Required Reading?! (Part 1)

This is the first installment in a post series I have yet to name about classics and/or required reading. I know that teens generally lean immediately towards the “modern” books. Classics and required reading are generally dreaded.  One of my goals in this series is to make any required reading choices a little bit easier and more fun, and also to simply encourage people to go back to the classics. Of this post specifically, this is only part 1. I put a lot of time and energy into this post, and writing about all the books I’ve had to read at once would be much too long. This is a small sampling of the books I’ve had to read. Rather than just include books I love, I decided to include books I was iffy on so that you can make your own decisions. Enjoy!

Whether or not you are still in High School, you probably remember at least some of the books you had to read over the summer, for homework, or in class. These are the books everyone dreads to read, but there a couple that I enjoyed. They are in the order I read them for the most part.

The Giver by Lois Lowry; published in 1993
Note: I had to read this in 7th grade English
Jonas lives in a Utopian world. There is no pain or violence. You receive an assigned role when you are 12, and Jonas must be an assistant to the Giver. But once he learns the horrifying truth, things will never be the same.

Did I like it? In 7th grade I wrote a goodreads review of it which makes me laugh. In the end of my complaints I wrote that I thought maybe I didn’t love it because I didn’t love sci fi/dystopia. Now, I love those genres! Plus, it’s being made into a movie. I rated it 3 stars at the time, but I wasn’t the dystopia lover I am now. I remember it being a page-turner, not something I wanted to abandon.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe; published 1958
This book revolves around a man from a tribal Nigerian Village, Okonkwo. During this time, it is what the western world called the “Scramble for Africa.” White, Christian men rushed in to (violently) take over villages and countries like this one. The book tells this story of the clash between Nigerian and European cultures at the same time as tell the story of Okonkwo’s large family and missteps in his position in the tribe.

Did I like it? I think I should re-read this, just to see if my opinion changes. I know some people who re-read it years later and loved it. When I read this, I just emerged from 8th grade; this was my first high school summer reading book. I got caught up in the disturbing details and how Okonkwo had so many kids and wives that I could no longer keep track. At the time, I gave it a mere two stars. But if this sounds at all appealing to you, try it! It just wasn’t for me at the time.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; published 2001
– Setting: Barcelona, Spain.
A grieving boy named Daniel finds a mysterious book, The Shadow of the Wind by a Julian Carax. But when he embarks on a quest to find more of Carax’s books he is shocked to find that someone has been purposely destroying every Julian Carax book in existence. Daniel may have the last one. And whoever is destroying these books probably knows that too.

Did I Like It?: Yes, I loved it! This is another book I’d like to re-read so I can pick up on the details I may have missed. This is a book for all you mystery, murder, historical fiction, and international culture lovers out there!

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
Holden Caulfield has been kicked out of every boarding school he’s been in. In Pencey Prep, his current school, he is alienated from the fencing team when he loses the equipment. He leaves the school and spends time in New York City to get away. Holden’s commentary on life is fascinating at times, and there were some memorable characters we meet along the way.

Did I like it? This is a book with symbols I still remember. I’ve even made comments to people like, That’s like Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat for him! Not my favorite book but definitely an interesting coming of age story. When you finish reading it, then you can learn the disturbing details about J.D Salinger’s life and John Lennon’s murderer..

Flash forward out of 9th grade and its multitude of books (I have five more books+ to add to what I read in 9th grade alone! Plus all the books I read in 10th grade)
11th grade:

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara; published 1974
This is the story of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War told from both the Union and Confederate POV’s. This battle was essentially the deciding factor of who won the civil war. Even better, it is almost all what actually happened unlike stories that make up the history.

Did I like it? Surprisingly, I loved it! It was so fascinating to read from the eyes of Lee, Longstreet, etc. Plus, it helped us to understand our civil war unit much better. If you have any interest in the civil war (or don’t) try it! After you read it, you will dream of touring Gettysburg, PA and walking in the footsteps of the characters.

And my favorite of all the books in this post…

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Published: 1845

This is a memoir of an ex-slave, Frederick Douglass. He shares his heartbreaking story of his enslavement and how he escaped. You learn so much about slavery and the highly disturbing and brutal life of slaves from reading this account. In fact, I can’t even think of the right adjectives for this, other than the fact that it is an eloquent, brave and honest narrative that everyone needs to read at some point in life. It will shatter all you were taught about slavery and raise it to another level.

That’s it for part 1! What are your favorite/least favorite required readings? What do you think of these books? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow me @books_palettes for sneak peeks, musings, and more! My avatar image is from “Jen Loves Teaching.”


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