We all have those books we’re forced to read. Sometimes we love them, and sometimes we hate them. This week’s Top 10 Tuesday is about those books. I chose to make my list into the Top 10 Most Memorable books I was forced to read. And this week, they’re in order.
10. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I was supposed to read this one twice. Once for sophomor honors English in high school, and once in one of my literature classes in college. I will now admit that I am a terrible English major and still have never read this. Every few years I give it another go. Still haven’t managed it. Maybe it’ll happen one day.
9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig. My father swears by this book and has been tyring to get me to read it since I was a kid. A few years ago I took a literacy and technology class and we read it in there. Except that I only read half of it. I don’t know if it was my issue with the book itself, or the problem that I couldn’t find the purpose for reading in the particular context in which I found myself. This is another one of those that maybe I’ll come back to someday.
8. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. I went hunting for my copy of this book not long ago and I couldn’t find it. I remember that the cover was a light purple color. I remember that I read it for American Studies in high school. And I finished this one, but I couldn’t tell you at all what it was about. Clearly it didn’t make an impression.
7. Who Really Killed Cock Robin by Jean Craighead George. This is the only book I remember reading in middle school, and it was my first really clear memory when it comes to content areas using young adult literature to help student make connections between content areas. If I recall correctly, we read Who Really Killed Cock Robin in reading class, but talked about the ecological aspects in science. At the end we made up a chant to answer the question about who really killed the cock robin. DDT, PCB, Mercury and the sparrow. I could do it for you, but I embarass myself enough on the internet, thanks. [Edit: I totally didn’t remember the author until I looked it up. I loved Julie of the Wolves]
6. Dubliners by James Joyce. I read this in ENG 201 at Purdue. It was my first semester as an English major. I loved my professor so much that I ended up taking Medeival literature as an elective. I didn’t like the entire collection of short stories, but connected particularly to “A Painful Case,” so much that I tend to go back to that particular story whenever I’m feeling particularly downtrodden about interpersonal relationships.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I hated this book in high school. And here’s the hilarious thing: I still have my annotated copy from 11th grade American Studies. In my last reread, right before the movie came out, I could see how far I’ve come as a critical reader since then, as I felt like I missed obvious support for the arugment I was trying to make in the paper I wrote. Annotating is interesting like that. Oh, and yes, I liked the Baz Luhrmann movie. Both of Gatsby and the next on the list.
4. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare. When people ask my why they have to read Romeo & Juliet, because you know, Shakespeare’s like hard and stuff, I have to respond with, we all should read it because the story has become a huge part of modern culture. How, you may ask? Well, how about Eleanor & Park? Or Warm Bodies? (Oh, this is so R&J. If you didn’t catch it, you need to read/watch again.) Or New Moon, even. Personally, I like being in on the inside joke.
I do sometimes wonder about the practice of memorizing lines. No one every explained why we do that. Though I will say that having memoriezed a few choice passages became advantagous when writing about R&J. It meant I wrote lines like “For never was a story of more stupid teenage instalove” or “Let’s do as holy palmers do / my lips won’t take their sins from you” without having to look anything up.
3. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. This is another one of those inside joke situations. That, and I love Elizabeth Bennet. I love the jokes, I love Mr. Bennet’s sardonic sense of humor, I even love Mrs. Bennet’s over the top ridiculousness. I mean, really? How vexed can one get? Yeah, this one is referenced in the above song, too.
Here’s where things get hairy. How do I decide? How do I decide? How do I decide?
How about I don’t. The last two are tied for first place. And they are Kindred by Octavia Butler and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.
I was made to read Kindred in my Women in Literature class in college. This was the only book I read in its entirity in that entire class. I can still picture the classroom. And the seat I sat in — back row, second column from the wall. Crazy what books can make us rememeber. It was also the first book that I read that gave me permission to be black and into science fiction. Before Kindred, I felt like sci fi was a white people club, and I was strange for enjoying things like Star Wars and Superman comics. So Kindred holds a special place in my heart.
Siddhartha also holds a special place in my heart. It was the first book I remember reading that was the right book at the right time. Western literature. Senior year of high school. I was struggling with my faith — between the thoughts that I had and what I was coming to believe, and my upbringing. I read Siddhartha and it told me that it’s okay not to know. It’s okay to go looking for faith. And it’s okay to circle back to something that I’d seen and not given much thought to. I found comfort in that, and still find comfort in that.
Except that I lent out my best copy to someone I don’t talk to anymore. Maybe it’s time to get a new one. One of the blue ones I can carry around in my pocket. It might be time to read it again.
So those are the Top 10 books that I was made to read that made any kind of impression on me. What are yours? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you there soon. Until then, happy reading and don’t forget to be awesome.