Challenge: 50 Books discussion

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Friday Questions > Question #64: Context is Everything

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message 1: by Faye (new)

Faye | 673 comments Mod
I was thinking about what makes a good beach read at the same time that there's been lots of discussion about disliking certain books read in school. I can't help but think our environment and circumstances must have a big impact on our enjoyment of a book.

What's your experience been? How do you think "where you were at" influenced your opinion about a memorable book or reading experience?


message 2: by Tiffany, Administrator (new)

Tiffany | 1853 comments Mod
Okay, I'll bite.

The first two books (or, reading adventures, since one isn't a book) that popped into my mind weren't influenced by where I was *physically* at, but where I was at in my life. Maybe I'm subconsciously thinking of high school books we loved/loathed, but my first answer was The Catcher in the Rye, which led to my second answer, Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."

I read both during my Junior year (I think) in high school. You remember Junior year, right? Pressures of becoming an adult and/or going off to college are beginning to weigh on you. It seemed like all of my friends knew where they were going to college (and could AFFORD it), but I ... well, for whatever reason, my Junior and Senior years weren't all that easy for me. I'd always been a good student, but the college preparation wasn't going as easy for me as it seemed to be for everyone else. It didn't look like I'd be able to afford it, for some reason I didn't think my GPA was good enough, and my test scores were better than average, but didn't seem good enough for the schools I wanted. So, I felt lost. Plus, all of that swimming around in my head kind of then influenced the way I felt about the people around me (I pulled away from my friends, since they were all talking about college and applications and scholarships, and all that type of stuff that I wasn't in on; then, since I felt estranged from them, I started to feel awkward at home, too, plus like I was letting down my parents), so I felt separated from most aspects of my own life.

Cue The Catcher in the Rye. Ugh. High schooler, smart-ass, cynical, alienation... it spoke to me. I just remember thinking Holden was sort of who I wanted to be. And the sad thing is that I think I read it once a few years later after I bought myself a copy, but I haven't read it since (and that was a long time ago). People tend to really hate the book, so I'm scared to go back and see how much I might hate it now, and wonder what the hell kind of crack I was smoking to make me like it so much the first time around!

"Song of Myself" was one line for me, hugely due to Dead Poets Society: "I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world." Eh, like I said, I felt pretty helpless at the time, and like the world was passing me by, and/or walking over me. The idea of yawping made me feel like I ... could still be heard, or could still stand out, or like I was even still alive. It spoke to me, too, in pretty much the complete opposite of the way The Catcher in the Rye spoke to me.

Oh, the joys of high school trivialities. :)


message 3: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy (dorothytu) | 4 comments Speaking of Catcher in the Rye, I had loved it to death and pieces when I first read it in a summer of my youth (Junior high? High school? I don't remember.) A couple years later I picked it up again and I found that I didn't enjoy it as much, namely because I hated the character and found him more annoying than enjoyable and relatable. I stilled love it though, but for different reasons.

I believe I hated The Grapes of Wrath when I read it for my Junior AP English class, probably because the teacher was far from qualified to instruct us and because of the many pointless quizzes (about banal things, nothing about literary criticism or anything insightful) that we had to take after reading each section. I don't even remember much of it now because it was a chore but I will try to pick it up again. It just reminds me of that dreadful classroom.


message 4: by Antonia (new)

Antonia (vickymarie) with me the most poignant memory is both Pride and Prejudice and Effi Briest. the first one because my english teacher said it is funny and i did not agree then - 17 year olds probably do not find the scenes with mr collins so very funny. the second because my german teacher loved it and she had - just before we started reading it - given me a bad mark in some test. which i needless to say did not agree with.
:)
i've only recently read the grapes of wrath and loved it. hard read - it was very emotional and not pleasant emotions at that. as arielle says though rereading without analysing would be good. i will give effi briest another chance (at some indeterminate point in the future) because when i read jane austen in my twenties i found mr collins hilarious indeed.


message 5: by Faye (new)

Faye | 673 comments Mod
I read A Clockwork Orange in university at the same time I was taking beginning Russian language classes. I felt like I had so much more perspective on the book because most of the slang is based on Russian words, which I definitely would not have picked up if not taking the language course. I was tickled - unlike I would be if I'd just picked it up now, at a point where I would not make the connection.


message 6: by Antonia (new)

Antonia (vickymarie) Faye wrote: "I read A Clockwork Orange in university at the same time I was taking beginning Russian language classes. I felt like I had so much more perspective on the book..."

how very true! - a little brackground knowledge goes a long way in enjoying something. books and comedy...


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