This year, I have been using a reading list to guide my reading. The list gives topics to follow, and in the end, you will have read twelve books throughout the year. One of the items on the list is “A book you should have read in school.” For this category, I chose to read Homer’s The Odyssey.
The Odyssey is a story I should have first read in high school. However, I went to one of those schools where we watched the movie for everything and never actually read anything. Then in college, all the freshmen at my college read The Odyssey in a mandatory first semester course. Except for my class. My instructor decided we should read The Iliad instead.
So now, ten years after I should have, I read The Odyssey.
To be honest, I think I was able to enjoy it now better than I would have as a student. Currently, I teach a literature class that does a section on Ancient Greek Literature. I think teaching this section of my course helped me a lot while reading this story.
It is a good story. However, the style of writing is very different than what most of us are used to today (another reason why I feel I was able to enjoy this story better now than I would have ten years ago). As I have gotten older, I have started to enjoy different story-telling techniques. It’s interesting to me the amount of variation that exists in the way different cultures tell stories.
My only negative about this story: Odysseus tends to be a bit long winded at times. He likes to tell stories to the people he meets along his journey, which is fine, but sometimes those stories start to feel like they should be a book themselves. At times, these stories of Odysseus’ draw the reader’s attention away from the main story line.
Overall, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this one. It’s not necessarily in my top picks, but worth a read. Just make sure you get a good translation. It turns out, the way the story is translated can make a big difference regarding how enjoyable it is.