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Summer Reading for Grownups - Five Books You Read in High School Revisited

The best books have something different to offer you every time you encounter them. Different phases of your life open up a new understanding of a book's content, language, or historical context and make a great book a gift that keeps on giving. I'd like particularly to draw your attention to books many of us read in high school, for better or for worse; so often a book is assigned because it has the "right lesson," a protagonist of the appropriate age, the correct vocabulary level, or appears frequently on the right tests and not because high school is the best time to read it. (The Great Gatsby, I'm looking at you; when I was sixteen I can assure you that I had no real idea what it was to feel you were "borne back ceaselessly into the past.") Here are five books that I enjoyed when I first read them but which all have so much more to offer an adult; if you haven't read them lately, I think you'll enjoy it!


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Sara M. Says: Then: you enjoyed the sharp-eyed depiction of rural Alabama and the tense courtroom scenes. Now: you'll love the sly humor and the way Harper Lee gives the story so much room to unfurl.
Amazon Says: "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of more...
Amazon Says: "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel--a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice--but the weight of history will only tolerate so much. One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. Most recent, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the century (Library Journal). HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition. less...
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Sara M. Says: Then: you loved Dickens' Gothic side with Miss Havisham in her creepy old wedding dress. Now: you'll realize how funny Dickens could be and feel so bad for poor Joe.
Amazon Says: Dickens’ epic literary Masterpiece From the agony of Charles Dickens’ disenchantment with the Victorian middle class comes a novel of spellbinding mystery and a p more...
Amazon Says: Dickens’ epic literary Masterpiece From the agony of Charles Dickens’ disenchantment with the Victorian middle class comes a novel of spellbinding mystery and a profound examination of moral values—this is the story of the orphan Pip’s trials and tribulations among London’s high society circles. less...
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Sara M. Says: Then: Mr. Rochester was my first literary crush. Now: Mr. Rochester is kind of creepy, isn't he? But you'll like Jane even more this time around. Try Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea for an idea of what exactly happened to the Other Mrs. Rochester.
Amazon Says: Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongsi more...
Amazon Says: Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work. A young governess falls in love with her employer in this classic coming-of-age tale set in nineteenth-century England. Enriched Classics enhance your engagement by introducing and explaining the historical and cultural significance of the work, the author’s personal history, and what impact this book had on subsequent scholarship. Each book includes discussion questions that help clarify and reinforce major themes and reading recommendations for further research. Read with confidence. less...
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1984 by George Orwell
Sara M. Says: Then: you found Orwell's future disturbing and tried to imagine what your Room 101 would hold. Now: you'll be surprised at the beauty of the language Orwell uses to describe a world where language is a bleak tool of oppression.
Amazon Says: View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell more...
Amazon Says: View our feature on George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time. less...
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Sara M. Says: Then: this view of World War I from the German side gave you a view into the minds of the survivors of the trenches and the tensions that underlay the Weimar Republic. Now: it'll break your heart. One of my favorite books.
Amazon Says: Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into p more...
Amazon Says: Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other--if only he can come out of the war alive. "The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first trank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure." THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW less...
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