Some of My Favorite Books Were Required Reading

Discussion Post

When we discuss required reading, the focus tends to be on the negative: students who are bored, resentful, or uninspired.  It is true that I have been assigned a fair amount of stories I cannot stand.  Ethan Frome comes to mind.  However, it is also true that I have been assigned books I would not have read myself–either because I was uninterested or intimidated–and that I unexpectedly ending up loving them.  Below is a(n incomplete) list of favorite books that I owe to my teachers who required me to read them.

Required Reading I Have Loved

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lee’s book seems to be a staple in American classrooms.  I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t loved it.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

This is one of those books that was, for me, transformational.  And I got to read it for class.

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

I was reading Shakespeare on my own, but I don’t know if I’d have ever gotten around to this one if it had not been assigned to me.  Now it is my favorite Shakespeare play.

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Contemporary fiction isn’t really my thing, so, even though I have read a fair amount of Morrison’s work, it always feels like something I ought to be doing not something I want to do.  But this one I actually enjoyed!

Beowulf by Anonymous

Monsters!  Battles!  Dragons!  This poem has it all!

The Maid’s Tragedy by Beaumont and Fletcher

Renaissance drama beyond Shakespeare is so good and also so ridiculous and overly dramatic that I cannot begin to express my appreciation.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Yes, I really got to read this for class!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I know that only terrible things happen in this book, so I probably shouldn’t enjoy it.  And yet I do.

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I Didn’t Like Them, But I Am Glad I Read Them

Some books I didn’t like, but I have discovered that reading them was actually beneficial to me in the long run.  Here I list some honorable mentions–stories I did not particularly love or connect with, but that I ended up needing to know about anyway.  Thanks, teachers!

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Surprisingly, I have had to explain Kate Chopin’s work and historical context to more than one person.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This is one of those books people like to reference.  Now I can nod along knowingly.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I was bored and I hated it, but I realize it’s considered important and influential.  At least I know what everyone else is talking about.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Despite not particularly enjoying contemporary fiction, I have read enough of Morrison’s books that I can talk to avid readers about her work without feeling totally lost and ashamed.

What are some books that were assigned to you–and that you unexpectedly enjoyed?

Other Discussions about Classics

44 thoughts on “Some of My Favorite Books Were Required Reading

  1. Roof Beam Reader says:

    Yes! There are so many books I read for required reading that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and that are now favorites. Love this side of the conversation.


  2. alilovesbooks says:

    I haven’t read many on your list but most of the books I read for school I ended up enjoying (although possibly not loving). Sunset Song is probably the most memorable for me.

    I should admit I only read To Kill a Mockingbird recently and I didn’t understand enough of it to love it. I kind of wish I’d read it at school as I probably would have gotten more out of it.


  3. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    I had to read a part of Beowulf for uni last year and loved it so much! Also read Animal Farm in my free time and really liked it.


  4. Remnants of Wit says:

    To Kill a Mockingbird is such a good book, and it was required for me too! I honestly love required reading so much–otherwise I’d never have read Night by Elie Wiesel or All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque!


  5. Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) says:

    I really disliked reading most of the books for high school– I just wasn’t interested. The Crucible was okay, i guess. In senior year though we read The Strange by Albus Camus (?) and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton which were awesome!


    • Briana says:

      I read The Stranger by myself in high school and didn’t get it at all. I think I would have liked reading it for class (though preferably a college class rather than a high school one) because I probably would have gotten more out of it. I might reread it sometime, now that I have a stronger background in literature, to see if I like it any more than I did then.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sionna (Books in Her Eyes) says:

        It was interesting… I think because I read it not for pleasure for to analyze it, made me enjoy it more. I’m sure if I read it today I wouldn’t like it as much haha.
        College though, man I read some great books in college ^_^ Kindred by Octavia Butler, Saga by Brain Vaughn and a few more really all from the same class haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Oh, required reading. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t recall most of my required reading books. The ones I loved included Killer Angels by Michael Sahara, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Hamlet by Shakespeare. I really disliked Aminal Farm ( we hadn’t studied Russian history AT ALL so I had no idea what was happening), Lord of the Flies (boring boys being gross is all I recall) and Wuthering Heights (let me go be crazy in the moors!).

    Man. Now I want to find my required reading lists and see if I remember reading any of these!


    • Krysta says:

      Well, I agree with your assessment of Lord of the Flies. And I have never managed to finish Wuthering Heights. 😉 Not all required reading ends up being a success!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Milliebot says:

    I don’t remember most of my required reading. I did love the hobbit and ragtime. Hated catcher in the rye and grapes of wrath. I like Shakespeare when I can watch, reading it gives me a headache. I liked Oedipus too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I am not a huge fan of Catcher in the Rye, but I’ve only read it once a long time ago, so maybe my opinion will change. I just didn’t relate to Holden like teens are apparently supposed to. I thought he was dumb and whiny, if I recall correctly….

      Oedipus is a good one, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    ooh great great topic!! I also ended up with a lot of favourites from required reading- To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely on that list for me!! It should be required reading everywhere! And I can’t believe you got to do the Hobbit for class?! That’s so cool!!! I’d have loved that! Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies are both amazing- they weren’t required reading for my class, but there were other classes in the school I was in and they had to read them… so I did too 😉 Yeah I get what you mean about Brave New World! Kinda wish they’d done Winter’s Tale at school now, cos I’ve been lazy about getting to it- but (and I can’t say I feel much regret about this) they tended to go for the more “obvious” ones like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth etc. And even at uni, where I did a Shakespeare course I *still* managed to skip that one *sigh* (in case you can’t tell the guilt that I haven’t yet finished reading all of Shakespeare’s work is strong- ah well, slowly slowly catchy monkey 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t pretend to understand your appreciation for Lord of the Flies, but I can get behind all the rest. 😉

      I haven’t read all of Shakespeare’s plays yet, either. Maybe I should be ashamed, but I think it’s exciting that I still have new Shakespeare plays to look forward to! I think I should read Henry VI soon because my friend is always quoting it. Which is odd. That’s not exactly a play people usually quote.

      Liked by 2 people

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        hehe thanks! Well it’s an interesting thought experiment if nothing else… no, I’m not actually gonna try to convince you, you’re off the hook. I think it’s a hit and miss book for a lot of people.

        That’s true! There are quite a few I’m really excited about, so I should look at it more that way 😀 Oh cool- yes, it’s not usually one I hear people talking about a lot, so it’s always been very low down on my list (I also have trouble keeping track of the “Henry’s”, which is a problem 😉 )


        • Krysta says:

          Haha, thanks! 😉

          All I’ve really gotten is that Henry VI may or may not be a good play, but it’s interesting because it portrays Joan of Arc as a witch. Which, yeah, makes it seem like not a high priority now that I think of it…. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  9. saraletourneau says:

    I wish I could say that I loved some of my required reading from high school. But I didn’t, sadly. The only one I remember at least liking was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

    My brother got to read The Hobbit in school, though. I can’t tell you how jealous I was of that! *lol*


  10. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    I didn’t read Anne of Green Gables until it was assigned in one of my children’s literature courses in university – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! I was expecting Anne to be more of a Pollyanna and was pleased to find more depth in the story. Mostly when I think of required reading, I think of all the books I wasn’t assigned. My high school assigned few of the books you might expect, and then my university experience focused mostly on contemporary children’s literature. I didn’t have to read any of the books you mention, though a few of them I wish I had (because, as you mention, I might not enjoy them/choose to read them independently but could benefit from having read them anyway).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      It’s so cool you got to read Anne of Green Gables for class! And, I guess that’s true, too–sometimes I wish I had been assigned books in school! It sometimes seems like I was supposed to have read all this stuff and I haven’t, even though I read a great deal!


  11. novelfables says:

    Whenever I encounter this question, my mind goes back to grades five and six when we read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt; I loved them both so much!


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