When you’re assigned to read something for school, it can be a real bummer. Personally, I never liked only reading a few chapters at a time. It seemed like slaughtering a book by chopping it up into unrecognizable little pieces; I always skipped that and read ahead. Sometimes my teachers would analyze a book to bits and have me begging to talk about anything else in the world but that book.
I came to discover, however, that assigned books can still be really great. They often deal with universal themes and social issues to which you can totally relate. You probably wouldn’t have read these books on your own, unfortunately, so them being assigned forces you to read them and helps you to become a more productive and a more educated member of society. Finally, don’t forget that the rest of your class also has to read these books; therefore, you have an entire class to talk to about the story — which is great because, for me, finding someone to talk to about a book can be the hardest thing. With assigned class readings, discussion buddies are already built in. So, get excited about your assigned readings as you head back to school this year.
Thusly, here for your reading pleasure, is a top 5 best assigned books list:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is most people’s favorite school-assigned book, and it is loosely based on Lee’s childhood growing up in the American Deep South. It was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize. This book deals with so many themes, like loss of innocence, racism, classism, sexism, and the lesson to not judge books by their covers. The movie — starring Gregory Peck — is regarded as one of the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time. What makes this even more of a must-read is the recent release of the sequel, Go Set a Watchman.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is a cautionary tale about excess, idealism, and the American Dream. Set in the Roaring Twenties, this novel primarily explores the life and obsession of the the mysterious, young millionaire, Jay Gatsby. It is a relatively short novel, and you will more greatly appreciate the 2013 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio after reading the book.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This is the one of the most heart-wrenching diaries you will ever read. It is the actual journal entries of a young girl as she hid in an attic with her family for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Reading this in Language Arts class really brings history lessons to life. This is not just facts in a text book; this was a real 13-year-old girl’s life and words.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Believe it or not, I actually had to read this for school, and it was so awesome! I didn’t know that I liked science fiction until I read this book. Published in 1985, this novel is set in a future where Earth has had two previous conflicts with an alien race. To prepare for the inevitable third war, children are selected and trained from a very young age to find a tactical genius to save mankind and defeat the aliens. Sometimes it reads almost like a video game, but it’s still chocked full of social commentary, dealing with the moral themes of war, strategy, and destruction.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible, published in 1953, is a play based on the 1690s Salem Witch Trials. Sometimes we have to read plays in school instead of seeing them performed, like they are meant to be experienced. Reading a play is different than seeing a stage version of it. You become the director, the stage in your head is set, and no other influences can tangle the playwright’s instructions to you. Also, plays are about two hours when performed, and, unless there are a million stage directions, it shouldn’t take much longer to read. This play is probably the most relatable to the experience that is high school. There are teenage mean girls calling all the shots, outcasts being blamed and punished, scandals, and lots of finger-pointing. The whole thing is an allegory to McCarthyism — the witch hunt of the 1950s — yet it’s still very relatable to the politics and social structure of high school today.
If you have to read any of these for school, consider yourself lucky. Open your mind to new genres. You may just discover that you really like reading nonfiction, science fiction, or even plays! If your school doesn’t assign you these, then read them anyway. They are classics that I promise you will enjoy if you give them a chance.