In high school, I read the usual books - To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations . . you know the books. And then I tried to read a lot of those I "should" read - Wuthering Heights, Ivanhoe, Emma - but I didn't really understand them.
Once I retired, I joined a book club, and as a result, began to read more. And as I read more, I decided to begin to try to pick up a few classics along the way. And it has been wonderful.
Sometimes I think one needs to be older to enjoy many of the classics, though I know Diana would disagree. The second time through on To Kill A Mockingbird was far more enriching. And Jane Eyre? I loved it, though when I began it as a teen, I was so scared at the ghost scene I did not go on. Our book club reads one classic per year (this year we will do Anna Karenina, which is rather scary to me!), and I have tried to add one or two more per year. East of Eden was a last-minute addition.
I think I know what turned me off to Steinbeck. Travels with Charley. I was so offended by his realism when I was a very naive eighth-grader that I put it up and never read anything else of his. So when Kathy Dunlavy suggested I read East of Eden, I balked; but her recommendations have always been so spot-on, I decided to read it. And I have to admit, I loved it. I am glad I took the time to read it. If you haven't, I highly recommend it!