This month's print was inspired by literary classics. Whether you were an avid reader that looked forward to seeing your high school lit syllabus every fall or you preferred to watch the classics reimagined on the big screen, there is likely a favorite or two that seemed to leave an indelible mark on your conscience.
This month I thought it would be fun to try something a little different, so rather than focusing on books for our children I have asked some of my staff to provide a review of one of their favorite classics. I hope that this list will help you discover a new classic that you may never have read before or encourage you to pick up and reread an old favorite.
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald is my favorite classic novel because there are so many lessons that can be learned. One of the main things I took from reading it is to try to see people for who they are and not for who you want them to be. In this novel Gatsby did the opposite of that. He fell in love with an idealized notion of who he thought Daisy was based off their past. So much so, that he worked hard, became wealthy, & threw extravagant parties all to win her over. The problem is that Daisy is human and could never live up to this idea of perfection. This is only one on the list of many lessons I took from this classic. I find that each time I read it; I can relate to certain parts more based off where I am at in my life. For that reason, it will always remain a timeless favorite of mine.
"1984" by George Orwell is one of those classics that really stood out from the rest for me. It was written in 1949 during Stalin's reign and just following the end of WWII. Orwell was imagining what the future of the world may look like if the political ideologies of certain world superpowers were to spread, creating persecution for individuality and independent thinking. In 1984 there are three superstates that make up the world and complete manipulation of recorded history regularly occurs, prompting the question whether history exists if no one knows about it or is history only what we believe it to be? This book is considered science fiction but definitely provides some thought provoking anecdotes that could be applied to today's world.
"Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. As a young teenager I found my dad's old book collection, and within that collection I found the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I never thought that I would be one that would enjoy epic fantasy literature, but when I picked up the books, I couldn't stop reading! As I recall, I read all three books within just a few weeks. For me, the descriptive wording is what drew me in (plus the books were in the basement so they smelled musty, which helped draw in more of my senses!) It was easy for me to envision the world that Tolkien was painting with his words, and I can remember holding my breath while reading and reading as fast as possible to find out what would happen next during some of the more epic moments! Of the three books, it's the final, The Return of the King, that captivated me most. Tolkien brings the reader into the thickest and darkest part of the journey with the main characters, and then walks the reader back into almost a new world where goodness and light resumes. This juxtaposition of ideals that has been woven through all of the books finally ends with good overcoming evil, which is (to me) the perfect way to end a story.
“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse is one of my favorite classic novels. This book is about the journey Siddhartha takes to reaching spiritual enlightenment. This is a very peaceful novel as Siddhartha travels across the ancient Indian kingdom of Kapilavastu seeking the teachings of Buddha and trying to find his own inner peace and place in life. He soon realizes he must go on his own path, because he needs a unique discovery to him to reach enlightenment. I enjoyed this book because it shows an interesting world where a man gives up possessions and most of life’s pleasures to obtain inner peace and understanding. Siddhartha was able to experience a luxurious lifestyle but comes to the realization that materialistic items will never fulfill him spiritually. This book shows that enlightenment is not a one size fits all understanding. It is an inner peace that cannot fully be taught but must be learned and experienced through one’s own eyes. I would recommend the novel Siddhartha to anyone in high school or older as the book provides a mature outlook on life.
"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Peterson. This is the kind of story that will change you. I feel like every time I read it or watched the movie I got something else out of it as I got older. In the beginning when I was younger it was the world that Jess and Leslie created that mesmerized me. How wonderful would it be to just lose yourself in a completely imaginary world with the person that you trust most in the world. Then, as you get a little older you realize that Jess is compensating a lot from his reality into this imaginary world. His life isn’t perfect. He feels alone and left out from the people closes to him. But in this new world, Terabithia, he is important and needed. He is feeling connections that he has never felt before. This world is helping him to cope with all of life’s obstacles that are handed to him. Then you watch him deal with something that a young child should never have to deal with. His world is broken and you are on a journey to pick up the pieces with him. I lost my brother when I was 15 and I watched this movie years later and it hit me like a brick. So many of the thoughts and feelings I had mirrored Jess’ and would give me glimpses of hope. In the end Jess found someone else to share his world with, who he could then give the tools to cope with life and death and everything in between.