Last year, I read more classics in a year than I ever had since I was in high school. This list includes: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The World is Round by Gertrude Stein, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It was only 5 books, but it was still more than I have read in a long time. I enjoyed some more than others, but that was part of the experience I wanted while reading these classics. Classics are always held in high regards, and having a differing opinion is sometimes seen as a bad thing.
I wanted to continue this trend of reading classics in 2016. I own enough classics in my personal library to read one a month for a whole year. Then I found a classics reading challenge set up by The Pretty Books, and I knew it was meant to be. There are no set books to read with this challenge, it’s just a place for people who want to read more classics. All you have to do really to show that you are participating is use the hashtag #2016ClassicsChallenge or #2016 Classics Challenge, and you’re in!
Let’s get into my pick for January: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, 1951.
I have been wanting to read this book for a very long time. I almost bought it or checked it out from the library many times, but just never did. One of my favorite people in the world gave me a copy for my birthday last year.
This is a book that people seem to either love or hate. So many things, from tv, movies, and other other books, reference this story, well rather the main character, in one way or another.
Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
I’m going to be honest with you all like I usually am. This book was a struggle for me to finish. I knew this was a possibility with this book. I thought since it was a short book, I’d get through it within a few days, however it took me two weeks. I have friends who adore this book, and I have friends who were not into the hype of the book. I with the latter.
What I loved: I really enjoyed reading about Holden’s two younger siblings, Allie and Phoebe. Allie is deceased, and it was when Holden talked about him that you saw Holden’s raw emotion. He had/has such love for his dead brother, it really connects you to Holden on a real and human level. He also loves and respects his little sister Phoebe. He would do anything for her. I loved seeing them interact with each other. You can also tell she takes after her Holden, and she may have a tough time later in life.
What I didn’t love: Holden. His complaining and repetitiveness REALLY annoyed me. That’s what made me struggle to finish this book. He used the same words over and over again. He also complained about anything and everything. In one of my Goodreads updates I wrote that Holden Caulfield is a manic bipolar professional complainer. He rarely said anything of substance unless it was about his family.
Talking Points: People say he is full of teenage angst. I think they are missing the bigger picture here. He suffers from different mental health issues – that’s my opinion. The book even alludes to it when a two characters mention that Holden needs to see a therapist. I believe he has anxiety, manic depressive, and is bipolar. When people use the word angst to describe Holden, they are missing the bigger issues. I never felt angst from him. I felt confusion and uncertainty mostly. He was a young kid trying to figure out how to live in his own skin that always felt foreign to him.
I will most likely not read this book again, but if I did, I would read it as a case study on mental health rather than a teenage boy who is angry.