If you — like I did — had required reading in high school, chances are you read from a list of books that would be familiar to most people. Because we’ve all been there: we’ve all purchased the same copy of the same book, plodded through the same novel while scribbling annotations in the margins, rinsed, and repeated with another classic. No matter which books you were reading on the side (in my case it was a lot of young adult — Maximum Ride , anyone?), there are just some books that everyone encountered in high school required reading.
Maybe you loved required reading. Personally, I was usually the nerd who kept my copies instead of selling them to a secondhand bookstore. Then again, there were a few that weren’t my favorites. The problem with required reading in my mind is that the minute someone tells you that you HAVE to read a certain book, your brain will immediately search for reasons to hate it. Because you would rather just have the freedom to choose whatever book you WANT to read. Sure, maybe the book was great and had amazing quotes and flawless writing, but unfortunately you just couldn’t enjoy it… because it was required (or maybe English class just wasn't your thing).
Regardless of whether you enjoyed book lists or not, chances are you could have a conversation with any high school grad about the following novels, because at some point or another, we all read them. And if not, you can always check out this list to give off a well-read air.
The Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald
In high school, we suddenly all became obsessed with prohibition and the 1920s and Daisy Buchanan. Also, because it was one of the shorter books on the required reading list, people actually read this one. There was a lot of symbolism and a plethora of intriguing quotes, but High School You probably spent the majority of the time wondering what it would be like to attend an "intimate" large party at a Gatsby-style mansion.
1984 By George Orwell
This was your introduction to dystopian literature pre-Hunger Games, and probably the reason you're so paranoid nowadays. Thanks, George Orwell. If that's even your real name.
Animal Farm By George Orwell
Another Orwellian classic, this one takes a look at history instead of the future: it was an allegory for the Russian revolution, the pigs were really creepy, and you cried for Boxer the horse. You also considered yourself a history buff after reading it.
Lord Of The Flies By William Golding
Remember when you really wanted to be on the show Survivor? Not after reading this book. The bleak story about a bunch of boys shipwrecked on an island haunted your dreams. Maybe there were some themes in there about the struggle for power versus the human instinct for order and civilization, but all you could think about was how bad you felt for Piggy.
The Crucible By Arthur Miller
In high school, we read this play out loud, reader's theatre style. So while I remember that this story about the Salem witch trials is an allegory for McCarthyism, I especially remember the dramatic shouting and passionate performances of a bunch of 11th graders. You know you're a (16)90s kid when you get accused of witchcraft...
The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne
You read this book. And by read it, I mean skimmed it, and then ended up watching Easy A instead.
Romeo And Juliet By William Shakespeare
As the resident Shakespeare nerd in high school, I was always very excited whenever we would read his plays. This one proved that even teenagers could have a passionate romance! Except that everyone at the end of the play dies tragically after a love story lasting less than four days... But hey, the Romeo in the Zeffirelli movie looks just like Zac Efron. Yay.
Great Expectations By Charles Dickens
This book was summer reading for us in high school. As much as I appreciate Charles Dickens, the last thing you want to read while sitting on the beach sipping Capri Sun is Great Expectations. This is a dense, dense book. But hey, Dickens had to pay his bills somehow. He didn't know that he would be keeping high school students from their beach reads.
Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad
When you got this book, you were excited. Wow! It was so short! You would have time to chip away at your TBR list, which had been sadly set aside because of required reading! And then you started reading it. If you thought Dickens was dense, you hadn't seen anything yet, because this short book took so much time to unpack. However, after reading it, you definitely felt smarter.
The Awakening By Kate Chopin
This story about Edna Pontellier and her struggle to escape society's rigid expectations was one of my favorite required reading books. That was an unpopular opinion because "the ending was sad." But HELLO, recognize the trend: ALL of the endings were sad in the books we read in high school. All was not well for these required reading characters, unfortunately.
Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger
All the angst. You could relate. And you wanted a hat like Holden's.
To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee
This staple probably stuck with you long after high school was over. As much as you complained about required reading at the time, it turned out that some of the books have pretty great themes that may have actually shaped your youth. Thank you, high school English teachers!
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