In my case, at least, my high school English literature classes were wasted on my youthful self.
During my junior year of high school, I'd discovered Stephen King, and I wanted to read almost nothing else. As a result, I generally failed to appreciate some of those assigned novels.
About the only "classic" author I consistently liked that year was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's writing has a universal appeal for young people. Even though his stories are set in the "Jazz Age" (which was already sixty years in the past even during my teenage years) his works resonated with me.
I don't think I was alone here in regard to my general disdain for the classics. Young readers failing to appreciate the classics is one of the oldest stories in the world.
But it's never too late to appreciate an old book. And when you haven't read it since 1985 or 1986, it's almost like reading a new book.
Here are some of the "old books" that I have recently reread or plan to reread in the near future:
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (I read this in the summer of 1985.)
- Nineteen eight-four by George Orwell (I did a book report on this in the year 1984, as it happens. And yes, I congratulated myself at the time for my sense of irony and timeliness. I reread 1984 about three years ago. I liked the book much better the second time around. I came to this more recent reading with a knowledge of history and politics that I did not have back in the year 1984, as a 16-year-old.)
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (This one is a lot easier to appreciate a middle-aged adult, by the way.)
- Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway (This was on my school-assigned summer reading list for 1984.)
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
- Native Son by Richard Wright (This was one of the few assigned summer reading list books that I actually enjoyed as a teenager. I recall the basic elements of the plot; but enough time has passed that I would enjoy rereading it.)
Are any high school/college-era classics on your "to read" list for the summer?