Friday, May 13, 2011

Required reading

I was never the type of person who complained when books were assigned reading in middle school or high school. I kind of loved the idea of poring over books and hearing different perspectives of the same story as well as learning about the backstory of the authors or events that inspired the books.

Later in life, of course, the idea of studying a piece of literature became less appealing to me but I thought today I'd share with you some of the books that I was forced to read and loved anyway.

Night by Elie Wiesel - This one really had a huge emotional impact on me. I remember sitting down to read it after dinner one night and not sleeping until I'd finished. And I sobbed through quite a lot of it. I've always been fascinated with reading accounts of survivors of WWII, I feel like I'm drawn to it in a way, and reading Night just confirmed my ongoing interest in the subject. A really beautifully written book.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder - I don't admit to understanding every section of Sophie's World, but I love the ease in which Jostein Gaarder presents different philosophers and philosophies. After reading and being mesmerised by Sophie's World, I've gone on to read many different books by Jostein Gaarder, all of which baffled and entertained me to no end.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - OK. I was sort of obsessed with Romeo and Juliet in my teen years. The angst of it really spoke to me at the time. Even though there was one traumatic experience where I was forced into reading a specific scene out loud amongst my class (luckily the Nurse only had one line in that scene!), it didn't quite stop me from loving the language of Shakespeare and the story that's told. I think perhaps we also studied The Tempest during high school and I did make a fairly half-hearted attempt at reading all of Shakespeare's plays. I did read his sonnets and fell in love all over again however.

The Outsiders by SE Hinton - I absolutely adored The Outsiders. Everything about it, the message, the writing style, the very believeable voice of the Ponyboy, the characters, the character's names, the inclusion of a Robert Frost poem, the film adaptation, and oh, especially the emotion that I felt reading this book for the first time. Every time I re-read this book, and it has been a book I've read more than a dozen times since I was in 8th grade, it hits me all over again how much this book shreds my heart into teeny tiny little pieces. I've cried every single time I've read it. Fabulous book.

The Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green - This book I mostly loved because of the romance. I don't really recall much about it, now that I think about it. I remember Patty is being a young girl who doesn't get on very well with her mother and that was something that really struck a chord with me. And then she's taking care of this soldier and falls in love and there's some heartbreak at the end? I'm not sure actually. I'd love to re-read this book and see if all those strong emotions I felt when reading it in 8th grade would still feel as important and life-changing as it felt as a 13 year old.

And that's it, really. I'm sure there were loads of other books that were required reading. To Kill a Mockingbird I'm sure. But a lot of the books that we studied at school were books that I'd already read and loved beforehand, so I find it difficult to distinguish which came first. All of the above books were books I read for the first time because my grade was dependent on how well they were analysed and so on.

Which books were required reading for you growing up? Did you love the books? Or hate them?


  1. Great books! I actually discovered Night as a high school teacher. My class loved it. We read every word of it out loud, and I had several criers.

    Others I haven't read yet: The Outsiders, Sophie's World. But they're all on my stacks!

  2. I began reading Sophie's World, and really enjoyed the first half, but then it just got so confusing I couldn't continue!!! I read 'Goodnight Mister Tom' by Michelle Magorian for school and really loved it. Nut I think sometimes reading novels in school makes you enjoy them less because you have to answer questions and everything at the end. Great post!

  3. I liked Night, too, although I didn't read it until I became an adult. The required high school reading that I enjoyed the most was probably The Great Gatsby, and the one I enjoyed the least was definitely Moby Dick.

  4. I loved both The Outsides and The Summer of my German Soldier! I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins. We read that in 8th grade as well right?

  5. I had to study Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet for Shakespeare. I love the story of Romeo & Juliet but Macbeth has always been my favourite. I also had to study Lord of the Flies by William Golding and I found it really interesting.

    I also remember way back to Year 6 when I was 10 we had to read The Naming of William Rutherford by Linda Kempton and it was closely followed up with a visit to the village Eyam and its plague museum to find out about why it was such a special village in the 1665 plague. To this day I still think of it as one of my favourite books.

  6. I teach Night in my English class and never has someone not liked it... you're right about it being emotional.

    I had to read Silas Marner (called it Silly@ss though) in school... and I really liked it and Macbeth was the other one that I ended up loving.

  7. Least favorite required reading is definitely Crime and Punishment, only required book I didn't get through. Most favorite is hard, but if we restrict it to high school, probably Slaughterhouse Five/God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. I just read Sophie's World this year, entirely voluntarily, interesting book.

  8. Andi - I can definitely believe that there'd be tears reading Night aloud, wow. Also, I highly recommend getting a copy of The Outsiders to read, what a wonderful and emotional book that is!

    Cliona - I can understand the confusion! I was confused through several of the philosophers but it was such good fun that I just powered through! I've not read Goodnight Mr Tom though!

    Charley - You had to read Moby Dick in school? Dear god, that must have been a slog! I read The Great Gatsby for fun as an adult, I always wondered why I'd never studied it in a school setting.. Strange.

    Becca - I don't think that we did? At least I don't remember The Island of Blue Dolphins being studied then?

    TLO - Oh I remember reading Lord of the Flies as required reading as well! I'm not sure I'd have picked it up otherwise. There's another book that was quite good. That field trip following the class reading that book sounds absolutely amazing!

    Mflick1 - I think it'd be very hard not to like Night! Silas Marner, really? It's always intimidated me. Never read Macbeth!

    Kenny - Really? I read Crime and Punishment a few years ago, just for fun. I thought it was interesting! I've never quite found the appeal of Kurt Vonnegut though. I haven't made it through any of his books.

  9. Like Cliona, I read "Goodnight Mister Tom" for school, I thought it was really good. I also remember reading "Flour Babies" by Anne Fine, and "The Runaways" by Ruth Thomas. I probably enjoyed them but I read really fast and by the time the other girls had finished reading them I'd read them three or four times and was fed up!

  10. Julianne - Oh that was my problem in school as well! I couldn't stick to the assigned chapters (how can anyone read 2 chapters of a good book and then WAIT?!) so I'd finish the book then and then go over the book again and again and again while everyone else caught up..


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)