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There may be some irony in Don Quixote also. This is an example of an author writing a story about a man who was outcast because of his interest in books. As Quixote abandoned all work and "normalities" in life in order to buy and read more adventure stories, he was chastized by his peers for his lack of effort in daily living.
This ideal is of course different also. We now live in a society where a dedication to reading and studies is normal for a large portion of our population. As Jamie said in her previous post, there are certainly just as many people who are influenced by various pieces of writing, but that has almost become the norm today. Take a walk through your local B&N and see how shelves of self-help books you can find. Or, I could tell you just how many I have on my shelves at home on just golf!
All of the lessons the Don learns about being chivalrous come from books, specifically the fabulous tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The influence of these tales was widespread. The code of chivalry espoused nine basic tenets: prowess, justice, loyalty, defense, humilty, courage, faith, largesse, and nobility.
Although Don Quixote carries his beliefs about righteous living to the extreme, I would argue that books on how to live are just as influential today as they ever have been. A look at the titles and topics of today New York TImes Bestselling Advice Books bears this out (5/30/07):
1. THE SECRET, by Rhonda Byrne
2. THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
3. REPOSITION YOURSELF, by T. D. Jakes
4. THE EXCEPTIONAL PRESENTER, by Timothy J. Koegel
5. YOU: ON A DIET, by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz et al
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