There’s something I haven’t told you. It’s embarrassing, really. For four-and-a-half years, as the face of 60secondrecap.com, I’ve smiled and pretended that it hasn’t been true. But it is true, so here’s the shameful and well-hidden truth: Though I’ve read thousands of books, I’ve never read a single piece of classic literature for fun.
All those books you read in school? Sure, I read them. I enjoyed them the way a die-hard English major does—as riddles to be solved, and puzzles to be worked out. I willingly deconstructed them in class, wrote papers about them, then went on to champion them for 60second Recap. I liked them intellectually. I saw their value.
But I did not find them fun. As in, these were not the types of books that I would willingly check out of the library and read on a Saturday afternoon. I read an abridged version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in third grade. I can still remember the pictures, and staying up late to finish it with a flashlight under the covers. But that was the first and last of such experiences…until now.
For 60second Recap, I’ve led the crusade of classic literature’s relevance, because that’s where my heart has been. These books have endured for a reason—because their lessons are universal and, in many ways, immortal. They speak in a language that crosses barriers of time and culture—yes, even today’s increasingly anti-literate culture.
Now I want to do something more. I want to find out for myself why these books are also good stories. Books I’d be as excited to read as this one, or this one. Books that deserve a place on my shelf not just because I’ve conquered them on behalf of high school students everywhere, but because they’re stories I’ve actually loved…and might even read again.
Those of you who already read Dickens and Hemingway and Hawthorne for fun may be wondering what the big fuss is. Clearly, I won’t be the first to discover that classic literature has plot, character, and story value that makes it worth picking up outside the classroom. From what I can tell, though, I’ll be the first to blog about it, in real time, in all honesty, with my reputation on the line.
So come back tomorrow, when I begin my first totally-for-fun tango with classic literature. (Is that ironic, given that I’m starting with a well-known tragedy, Of Mice and Men? We’ll see.)
I hope you’ll join me for the ride—er, read!