School is starting for me next week. I don’t give summer assignments to my students, but my friends and colleagues do, which means that my students are too busy cheating on their summer reading to pay attention to what’s really important–me. This is a great loss. Who picked these reading selections, anyway?  Who decides that, say, Shakespeare–a dead white guy from the 1500’s, has more educational merit than reading something cool like The Hunger Games? Yeah, sure, the guy had wit, but no one understands the phallic jokes because all the characters are too busy rhyming and talking in iambic pentameter.  You’d be beaten for that today–even in today’s zero tolerance climate regarding bullying.

“Romeo, Romeo…wherefore art though Romeo?”

“In this damned gym locker! Get me out! I swear to God I won’t rhyme again! And I’ll take off this ridiculous shirt and tights.”

I can save America’s next generation from having to go on Yahoo.answers researching summaries for books they didn’t want to read in the first place–not that research is a bad thing. They shouldn’t have to read awful books written by a bunch of dead people anyway.  These books are annoying–filled with big words, twenty-page paragraphs, and not even a hint of an LOL. Why would anyone want to read in five hundred pages what they could condense into two tweets?

So, today, I’m putting out summaries for some of the great classics.  If you are a student and I’ve missed any key works on your list, please comment, and I’ll add that book as soon as possible. That way, you can get back to playing Call of Duty or shopping for the ridiculous clothes that I will be sure to mock when we get back into the classroom. Truth be told, I wanted to tweet these summaries, but due to the length of some of these novels, it’d be less like a tweet and more like a long squawk.

This list isn’t only for students–how many times have we gotten our behinds handed to us in public by the innocent-looking Facebook quiz “How many great books have you read?” only to have it blast out the answer in public and make us look like complete imbeciles: You have read 2 out of the 100 Greatest Books of All TimeYou’re illiterate. 

So, there’s no need to go online asking strangers for summaries and risk getting blasted by the author of the book or your instructor. These helpful recaps will do the trick. formerly known as “CliffsNotes,” they will now be called CaseyNotes.  Here goes:

A Christmas Carol

A very bad man gets scared by four ghosts, one of whom is his dead friend.  He decides to be good and gives away a Christmas dinner. Everyone lives happily ever after. Except the goose.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is a guest in one of Stalin’s premiere gulags.  Every day pretty much stinks, today is no exception. He steals some bread, washes floors, and gets stripped naked and searched in frozen Siberia. At the end, he gives away a biscuit, and marvels he has only 3,653 days of suckiness left to go.

The Grapes of Wrath

The Dust Bowl devastates Oklahoma. There is no food.  People die. A grieving mom nurses a starving man at the end. High school students reading are horrified. They don’t get the emotion of the scene because they’re too busy watching “Pretty Little Liars” and “Glee.”  No happily ever after.

Lord of the Flies

Read the Hunger Games trilogy.  Better yet, watch the movie–it’ll be quicker.


Read the Hunger Games trilogy.  Better yet, watch the movie–it’ll be quicker.

Brothers Karamazov

The Spanish Inquisition puts Jesus in jail. People discuss whether holy men rot when they die. The father gets killed.  People always gets killed in Russian literature, even so, there must be a trial. Which there is. It is not fair. Welcome to Russia.

Don Quixote

A whack job of a man goes and fights windmills in honor of a peasant he thinks is a princess. She doesn’t know he exists. He ignores the real hot chick who likes him and then dies. In about a million pages.

Of Mice and Men

Migrant workers try hard to find work.  George watches out for his friend Lennie then shoots him in the head.  It’s supposed to be compassionate. Definitely not a happy ending. At least it’s a short book.


Old guy likes younger girl. Disturbing on many levels. Hopefully nobody is reading this for summer reading anyway—that’d be creepy. You’d get put on a list.

The Scarlet Letter

The woman gets accused of adultery and has to wear the big red A.  The guy doesn’t have to wear an A. Not fair.

Les Miserables

Translate the title–you have the summary. Everyone is miserable. And to top it off, the revolution is coming. If you’re already depressed, see the musical. At least you can sing while they all die. No happy ending.

The Call of the Wild

Lots of dog sleds mush through Alaska. Reminds me of Sarah Palin except she has a snowmobile. And more guns.

I hope this has helped and that you have the best school year yet.  Students–may your teachers not interrupt your social life, parents, enjoy the six-hours of freedom to drink coffee and plan ways to embarrass your kids, and teachers everywhere, press on. Let’s unite to find even worse selections for next year!

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