Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, books, Charles Dickens, classic literature, college reading, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene, Harper Lee, high school books, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Jean Rhys, top ten tuesday, William Shakespeare
Up this week: FREEBIE! (Favorite School Reads)
This week is a freebie. I was originally going to write about books that inspire travel since I will be heading to Europe on June 1st, but I couldn’t think of nearly enough books. My friend Alyssa mentioned her freebie is books read in school, so I’ve decided to copy that.
High School Reads
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read many books in high school. I liked some, dislikes some, and a few I’ve completely forgotten about because so much time has passed. One of the books I remember most is The Great Gatsby. I grew to appreciate and love it better when I read it years later, but Fitzgerald’s writing (along with JK Rowling) was what encouraged me to be a writer. It’s a tragic yet beautiful story, and I always appreciate a little madness and chaos.
2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I don’t recall thinking about prejudice and racism much until after reading To Kill A Mockingbird. This book opened my eyes to how much there was (and still is) a devastating amount of inequality in the world. Perhaps this is because I grew up in a very white city within a very white state (Fargo, North Dakota) at a time when the internet wasn’t this massive news and media outlet. There was also the issue of history classes making racism seem like much less of an issue than it really was. It was fluffy. I needed this book. It doesn’t even come close to some of the other atrocities throughout history, and I can think of other books that cover racism better, but it was a start when I needed it.
3. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I first read this book in French class, but also again in college for a Children’s Literature course. It’s one of those books that stays with you no matter what age you are. There are so many lessons about trust, loss, love, and determination that both inspire and caution readers. I can see a book like this being essential reading far into the future. You can bet it will be required reading for my children in the future… you know, when I actually have children.
4. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
I read Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar back in high school. R&J was okay, and I’ve grown to dislike it more as time goes on. Caesar was a couple steps in a better direction. It wasn’t until I read Titus Andronicus in my Shakespeare class that I really came to appreciate the Bard. Perhaps it just takes the most violent work to get me to truly appreciate him. I do enjoy some of Shakespeare’s histories and comedies, but Titus will always have a special place in my heart as the best tragedy and best play overall.
5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I first met Dickens in my British Literature II course when reading Hard Times. It encouraged me to take a full capstone course on Dickens, which led to me not only falling in love with the Victorian writer, but also falling in love with Bleak House. Dickens uncovers some of the biggest atrocities during the Victorian era, and the massive and complex cast of characters provide a well-rounded presentation of England. I also love when Dickens pokes fun at horrible people by giving them awful names.
6. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
My British Literature II course also introduced me to Austen. I think that professor deserves a medal for leading me to my current obsessions. Anyway, Sense and Sensibility was my first Austen. It isn’t my favorite of her work, but it was brilliant enough to encourage me to read everything. This book is also responsible for my participation in Austen in August, and for that I am thankful.
7. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
I love Jane Eyre. It’s one of my favorite classics, and it’s not easy for me to pick favorites. That being said, I didn’t like how Rochester’s wife was treated as some insane woman in the attic. Her story is far too short. I understand why, of course, but I needed more. I was happy to be assigned Wide Sargasso Sea in an Irish-Carribean connection literature class. (Yes, that’s a real class, and it was amazing.) It’s a brilliant companion novel that brings Antoinette to life. The book doesn’t take anything away from Eyre, but it helps you look at the woman in the attic in a different light.
8. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
I thoroughly enjoy a good cynic! Or do I adore realists? Either way, Graham Greene knows how to write a damn fine novel. Many consider the book to be a slander against Americans or an anti-war novel, but I think the book did just what it was meant to do by giving a different perspective on war. And being American, I know that it’s good for us to be put in our place from time to time. I can’t help but enjoy this novel for the contrast between the two main characters alone, but so much more adds to its genius. It remains my favorite Greene novel.
9. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Oh, Joyce. What am I going to do with a man like Joyce? If, like me, you need to start somewhere with Joyce, this is the book to pick. You could also read his short stories (‘The Dead’ is perfection), but this book is where it’s at for a shorter introduction to the world of Joyce. There’s Greek mythology and struggle with religion and family, and that’s merely scratching the surface. If his larger work appears daunting, give this one a try. One of my favorite professors introduced me to Joyce as well as Greene and Rhys. She must have done something right.
10. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Surprise! Another Shakespeare. I just couldn’t leave this one out. If you haven’t read this genius play yet, get on it. It’s my favorite comedy from Shakespeare and well worth the praise. It’s hilarious with a solid take on female agency. (My professor would cry tears of joy seeing the word ‘agency’ in this post. He said it at least ten time per class session. We counted.) If you haven’t read this one yet but have seen and loved 10 Things I Hate About You, know that the film is an adaptation of this play which means you must read it.
Be sure to check back next week for another round of Top Ten Tuesday.
What are some of your favorite books from high school and/or college?