Anything to Keep from Reading the Book

I got some interesting news this summer: a few different schools contacted me because they were using my novel Brand-New Emily in their classroom, and now that the novel is out of print, the teachers were hoping I could help them get copies of the book. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much help as I have only so many copies in my attic, but frankly, I was kind of surprised and definitely honored that something I had written is/was a school text. Then I had this epiphany: some kid or kids at these schools have probably treated my book like any other required reading for school…meaning they’ve done no-telling-what to try to get out of having to actually read it! Knowing this makes me feel like I’ve somehow arrived. Charles Dickens, you are now my homeboy! We are both being forced upon schoolchildren!

With this in mind, I asked some friends this question: What are some of the things you did to get out of reading a book for school? Here are their pretty funny responses:

A “friend of mine” did not enjoy reading the thousand-page book The Yearling and was in tears the night before school started back because *she* hadn’t finished it. Her mom miiiiiight have stayed up all night reading the book and making hand-written notes on each chapter for her daughter to read on the way to school in the morning. I…I mean, my friend…only missed one question on the test….

I was so mad to get to the end of Middlemarch only to find out the whole darn thing was summarized in the last chapter…I HATED MIDDLEMARCH! (She actually read the book, so her response doesn’t really count, but still funny!)

Read another book? I always got in trouble at school for not reading whatever was being taught. In other words, I sat through my classes with a good book propped behind my text book. Not the best plan-but satisfying!

Ok, so there are these big red volumes at my alma mater’s library–I’m sure I forget what they’re called–that are like Cliffs Notes but 100X better–like Cliffs Notes for your DOCTORAL EXAMS. Here is where I read Fielding, Daniel Deronda, basically everything [professor’s name redacted] would’ve taught: snooze.

I never skipped out on reading a book, but my dad once wrote a book report on a book that he completely made up. He literally made up the title, author, publisher, storyline, etc. (My note: Oh, the days before the internet!)

I would skip large pieces of the text and hope I got enough to pass the test. Usually I would read first and last paragraphs of each chapter, but I don’t recall this working so well.

I read portions of the story just to be able to discuss it and have questions–acting like I was confused about some part or the symbolism of something.

I’m a little troubled to have to add that some of these friends are my former students! And after all I did to make my book tests movie-proof! In any case, I appreciate their honesty.

As for me, I can’t imagine not reading the book. I mean, you GET to read a book! I don’t understand why you’d want to deprive yourself of that. Well, maybe Middlemarch…which I did read…but I must admit, my friend has a point.

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