The Best Book You Haven't Read - Be True To Your School
In 1964, a high school teacher challenged Bob Greene to keep a journal every day of his life as a drill to become a better reporter. The idea was that even if you didn't feel like writing, journaling what had happened during your own day would force you to write...something. And so Greene did just that. Many years later he found that diary in a drawer and was captivated by what he called "time preserved" in the words he had written, and so Be True To Your School was published.
I first read this book nearly a decade ago. I had already been out of high school more than 10 years, graduation more than two decades after the year that was chronicled in this book. I was amazed at how I could go to school at such a different time than the author, yet our experiences of secondary schooling could be so similar. The history of the day might have been completely different but those feelings of being a kid, just trying to get through some of the most awkward and difficult times of our lives, were not.
The style of the book might be considered loose writing. It is after all, a journal written by a high school boy. Some entries are simply a date, and a couple lines explaining a single even from the day. Take for example the entry for January 27, 1964:
"At dinner tonight Dad said I had to get a haircut. Chuck's dad has been telling him the same thing. They both say that we're trying to look like the Beatles, which I guess is true. I don't know how I'm going to get around it."
Although I probably never aspired to look like the Beatles, I certainly had been in the same place of not wanting my folks to direct my fashion and style sense. Yet simple entries are not all that fill the book. In some cases, the teenage Greene lets down his guard and opens up about that young man's yearning for the heart of the girl that got away. He tells the tale of his first beer, his first job, his good friends and those who let him down, and all of the things that take each of us from being kids to becoming adults. Realizing along the way that the best and easiest days are truly those we are in during the high school years, and that life will continually get trickier to figure out.
What is true about True is this: it doesn't matter when you went to school, and whether you are male or female. Each of us have gone through the growing up years and know what it feels like to be a teenager that has fallen in and out of love, to long for the warmth of the summer days, to dread a nights worth of homework, to be scared to give a speech and to cheer on the home team on a crisp Friday night. If you haven't thought about high school in a while, and most of us choose to tuck it away somewhere in the back of our minds, Greene's memoirs will bring it all back to you.
Be True To Your School is probably out of print, but is easily available on Ebay, and perhaps even in your local library. I picked my latest copy up for about a dollar online. When I first finished reading the book, I immediately sat down and emailed Greene this note:
"Dear Mr. Greene, I would like to know how you found the key to the box that contains my diary from high school. I see you changed the references from my mid 1980's high school experience to those of the sixties--changing the music of Duran Duran and Michael Jackson to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but it's obvious that you took the pages of my youth, and used them for your book. Here's my address so you can send me some of the royalties. Either that, or you uncovered the truth that each of us must go through passage of adolescent to adulthood, facing all the same trials and tribulations along the way. I shed a little tear when I finished the book, I'm shedding another now out of gratitude for what you've shared. Thank you."