she's preaching to the choir, and it gets boring and feels dragged out at times. The first time I read it, I couldn't put it down, but the second time really wasn't enjoyable and I decided not to finish it.

However, it's still extremely good for what Jolie does. I love dipping into it and grabbing quotes or random passages at times.

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I've read Atlas once and listened to it once, ten years apart.

 

The first time was a mind-blown experience, but much of it I simply accepted, treating Rand as a kind of god. This was likely due to my only-recent exit of a religious upbringing. I also felt like the book was too long, with Rand repeating herself throughout to drive the message home.

 

The second time I read(/listened to) the book was more of an inspiration. After ten years' extra experience filtered through Rand's ideas, Atlas was much more relatable. Instead of her ideas making sense in theory, many of them I had experienced firsthand. For example, in various work environments, I had seen egalitarian business and employee policies crash and burn many times, while ideas rewarding personal employee responsibility had made daily operations a breeze in comparison. Likewise, in the news, US political shenanigans all but mirrored the fictional ridiculousness Rand had created in Atlas' politics. I had always related to Dagny most, and with the second read through, even more so. Also, my respect for Rand grew after recognizing more of her insight. I think she accomplished what she aimed for, which was to articulate an idealized version of people, at their best. It really was an inspiration to read, and put me in a great mood.

 

One negative I took away after the second read, however, was character development and differentiation. I suppose you could sit and list the differences in Rand's characters, but when reading through, they seem to blend into one "hero" character (with the villains doing the same). Maybe this is due to her idealized treatment of the heroes - nobody had a temper, for example. This could explain why I thought Dagny and Rearden were the most memorable, since they were conflicted for most of the book. While her romantic, idealized character treatment is inspirational, at times it is also unrelatable. Given the choice, however, I'll take the former, since I have so few other choices besides Rand. (An example of a benevolent treatment of characters who nevertheless remain at times conflicted and "human," see author Nevil Shute.)

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Not one for fiction, I have only read Atlas Shrugged once, and only two years ago. Prior to a full reading, I read the Sparks Notes years earlier, then read Rand's non-fiction works, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Atlas Shrugged is a epic, and it is likely I will re-read it soon. I have re-read the "I am John Galt" speech several times. I found the Sparks Notes helpful as a guide to greater understanding. I have never been disappointed with a novel that is well-written, even when I know the ending. On films, the opposite is true; I can't stand plot-spoilers.

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I've read it once and listened to the audio book once.   Coincidentally, I also just purchased this book over the weekend:  Who is John Galt?: A Navigational Guide to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

I had seen a lot of the source material for this book in searching online.  It started from a book-club reading that launched a long forum discussion and then the authors turned it into a book.  So far it is an interesting read-- seems well researched... Kinda like an extreme version of "Cliff Notes" but with more detail, discussion and depth... (so far).  

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I've read it 4 times since the 90's. The first time, I found myself reading it, relating to it most from Dagny's perspective. The second, from Francisco's perspective. It was the third time before I actually read Galt's speech, having skimmed though it the prior 2.

 

In all cases, it has been like looking around and seeing the world in which we are in from page one. Upon finishing it, I close the book, look around, and realize I just finished to book to wind up on page 1 again.

 

While I can no longer be surprised by Eddie's dining partner any more, the contrast between the former employee of the 20th Century Motor company and Dagny along with the other myths surrounding the legend involved, the coal and wood burning engine substitutions with their repercussions, just to allude to a couple few, show the complexity and depth provided to work with,. This depth and complexity is not only in her fiction, but her non-fiction as well.

 

Perhaps it is time to revisit "The Fountainhead".

 

Edited: struck out, added.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Of related interest:

 

The One Hundred Books Facebook Users Love

The Atlantic – 9/8/14

 

Rand’s books did not make the top 100. If you click on the graph, you will see there is noted correlation of mentions of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which is to be expected. Other noted correlations of The Fountainhead in the graph are: Kane and Abel, The Godfather, Shantaram, and Midnight’s Children. So perhaps fiction readers here would also value those four books.

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