Student reading lists interest me. I can’t avoid noticing them. Even though I’ve retired from teaching literature in high school and college classrooms, I continue to be aware of what’s being studied. From bookstores in Hawaii to Maine, I’ve seen those postings.
The lists often include similar titles. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is likely to be there, along with “The Great Gatsby,” “Walden,” “The Odyssey,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and other well-worn, annotated and studied volumes. I’m happy to see any of those among the several frequent choices for students.
It was during my young schooldays that I first encountered those works. That was when I became acquainted with Twain, Dickens, Steinbeck, Hardy, Cather, Shakespeare and other acclaimed authors who informed, inspired and entertained me.
My reading wasn’t simply limited to those from the assigned student lists. Once I developed a respect for reading, I selected books from offerings in libraries and bookstores, and read them without any motive beyond fascination and enjoyment. This has been a life-long habit.
“Mutiny on the Bounty” by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall was never on one of my student reading lists. I can’t recall any mention of it being made in any of my classes. Yet, I remember meeting the harsh Lieutenant Bligh one summer during my middle school years. That’s when I sat on a bank beside the water, and held the book in one hand and a fishing pole in the other. That reading took my imagination to Tahiti. What a delightful experience! There was no deadline to finish—no paper to write and no test to pass.
Students soon to be out of school for the summer break may have assigned reading lists. These days, though, students seem quite busy with traveling, work and a variety of activities. Still, I hope they won’t be reluctant to conscientiously read their assignments. It’s also my hope they’ll be motivated to read additional books of their own choosing.
Here are a few titles I enjoyed back in the days when I didn’t have a cell phone and such gadgets that took hours of summertime attention. Perhaps there’s a book here that would be fun to read during the summer of 2019.
“Hondo” by Louis L’Amour is a classic western. Although somewhat short on pages, the novel features a big hero and a big adventure. In these pages, Hondo Lane faces danger when he comes to the aid of a widow and her son. Without revealing any spoilers, I’ll simply say there’s romance and excitement.
Agatha Christie’s “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” is a who-done-it that surprises most readers — even those who’ve read several shelves full of mysteries. This one provides a unique challenge. Match wits with Hercule Poirot and try to offer the solution before he does.
For most of her life, author Janice Holt Giles was a neighbor who lived in Adair County. She wrote several interesting historical novels during her lifetime that still remain popular. One of those is “The Kentuckians,” a story of frontiersmen who came through the Cumberland Gap and faced a number of difficulties before settling in our part of the country. “The Kentuckians” is set during the late 1700s and features both fictional and real-life characters.
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the Tarzan series. Those are fun to read if you’re open to pure escapism. Then there’s “The Oakdale Affair,” which is not as well-known, but perhaps should be. There’s no apeman in “The Oakdale Affair,” by there’s a thief who joins a group of hobos, a storm and a “thing” in the cellar. Yep, it’s another tale that provides pure escapism.
As I said, these aren’t likely to make the official lists for summer reading assignments. Still, they might provide a few hours of reading entertainment. Of course, students may also find something to their liking from a library. For those who can’t be without the handheld gadgets, books are available for downloads.
Don’t send me any book reports. Don’t ask me to make out any tests. I’m retired. And I’m going to be reading “The Pioneers” by David McCullough.