I first read this book for a class ("Young Adult Literature" at WWU), and I'm not sure that's such a great way to go about Salinger. I mean, some books you can analyze right down to a pile of dust, and I don't think CATCHER is one of them. At any rate, I read the book in class a few years ago, and when a friend brought it up a few months back, I realized I'd forgotten pretty much everything about it except "...this kid named, Holden, right? Who says 'goddam' all the time?", so I figured I ought to embark upon that particular journey again. And so I did. And wow. I love J.D. Salinger.
What I realized, reading CATCHER the second time, is that this is the kind of book you must read at least twice--no doubt, CATCHER has now entered the rotation of Books I Reread Every Few Years--because in the first reading, you only get the gist of the story. You know not to expect a whole lot of plot (not much happens, okay? Now you know), you get all the way to the end and learn a few things about this Holden Caulfield kid, and then, when you go back to read CATCHER the second time, you can't help seeing Holden in a completely different light.
My second time through CATCHER, I realized that it was one of the saddest books I'd ever read--not Steel Magnolias sad or anything, but sad right down to my bones. I wanted to hug Holden and make things better somehow, because he's such a loveable kid, even though he's a little punk sometimes.
I don't want you thinking CATCHER is depressing, though, because it isn't. It's also laugh-out-loud funny, because Holden is just a riot--there's a lot in what he actually says, sure, but there's tons more in what he doesn't say. He's easily one of my favorite characters of all time. In fact, he might be the best ever. The scene where Holden dances with his kid sister Phoebe is wonderful--anybody with siblings should read this book.
Rereading CATCHER then sent me on this Salinger binge, which is a sad endeavor because Salinger only wrote four books (they're all skinny books, too, and only two of them are novels)--so I implore you to read Franny & Zooey, as well as Nine Stories. I'm sure Raise the Roofbeam High Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction is good too, but I wouldn't know: I've been putting off reading that one so that I can keep thinking that there's something by Salinger that I haven't read...