Not quite sure if this topic means school-required books or books friends shoved on you because they loved them so much, but I’m focusing on the books I actually liked reading from school. Now, I’m the type of person who pretty much hates books when I have to read them, so there are many books on this list that I technically didn’t like when reading them, but think I would like more if I read them outside of class, and I plan on rereading them at some point to see if this is the case. So, anyway, on to the books I actually (kind of) enjoyed in school!
1. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I feel like this is one of those books that a lot of people list when talking about favorite high school books, but there’s a reason. It was short, took place in the Roaring Twenties, and was pretty interesting, so a good combination. I was kind of excited about the recent book adaptation, but then heard mixed reviews, and when I saw the first half hour or hour of the movie a few weeks ago, I wasn’t very impressed with it, but the book was interesting if I remember correctly.
2. As I Lay Dying (William Fitzgerald)
I read this during AP English, and even though it is so freaking weird (family carrying around their mother’s rotting corpse because they need to get her to her hometown to bury or something), it was interesting. There were interesting characters, imagery, and story, and I actually didn’t mind reading and talking about it in class, which is always a plus for me.
3. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
I feel like people either liked this book or thought Holden Caulfield was a whiny, irritating brat. I happened to fall in the former category – I sympathized with Holden, especially the way he didn’t want to grow up and was starting to get screwed up as a result.
4. The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)
Another AP English read, but I first saw this as a school play my junior year and I was surprised with just how funny it was. Seriously, it’s hilarious, with tons of irony and sarcasm and dry wit. Even the name of the play has a double meaning! And plays are often quicker and slightly more interesting than books, so that makes it even better.
5. The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)
I think I’m a much bigger fan of Shakespeare’s comedies than dramas, although I have enjoyed all of the dramas I’ve read of his at least a little. This was a comedy, though, and had an awesome female character that ends up outsmarting many male characters along with her lady’s maid. Plus, it’s always interesting to see how many common phrases (such as “not all that glistens is gold” or whatever) were coined by Shakespeare. And, if I remember correctly, this is the play that has an interesting and more respectful depiction of a Jewish man in a time when Jewish people were mostly looked down on as scum by Shakespeare’s Christian peers.
6. A Comedy of Errors (William Shakespeare)
Never heard of A Comedy of Errors? Doesn’t really surprise me. I hadn’t heard about it until an AP English project that required us to find a Shakespeare comedy and film our own version of it. One group chose the familiar Twelfth Night while the other chose the lesser-known-but-still-mostly-known Merry Wives of Windsor (at least, I had heard of it before the project – didn’t know what it was about). My group, however, wanted to find a lesser known comedy. When we found a comedy that involved two sets of twins and a lot of mistaken identity hijinks, we knew we had found the perfect play. Seriously, if you like Shakespeare, especially his comedy, you should try to find A Comedy of Errors – it’s short and sweet, and if you want to cheat a little and get the No Fear Shakespeare edition, it’s even easy to understand! Both would probably be best, though, so you can get the original as well.
7. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
Wow, I have a lot of books by Williams on this list. Anyway, this is seriously screwed up, but it was quite interesting. I wasn’t a huge fan of it when I read it because it was screwed up and slightly frightening for a poor little freshman, but I think I’d appreciate it more now (although I would still be as freaked out, because, as I’ve mentioned, it’s screwed up).
8. Harry Potter #4 & #7 (J.K. Rowling)
Yes, poor me, I was forced to read Harry Potter in school. Seriously, though – I read the fourth book my freshman year and the seventh book for sophomore year. My teacher, a huge Harry Potter fan, assigned them because they had some interesting issues and she wanted to give us a break (for the fourth book – we read it at the end of the year) and make summer reading more enjoyable (for the seventh book – it was one of the books we could choose from because it had an archetypal journey). It made the essays and class discussions interesting, especially when a few of my friends and I spent an entire class (and ours were long – I had block scheduling, which meant each class was about an hour and a half) explaining the later books to a friend of ours who hadn’t read them. Highly entertaining.
9. The Odyssey (Homer)
I’m a mythology girl, so is it a surprise this made the list? We read it my sophomore year, and I think I was one of the few who didn’t complain. Yes, it was really freaking long and had really old language that made it slightly complicated at times, but I already knew pretty much the whole story before coming into it and enjoyed reading about mythology, so I understood it for the most part and was quite happy to read and analyze it.
10. The Crucible (Arthur Miller)
This is a play that I read for my junior year of English, and even though I enjoyed it, it kind of made me want to throw it across the room. Why? Because of darn (more curse words I’d rather not use on this blog here) Abigail Williams – I hated her, especially when she led mobs in accusing innocent people of being witches. But it was an interesting play, especially when you considered that the similar McCarthy-led “witch hunts” were happening when this play was written (and no, that was not a coincident on Miller’s part). It was an interesting blend of fact and fiction. And my teacher loved one scene that had a line about a sweaty stallion or something, so he enjoyed bringing that up sometimes.
I wish I could say that this list was easy to write, but it wasn’t. I’m just not the type of person who enjoys reading books when I’m forced to do so. I’m also sad to see that there were almost no female authors on this list. We didn’t read many books by female authors, and most of the ones that we did were ones I didn’t like. That’s something I hope to change in the future.