Assigned reading that deserves an A+
In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this author forum, BookPage brought together Ad Hudler, Jeff Mariotte, Kelli Stanley and Mark Terry to ask: What was the best reading assignment you had in high school?
I grew up in a ranching and farming community of 3,500 people on the high, rolling deserts of eastern Colorado, so you can imagine how entranced I was by the culture portrayed in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. It was so different from my life in Burlington, Colorado. So fancy! The only people who wore white in my world were the nurses at Kit Carson County Memorial Hospital. And straw hats that weren't worn by cowboys? Was it even possible?
Ad Hudler is the author, most recently, of Househusband. Visit his website.
In high school, I was a fairly promiscuous reader (which has made me a promiscuous writer). I was assigned the usual works, most of which I have little memory of reading: Crime and Punishment, Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, etc.
But the books that captured my imagination were by unassigned genre authors: Robert E. Howard, Clay Fisher, Frederick Forsyth and their ilk. Those led down other disreputable paths, to Moorcock, Lovecraft, Bradbury, Chandler and beyond. Those books resulted in my brand of word-slinging: stories about people and landscapes of the West, combining supernatural and thriller elements.
I think the assigned book that had the most lasting impact was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. She showed that people have always sought answers to life’s mysteries in the supernatural—and that if they could make up their own pantheons, so could I. I haven’t stopped yet.
Jeff Mariotte is the author of the comic book series Fade to Black. Visit his blog.
I read constantly growing up . . . part of being an only child, part of living in a remote, rural area of northern California. My favorite assigned book from a class wasn’t in high school, but junior high—I think it was 8th grade English—and would have to be Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only did I personally identify with Scout, but the mystery at the heart of the novel—and the issues of racism and injustice—both resonated and influenced me. It’s simply, gorgeously written, and sings with a lyricism typical of the best of Southern literature. Like millions, I wish Ms. Lee had written more books . . . but am very, very grateful she wrote this one.
Kelli Stanley’s most recent book is City of Dragons (Minotaur, February 2010). Find out more on her website.
My favorite assigned reading in high school was a play written by a Greek named Aristophanes around 411 B.C. People who’ve read it will probably realize quickly that I am talking about the play Lysistrata, and probably understand immediately why, in high school, it was my favorite reading assignment.
Lysistrata decides it’s time for the men of Greece to end The Peloponnesian War. She rallies the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until they stop fighting. The play deals on a more serious level with women’s roles in a male-dominated society, although that’s probably lost on most readers or viewers of the play, since it’s filled with double entendres, obscenities, and, in the case of the particular performance I saw in college, bright red fake phalluses that were approximately 18 inches long sticking out of the men’s togas. 2000 years later, the humor, er, holds up.
Mark Terry is the author of the Derek Stillwater thrillers. Visit his website.
Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.