Cover to Cover: It’s time to revisit those books from high school

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but school will be back in session before you know it! In homes throughout your neighborhood, there are parents who are making sure they’ve bought their child enough school supplies, teachers who are putting the finishing touches on their lesson plans, and diligent students who are carefully reviewing their reading lists…

Okay, okay. That last one is obviously a work of fiction. No student would spend his or her last few moments of freedom doing schoolwork before the academic year begins. After all, everyone knows the first day of class is “syllabus day.” I certainly didn’t spend the final days of summer break preparing for school. If anything, my friends and I spent our time out by the campfire, dreading the thought of having to return. 

But while you may not have been studious in your high school years, I challenge you to consider going back to the books you read (or should have read) in high school. It might seem rather trivial to run backwards towards those texts you read so long ago, but the truth is many of these books were not intended for adolescent audiences in the first place. That’s right! When F. Scott Fitzgerald penned his American classic, The Great Gatsby, he likely did not intend for it to become a go-to for eleventh grade English classrooms.

Now that some time has passed—now that you’ve accumulated more life experiences that have no doubt made you wiser—you’ll find that you can better appreciate the more mature themes of Fitzgerald’s work.

Last summer, at the insistence of a mentor and close friend, I accepted this challenge for myself. I re-read a book that was loathed by many of my fellow classmates: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Truthfully, I’m glad I took the time to revisit this one. When we’re in high school, we’re told to dream big—to consider what we want our life to look like in 10 or 20 years. Unfortunately, it isn’t until we step out of the comforts of high school that we can properly assess the obstacles in our way, and understand just how difficult they are to overcome. Many times, these unforeseen obstacles cause us to re-evaluate and re-route whatever plan we mapped out by our senior year.

It was the addition of those new life experiences that made Steinbeck’s themes of adversity, loneliness and companionship much more meaningful when reading it a second time.

George and Lennie’s dream was a modest one: to own a small acreage and live off the fat of the land. While our dreams are often more complex, the challenges of life are just as daunting. Thus, our empathy for Steinbeck’s characters—our ability to connect with their strife—gets stronger as we continue to grow.

So, if you’re out of ideas on what to read, do yourself a huge favor and snag a high school student’s reading list. Pull out a copy of the story you hated the most and see if the animosity has vanished.

Take a trip to the Laurens County Library System and check out one of the novels you never actually took the time to read. On that note, I must confess to Mrs. Lyon: I did not read one single page of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, opting to watch the 1996 film adaptation instead. Maybe that’s what I’ll read next!

 

(Graham Duncan is a graduate of Clinton High and Lander University. He works as a staff writer at Lander, and is pursuing a master’s at Converse College. He can be reached at gduncan@lander.edu.)

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