My tenth-grade English teacher insisted on the difference between novels and literature. Literature was not inclusive of those vapid spy novels people consumed on vacation. Literature was not generally inclusive of anything that could be considered “light reading,” or had made the New York Times' Best Seller list. Literature had depth and meaning and symbolism. It was an allegory, a parable, a motif-heavy thought-provoker.
I inherited her position, thinking the difference a potentially important nuance.
My mother, a year previous, introduced me to literature. I was outgrowing teen literature as I outgrew my Twilight phase. As teen paranormal romance took over the young adult section of the bookstore, I wearied of it. I told my mother that I wanted to move into adult books, but wasn’t sure where to start.
My mother— an English major in college who, thus, might be more familiar with portions of English literary canon than many— steered me towards classic literature. I, the ninth-grader blindly looking to develop beyond teen fiction, left the store with The Canterbury Tales, Wuthering Heights, and— at my mother’s recommendation— The Scarlet Letter.