Analyzing Books in the Classroom

If I ask you if you’ve read books such as Of Mice and Men, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, The Joy Luck Club, The Grapes of Wrath, and other books of a similar kind, chances are you might say yes. However, if I asked you if you’ve read these books in your spare time, chances are a majority of you are going to say no, and likely say that these were reading assignments for your high school English classes. You might have been asked to read a certain number of pages for homework assignments and then discuss them in class the following day. You might have had to keep an eye out for things like key vocabulary words, use of symbolism, and certain dialogue for you to annotate. You might have had to take quizzes to test your comprehension on said book, conduct group discussions about the text and then present your findings, and maybe even go as far as doing a book report on it.

Many of us can recall doing this so many times in school, that it’s a norm. But now, after having written and published a book myself, I look upon those past assignments in a different light and consider all that’s worth considering what analyzing books in the classroom.

There are so many places to begin, but a wise first approach would be regarding the books that tend to be on the curriculum. Notice how obviously dated they are; taking place- as well as having been written- long before us classroom readers nowadays were even born. Considerably, books such as the ones named earlier can be considered classics; for their analysis-worthy story and the depth of it as well. It’s safe to say that these books can be considered “classics.”

Unfortunately, to call them “classics” only leans towards part of the word’s definition, in regards to the book being around a long time and and is still read by many, without considering the possibility of newer novels accomplishing a similar feat in a shorter period of time (and trust me when I say, there are some that fall in that category). That’s where I find the selection of books to analyze not only problematic, but also predictable and redundant. Yes, it’s important to remember such books before our time, but I find it wisest not to use them as an excuse for not finding a similar depth in more contemporary books.

It’s interesting to see how these books are analyzed; in particular on the content of discussions among the characters and symbolism as well. While there is something worth exploring in such books, I also have noticed how it can be overdone. Sometimes, it’s to the point where you’re practically being forced to look for something that you’re not even sure is even there. That’s when analyzing a book goes too in depth.

Not sure what I quite mean by that? Let me give you an example. I remember reading a book about how to read books like a professor and there was this one passage where it discusses Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea splayed out on his back at one point, supposedly resembling the crucifixion of Christ. I found that to be particularly bizarre when I read that, for 1. what reader would have actually caught that and 2. was the author really attempting to stretch out that thin? Because honestly, if Corey Stoll’s performance of Hemingway in the film “Midnight in Paris” was accurate in how the man actually was, then I think he was more so of a man willing to knock the lights out of someone in a boxing match than a man of God.

There are also the teachers to consider when conducting such assignments and discussions, and that can go both ways. On the bright side, there are teachers who really encourage a lot of thinking to go on and consider the possibilities at hand for what this symbol could mean or why this character said this line at that moment. There are teachers who are very open to what their students would have to share from what they have gained from reading the book, for they know that not everyone interprets the book the same way.

At the same time, there are teachers who have a set agenda for what their students should be gaining from this; especially the parts of the book that are more or less designed for interpretation. There are teachers who earnestly turn away from their students’ interpretations of the text, that is unless it matches their own. And trust me when I say, I’ve experienced both kinds of English teachers.

There are authors who are very much aware that their books may be used for analyses in classrooms, which is why it’s pretty cool when they contribute by including reading guides in the backs of their books, just to assist with getting the ball rolling. At the same time, it’s just as cool when they don’t include them, for sometimes, it’s best for the reader to come up with their own questions.

It’s from these experiences of analyzing other people’s books, how they’re approached in classrooms, and of course publishing my own book in the process that has helped me realize that one day, there might be a possibility that it will come full circle, and it may be my book that ‘s being analyzed in a classroom. If that ever happens, I’d like for the teachers and students to know this: For God’s sake, don’t go in to it too seriously. Yes, my book(s) are designed to be in depth reading experiences, but keep an open mind to all possibilities. Analyze the text and symbolism, but don’t stress too deeply about it. Focus on the story for the most part. Be open for interpretations, for yours aren’t set in stone. Above all else, and this goes for anyone in general who reads my books, just because my books were written in the 21st century, doesn’t mean they are less of a “classic” than the ones written the previous century. After all, such words like “classic” are merely labels to defy the times.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please go vote on whether or not you would like for my second novel to be available in print or not. This poll will go on until the time comes to start the publishing process, so the more input on this decision, the better.

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One thought on “Analyzing Books in the Classroom

  1. Pingback: Storytelling Through Symbolism | Lola By The Bay

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