This Wednesday, Krysta wrote about the pros and cons of required reading in schools. She noted that we all have horror stories of immensely dull novels we had to read for class, but also asked: what about the required reading we loved? To continue the conversation, here is a list of some great books I first encountered as class assignments.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
One of the local high school teachers was furious when she discovered our eighth grade teacher had assigned this to our class. She huffed and puffed about how it was too complex and too long, how it would take her half a year to even begin to get her students to understand it. Personally, I think she blew things way out of proportion. I read this book, unabridged, with zeal. And though I probably didn’t get everything there is to get out of the book, I did go on to reread it a few more times, which certainly helped.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I read this one in high school and instantly fell in love with the characters and the beautiful writing. It’s still one of my favorite books, and I’ve been able to re-read it a few times and still love it just as much; no re-reading disappointment here! Hopefully Go Set a Watchman will live up to it.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
My third grade teacher read this aloud to us in class, and I couldn’t get enough. I spent the next several weeks checking out the rest of the series from the school library. And then checking them out all over again. I’m so pleased I was able to encounter these books as a child because, as much as I still like them, I just don’t have the same experience reading them as an adult.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This one was also assigned by my eighth grade teacher. He was very explicit about assigning books he thought were interesting, instead of assigning ones that fit some recommended grade level. I’m still surprised he got away with this one, due to all the cursing, but I’m so glad he did. I’ve gone on to read several other Steinbeck novels and like most of them, as well.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
My high school English teacher was no longer to officially assign this book because of the cursing…so he gave away the old classroom copies of the novel to anyone who would take one. I think more students probably read this book than if it had actually been required; the lure of banned books is irresistible. And while I don’t think I was ever really an angsty teen, Holden’s disgust with anyone and anything he found “phony” really resonated with me.
What great books did you discover from required reading?
3 thoughts on “Top Books I Discovered from Required School Reading”
Of these books, only Of Mice and Men was required reading for me. I think I read it in grade eleven, and we held an elaborate mock-trial to determine who was guilty for Lenny’s death. I was on the jury – it was a tough call! Everyone was really into it. I can’t think of any books I read for school that really stand out, but studying Shakespeare was a lot fun for me. I don’t think I would have touched him otherwise, having assumed his plays were all really old and dusty and dull.
That sounds like a great class assignment! We basically just had multiple choice tests on the book that the teacher pulled from SparkNotes. I still enjoyed reading the book, though!
I didn’t like Shakespeare until very recently. The turning point for me was actually taking a class where we read his contemporaries…and I decided Shakespeare’s work really IS much better than theirs. I can’t say I really had a class where we discussed Shakespeare in depth, even when the classes touched on Shakespeare. In grad school, everyone seems to assume that the students are all familiar with Shakespeare and we don’t really have to discuss him. Unfortunate, really.