I could probably be kicked out of the English Teachers' Club if "they" knew some of the books I haven't (yet) read. I don't know how I managed to graduate from high school and college without reading some of the classics. I'm not going to list them here, because it's embarrassing to admit that I haven't read them.
What brings me to this post is the fact that in preparation for teaching my summer school online course, I'm being forced to read some things I haven't previously read. And reread some, like Lord of the Flies. I taught that one when I was in the traditional classroom, but I'm rereading it so I can be familiar enough with the story, the symbolism, and the characters [for some reason I get Jack and Ralph mixed up] to grade what the students turn in. I could just look at their assignments and give them credit for trying, but that's not the way I operate. If they miss something, I tell them why. And I deduct the points. I figure I'm doing them a favor.
Some things that are considered classics I HAVE read, but I didn't necessarily like. I know I could definitely be kicked out of the Southern English Teachers' Club if I admitted to the club officers that I read lots of Faulkner's work, but I still don't like him. It's just not natural for a sentence to go on for pages and pages and pages. I don't remember in which English course I was forced to read several Faulkner novels. I'm pretty sure I didn't take a course in Southern Literature, because it never would fit in my schedule.
I'm also not really crazy about Hemingway. You shouldn't have to keep turning back several pages to see if you can figure out who's saying what. He's not big on "he said" or "she replied" to provide a roadmap for the conversation. And it's always a conversation. With an occasional running of the bulls thrown in. And lots of drinking. I do, however, like his short story "Hills Like White Elephants." I think because the subject matter is obscure, and when you finish reading the story you find yourself asking, "Were they talking about what I THINK they were talking about?"
I did a project for a graduate course several years ago, back when I thought my doctoral research was going to be about adult readers and non-readers. Not people who CAN'T read, but people who CAN and just CHOOSE NOT TO. In preparing for that project I came across a list of 100 of the greatest books or 100 books everyone should read or something like that. I was a little dismayed at how many books on that list I HADN'T read. I kept counting on my fingers and looking over my shoulder just in case one of the members of the Book Police Force were watching me.
I just went looking for that list so I could add it to this post, and while I didn't find that specific one, I came across about 100 other lists of 100 books. The one I'm going to put the most faith in is put out by the College Board. And I'm going to make a concerted effort to read more quality works on this list and less junk. Never mind that I'm not college-bound and hope never to be again.