Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Faves #6 - Favorite Books I Read in School

I've decided that in 2012 I'm going to mix up my reading a little bit. I have two objectives. One, I want to read larger (500+ pages) books. Two, I want to read more baseball. I'll have more on the latter in the near future. In the meantime, I got underway on a large book which I figure I'll finish right around the new year. Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was a finalist for the National Book Award in Non-Fiction this year. Unfortunately, Mr. Marable also passed away this past spring.

I wanted to read this book because I really enjoyed The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I read it in high school. I questioned whether a biography was really necessary given Malcolm X's autobiography but so far, I'm enjoying Marable's work.

So that's what spawned today's faves. Here we go:

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. A hysterical novel on World War II. Most notable for the ridiculous characters. I passed down my copy to my son and it is one of his favorite books, too. Hopefully, he'll find a pdf to give to his children.

I've read some other Heller works and nothing even comes close.

2. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. One of the few plays I enjoyed reading in school.

3. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X. Just an eye-opening book for me in many ways. History, biography, cultural differences. I learned a lot from this book.

4. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Loved everything about this book. I think this was one of the more powerful books I read in school in terms of feeling like I got everything the author wanted me to get. Not an easy thing to achieve with a high schooler.

5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you're going to write one book, it might as well be awesome. This one also found its way to my son but he hates it. Must be his mother's genetics.

A rare case where the film and the book are equally excellent.

Honorable Mention:
Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare - I think it's a shame that kids are made to read Shakespeare before college. I just don't think it is possible for most kids to appreciate it and so they grow up thinking Willie is overrated. If we let kids mature a bit more and expose them to other literature, I think Shakespeare can be better appreciated. I know I couldn't stand anything but this and Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - I read this in eighth grade and it makes the cut because of Mercutio and a quote from the book. We had to memorize a section of the play and present it to class. Everyone did "Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou". Me? Strangely, I avoided the mainstream and went with a section involving Mercutio in Act II, Scene IV:
An old hare hoar
And an old hare hoar
Is very good meat in Lent.
But a hare that is hoar,
Is too much for a score.
When it hoars, ere it be spent.

And yes, I just typed that from memory.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - I grew up in a rural, somewhat wealthy area of Pennsylvania. It was a very homogeneous population. We had four African-Americans in the whole school during my time there, three in my class, one who ended up transferring to our rival school and then found his way to a reform school. This resulted in him being an answer to a trivia question I proposed during a three-team track meet - "Who is the only person competing today to have attended all three schools in the meet?". I digress.

My point is, much of my initial exposure to other cultures came from reading. I like to think that the powerful nature of books like this and Malcolm X's helped me be open minded and appreciative when I finally got out of my insulated environment.

That's the list. I definitely read more interesting things that I "had to" for high school than I did college. College English was horrible. Oh, I'll include a couple other things. Anything by Edgar Allen Poe (I had to read a lot of his work starting in junior high). And D.H. Lawrence's The Rocking Horse Winner. I'm sure you never would have expected that.

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