May 042010
Authors: Johnny Hart

So I’m something of an anomaly among journalists, especially my fellow Collegianites, in the fact that I don’t like to read very often.

It’s a bad habit, I know. But seriously, every time I try to sit down and read, I fall asleep.

It’s not that I don’t like books. And yes, the best way to become a better writer is to read the works of the greats that came before.

I guess I am just naturally incredibly gifted. Puffy chest. Smug grin.

The only time I read is when I am assigned it. And usually I don’t even get all the way through those books, if at all.

And I’m not alone. By now, a good half of you have already gotten bored by my writing –– clearly a mistake –– and started filling out the sudoku. I don’t blame you. I would too if I wasn’t writing this.

But in high school, where the bulk of my reading happened, I was fortunate to have great English classes that did have a few novels that caught my attention, at least partially.

So here’s the best of what was assigned to me. Remember, these are not all the books I’ve read. When I was younger I read “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Puffy chest. Smug grin.

1. ‘The Great Gatsby’

I’m pretty sure “The Great Gatsby” is the only book I’ve finished, before the due date, all the way through.

This book’s definitely my favorite of all time, maybe tied with Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke.” But that’s just because I’m a pervert.

“The Great Gatsby” truly embodies the longing to carve out a piece of that American dream. And I’m not the only famous author to appreciate the book –– yes, I’m famous.

Hunter S. Thompson used to type the words of “The Great Gatsby” over and over again to get the feel of great writing.

Now, I’m not that crazy, but I have this strange underlying aspiration to be shot out of a cannon. Weird.

2. ‘Lord of the Flies’

Please, don’t follow in the footsteps of these lost children and kill the big pig. That’s for the butchers and the farmers to do.

I don’t want that on my conscience when I’m eating some delicious bacon. Mmmm. Bacon.

Anyway, this book is a great view into the social and psychological aspects of human nature. And though it’s pretty slow in the beginning, the action picks up a lot at the end.

But one thing I’ve never got was the conch shell, horn thing. Really, who has ever been able to use a conch shell to make noise?

3. ‘Native Son’

This book sort of flies under the radar as far as high school-level English courses go, but it’s a pretty important book. In fact, it makes a cameo in the movie “American History X” to illustrate the racial issues between the protagonist and his father.

This book takes a serious look on the socio-economic conditions in early twentieth century Chicago slums that housed mostly African-Americans.

“Native Son” illustrates the hardship and near impossible class ascension the black community experienced in their struggle for equality.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted read, however, don’t pick this up. It is intense.

4. ‘Inherit the Wind’

It’s hard to talk about each of these books without just saying, “This book is really good,” but in all actuality it is.

“Inherit the Wind” follows the courtroom hearings and trial against a schoolteacher who was jailed for teaching his students evolution.

This book challenged the traditional curriculums teaching creationism through an interesting, creative argument.

5. ‘Frankenstein’

There’s an interesting story behind “Frankenstein.” The author Mary Shelley, her husband and some friends spent a winter indoors, and to avoid boredom and insanity, they created a competition for which they all were to write a horror novel. The scariest story wins.

Needless to say, Shelley won the competition after being inspired by a scientific journal entry talking about the re-animation of worms.

Also, most people’s conception of Frankenstein’s monster is wrong. In fact, the monster was not named Frankenstein, and was superior in intelligence and physical attributes.

He also didn’t sing show tunes –– see Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein.”


Entertainment Editor Johnny Hart has slowly drifted off to sleep. Please wait several hours, then e-mail him at

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