I started reading many of the classics well before they were required because, honestly, I just wanted to know the stories for myself. I first read Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet both when I was 10 years old. Granted I read them with a giant copy of the Oxford English Dictionary sitting next to me at the ready and for the Shakespeare half I read all of the footnotes in the big volume my dad owned, but the stories were important enough to me they were worth the effort. It so paid off when high school came around.
One of my absolute favorites was actually, surprisingly, never required, but I did end up using it for a school project.
A Classic I Love:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is even the cover that caught my eye. I was standing in the 7th grade library, cruising for a new book to pick up, and noticed this little yellow hardback standing out against all the rest. The cover isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but boy did it jump off the shelf thanks to the mustard yellow color!
It took no time at all before I fell in love with Scout’s voice as she told the story. She called things as she saw them, but she was inquisitive too, wanting to figure out the world around her. Atticus was a perfect balance to her curiosity, always ready to guide her and encourage her and, occasionally, set her spunkiness straight when she got out of hand.
It was also my first introduction to a story about racism in our country. I knew about racism from the things my parents taught me and what I caught on the evening news, but I didn’t really know. Discovering it through the eyes of Scout made the encounter stick with me. To this day I have a very strong reaction to nearly every character in the story. And while Atticus’ courtroom speech is famous, one of the quotes that will always stick with me the most came from Reverend Sykes:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Not long after I read this, my reading teacher declared a project that took us a step beyond the standard written book report, requiring us to liven up the old “summary of what I read” format. I always loved theatre, even though I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in it yet, so I wrote up a monologue with my mom’s help and showed up in class as Scout: overalls, Southern drawl, and all. She felt like such a part of myself that it was easy and enjoyable to be her for an afternoon.
A Classic I Want to Read:
Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
I saw bits of the 2008 British mini series for this book and was intrigued from the first introduction to Tess. I don’t know a lot of the details of the story, but I’ve wanted to read it ever since then. Perhaps that is something I should get around to soon!
(I was initially going to suggest Brave New World, but Michelle already claimed that and got me thinking what else I wanted to get my hands on. Funnily enough, I already own both it and Tess, so no more excuses!)