Back in ancient times, I was about to graduate from high school. I had obtained, through what means I no longer remember, a pamphlet (as I recall) entitled something to this effect: “Books everyone should have read before they attend college.”
Since I was headed to college in the fall, I set about reading what to me seemed a very long list. Of course I went off to college, lost the list, but never entirely forgot what had been apparent to me–I was woefully under read according to this source at least.
I have of course long lost the list. But I was happy to learn that all sorts of groups and institutions have offered their lists too. And when I go through them, I still feel the same unease, that I was not well served in high school when it came to being familiar with what has come to be known as “classical” literature.
One can of course quibble with any list. Some argue that the usual ones are way too European centered and miss the efforts of Asian and Middle Eastern writers. They are probably correct in that.
One has to start somewhere however.
And I’ve decided to start. With completing the list that is. One list at least.
While I scored pretty good, something like 67-100 on the list were books I had read, this one led the list and while I had seen the movie of course, and was familiar with the story, I had never actually read the book.
So I did.
And it is of course just as wonderfully good as everybody would say, and surely it deserves to be on everybody’s list of books one should read in one’s lifetime.
It is a telescope into the world as it was.
It reminds us of how far we have come.
It warns us of complacency.
It indicts us for our failures to end the ways of thinking that encased the minds of the small people of Maycomb county.
It gives us hope that clearer understandings of our history and culture are possible that dont’ rely on the revisionist thinking of our political parties and government.
It is of course required reading.
And now I have completed beginning.
This is a bizarre review I am sure, but how else to explain how a 65-year-old-woman, well-educated, and professionally employed, managed to not have ever read this until today. And why I’m glad I did.
This is writing at it’s best, and thinking at it’s best.