Top Ten Tuesday (63): Books I Wish Were Taught in School

TTT stars

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is

Top Ten Books I Wish Were Taught in School

In some school, somewhere, many of the titles I list here probably are taught.  Nonetheless, these are the books I wish would be taught more widely.

1.  The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings is a fantasy classic, and Tolkien was a serious writer who thought carefully about everything from the vocabulary he chose to his books’ major themes.  It’s time schools started taking fantasy more seriously as a genre.  (Of course, some colleges offer courses on Tolkien, but I would love to see Tolkien treated seriously in the overall school system and not just by isolated professors.)

2.  Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery:  In my experience, many schools and teachers shy away from assigned reading they deem too “girly.”  Anne is a classic children’s story to which students should be introduced.  (You can clump any number of other classics into this entry, too: Little Women, The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, etc.) Review.

3.  Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong: This is the epic of China, comparable to the King Arthur legend for England, yet I had never even heard of it in school, where students focus mostly on the Western canon.  I am reading a translation now, and freely admit that though the narration is rather dry (it reads like a historical chronicle and not an epic), I think students could plow their way through an excerpt of the story in school.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green:  Part of encouraging students to read is convincing them that reading can be fun—and part of that is demonstrating that not every “good” book was written at least fifty years ago.  While I believe schools should focus on the classics, I also think they should encourage students to pick up new releases.  The Fault in Our Stars is an entertaining and quirky book with some serious themes, and would make a great addition to a high school classroom.

5.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Crane:  I was on the fence about how enlightening and well-written I found this book, but the overall concept is brilliant.  In school, I was one of those kids teachers thought needed to “break out of my shell” and others students sometimes thought was too quiet.  If this book can help students—and teachers—understand introverts, it would be worth it as required reading (there is even a great section at the end suggesting that educators accept introversion as a “learning type”).  It is also a great platform for launching a discussion on all the differences people have, not just introversion vs. extroversion. Review.

6. Corduroy by Don Freeman:  Anyone wishing to study children’s literature in any seriousness has to go to college (and hope their college offers a class on it—mine didn’t).   Introducing the picture book as a valid art form earlier in school could help spark the interest of students who might wish to write picture books, edit them, or just have a greater understanding of what they’re reading their future kids.

7. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer:  Although Foer specifies his book is not a self-help book, he inevitably throws out a few tips about how people can improve their memories while he is in the process of discussing memory in general.  Unfortunately, I found that,  after school, I don’t have much need for memorizing large amounts of information like dates or foreign language vocabulary.  This book will be most useful to students. Review.

8. The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy:  An adult book told entirely and seriously from the perspective of elephants, this novel is just so different.  It could inspire discussion about the nature of animals (whom scientists are discovering are more complex and more “like humans” every day) and about creative writing in general.

9. Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings by Katherine S. Newman:  Hands-down, this would be a controversial book to teach anywhere but college, where I read it.  However, its subject is undoubtedly timely.  If more people—educations, administrators, and students—understood what drives kids to initiate mass shootings on school campuses, it might be possible to prevent some.

10.  The Chosen by Chaim Potok:  A modern classic, this book has to be being taught somewhere, but no one I know has read it in school.

21 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday (63): Books I Wish Were Taught in School

  1. Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net says:

    How awesome would it be if we had to read LOTR for school? I was going to write my grade 12 English paper on LOTR but alas, my teachers kept switching around (long story about my main English teacher becoming ill and had to leave) and in the end they dropped the research paper component.

    Quiet: the Power of Introverts […] should be mandatory reading in general, lol. I feel like just shoving the book in people’s hands when it comes down to explaining why I do (or do not do) certain things or why I’m not more socially active, etc, etc. *nods*

    Great list! My TTT

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    • Briana says:

      I wrote my 11th grade research paper on the Eye of Sauron! It was pretty awesome, plus my teacher was obsessed with Tolkien. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, though!

      Yeah. I’ve wanted to force several people to read it, but so far only Krysta has, and she wasn’t even on my list. :p

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    • Briana says:

      I hadn’t really thought about the length when I put it on the list. Oops. I guess that’s why we read The Hobbit freshman year of high school instead, but they’re really two completely different styles, so I would still advocate LotR. Plus, the teacher didn’t like The Hobbit, so since it was summer reading, she basically tried to pretend we had never read it at all so she wouldn’t have to teach it.

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  2. Raindrops and Pages says:

    I would have loved to be able to read the LotR in school. I think the length would have been too daunting for most teachers though. I really love your list, and I’m going to check out a couple of the books I haven’t seen before.

    My TTT

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    • Briana says:

      Very valid point. After Harry Potter and other such series, LotR doesn’t look quite as long to me as it used to, although there’s the difference it’s one book vs. seven. I guess I could argue for just reading The Fellowship of the Ring. 😉

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  3. Carrie-Anne says:

    I had to read The Chosen during my religious conversion. My rabbi let me read pretty much whatever I wanted from the synagogue library, but also gave me a few really important books he felt I should read. It’s a really good book, and has held up pretty well over the years.

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    • Briana says:

      That’s amazing! I absolutely love nearly everything Potok has written. Apparently I freaked out a Jewish friend because I own more Potok books than his family does. :p

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    • Briana says:

      I hadn’t thought of that when I put it on the list! I flew through it in four days in sixth grade, but most of my freshman high school class claimed to be confused by The Hobbit, which is shorter and less complex, so I can see your point.

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  4. kamifurr says:

    There are some good picks there! I’m going to have to check out that Introvert book. I am a total introvert and people just don’t get me. They think I’m sad, mad, depressed, etc. I just want to be left alone!

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    • Briana says:

      I know! I’m grateful so many people understand or at least don’t mind my introverted tendencies, but there’s always that one person who makes it clear they think I’m kind of a freak. Which I find annoying more than anything else.

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  5. Dale says:

    It’s been a while since I was in High School, but The Chosen was always on the reading lists. I know at least a few English teachers had classes read it as a whole (although none of the teachers I had did). I had not heard of The White Bone until now. It sounds fascinating. I’m going to have to give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    • Briana says:

      Aw, I want to go to your school! I got stuck reading Ethan Frome instead. :p

      One of my professors who is interested in literature about animals recommended The White Bone to me, and I really enjoyed it!

      Like

  6. Heather says:

    You know… I have Moonwalking with Einstein on my shelf and haven’t read it, but knowing what it’s about… you’re totally right… kids in school (and college kids too) should TOTALLY read this. *forehead smack for not thinking of that*

    I haven’t read a lot of the books on your list, but I’ve seen John Green everywhere, I should really pick up one of his books already.

    http://littlesqueed.blogspot.com/2013/09/top-ten-tuesday-what-im-reading-and.html

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    • Briana says:

      Moonwalking with Einstein was recommended to all the interns at my editorial internship last summer. I was skeptical, but besides the fact that the topic is interesting, the book is incredibly readable. I would definitely recommend it.

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  7. Elizabeth says:

    Can I just say how much I agree with this list? I touch on both of your reasoning behind #1 and #2 in my post, but I didn’t even think of the reasoning behind #3! It’s a really good point. And again, the reasoning behind #4 YES WE NEED THESE THINGS. We need fantasy, we need humour, we need stronger and more relateable (I guess that isn’t a word but whatever) female characters, and we need to remind people reading is FUN!! So yes, your list nails it haha

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    • Briana says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by! It’s always nice to have someone agree with you. 🙂

      I’m torn on “relateable” as a word. It’s in common usage, and people seem to know what we mean by it…but what does it mean? Any character is surely relateable to someone, right? (So, basically I would never be allowed to use this in an English class because the work would be too ambiguous. But I throw it out in reviews once in awhile all the same.)

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