Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Report

Later in this post is the back story to how I came to have a degree in Literature without reading a lot of the classics.

Whenever I do one of those book memes, I feel a little twinge of regret. I mean, I have read many classics, but most of them voluntarily, and not part of any curriculum. I know some of the books on those lists are crap and don't qualify as literature, and some might be required reading in school but aren't really all that great. But there are some great reads that I've missed. So, I took a poll and asked some folks for suggestions. Some of them I'm going to skip, because I still don't believe in reading some books just to say I've read them. But I am mixing it up and reading great books because they sound great.

Recently finished:

In progress:

  • Animal Farm (via Google Books)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (loving it!)
  • In Cold Blood (Non-fiction. Found while I was digging around Google Books; read a good portion of it on preview. Now will have to buy it.)

In the line-up (pdf downloaded):

  • A Tale of Two Cities

Read in the past (in no way an exhaustive list; these were recently recommended, but I'd already read them):

  • Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion
  • The Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables, many short stories, including Young Goodman Brown and The Artist of the Beautiful (which made me cry). Writing this reminds me how much I love Hawthorne.
  • 1984
  • The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Chronicles of Narnia (over and over and over)
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys
  • Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Color Purple
  • lots of Shakespeare, some Kafka

Recommended, and planned (have to acquire them first):

  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Catch 22
  • The Bell Jar
  • As I Lay Dying
  • Wrinkle in Time and a Wind in the Door


  • The Giver
  • Edith Hamilton’s Mythology
  • Moby Dick

The Back-story continues after the cut

read to me

I have a Bachelor's degree in English Lit. I love to read. I don't recall ever learning to read - I just started reading, around the age of four. I started getting in trouble over my reading in first grade, when I was caught reading under the lid of my desk. (Yes, I went to school when they still had desks with lids that lifted up, and you stored your crayons, etc. inside.) I loved mysteries the most, starting with The Happy Hollisters, progressing to Trixie Belden, then Agatha Christie. (Not Nancy Drew so much.)

In 6th grade, at the beginning of the second semester, I transferred from a private school where I'd spent 2 semesters to a public middle school. I was plopped into "Reading," where the entire class read a selection from a reading textbook, then answered questions. No great literature there; in fact, I'd read the entire book for fun when I was about nine. (My paternal grandmother worked for an elementary school and always brought me copies of the books they were throwing away because they were too worn.) The class was co-taught by a pair of women, who were not happy with me when they saw me looking around the room when everyone else was reading. I swore that I'd: a) finished reading the selection in class and, b) had already read the entire book. They made me read it again, and again, I finished before the class.

That was the end of my time in 6th grade reading. Rather than put me into another reading class, I was shuffled off to one of the coolest pigeonholes ever: I was to be a Ditto Aide. (Yes, I went to Jr. High back when they still used mimeograph machines. There was one Xerox copier, but it was locked away and only used for office business.) The teachers had to use mimeographs for handouts, quizzes and tests, and there was a team of misfit students who ran the copies. After that, when people mocked the AV squad or other teams of their kind, I knew that they were just jealous.

I went on to another private school for 8th through 12th grade. Baptist school, where they would never, ever foist those terrible reading lists on the students. Heck, we barely read at all. I vaguely remember some poetry, and some Shakespeare. Oh, dear. And Beowulf and Pilgrim's Progress. But not a lot of lit. In fact, a couple of years after I graduated, they dropped "Lit" altogether, as well as anything resembling composition. Imagine the fun later graduating classes had if they managed to get into college! I'll save for another day the appalling, dare I say, abysmal, state of my science education.

Then I went to college. I do not recommend my academic path to anyone. I went to a Baptist college for one semester. Hated it, hated my roommates. It was almost a blessing when I found out that my mom was on bed rest from a back injury and I was more than happy to be inconvenienced and forced to move back home. I transferred to the only local college still accepting students for the next semester - a Church of Christ school. I got my AA there, and had, for the first time, a true, positive, academic experience. Then I went completely insane and went back to the Baptist college. Two semesters there, and I was ready to run. (I did make a wonderful friend there, someone I'm still friends with today (once we found each other again), so it wasn't a total loss. That, and the Abnormal Psychology in Literature class. I loved that class!)

Finally, I arrived at OU. I wanted to teach, and I had the majority of the core curriculum completed (I'd obviously lost some credits as well, transferring between the school), so I started taking the pre-education courses. I excelled at those, and loved them, only to be told that they were only accepting into the program minorities, males, and people who hadn't transferred in. (Swear!)

Distraught, I made my way to the Registrar's office. "What do I have the most credits in?" Literature. Many of the courses I'd taken at the religious schools had transferred as Literature. "Okay, then. Literature is my new major. What do I need to graduate?"

1 comment:

sharon said...

I want to encourage you to definitely read The Giver. I had my 8th graders read it for many years, and it was a favorite of mine to teach. Even though it is considered "young adult" fiction, it presents many interesting ideas. I think it is one of Lowry's best.

OU??? Is that by any chance Oakland University? If it is, I spent a very happy semester there. Would have liked to graduate from there, but moved to Lansing when I got married and had to transfer to MSU. Sigh. The things we do for love.