Welcome to the September Higher Learning column! In Higher Learning, College Guys talk about what they're reading, what they read in high school, and what books are important to them now. Now that the semester has begun, I was able to meet with my interview subject in person. Joey is a second year student at Grinnell and plans to be an English major.
Joey went to small religious high school in Tennessee before entering Grinnell College in 2007. He's interested in writing, literature, and Classics. Thanks for talking to Guys Lit Wire, Joey!
Kelly Herold: What are you reading at this very moment?
Joey: Other than reading for classes, I'm reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid. My mom sent it to me because she thought I'd like it.
Kelly: Is The Reluctant Fundamentalist typical of the books you like to read?
Joey: Yes, it is. I like books that deal with political situations and with religion, but in fiction. I prefer fiction to Non Fiction.
Kelly: Okay, let's go back to Middle School. What were you reading in, say, sixth or seventh grade?
Joey: Well, I started reading Harry Potter in fifth grade, so I was reading that a lot. In sixth grade, I read His Dark Materials. In Middle School, sometime in the eighth grade, I started reading Stephen King. It seemed more rebellious to carry a King book around with you. (Kelly: I'm with you, Joey. King was my YA too.)
Kelly: What was the first life-changing book you read? A book that made you think 'Wow' for the first time when reading?
Joey: Definitely 1984. And I didn't read it until I was a Junior in High School. I mean, I'd always loved reading, but 1984 really wowed me with how far-reaching Orwell's messages are.
Kelly: What about High School? What did you read for school and what did you think about required reading?
Joey: Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, especially early on. We also read Lord of the Flies during my sophomore year (a choice my teacher gets questions about every year). During the last two years of High School, we read plays (The Glass Menagerie, A Street Car Named Desire), Wuthering Heights, The Scarlett Letter, The Awakening. We also read some Poe now and then, which I really liked because I was into Stephen King. I liked most of the books we read. Except for one: The Age of Innocence. I didn't like the social politics in that one.
(Kelly: At this point, Joey and I had a discussion about how amazing his high school English teacher is. Look at those choices!)
Kelly: Did you do much reading for fun when you were in high school? What did "reading for fun" mean to you?
Joey: I looked for classic novels. It was fun to carry a book around that you were supposed to read. And I did read them! And liked them. I read Steinbeck (East of Eden remains a model for me when I'm writing short stories) and Hemingway. I really liked the Nick Adams stories and The Old Man and the Sea. I read Ayn Rand--The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I read James Joyce. We read parts of Ulysses in class, but I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on my own. I also read some Non Fiction. I carried around End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the End of Reason (Sam Harris) for a long time and would read and reread parts from it that impressed me.
Kelly: You read a lot of serious literature. What do you read for fun--when at the beach, for example?
Joey: I still like Stephen King. Sometimes I'll return to Garth Nix or Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series. I also have been reading Virginia Woolf, especially over the summer. Reading her short stories was fun. I also read To the Lighthouse over the summer. I had a really boring job, the night shift in a video store. Sometimes I wouldn't see a customer for three or four hours.
Kelly: Okay, last question: Young Adult literature--ever heard of it? What is Young Adult literature?
Joey: Our library had a Young Adult section. That's where I found His Dark Materials, for example, and Sabriel, and the Lost Years of Merlin series. But then I moved on to Steinbeck and King.
back to main page