Lately I've been thinking about how we change as readers the older we get; we may enjoy a novel now that we hated back in high-school, because as we gain experience and a greater understanding of the world, our preceptions of that world change. With that in mind, I've decided to compile a list of books you probably read in high-school that you should revisit with fresh eyes and an older, wiser mind. So, in no particular order:
1. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
No, the characters aren't supposed to be likable; this book is about the consequences of unchecked American ambition and consumerism, as well as a commentary on the American belief that if you work hard enough, you can rise to the power and status of those born with wealth. It's heart wrenching in that we can all see our own ambition reflected in Gatsby's, prompting us to examine our own goals and ask this all-important question: am I chasing a worthy dream? Plus, Fitzgerald's use of heightened language is captivating, and definitley worth a second-look.
2. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
This book follows the heroine Hester as she strives to overcome the shame her Puritan-ruled community forces on her after she commits adultery. Although the prose may be a bit tedious to sort through at times, this book is symbolism at its finest, and the universal human themes of guilt and hypocrisy give it a refreshingly relevant feel, even though it was published so long ago.
3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain (1885)
Huck and Jim are an odd couple, and because of that, they do a great job of bluntly showcasing the unnatural state of racism and slavery, as well as the unnatural relationships a slave has with others on account of his enslavement. Not only that, but this is the only novel I have ever read that is written completely in dialect, which is an amazing feat in itself. I tip my hat to you, Mark Twain.
4. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)
This classic tale of institutionalized racism and injustice is seen through the eyes of an innocent child, which gives a whole new perspective on race-relations and expectations. Our little Scout also does a good job unmasking some of our preconcieved notions on what it means to grow as a strong, independent woman.
5. The Giver - Lois Lowry (1993)
You may have not read this in school, and if not, I strongly recommend it. I read it in the eighth grade, and it was one of the few novels that changed the way I thought about literature. It was the first dystopian novel I'd ever read, and I found it deeply thought provoking. In a supposed utopian world where no one has memories of the past except for the Giver, this book brings out the questions of whether ignorance truly is bliss, or if it's better to accept and understand everything humankind is capable of, good and evil, even if it hurts to do so.