I almost hated reading. I blame school assigned readings. For the two years of middle school I was forced to read two books that made me hate reading for a while. One of those books: The Martian Chronicles.
I was 12 and in 7th grade when I was forced to read this. Here is some context: I was in a magnet program for the humanities. I was the first class of the program too. A lot of our program was developed on the fly. This was the late 1980s and early 90s. There were only a few magnet programs in Miami and this was the first to focus on the humanities. Most focused on things like theater and performance arts.
How did my teacher pick The Martian Chronicles for us to read over winter break? I have no idea. I have some suspicions. This is not something other middle school students would have read and adds a bit of diversity of the typical school readings. Yes, it’s a while, male author. What makes it unique is that it is science fiction and relatively contemporary.
I hated every little bit of it and to this day I can’t quite put my finger on why.
I have re-read it as an adult. I still strongly dislike it, but I have the knowledge and maturity to understand it better. This is not a book for middle school students. There are far better science fictions books for the age group. I know, I have read a few:
- A Wrinkle in Time has diversity and science fiction (written by a woman)
- Space Cadet or a ton of other YA books Heinlein wrote
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – all the books
I remember the chapter in The Martian Chronicles: Usher II. To really understand this chapter you need to understand Poe and “The Fall of the House of Usher”. I didn’t read any Poe until… well… actually, I don’t think I have ever read that much Poe at all. That is weird, but whatever.
My point is that overly ambitious teachers need to take more into consideration than… well, whatever that teacher was taking into consideration. When picking books for kids, you need to be careful. What was the other book the same teacher assigned the next year? It was The Red Badge of Courage, which I also hate with the fire of a million suns.
Is there a book you were forced to reach in school and now hate? Tell me about it! I promise to only commiserate. Except if you say Pride and Prejudice. If you hate that book then you are wrong. No, don’t argue. You are wrong.