Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Central students were reading in 1963

My copy is old and ratty -- the cover is loose, the pages are water-stained, and there are lots of comments written in the margin -- but I still revisit "Catcher in the Rye" every so often.

In 1963, when Madison Central High School senior high students voted on what book they would recommend to other students, "Catcher in the Rye" won. Here's a transcription of an article from the February 22, 1963 issue of The Madison Mirror describing our librarian's poll:

"Catcher in Rye" Tops Book Poll

A recent poll taken among senior high students at Central had The Catcher in the Rye receiving the most votes. Gone with the Wind was second.

Miss Bowden, who conducted the poll for the Central library, requested each student to record on a ballot his choice of one book he would recommend to other students.

The voting was spread out over many dozens of books. Those receiving four votes or more are the following: The Catcher in the Rye, 26 votes; Gone With the Wind, 15; 1984, 10; To Kill A Mockingbird, 9; On the Beach, 7: The Good Earth, 6; Of Mice and Men, 5, Call of the Wild, 5; Jane Eyre, Hawaii, Kon-Tiki, and Seventeenth Summer, 4 votes each.

Traditionalist, revisionist, or sentimentalist, or some other kind of ist -- whatever you call yourself (or people call you), you're likely to find revisiting any or all of the books named in the article a worthwhile adventure. I've read them all and I remember them all -- except the last one. If you adored "Seventeenth Summer" and its characters and plot are still with you today, give the rest of us a some clues -- or better yet, write a book report.

If you write a book report, please remember some things have changed in the past 40 years or so. Pronoun choice no longers "defers to the masculine" and good writers avoid using the passive voice (as should bureaucrats and politicians).

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