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'East of Eden' by John Steinbeck

"Every so often, I like to read a book that I'm 'supposed' to read -- you know, the ones usually assigned in college courses ... Often these are dull, and usually I approach them with this expectation. Happily, I am more often than not surprised.

"This summer, having exhausted all the books I was in the process of reading, I picked one of these books off my shelf: a big, thick one I figured I'd never finish reading. The book was East of Eden. [It's] one of those books that should be dull and an effort to read. It was neither.

"Instead, it was one of those books where the story and characters became your friends for a while, and in the end, you were very disappointed that they were gone. I was engrossed in the book from start to finish, and read it in only a few days because I just couldn't put it down. I miss the characters in the book now, as much as if they were friends or neighbors of mine who have moved on.

From Monica, who listens to KPBS in San Diego, Calif.

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