Why You Should Revisit Your High School Required Reads

Yes, I know telling you to go back and read books you once read (or didn’t, thanks to SparkNotes) in high school makes it seem like I’m being sent on a secret mission by your ex English teachers, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. There’s a valid reason why I’m doing this: context in a story is always key. Most people would think that you’re only supposed to care about a book’s context when you read it, but a vital part of literature (and art in general) is how it makes you feel, so making your own context when reading it is equally as important.

As an adult, we learn and process things differently than we did when we were children. Not only that, but in a year, you could have experiences that shape and mold you into a completely different person than you were before. One of the most famous yet exaggerated examples of these circumstances is the moment you turn 13: suddenly, you find yourself claiming that 12-year-old you was immature and lacked life experience while 13-year-old you is basically a rad teenager. What? Only I went through that? Okay, maybe, but the point is, humans are always changing and evolving; so by default, their context undergoes changes as well.

hand holding book open Photo by Blaz Photo from Unsplash Before further explaining my reasoning, I would like to leave one thing clear: I am not talking about maturity. Maturity is something that one develops at any point of their lives, and through many experiences, so in no way am I making the argument that “adults understand things better than teenagers” because, in most cases, that is not true. I am strictly speaking about context, your current feelings, and how a couple of years can make you see something in a completely different light.

An example of a reading to revisit could be Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, the 1818 novel by English author Mary Shelley. In case you did not read it, this book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist yearning to create life with his own hands, something he accomplishes through Adam (I am avoiding making the billionth joke about Frankenstein’s monsters’ name), a creature made out of parts of other humans and animals. As a required reading, you might have perceived it as a wordy book you needed to turn into an essay in the span of a couple of weeks.

Maybe you even thought about the complexities Victor Frankenstein went through after creating a living being. At the time, most of us were probably even encouraged into seeing the scientist as an evil man through and through. After a couple of years though, and facing the complexities of the modern world, one could sympathize with the scientist. Although he obviously turned dangerous by the novel’s end, he was just an ambitious human who had visions for a better tomorrow. Being ambitious isn’t something inherently evil. As for Frankenstein’s monster, one could argue that they weren’t a monster or a creature at all, but a human who was learning to adapt into an unknown and unfair environment for them.

Re-reading guides you to approach and enjoy a story through differing perspectives. Just the fact that you can now read something out of your own volition and not because you were required to can create a whole new experience for you. Something that you once hated could turn into the thing that understands and relates to you. Besides that, you could also just go through all the nostalgic memories that these books once created for you, and bond with your younger self. Getting to read these once required books without having to hand in a five page paper after is always a plus too. You’ll thank me later!