Last week’s To Be Read Podcast was on the effect of school set texts on later reading habits. Frequent visitors will be unsurprised to know having to read certain books didn’t put me off reading, but I did notice an impact on my reading habits.
My mother worked as a librarian, so I grew up surrounded by both books and the sense reading was a good thing. By the time I reached secondary school, I read books faster than I could borrow them from the library. And this avid reading of as much as possible took in the set texts. While I didn’t love everything on the various syllabi, I sought out more books by many of the authors: sometimes discovering new joys, such as Golding’s To the Ends of the Earth trilogy; sometimes exceeding my reach, as with my first attempt at Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. I even read my way through large chunks of the English Department’s list of great works.
Where the set texts did make a difference was in which books I return to. Although I enjoyed studying most of the texts, I haven’t returned to them; which – as I read other books by the same authors – is more than a change in my taste. Something about the studying of books formally took the fun from them.
Which is one of the reasons why I studied Law and not English at University: a large part of law is the same textural analysis and defence of interpretations; but law does not drag the sheer beauty of prose into the mix.
Of course, with my weekly reviews, I have now returned to the critiquing of books. However – with no need to fit anyone else’s format or provide objective valuations – I am free to keep those reviews about how books affect me rather than why the author used peach musk instead of magnolia blush to describe wallpaper.
What effect did set texts have on your reading habits?