“The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years,” says Eric Stickney, the educational research director for Renaissance Learning.
Lord Byron is perhaps our most prominent example of an extravagant writer in a bygone age. There’s a reason his antics earned him a popular adjective. However, he’s not the only writer from long ago to live large, as made clear in this New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert — inspired by the release of two new biographies — that deals with the up-and-down life and reputation of Seneca. Sample quote: “Seneca’s fortune made possible a life style that was lavish by Roman or, for that matter, Hollywood standards.”
Lord of the Flies is perhaps the best example of a book that forces readers to confront how wild we are. But there’s a whole corpus of books that accomplish the same thing. In The New Statesman, Erica Wagner writes about Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorn Time and Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border.