Thursday, June 07, 2007

School Reads You Actually Liked

So the other day we were chatting away in our cubicles in a lull between calls, and a coworker chose that moment to reveal that she’s reading the first Bartimaeus book. Since I practically beat her over her head with that suggestion daily for about a week, I wasn’t that surprised, but I squealed in delight anyway because I love spreading the Bartimaeus love. My cubicle mate (a mother of two ten year olds) wanted to know what the coworker and I found so interesting about Stroud’s trilogy, and five minutes of incoherent fangirl babbling ensued. Though properly informed by the incident about my book rabidness, she nevertheless mentioned that she was reading a really great book too. “I saw A Wrinkle in Time series the other day at Costco and I just had to buy the whole set. I loved that book when I was in school!”

The mention of reading “in school” brought about the topic of books we all liked to read in school vs. the books we slogged through all the while silently calling our teachers evil Lit pigs unable to assign a book we’d be actually interested in.

The list went as follows:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Hey, I enjoyed it.)

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

There were a lot of other titles suggested, but for the life of me I can only remember the overlap. But it made me want to ask y’all, what books do you remember actually liking despite their designation as required reading?

What books did you despise?


Anonymous said...

Watership Down - so much love. And also, really seriously: Absalom, Absalom by Faulkner.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and despise? Jane Eyre. I didn't even finish it, and I think it was the only book I used Cliff Notes for in my entire school career because I just could not stand that book.

And! I totally forgot - I first read Pride and Prejudice in high school. Oh, Jane Austen! That was a love one.

Wendy said...

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck, although it wasn't required. Also, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - which I read for an individual class assignment. I also really liked Shakespeare's Macbeth, even though I needed the teacher there to walk me through it.

Hate? Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Heck, pretty much everything I was required to read by Dickens, but I admit to liking the first half of Oliver Twist. Romeo and Juliet. I was expecting this great love story and I got two stupid teenagers who couldn't talk to each other. Even as a teen myself I was annoyed by it. And Shakespeare's The Temptest. My teacher chose this bad boy instead of Hamlet (can you imagine!). I can't remember particulars, but I remember really hating it at the time.

Miri said...

I really liked Animal Farm by George Orwell. It was short enough for me to not hate having to read it on principle, and once I actually started reading it, I really did like it. (I would have liked to have read 1984 instead, though, given the Orwellian nature of an episode of my favorite television show that came on the Friday I first took the book home to read. Fangirlism works in mysterious ways...) I also liked Romeo and Juliet (should I brace for being hit over the head with The Complete Works of Shakespeare now?) BECAUSE I have a thing for tragedy and it was so much less plotless than some, ahem, other things I had to read. Are Romeo, Juliet, and the rest of the cast complete idiots? Well, yeah. But they got what they deserved, yes?

The Giver by Lois Lowry isn't one of my absolute favorites, but I liked it okay. I think I liked A Wrinkle in Time a little more, but it had the same weirdness to it.

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl drove me up the wall. I understand that as a diary it can't be expected to have a plot. Fine. That doesn't make it a good book. Neither does the fact that it's one of the "most poignant personal documents to come out of WWII." I. DON'T. CARE.

But the one that takes the cake is Treasure Island. You know what that 66% on the test meant? That I had a two-thirds guess factor. I just could not read it.

Hooray for spreading Bartimaeus love!

Kelly Anne said...

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers. I had to read it sophomore year in High School, and man I though that book would never end. We read some good ones that year, but I got absolutely nothing out of that one.

Oh, I liked Heart of Darkness, too. The horror...

Chris said...

Island of the Blue Dolphins
The Outsiders

Dana said...

Katherine Paterson's Jacob I Have Loved introduced me her writings which I still read (and collect).

For a dislike anything Steinbeck- not a criticism of his writing...I had read The Red Pony when I was way to young for it (about 9 years old I think) and was completely traumatized. I don't know what it's like now but it was impossible to get through the California school system in the 70's refusing to read Steinbeck and maintain anything like a decent GPA.

Trish Ryan said...

We had to read Watership Down in sixth grade and I HATED it. I guess I just wasn't that evolved, because the whole deeper message about society was utterly lost on me, and I was left wondering what on earth I was supposed to say about all those rabbits when essay time came.

I think I had some growing up to do before I could appreciate stories that didn't take place on a Prairie or involve a teen sleuth solving a mystery :)

Shanna Swendson said...

I loved reading The Outsiders, A Tale of Two Cities, Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Loathed Steinbeck's The Pearl (one of those "something that seems good turns out to be awful and ends up ruining everyone's life" laugh fests) and Death Be Not Proud.

We actually didn't have much assigned reading in high school, just one novel a year, and most of those were depressing. No wonder people don't become avid readers unless they're already exposed to it at home. The things they're generally exposed to at school leave them with the impression that books are boring and depressing.

Little Willow said...

I was never assigned any of the five titles you listed. I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle as a child and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as an adult.

The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite books of all time, was required reading.

Most of the books I was assigned were in my house, either in my personal library, having been read years earlier, or in the garage, on my mom's bookshelves.

Elsandra said...

I liked April Morning by Howard Fast. I didn't like Le Mort de Arthur by Mallory, the Scarlett Letter by Hawthorne, or anything by D.H. Lawrence.

MyUtopia said...

My school favorite will always be Little Women. I also liked Across Five Aprils.

Anonymous said...

Strongly dislike, maybe despise:
The Jungle...
I actually liked the parts of the book that weren't about meat packing, but everyone in my class (including the boys) were so grossed out by the meatpacking and so vocal about it, I couldn't enjoy the rest.
BSC-have you told the story about the woman trying to buy 1984 for her daughter?
~The Druggie

Karen W. said...

Some of my all time favorite books were required reads in high school English: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, FARENHEIT 451, IN COLD BLOOD, JANE EYRE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and more. My English teacher had great taste. :)

Word Nerd said...

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Also, I had to read Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene in college and that turned me on to his whole body of work.
I was never assigned The Outsiders but my stepbrother was and I read his copy!

Carey said...

Most of the books I read in school I forgot soon after I read them - bad on my part, I know. But there are two that stuck with me and remain favorites to this day:
To Kill a Mockingbird & The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

Thanks for the reason to remember.

Angelle said...

I was just discussing this with my my boss - it makes me sad to think that none of the books I read "for school" became one of my best-loved novels. A case of not caring for what I was assigned to read (much of it good in a "well, that's done. What's next?" sort of way) and not being assigned books I cared about.

College lit DID introduce me to Angela Carter, though, and for that I will always be grateful.

Comment said...

We read the The Magician's Nephew from the Narnia series in school. Liked it, so I've read the rest!

Quite liked Shakespeare's Hamlet and Antony & Cleopatra. I found Romeo & Juliet annoying, for reasons stated by wendy. Regardless, I do love the way Shakespeare has absolute fun with language. Language is Shakespeare's pet. If he tells it to sit, it sits. If he tells it to transfer the metaphor punning the double vision, it does!

Of Mice and Men was interesting, but not attractive to me. Steinbeck's a depressing man, which I suppose is quite fitting considering the period he wrote in.

A lot of our reading in school consisted of short stories; I liked them but I can't remember them anymore. In one year, the school actually made us read short historical novels commissioned by themselves (it was a slightly mad private school).

P.S. Do you know where Stealth Geek's gone?

Book Lover said...

Old Favorites, just to name a few:
*A Wrinkle in Time/Wind in the Door/Swiftly Tilting Planet
*Where the Red Fern Grows
*The Outsiders
*Chronicles of Narnia

New Favorites that everyone should check out:
*Gregor the Overlander series (So good!)
*Bartimaeus trilogy
*The Supernaturalist (I didn't really like Artemis Fowl, but others love that series)
*Eragon and Eldest (can't wait for book 3)
*My Life in Dog Years (Gary Paulsen)

I am a teacher, and here's what we read in class this school year:

*Because of Winn Dixie
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
*The Mouse and the Motorcycle
*The Whipping Boy
*Bridge to Terabithia

Right now we are reading Walk Two Moons, but we only have 3 1/2 days of school remaining...

Book Lover said...

Oops, forgot the books I despised. Believe it or not, I can only think of one book I didn't like in school and that was Animal Farm. Most people love that book, so I'm just an anomaly, I'm sure! I read a number of classic titles that I thought were very boring, like Jane Eyre, but I didn't "hate" it... I just love books too much to hate very many of them!

Renaesance said...

Hated hated HATED Great Expectations. I truly believed that the book would never end, although my classmates were much amused by Mrs. Havisham on fire. Hated Romeo and Juliet what twerps.

On the love list for highschool there sadly isn't much that I was assigned. Macbeth was wonderful, and is still my favorite Shakespeare. Other than that it was pretty dismal reading.

Matthew said...

I liked Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Animal Farm, Walden(sort of), and The Pearl. I hated Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. The only book to really compare to that since, for me, was Anna Karenina; 1300 pages of much ado about little, 300 of which consist of vacillations about whether God exists or not with no theology, just "feelings." Atrocious B.S., though Tolstoy's prose style is good.

Lori said...

I was fortunate to have a 5th grade teacher who read to her class on a daily basis. Do teachers even have time to do that sort of thing these days? Anyway, listening to a regularly scheduled afternoon reading of A WRINKLE IN TIME and WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS are two of my fondest childhood memories . . .

lady t said...

Looking over some of these lists,plenty of people here have had some sophisticated reading lists in school. Most of my assigned reading was pretty standard-Steinbeck,Fitzgerald and Shakespeare(R& J and Hamlet). No Dickens,Alcott,Harper Lee, Hemingway or even Across Five Aprils(which I still haven't read!).

I had one HS teacher who was pretty cool in her choices;she not only had us read Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth(which I really enjoyed)but showed us the film version in class. She also assigned us Nectar In A Sieve,another good one.

The only book that I can recall not liking was Lord Jim-it was assigned by a different teacher and I barely read the first chapter.

Calley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calley said...

For the sake of being complicated, Lord of the Flies for love and hate. I hated it when I was required to read it sophomore year of HS. However, I came back to it five years later and really appreciated it.

I have a fond memory of reading a "chapter book" called Number the Stars in elementary school. If I had to guess, I'd estimate that I've read it at least 14 times.

Despite the praise my english literature education deserves, I will say that I will live and die by the fact that I despise For Whom the Bell Tolls, Walden and As I Lay Dying. Those "works" make a day at the dentist look like a cake walk.

TeacherChick said...

HATED- Hatchet by Gary Paulson (very scary to me), The Pearl (although it did teach me that men are STUPID and should be AVOIDED, which is a good lesson to teach adolescent girls), and Great Expectations.

Hated at first - Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. My best friend and I called each other and gushed when the damn preacher finally died. Then, under the advice of my high school english teacher, I re-read Steinbeck and now he is one of my fave authors.

LOVED- Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (I think I met his son last week), Jane Eyre, Tao Te Ching.

Jen Robinson said...

Interesting discussion... I have to admit that I loathed The Heart of Darkness. I read it during a time period when I was feeling bleak anyway, and it was too much for me. But I'm with you on To Kill a Mockingbird. I also liked David Copperfield, which I borrowed from my 8th grade English teacher.

Kimberly/lectitans said...

I really enjoyed Animal Farm, All Quiet on the Western Front, Their Eyes Were Watching God, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "The Cask of Amontillado," Brave New World, Jane Eyre and Hamlet. With Brave New World I was so excited to be assigned a sci fi novel. I hated Catcher in the Rye and As I Lay Dying. And Things Fall Apart.

Charlotte said...

Here's my rundown, from high school in the early 80s:

Loved and have re-read lots-- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tried to tell myself I loved, so I could believe I was smart, but I've never re-read it-- Virginia Wolf, To the Lighthouse

Didn't exactly love, and don't feel much urge to re-read, but was stunned by -- Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, and Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Loathed -- Joeseph Conrad, Victory. But since I didn't actually read it, being unable to, perhaps this is unfair.

Laura said...

Good question!

Loved: Number the Stars

Loved, and was surprised about it: The Scarlet Letter

Hated: The Red Badge of Courage. Ugh.

Inside A Book said...

I took a class in High School all centered around short stories. I loved most of them and the great exposure to many authors - except one. Franz Kafka. I will forever shudder when I think of the cockroach in The Metamorphosis. I found his writing abhorrent at the time.

I loved Shakespeare; Hamlet and Julius Cesaer, and the traditional Romeo and Juliet, enjoyed George Orwell, loved Ray Bradbury, and enjoyed the small bits of Steinbeck that we were given. Best of all I loved the discussions!! I must have been blessed!

I teach school and yes, I MAKE time to read aloud to my students!! It's the only way to enrich vocabulary, expose them to phonemics, and build readers!! Plus it just downright makes me (and them) happy!

Stacy (my friends call me Stasia) Dillon said...

Loved: _Fifth Business_,by Davies, _Heart of Darkness_, by Conrad, _One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, by Solzhenitsyn

Hated: _Grapes of Wrath_, by Steinbeck, _The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, by Richler