As an English major, I’m going to go ahead and be honest about how many reading assignments I skipped… none.
All right, so that seems a little fishy most likely, so I’ll go ahead and clarify that I did skip some poetry readings, journal articles, or literary criticism articles (I don’t remember which ones), and I definitely was guilty of doing some serious skimming at times. But I have always loved reading, and I usually didn’t have too much of a problem finishing up what was required of me, even if I didn’t read it as well as I should have.
So instead of selecting a book I was assigned and never read, I went with selecting a commonly read classic that is often assigned in school. I had several choices for this, there are lots of lists of canon high school reads (see for example this Goodreads one of which I’ve read 45). But I finally settled on one my father suggested, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
This book tells the story of two men looking for work in California while they dream of a better future on a farm of their own. Lennie is strong but utterly simple, he relies on George to direct their path, which George tries his best to do while dealing with the problems that Lennie has created in the past. Together they find work on a ranch, but even with their hopes of a better life ahead, there are still many obstacles in their way.
I started this book having only experienced Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, which I read in high school. I remembered not really caring for the book overall, but that was likely just my youth speaking, and I’d have to read it again to remember better. So, I went into reading Of Mice and Men thinking I’d probably hate it, only grateful it was short.
I’ve never been so wrong in my life.
This book has quickly become one of my favorites of all time. It’s short, true, but it’s incredibly poignant, and the story is simply incredible and touching. I nearly teared up sitting in the dentist waiting room with this one, which was more than a bit embarrassing. I fell in love with simple, naive Lenny and sympathized with George’s concerns for their future. And of course, I loved that it was an easy and uncomplicated read after finishing off Tender is the Night. This is definitely a book I’d encourage everyone to try. I think it has a beautiful story that should be shared with the world.
How often did you skip reading material required in school? What “classics” have you not managed to read? How would you choose to fulfill this challenge?