The Corner

Reading for Pleasure and Instruction

What books do I think all high-school kids should be required to read?  several readers ask.

I think they should be required to read their school textbooks. These textbooks should teach them a few elementary facts about folk like Aristotle and Dostoyevsky. Of course, any student curious to sample the originals should be heartily encouraged to do so. The school textbook set should certainly include “readers” — books of extracts from good writers. That gives the student a flavor, and an acquaintance with the writer’s name. Again, those inclined to follow up should be encouraged to do so.

Those youngsters who read for pleasure (a minority, always and everywhere) will probably get the most from young adult fiction; though again, of course, if they want to sample Jane Austen or Faulkner, they should be encouraged.

Reading for duty is a miserable business, from which little is gained. It’s much better, certainly for teens, to read second-rate stuff that engages one’s attention, than classics that leave you cold. In my own teens I read almost nothing but science fiction. (My son, though not much of a reader, seems inclined the same way.)

If you read a book without pleasure, it won’t “stick.” I read The Great Gatsby from a sense of duty — I was conscientiously trying to Americanize myself — back in the 1980s, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. Isn’t there an automobile accident in there somewhere? To this day I haven’t read Catcher in the Rye. Probably I shall go to my grave not having read it.

Most Popular

World

China’s Pandemic Deception

You’ve made it to December in our annus horribilis. On the menu today: sorting through CNN’s fascinating but not completely illuminating bombshell involving leaked documents from the Hubei, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, filling in some details about the early days of the pandemic. More ... Read More
World

China’s Pandemic Deception

You’ve made it to December in our annus horribilis. On the menu today: sorting through CNN’s fascinating but not completely illuminating bombshell involving leaked documents from the Hubei, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, filling in some details about the early days of the pandemic. More ... Read More
Culture

Our Real Systemic Problem

America’s got a problem that’s systemic in nature. This problem has less to do with individual intentions than the structure within which our intentions are formed. That structure explains a great deal about observed disparities in wealth, and other advantages, between various racial and ethnic groups. It ... Read More
Culture

Our Real Systemic Problem

America’s got a problem that’s systemic in nature. This problem has less to do with individual intentions than the structure within which our intentions are formed. That structure explains a great deal about observed disparities in wealth, and other advantages, between various racial and ethnic groups. It ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Cinderella Man 2

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, and, this week, film criticism. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox as God and John Wayne intended, please follow this link. The Mona Lisa of Hillbilly Literature The Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Cinderella Man 2

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, and, this week, film criticism. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox as God and John Wayne intended, please follow this link. The Mona Lisa of Hillbilly Literature The Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy, ... Read More