Monday, January 12, 2009

Musing Mondays: Assigned Reading

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about assigned reading

How did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/university/college/etc? How do you think on these books now? What book were you 'forced' to read when you where in school that you've since reread and loved?

In junior high and high school, I wasn't fond of assigned reading. I hated it in fact! That doesn't mean I wasn't crazy about reading. I was. But none of the books really appealed to me. Treasure Island? 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? A Separate Peace? Death Be Not Proud? The Old Man and the Sea? Silas Marner? Great Expectations? Robinson Crusoe? Pilgrim's Progress? The Sun Also Rises? The Great Gatsby? The Glass Menagerie? Wuthering Heights? Frankenstein?

None of them really appealed to me. Most I've blocked out completely. And I do mean completely. Others I just remember very vaguely*. I hated the forcefulness of it. The essay questions. The quizzes. The finding symbolism in every single bottle of ketchup or cobweb.

In college, I was an English major. I got a bachelor's and master's degree in English literature. So from 1997-2001, my life was all about assigned reading. The thing is that I liked it then. I loved it even. Taking three or four literature classes at once, I can see how it might be challenging. But when you love what you do, it doesn't seem that big of a load. Of course, it helps that I love to read. And that I've always been a fast reader. That I've got a fairly-good-memory. That I learned how to spin essays to my advantage.

The ONLY book I've gone back to--from high school days--that I've since read and loved is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read that once in highschool, once as an undergraduate, twice as a graduate student. Assigned all four times. It wasn't until graduate school that I really and truly fell in love with the book. It is now one of my favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite books.

I've read Pilgrim's Progress as an adult and enjoyed it. But it's not like I love, love, love it or anything. Not that it will get a read-again-again-again status.

I've got Silas Marner and Robinson Crusoe on the repeat list. I'm going to see if I still feel the same way I did in high school or if I've grown up and grown to appreciate them.

*(Pip. Esther. Row boat. Crazy old lady. Wedding Dress. Attic.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

We have quite a similar answer! :) I too read and loved Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," which completely surprised me. I always enjoyed assigned reading but didn't really find the pleasure in it until college, where I also majored in English. I once took a class on Eudora Welty, a class on Philip Roth, a British lit and Shakespearean class all in the semester, and I don't think I've had as much fun reading since! I thrived off the "pressure" to read so many great works so quickly -- and at once. I miss those days, actually! :)

Anonymous said...

Book gifts from friends can sometimes feel like assigned reading and I have to fight to keep an open mind. - Lisa from Phoenix

Jennie said...

Hmmm. I wasn't a fan of assigned reading in Jr. High, but I liked it in High School. I mean, I didn't like all the books I had to read, but I liked most of them. Then again, I had some cool English teachers. I really got into my assigned reading in college. I think this was because I was a history major, so taking a lit class and getting to read fiction was a major treat.

Anonymous said...

I loved high school reading because I thought that reading the same book as 25 other young adults at the same time was pretty neat. My boyfriend at the time never understood the books, and I found them so easy to understand. He was really bright in science and I wasn't, so I loved having my own few moments in the spotlight when I was just as magically brilliant and intelligent as he was. I really liked listening to what other kids thought, and I was frequently stunned by how much difficulty they had completing the reading of a few chapters because I found it so easy. I haven't, however, gone back and re-read any high school books intentionally - have revisited a few when my son had to also read them! He hated Margaret Atwood. I didn't mind her at all, but looking at it with him, I realized that her book wouldn't really appeal to a boy.
Great question. Thanks for the thought provoker!

Anonymous said...

I'm sick - I *loved* assigned reading! "You're making me read? Be cruel to me some more!"