Today I have a few more books I loved in high school to reminisce about (or “about which to reminisce” if we’re going to be grammar sticklers).
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
This book was one of the books we read as a class in, I believe, AP English my senior year. I might have been one of the few who enjoyed it! I can’t explain why the book connected with me, although looking back, I wonder if it was the start of my love for classic English literature that continued in college with the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontës. (And talk about loving “classic” English literature–I did my honors college thesis on Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, arguing it was the first “true novel.” A 15th century work, entirely in Middle English; it was such a blast to read and analyze.) I was so determined to write a good term paper on this book, I even went to a nearby college library for sources. *gasp* We had the Internet, but it wasn’t as comprehensive as it is today, and books always make for more legitimate resources.
The Mayor of Casterbridge begins with a drunkard named Michael Henchard at a tavern selling his wife and baby daughter for a small amount of money to a lonely sailor who offers to buy them off of him. (She’s sitting right there, by the way!) Obviously, Susan isn’t too happy with her husband, but she’s also sick enough of the man (they were arguing, which is why the sailor thought he’d better appreciate her) that she goes along with it. When Henchard recovers, he finds his wife and child gone.
Years pass, and Henchard has become a new man who’s risen through the ranks in his small town of Casterbridge and is now the mayor. But his drunken actions of eighteen years prior still haunts him, and he’s worried people will find out what kind of man he once was. Lo and behold, who should move into town than a sailor’s widow and her young maiden daughter? The book is not only about keeping secrets–and untangling the truth about whether or not Henchard and Susan are still married, at least on paper–but Henchard’s desire to form a fatherly relationship with his daughter without revealing his past.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
Unless my memories are muddled (which wouldn’t surprise me after more than a decade), I think the first The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was on the “choose your second summer reading book” list for my senior AP English class. I wound up being an English major in college (after a brief detour), and I’m glad I had a foundation in so many of the classics, but admittedly, I only truly enjoyed maybe one in three of the books I “had to” read. When I chose this book for required reading, it was a welcoming break! This book is so funny. I read it quickly and went out and bought this huge five-book collection of the whole “trilogy” (as far as what Adams penned anyway).
It’s been a while since I read it (although I remember the movie that came out a few years ago), but even if it was fresh in my mind, I’m not sure I could fully explain it. Suffice to say it follows an ordinary man on an intergalactic adventure after his home… and the whole planet… is destroyed for a hyperspace bypass. Anyone who talks a lot about towels or tells you that the answer to life is 42, and that what you actually ought to want to know is the question to life, the universe and everything, has read this book!
During the rest of that school year, we had to continue reading books outside of what was required for class discussion, and they had to be “quality” books approved by the teacher. (Some of my other interests wouldn’t fly!) So for a while I got away with reading the sequels (the first one was on the reading list, after all!) until my teacher told me it was time to branch out and read something else. I don’t think I finished all five books, and I’m not even sure where I left off. But still, the first was definitely worth the ride!
And no, I didn’t realize that today’s the anniversary of the book’s publishing when I sat down to write this.