By Sue Moore
Who has the time or the inclination to read 100 books of the greatest classics known to mankind? For one, Rick Rafferty, formerly of Schoolcraft, now of Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. Over a period of eight years, from 2003 to 2011, Rafferty peeled off such tomes as Virgil’s Aeneid and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
It started when Rafferty’s mother, Nancy, gave his daughter Diana a gift of W. John Campbell’s list of 100 World Classics when she was entering high school. The volume summarizes the chosen classics and reads something like Cliff’s Notes, used by many in their college courses to just get through school. Diana never read many of these books on the list, but her dad, being a 6th grade teacher in Fort Thomas, Ky., had some big blocks of time available. What the heck, he thought, he could wade through the list.
His mother, a resident of Schoolcraft and long-time librarian, had steeped her children in good books from an early age. It didn’t mean that Rafferty had read many of them, and if he did, he said he certainly needed a refresher reading of the likes of Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, or even the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.
He read them all in hard copy, obtained through the Campbell County Public Library. “I would read a few and before I knew it, I was done,” he said. “I haven’t read that many books since, spending most of my reading online with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Time magazine, and National Geographic.”
The kids in his 6th grade Modern World Culture class at Highlands Middle School think his accomplishment is either “nerdy” or “cool,” depending on whom he talks to. “I often read out loud, parts of the Iliad, especially the gory parts, because the boys’ ears will perk up. I like to motivate the kids with a love of reading. Now they can get the Hunger Games and Harry Potter on their Mac books, which keeps them interested.”
Among the works that Rafferty most enjoyed reading: Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, “opened my eyes to the peace that can come with slowing down and enjoying nature.” The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. “The characters and battle between good and evil were thrilling.” 1984, George Orwell: “Too many of the themes of this book are found in today’s society. I’ll leave it at that.” There were many more he listed in an interview he did with the Campbell County library for a story published in its August newsletter.
He felt that all of Shakespeare’s works were tough to get through. “The language is so dense that it becomes very difficult to understand the plot, much less the insights he gives us.” The works he least enjoyed were the girlie ones by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.
Rafferty is married to the former Mary Wagner of Vicksburg, the daughter of Betsy and Don Wagner. They have lived in Fort Thomas for many years, where Mary serves as president/CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital’s Foundation.