Last year, I did a post about my thoughts on required reading. This is a rough follow-up to that.
It's that time of year again - the start of a new semester! I know my school starts later than most, so if you're a student, you've probably already started. But I just started my classes a couple of days ago...which explains why my Friday post is going up on a day that's definitely not Friday. (Oh, well.) It also means that it's the perfect time to talk about required reading again.
Quick recap of the last post: I was required to reread PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which I'd originally read on my own and loved, and hated it. Update: last semester, I was required to reread THE GREAT GATSBY, another book that I'd originally loved. But this time, the required reread made me love the book even more. But I can't put my finger on anything that made rereading the two books different, except for the fact that I already knew I wanted to reread Gatsby at some point. I guess it just goes to show that having something be required doesn't mean it's not fun to read.
After I finished rereading Gatsby, I was assigned THE PROFESSOR'S HOUSE by Willa Cather, a book that I'd never even heard of before the class. And I'll be frank: I wasn't liking it. It didn't seem to have a plot, I couldn't really distinguish the characters from each other, and it was incredibly boring.
Naturally, I went into class discussion with low expectations. I didn't like the book, so I didn't see why I'd like anything to do with the book. But then, something weird happened: as I listened to my professor's explanation of the book and heard ideas from my classmates, I actually liked the book more. I didn't love it, but it really made me appreciate the book more and understand why so many other people like it.
Which got me thinking about something that I know I'm not the first to discuss: what is the role of analysis in enjoying a book? I'm thinking specifically about a school setting, but I'm sure it can apply to leisure reading as well. I used to think that breaking a book down and analyzing it just made it really hard to get through and destroyed all hope of actually enjoying a book. Now, I'm not so sure.
I think that, depending on the circumstances, analysis can both help and hurt someone's enjoyment of a book. This is probably different for everyone, but for me, the kind of analysis that really helps me like something is mostly a matter of clarification. If the analysis is something that can help me understand the book better, then great, I want to know about it. When I start to have problems is when you dig through the book with a metaphorical magnifying glass, searching for subtle patterns and hidden meanings. I'm sure some people love things like that, but I'm perfectly happy leaving them alone.
What do you think about required reading? Has analyzing a book ever made you like it more? What are some of the books you've been required to read in school? Tell me in the comments!