Original question from Quora:

Is Atlas Shrugged worth reading?

My Answer:

I believe Atlas Shrugged is very worth reading and I say that having recently finished listening through the entire audiobook 60 hour adventure.

However, a lot of people will trash Atlas Shrugged for two reasons, even if they won’t explicitly tell you why directly…

Let me explain.

The book is about ideas and to explain those ideas, Ayn Rand used characters and a world to illustrate her ideas. This is hard to do, but she pulls it off quite well.

Yet, she explains her ideas with a very strong viewpoint in a particular direction. She believes she is right and Objectivism is the answer to whatever the question was.

Rand is smart enough to realize you don’t just tell people you are right. Instead, you make them mad by showing them just how wrong the other side is.

Atlas Shrugged is designed to make people mad. Rand did this on purpose. That’s why it’s still relevant today.

Either you will be mad at how awful the looters are, or you will be mad at how selfish the heroes are for being greedy money-grubbing capitalists, or you will be mad that Rand threw your favorite thing - religion, politics, charity work, and everything else that isn’t creative capitalism under the bus.

So, it makes sense that people are still arguing about the book a half century later. She picked a fight with everybody.

That is the first reason.

Along the way, a strange thing happens with the characters. I think it’s more noticeable on the the audiobook version, but I’m sure people notice in print too (especially in part 3).

There is a lot of conversation in Atlas Shrugged. A lot. People are always talking.

That’s fine until…

Characters start lecturing. Like college lecturing. A lot. For days and days.

The heroes are the worst about this.

You will be having a conversation and then once character decides now is the time to explain the heroic nature of industrial capitalists and how socialist looters only seek to destroy the world with their endless “needs”.

It would be like if you were discussing something with the president in the oval office and he randomly transitions into the state of the union address (in its entirety) for no apparent reason.

It’s a bit bizarre and it culminates into one character giving the most epic monologue ever. It goes from long to ridiculous to absurd and then goes on for another couple hours of audio or something. It’s insane.

To me, I don’t take issue with the content of the ideas in these monologues so much as it breaks the suspension of disbelief. In audiobook format, I found myself thinking, “they are still talking? Wow.”

It felt unrealistic to me and in the epic speech, it felt like an extended college philosophy lecture that I didn’t sign up for.

I imagine the people in the book would have stopped listening at some point, but maybe not.

Based on that, I’m sure people don’t like many parts of the book because at times it makes some characters less believable and more like propaganda robots for Ayn Rand’s philosophy that decide to pop up like Clippy to give us advice on life the universe and everything.

Even with those critiques, I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged a lot. It’s worth an effort if only because it makes you think about the world in a different and interesting way.

-Brian

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