High School Reading

Books I was required to read in High School:

Lord of the Flies by: William Golding

The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Salinger

Animal Farm by: George Orwell

The Crucible by: Arthur Miller

The Grapes of Wrath by: John Steinbeck

Spoon River Anthology by: Edgar Lee Masters

Great Expectations by: Charles Dickens

The Old Man and the Sea by: Ernest Hemingway

Slaughterhouse-Five by: Kurt Vonnegut

The Chosen by: Chaim Potok

Our Town by: Thornton Wilder

My Antonia by: Willa Cather

It has been a slow week on the reading front. The local library is trying to get some books in for me. I’m going to take a break from the usual reading this week and spend some time taking about children and reading.

One of the best things that happened to me as a young reader was a fourth grade teacher who handed us a reading list, pointed us at the library, and told us to get to reading. The rules were simple. Ten (I think) oral reports to him by the end of the year. If there was something we wanted to read that wasn’t on the list, all we had to do was get his approval. That was the year I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and My Friend Flicka and A Wrinkle in Time and Anne of Green Gables and Island of the Blue Dolphins. That was the year I found C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander, and Robin Mckinley. It was a wonderful year. It was a year that taught me how to use a library, and how to find other things I liked, back before Goodreads, or the internet even.

Then there were the High School years. The list above is not comprehensive. They are the ones I remember having to read. There were probably others. Of the High School list I enjoyed exactly three books. These were the years that would have put me off reading all together had I not already been a well established reader. Four years is a long time to go and find you only enjoy The Chosen, Slaughterhouse-Five, and My Antonia.

It is true that some of it could have been the teachers. I probably wouldn’t have hated Catcher in the Rye so much if Holden hadn’t been sold to me up front as someone I would understand and connect deeply with. But I still would have hated Catcher in the Rye.

Then there was the whole Dickens thing. Of all the Dickens books I’ve read since, I’ve never hated anything as much as Great Expectations. David Copperfield is a good read. So are Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Pickwick Papers. Plus, I only leave A Tale of Two Cities out because my teacher at the time assured me it was “to complex” for our class.

I once asked the same teacher who told me I would connect deeply with Holden Caulfield why we were reading so many books I hated in her class. She told me that it was important for us to have a shared knowledge base so we wouldn’t look like idiots to our employers and social groups. More than 20 years since that time, never once has any of these books come up in conversation at work, or at a social event.

So here today, the list of books I read on my own in High School, that I think should be a shared experience.

Things I read in High School because I wanted to:

1984 by: George Orwell

Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte

Fahrenheit 451 by: Ray Bradbury

Flowers for Algernon by: Daniel Keys

The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by: Victor Hugo

Howards End by: E.M. Forster

The Caves of Steel by: Isaac Asimov

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

One the Beach by: Nevil Shute

Not included here are The Scarlet Letter by: Nathaniel Hawthorn and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.   I think we did do both of those in class, but I had already read them.  So I don’t count them either way.

Have a great week everybody. I’ll see you at the library.



Posted on August 28, 2013, in books, Fiction, fun, list, Reading and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I was an established reader, and high school still put me off reading. I didn’t pick up another book that wasn’t for school until halfway through college. I’m not against teaching classics, but I think there has to be some balance.

  2. As an avid reader, I’m ashamed to admit that I read more Cliffnotes in high school than actual books (the only one I think I fully read–oddly enough–was Crime and Punishment). However, I’ve recently started reading many of those classics I skipped in school. I’ll admit I’m still not a HUGE fan of them, but I definitely appreciate them now that I’m older (and not having a teacher force me to read it and dig deeper and understand a character in a way that I simply don’t understand).

  3. ginnydreadful@gmail.com

    I’ve looked at the list again, and I’m amazed how many of the books are just really depressing at the end. You’d think they’d try and teach angst ridden emotional teens something not depressing. That could be a start.

  4. Ooh, The Martian Chronicles! We only read one story from that in high school — “There Will Come Soft Rains” — and I only recently read the whole thing.

    And wow, your high school read-for-fun list makes mine look like a bunch of supermarket paperbacks (disclaimer: no offense to said paperbacks, their writers, or their fans). The book reports we had to do my freshman year really got me into the Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel. I’d tried to read the first book some years before, but it just didn’t capture me. This time, I was hooked within a few chapters, and proceeded to write my first three book reports on the first three books of the series, respectively (I definitely didn’t mention all the graphic sex scenes, though ^_^;; )

    I mean, I knew even then that these weren’t “great literature,” but they were fun, and that’s all that really mattered to me.

    • ginnydreadful@gmail.com

      LOL! Well, I actually tried to keep my read for fun list to books they could have used in class too. So the list does not cover my intense Sophomore year romance reading. For example.

      • Ahh, well, I feel better, then 🙂 I tried reading some teen romance novels in sixth or seventh grade–they were literally called “Love Stories,” and I felt totally sophisticated (in a teenager sort of way) for reading them. Like, I was reading about high-schoolers and their dramas and love lives, and I was reading romance books, and that made me cool. And maybe if the boy I had a crush on saw me reading them, I don’t know, he’d…see I was interested in romance? Or something? When he did see me reading one before class, he just wrinkled his nose and said, “Why do you read those kinds of books?”

        Ah, the memories.

      • ginnydreadful@gmail.com

        Don’t feel bad. I once tried to attract a boy by reading “The Scarlet Letter”. High School boys, and 19th Century romantic literature. What was I thinking? At least it was a good book.

      • Heh. Worth a shot, anyway. I mean, come on, how could he not get the hints — Puritans Gone Wild! Breaking the rules! Having sex! (ok, so Hawthorne doesn’t explicitly show us the sex, but it’s there!)

        Sigh. Boys. Oh, but then they’ll be watching a movie adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and getting all giggly (in a dude sort of way) when Helena and Hermia greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. Real mature, guys.

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