A recent conversation on Twitter reminded me that I have missed the, um, pleasure of reading many of the so-called classics to which many American high school students are subjected each year. For reasons I can’t remember, I signed up to take my sophomore English class in the summer before my tenth grade year. As an avid reader, I enjoyed the faster pace of the class and appreciated the lesser focus on grammar and spelling, which was always easy for me (the daughter of a former English teacher). I was so pleased with the experience that I took English every summer after that as well. The primary benefit to me at the time was that the absence of the English class in my schedule allowed me to take extra electives like art and music; perhaps that was the reason I took it in the summer to begin with. What I didn’t know was that it would also allow me to graduate early from high school, which is why I will never be sorry I did it. However, due to the time constraints of the summer schedule, I managed to avoid reading quite a few books which people tend to assume I’ve read, especially when they hear I’ve worked at both the local library and a large national bookstore.
If you presented me with a list of must-read classics I wouldn’t be shocked if I’d read even fewer than the average American, even though I’ve probably read more books in general than most Americans. I love to read, but I really despise analyzing books after reading them. I once tried to join a book group but never even made it past the first meeting. The book was so awful I can’t even remember the title of it, but I had nothing constructive to contribute to the conversation. Thanks to my summer English classes I have mostly been able to choose which classics I will read and which I will avoid. The two that came up in the conversation today were Jane Eyre and Moby Dick. I didn’t have to read them in high school or college; as a matter of fact I have no intention of ever reading either of them. Are there any books like this, which you feel like you “should have” read but haven’t?