As someone who was famous for procrastinating in school, I can say that I did my fair share of reading Sparknotes at the eleventh hour if I didn’t have time to fully get through a reading assignment in middle/high school. In college, I graduated to a process of “tactful skimming” whereby I’d pull some quotes from readings I hadn’t had time to finish if they could support the central thesis of a paper. Whoops!
That being said, there are a fair amount of books on my shelf that boast notes in the margins from class discussion despite the fact that I never actually read them in full. Thankfully, summer reading is a thing of the past for me, but the arrival of warmer weather found me wanting to finally go through and give the books a chance now that there was no pressure to recall and analyze what lay between their pages. I chose to begin with The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, one of many AP English books that I deftly flew through, knowing it wouldn’t be my eventual choice for essay topics on the AP Exam because I has practically committed The Great Gatsby to memory.
It’s amazing how quickly you can read something when there’s no expected deadline hanging over your head. If I clocked the hours I spent on The Bean Trees, they likely would have added up to less than half a day. Kingsolver’s prose was easy to digest because the voice of the novel’s narrator is a spitfire Southern girl who boasts no frills. As I read through, the handwritten notes scribbled within by 18-year-old me seemed to be sort of painfully obvious observations (affirming that, as I suspected, I probably has done more skimming than reading back in 2009), but despite their lack of depth, it was interesting to see what I picked up on and thought at the time. Reading the book at a different place in my life also gave me new perspective on its themes and messages. Overall, the experience made me want to reread another old “required reading” book again soon!
What was your favorite “required” reading book that you’d recommend? Have you ever gone back and finished a book you were supposed to read but didn’t?