If you were a kid in high school, odds are you were required to read certain books. Usually, those books were chosen by your teacher and adhered to a specific curriculum. The books were usually classic novels from the canon of respected literature. Overall, people across the country, and maybe even the world were required to read the same books. From The Great Gatsby to Huckleberry Finn, we were exposed to the same material, for the most part.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my high school reading experiences. When discussing classics with my coworkers and friends, I often feel left out of the conversation because I wasn’t able to read some of the classics they read in school. For example, I didn’t read Toni Morrison until my last semester of college. I never had even heard of Morrison before college! That’s blasphemy to the highest degree and I’m ashamed to admit it.
Some of the classics my friends and coworkers had read like The Scarlet Letter, 1984, Catch-22, and Brave New World, I’d never read. Whenever one of these novels came up in conversation, I couldn’t join in.
Now, as an adult, post-school, I’ve decided to try some of these novels. Now, I’m reading 1984 and to be completely honest, I’m not sure I could have done it before now. It starts out slow and as a high school student, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. Today, it’s been sold out everywhere and has gained more significance as Orwell has supposedly predicted the future in the age of “alternative facts”.
So, looking back, I do wish I had been exposed to different literary options in school. I wish I had known about Toni Morrison before college and read some classics then, but I’m glad that I didn’t read books like 1984 until now. I think I can appreciate it more and understand it better than I would have then.