>The discussion about Shakespeare reminds me of something a friend of mine said she was going to do while taking some extended leave from employment: she was going to read Ulysses, because she thought it was something every educated person needs to have on their read-that list.
Maybe, if I’m on a very small, very deserted, Irish island, Ulysses might make its way on to my list–it’s not that I’m planning not to read it, but the fact that I haven’t doesn’t make me feel incomplete. Time spent feeling guilty about the books you don’t get to is time wasted not reading something else.
I wish (and maybe this could be my next job) high schools offered their seniors a class in Reading. Not literature (although I hasten to add that I think they should be studying that, too), but a class instead designed to demonstrate the breadth and methods of reading in one’s life quite apart from the pursuit of educational degrees. The students would learn about the different genres of popular fiction, for example; cross gender boundaries by reading Danielle Steel and Tom Clancy; go on a field trip to a book store and library to learn how to browse. Slow readers could learn techniques for speeding up (if they so desired); grinds could be taught to relax; fluent readers could be challenged to stretch their preferences. Everybody would learn how to skim. Students could practice giving and receiving book recommendations. They could learn to give up on a book that isn’t working for them and how to stick with something that might prove rewarding. You could survey magazines from Car & Driver to Granta; find out how to parse product manuals.
For me, gym class finally became almost bearable in twelfth-grade, when the emphasis shifted from team sports to what the teacher called “lifelong activities” like running, golf, and tennis. For all those people not going on for a B.A. in English, why can’t we do the same for reading?