Lord of the Flies. Romeo & Juliet. To Kill a Mockingbird. A Separate Peace. Chances are, these books are being discussed in a classroom near you, despite the fact none of them was published in this century. The reasons are clear: their significance resonates, they convey important themes, and they're exceptionally well-written. Of course, the same could be said of any number of other works, too. Chances are, also, that these same books were assigned and discussed in your own classrooms. Maybe you read them; maybe you didn't.
Teaching literary classics over the course of many years is an interesting experience. The students are always at the same stage of life as teenagers, but teachers grow older with each subsequent engagement with a text. I've found that these books, among many others, invite me to renewed understandings and deeper appreciation with each year's classes. I read (and therefore interpret, and therefore teach) Romeo and Juliet pretty differently as a husband and father than I did as a twenty-two-year-old bachelor.
Along those lines, there are quite a few times when I've wondered if these books, despite being "taught" at the high school level, aren't truly more resonant for adults. I do believe we should grow as readers, and challenge ourselves to read different stuff. Our tastes change, as well they should. But every once in a while, I think it's a great idea to go back and check out something that's been on the shelf for a long time: something that might have seemed only halfway relevant at an earlier stage of one's life, but truly has something to offer now.
And so, a question for you: What books did you read as a kid that you've revisited -- or would like to revisit -- at an older age? I'm going to offer some perspectives in upcoming posts about some books that I think are well-worth revisiting. If you have one that you'd like me to write about -- or would like to write about as a guest contributor yourself -- please comment below or contact me.
I'm going to start with Lord of the Flies. Look for it in an upcoming post. Subscribe and/or follow me on Twitter for updates.