This afternoon, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “13 books from high school worth rereading as an adult.” Having survived the stress of navigating Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, in and around the recent resessioning of the public (and private?) schules, I was strung tight and skimmed through the article.
The list of the 13 books is:
- THE JUNGLE – UPTON SINCLAIR
- THINGS FALL APART — CHINUA ACHEBE
- THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
- LORD OF THE FLIES — WILLIAM GOLDING
- THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD — ZORA NEALE HURSTON
- 1984 — GEORGE ORWELL
- BELOVED — TONI MORRISON
- GIOVANNI’S ROOM — JAMES BALDWIN
- FRANKENSTEIN — MARY SHELLEY
- TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD — HARPER LEE
- FAHRENHEIT 451 — RAY BRADBURY
- ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE — GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ
- THE HANDMAID’S TALE — MARGARET ATWOOD
I have to admit that it was the high schule teaser more than anything that cemented my attention. I have written previously about the nature of public education in Huntsville in the early ’60’s and how the better teachers were the ones without educational credentials. Some of the teachers, notably the teachers of grammar and literature did have educational credential because they were (almost) universally women and they were realists (at least in this regard) who knew the scant (vanishingly so) chances of making a living doing literature or syntax other than as a school teacher.
At the wrong end of over a half-century of Newtonian time, I have to admit to remembering few books assigned to be read in high school. One was “Moll Flanders” and it was assigned in a literature class. I can admit that I missed almost everything in the book because it was too orthogonal to my reality and too unengaging for my memory. I did learn some bits from the movie, and I have to also admit that I was too uninterested to even bother with the available cram books on this book. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t a science book or a science fiction book, my head wasn’t present in those days. In matter of fact, in retrospect, I likely was part of the majority since almost all the book reading assignments were student’s choice. In this azimuth, I remember Philip Jose Farmer’s “Dare” and struggling to ignore the parts that were too racy for Containment Amerika and the relief that the teacher either hadn’t read the book (probability of order 0.99) or at least didn’t call me out.
In terms of majority, many of my friends in high schule and college were of similar mind; we wanted even our fiction to be substantiated in reasonableness, if not fact. And too much of the literature offered by our literature teachers and non-NERD fellows just plain wasn’t. If anything, we practiced a depth of skepticism well beyond our years.
I don’t know how many of these books (above) were written after my high schule years. I can admit to reading a few:
- The Jungle – wasn’t assigned but I was intrigued by a reference to it in our high schule American history textbook;
- 1984 – I don’t recall when I read it, I think in college and then because it was recommended by a fellow student. Anyway, I have a distrust for IOT to this day;
- Fahrenheit 451 – I tried to read this. I failed. Totally orthogonal.
I have to admit to having heard of about half of the others, and trying to read them years later but failing. The universal seemed to be struggling to read the first chapter, putting the book down, and some time later disposing of it by returning to the library or giving it away or trading it at a used book store.
I also don’t blame the authors. My attention is quite narrow and definitely not biddable under many circumstances. I still marvel that I survived public schule. Between information throttling and dilution I still feel like a piece of Damascus steel.
This is one of the things that makes me glad I am ORF. I know the curriculum in public schools is much more totalitarian and less tolerant than in my day. And I weep for people who are INTRO and NERD.
And no, I still don’t expect to get anything out of re-reading those schule books. I’ll stick to simple stuff like physics and maths. In my mind, no one today can match the compositions of McCracken or Ruel Churchill, but I keep looking.