Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
“As a kid, I was a lonely, loathed nerd who avoided reality by losing myself in science-fiction novels and superhero comics. I hated the books we were assigned in school and skipped reading them whenever I thought I could get away with it. So in sixth grade, when I turned in an English project about Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa—a sheet of poster board with an outline of Africa and some red arrows pointing ‘out’ of it—my teacher, Mrs. Byers, produced a copy of Of Mice and Men and told me, gently but firmly, that if I wanted to pass her class I had to read it by the following morning. Here, finally, was a reality I could not avoid.
“That night, despite my dread, I found myself drawn into Steinbeck’s simple, sad story. And worse, near the book’s end, I even found tears—real tears—rolling down my 12-year-old cheeks. I had never in my wildest fantasies thought a story could distill such true, lonely, human emotions; moreover, I was deeply moved that Mrs. Byers had thought me mature enough to understand them. After all, I was just a lonely, loathed nerd. To this day, her assignment still serves as my most basic literary lesson. So thank you, John Steinbeck. And thank you, Mrs. Byers.”
Recommended by Chris Ware, the author of Building Stories ($50, amazon.com).
To buy: $10, amazon.com.