Book Reviews · My Life

The Book Doesn’t Change, You Do

I re-read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger last weekend, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Keep in mind, I hated this book in high school. No, I despised it. I despised it enough to rate it only one star on GoodReads. If you look at my GoodReads ratings, you’ll notice I almost never give a book a one-star rating.

After I finished reading it the second time, though, all I could say was: “WOW!” My initial reaction was to change my rating of the Salinger class on GoodReads from one star to five stars.

My second response was to wonder, “Why do we read this book in high school?” The only conclusion I could come up with was: So kids will grow up and and it again one day. It was like we read this book in high school solely so it could be illustrated to us how much a book can change as a reader matures.

But it’s not the book that changes. It’s something within the reader that changes.

There’s a scene in the book where the narrator, Holden, is talking about the frequent trips his class made to the museum when he was in school. He talks about how every trip to the museum is different and unique, but not because the museum changes. In fact, the museum stays exactly the same. In one way or another, every time someone visits the same museum, something about the person has changed. They’ve had and heard new conversations, they’ve read more books, etc. Ultimately, they’ve had more life experiences, so they’ll see the museum with a new perspective each time they visit.

It’s the same concept every time you re-read a book. The book is the same. The words are all in the same spots on the page, but they’re going to be interpreted differently. New perspectives accompany life experience.

I strongly encourage anyone who read The Catcher in the Rye in high school to re-read it. It makes me want to go ahead and re-read every book I read in high school. Also, reading for pleasure and reading because the teacher says you have to are two entirely different concepts.

The Catcher in the Rye went from a one-star rated book on my GoodReads account to my Favorites shelf. Now I don’t feel so bad about re-reading books over and over again. A long time ago I was told that you should re-read good books every five years. I think the same concept can apply to movies and TV shows.





2 thoughts on “The Book Doesn’t Change, You Do

  1. I haven’t read any Salinger in many years. I should remedy that. And I’m hoping that some posthumous works eventually are published.
    Have you read On The Road? I re-read it last year, and loved it.

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