Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Look Back on Required Reading

A couple of weeks ago, Angie from Angieville, did a post where she listed her favorites and not-so-favorites from her high school English required reading. I thought this sounded fun to look back on, and so I found a file that I've saved all these years that lists all the books I read for all three English classes in high school, complete with the essays I wrote for most of the books. Very fun to look back and remember.

Anyway, so here's what I thought of them:

Books I Loved:
  • The Odyssey (mythology has always been a favorite)
  • The Scarlet Letter (we watched a movie adaptation and I was completely in love with Dimsdale)
  • Tess of the D'urbervilles (the book where I fell in love with tragedy)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (loved this story)
  • The Good Earth (one of the first books that I remember being teary at the end)
  • Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff got to me even back then)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (I think the re-read of this one later made a bigger impression)
  • Crime and Punishment (I learned this one inside and out and used it on every essay I could!)
  • Hamlet (oh the drama!  I memorized lots of passages.)
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge (I decided I really liked Thomas Hardy...)
  • The Return of the Native (.... so I did my paper on him and read even more of his books.) 
  • Julius Caesar (March 15 will never be the same for me and I remember "the Ides" every year!)
  • Huckleberry Finn (what's not to like?)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (we read this in 9th grade and I didn't understand a thing, but loved the discussion on it. Later, it was on PBS TV and once again, I completely fell for the dude playing both Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, though I loved him as Sydney Carton the most. I wish I could figure out which version and actor that was....though I'm quite sure it's not this one below.)

Books I Hated:
  • The Great Gatsby (I just didn't/don't get it.)
  • The Old Man and the Sea ( boring)
  • The Secret Sharer (much fogginess)
  • The Heart of Darkness (there was a dude on a boat in the Congo and I think he was scared.)
Books I Can't Remember What I Thought:
  • Of Mice and Men (It's sad I remember, but nothing that overly moved me.)
  • Arms and the Man (I don't remember reading this one, so whatever.)
  • Tender is the Night (It was okay, I think.)
  • This Side of Paradise (Yeah, okay again.)
  • Main Street (Another one I don't even remember reading, but it's on the list.)

What books did you love/hate from school days?


  1. I never even heard of Arms and the Man. And I hated Gatsby, too! But it was reading Grapes of Wrath in class that made me fall in love with Steinbeck's writing.

  2. I fell in love with The Odyssey in high school. Then I read The Iliad in college and was like . . . WOW. So good.

  3. Ooh. There were so many books that were required reading in high school that I LOVED. Might have to make a list as well!

  4. Hmm...You got me thinking about my high school English classes. I think I will make a list too.

    Great list btw...

  5. The only required reading I didn't like was BILLY BUDD.

  6. Gosh - you had to read a lot more than we do in Scotland! Or perhaps I've just forgotten more than I ever learned?

  7. Ha, I actually really like Gatsby. I would have to say that the Scarlet Letter was my favorite high school book.

  8. I love your description of Heart of Darkness--so funny and so accurate.

    I hated Catcher in the Rye. I don't get what the big deal is. Some kid is pissed off about life and cussing a lot. So what?

  9. If the same actor played both Carton and Darnay, it must have been the 1980 version with Chris Sarandon, as that's the only major film version that fits that description.

    Personally, I have to say that's my least favorite adaptation of ATOTC. But to each his own. :-) If it encouraged your love for the story, that's a good thing!

  10. Gina: So is that the only version where the same actor plays both parts? Interesting. The year would fit... course back then I didn't know Chris Sarandon, and now all he is to me is Prince Humperdink! Hard to think of him as Sydney Carton. Weird. So, which version of this movie/book is your favorite? I'll check it out!

    Emille: I read Catcher in the Rye just awhile back and while I thought it was weird, I liked it anyway!

    Heidi: I need to read Gatsby again and I wouldn't be surprised if I liked it better now.

    Notjustlaura: I only "remembered" this many because I had the file!

    Carline: Eww. That one does sound sort of... dull.

    Tanu: I hope to see your list!

    Clover: As you can see, I loved most of them too. I miss those days really.

    Angie: I can't remember if I ever actually read the Iliad. Hmmm....

    Jeane: Glad to see there's another Grapes of Wrath fan! So many people hate that one!

  11. Wow that's a lot. The ONLY book you read that I also read was The Great Gatsby. I kind of liked it but I'm not sure why. I was in advanced English in high school so we read lots of Shakespeare and other plays whereas the general level read Of Mice and Men and The Pearl

    The Giver by Lois Lowry
    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (?)
    Lord of the Flies
    Romeo and Juliet
    The Hobbit

    Death of a Salesman
    The Glass Menagerie

    Didn't like:
    Guys and Dolls

  12. I remember being bored by Fail-Safe.

  13. I really liked Lord of the Flies too. And I don't really know why I like Gatsby so much. I did read it twice (same with the Scarlet Letter); once during the summer before my junior year and when I actually had to read them during school.

  14. I think my favorite from high school was The Scarlet Letter, though I also really liked Ethan Frome. I plan to read The Grapes of Wrath eventually, having just finished East of Eden.

    I didn't get The Great Gatsby either. I keep trying to figure out what's so great about it; I've read it three times now. I think I've finally given up. I just don't get it.

    Oh, in my first college level lit class, we read The Complete Short Stories of Zora Neale Hurston.. absolutely amazing.

  15. I loved Gatsby, but Thomas Hardy? *Shudder*
    Return of the Native was okay, but Far From the Madding Crowd was one of those where not enough of the characters died!

  16. Suey -- I'm actually still figuring out which "Two Cities" movie is my favorite. :-) But it's either the 1935 version with Ronald Colman, or the 1958 version with Dirk Bogarde. (As a matter of fact, I'm currently working on a comparison of the movies and their lead actors -- I'll send you a link when it's done!)



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