I was talking with a coworker last week about those books that everyone read in high school. You know them. They include To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Animal Farm, Catcher in the Rye, etc. All of those, for the record, I did read. And unlike many of my classmates, if we were assigned a book, I read it, cover to cover. It is interesting to me to think about what made these books not only become best sellers, but what made them so adored by high school english teachers around the country. Or, if not adored, what made those same high school teachers realize their importance?
I understand that most of them are classics of American or English literature, but it still seems like a huge coincidence that everyone I have ever spoken to had to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school. I wish high schools branched out more in their selection of texts. While colleges definitely do this, I feel like I could have been introduced to some of my favorite writers much sooner if high school had helped me along.
While I did love most of the books we read in high school, I would never have been introduced to two of my favorite authors if I had stuck to syllabus reading: Michael Chabon and Barbara Kingsolver. I feel that high school syllabi ignore newer authors because they know that the older things are classics, where as choosing a newer novel and author is almost guessing at what will be a classic in thirty years. But who cares????
My favorite english teacher in high school, Mrs. G., taught us her favorite book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. LET ME TELL YOU. A) no one else I know read that book in high school, or at all B) that book is amazing y’all, and I still remember Mrs. G. teaching us the meaning of the word fecundity. If that isn’t good teaching, I don’t know what is.
I guess the whole theme of this post was just to rant about high school english classes and how structured they are. Oh, and the book that everyone read in high school but I somehow missed? Catch-22. What is that even about?