While reflecting on my list of must-reads, I couldn’t help but recall the array of books that I had to read in high school. I’ve had multiple conversations with my peers about books we had to read and just how bizarre they were to books that we mutually loved and were happy to have read. High school seems like ages ago, and I still can’t believe that I wrote essays and had assignments on them. But that’s beside the point. To be clear, I didn’t necessarily hate all these books. I just don’t think that they should’ve been required for English class.
Here’s my list of books that shouldn’t have been required reads in high school, plus quotes that actually spoke to me personally. I promise that there aren’t any spoilers if you actually do want to read them! Who knows, I may just do my favorite required high school reads for my next post…..
1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I went to an all-girls high school, and we were definitely not mature enough to read something that involved young British boys playing survival of the fittest on a deserted island. While the book did have enthralling themes, I didn’t receive any literary benefit from that book. My brother goes to an all-boys school and I haven’t heard any complaints from him… Turns out he actually liked it…
“The greatest ideas are the simplest.”
(There’s actually a quote that I like better but it would be a spoiler.)
By the time the book ended, I just couldn’t handle myself.
2. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
I had several problems with this book. I did understand that my teacher wanted us to read a play to explore different literary forms, but again, no long term benefit. I even forgot the name of this book and had to do some intensive Googling to figure out what the name was. What was even worse was that we had to watch a movie version of this book. It was kind of cool to see the actual script we were reading on the screen, but my gosh it took place in one room the ENTIRE time. ONE ROOM. For 2+ hours. Help.
“Perhaps I will be a great man… I mean perhaps I will hold on to the substance of truth and find my way always with the right course.”
Wait… P Diddy and the mom from The Cosby Show were in a remake??? Why didn’t we watch this one???
But then again, P Diddy? Really??
3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Oh Rebecca. Maybe it was the version I bought, but it looked like a Danielle Steel book and that was already a red flag (not to mention that the cover of the book was also red, punny I know). Anyway, this book was actually not horrible. It was a summer reading book so it was a semi-lighter read, but that didn’t mean it was that good. The point of reading this book was a first exposure to gothic novels. I guess I’m just not a fan. Maybe I should try again.
“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”
The book did have an intriguingly creepy story. But it was just so dreary. See what I mean?
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Don’t get me wrong, Charles Dickens is a literary legend. It was also written in a different style, which made it harder to read initially. Also, writers were paid by the word at the time so sentences that could’ve been 10 words were 30. But I just…. just….
Pip annoyed me, ok?
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
5. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
This just shouldn’t have been required. It’s actually a really interesting book about living in America on minimum wage and is pretty well written. It was considered an “outside reading book” since it wasn’t really part of the core curriculum. The narrator/author goes through 3 (I think) minimum wage jobs, comparing and contrasting them. She pretty much makes her point from the beginning, that you really can’t live independently solely working one minimum wage job. And by the end, I got the point. Trust me. I got the point.
“What you don’t necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you’re really selling is your life.”
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I actually consider John Steinbeck one of my favorite authors of all time. He’s a fantastic writer, and I found myself pretty invested in his books. I had to read 3 Steinbeck books in high school (Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, and Grapes of Wrath). Of Mice and Men was one of my summer reading books before my freshman year of high school, and frankly, I just thought I was too young to fully understand the book. There were a lot of significant themes written in such a short novel that I was just completely overwhelmed by the ending. If you’ve read it already, you know what I mean. You know you didn’t want that ending.
“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
7. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I’ve talked to a lot of people that didn’t have to read this book in high school, and it’s because this book was about two things: being independent and being a strong woman — the two things that my high school groomed us to be. This book, however, was extremely contradictory to that mission… it talks about love and how the protagonist goes through three marriages to finally find her man… I wish I could say more, and it was all about love and blah blah blah, but I guess the book was… eh.
“Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”
8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A great coming of age story. I just wish it wasn’t a summer reading book. I would’ve loved writing a paper for it. Loved writing a paper? What?! Only reason why I don’t think this should’ve been required was the timing of said requirement. You should read it. It’s actually pretty good.
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”