Although we are hard pressed to think of a single drawback to Book Bingo, it is true that for some readers it calls forth unwelcome memories of required reading. Yet the popularity of bingo and similar reading challenges and groups suggests that something appeals to us about being stretched beyond our habitual reading appetites. Might those same restrictions we chafed at in school suddenly feel like a welcome dose of structure, now that we can read whatever we please?
Rereading can be an interesting way of deepening our awareness both of a text, and of our former selves. This is especially true when we willingly and with curiosity take up some book that we have previously experienced as obligatory drudgery. Freed from the need to take notes, uncover themes or prep for a quiz, we can encounter afresh some of the best and most engaging books ever written, reclaiming them for our own.
For many high school students, few books provoke such utter loathing as The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Seriously, how are you supposed to understand this book when you’re 17? Now that you’ve racked up some grown up losses and disillusionments, give this one a fresh look or listen. The same goes for Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, or Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, both of which call upon experiences rare among high schoolers. Kafka’s Metamorphosis takes on a whole new dimension after you’ve spent serious time working in a cubicle.
Rereading books that may have felt closer to our adolescent experience, such as J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, or even Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, can feel like an uncanny journey back into our younger selves. We experience anew what we felt and thought then, and see how our perspective may have changed, for better and worse. Countless readers describe Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their all time favorite books, based on having read it in high school. Aren’t you curious to know if it is still a favorite, and if your reasons for liking it have changed after all these years?
Many readers are revisiting previously assigned dystopian novels such as 1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, spurred by the awareness that these titles may have been more topical than we’d originally suspected. How might our sense of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies change, now that we have children of our own?
As for Melville’s Moby Dick, well… you never did actually finish it, did you? I’m not saying it’s gotten any easier, but finally getting around to it can feel like removing a little phantom asterisk from your high school diploma.
– Posted by David W.