Okay, I have a confession:
Until this year, I had never actually read Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
WAIT! I have seen the movie, and I have read (and worked on a production of) the play. But this was my first time reading the novel.
I can see why it's become a classic. I mean, it's bursting with voice and vivid characters, with a plot that's easy to understand, and it still rings true today.
I have a second confession:
I decided to read it because of all the press that GO SET A WATCHMAN has been getting.
I don't think I'm going to read GO SET A WATCHMAN any time soon. While I could understand TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD's appeal, it was far from a favorite book for me. I don't know that I can point to specific problems with it, so much as it just...didn't really do it for me. While the characters were vivid, I did not become attached to them as I have to, say, Harry Potter or Ryan Dean West. Their voices didn't linger with me past the closing page.
I am glad TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is being taught in schools, though: there are lessons in empathy we can all learn from it, even if our heroes were later torn down by the "sequel." And if TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD can inspire honest discussion about race in America, so much the better. We still have a long ways to go.