Reading Moby Dick in my early 20s, and once again in my late 20s, was a revelatory experience for me. For many reasons, it's a book that I think about often. Here's the line I've been considering lately: "Whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can." – Chris Schluep
Shakespeare and high school kind of go hand-in-hand. I remember reading Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, and a few others. But my most rewarding experiences with the bard have been when I've sat down on my own and cracked open a play or even one of his sonnets. Yes, you have to be in the right mood for something like this [King Lear] — but as a friend of mine recently commented, "It's been 500 years and no one has figured out yet how to do it better." – Chris Schluep
I shied away from Crime and Punishment in high school because it was sooooo long and seemingly complicated — but when I spent a summer abroad in college, I was desperate for something long and complicated and... in English. Never mind that C&P is, of course, a Russian novel; the English-language version — which I found in a used book store – meant I could have periods of respite from Spanish conversation with my non-English-speaking hosts and friends. – Sara Nelson
After graduating, I went on a time-consuming, extracurricular tear on some classics that apparently weren't classic enough for my high school: Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc. But best of all was Bradbury, and of all his indispensable books, Fahrenheit 451 appealed most to my Cold War brain. – Jon Foro
I took the long way around to The Grapes of Wrath: starting with Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, I worked through Wallace Stegner and other giants of Western lit, eventually to Timothy Egan's Dust Bowl classic, The Worst Hard Time. Steinbeck was the logical end of this journey, humanizing much of the suffering that formed the West, as well as the nation. – Jon Foro
As the father of two teen boys, I've become something of an expert on the dark side of adolescence. Like Lord of the Flies and other sinister takes on coming of age, Knowles explores that fine and sometimes dangerous line between growing up on your own terms — or on someone else's. – Neal Thompson
I think I might've wrongly assumed that since I'd read 1984 I could skip Huxley’s take on a dystopian utopia. What was so remarkable about reading it years after high school was seeing how frighteningly prescient Huxley was in predicting the weirdness of life in a future society — like ours. – Neal Thompson
Maybe it was my mom's screams at my brother and me ("You're just like Lord of the Flies, you two!") that kept me away from this classic for so long. But thank god I finally discovered the book that explained the madness of boyhood to me, and so much more. Sorry, Ma! – Neal Thompson
I somehow lumped this in with some of the other books boring me to death in high school (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, anyone?) but when I read it as an adult I understood why so many people consider this their favorite novel. To Kill a Mockingbird is everything you need to know about innocence lost, injustice, kindness and love. You can't help but be changed by it. – Seira Wilson
I had no idea that a story of war could be serious and funny at the same time until I read Catch-22. Joseph Heller introduced me to the brilliance of satire and ingrained in me the utter impossibility of truly "winning" a conflict of politics and belief, when human life is the currency being wagered. – Seira Wilson
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