Monday, September 6, 2010

Remembering Favorite School Books

I love this article I read this morning in the Guardian about books we remember from school. I was never a reluctant reader; on the contrary, I relished everything I was given to read and indeed many of the books I had to read in school are still among my favorites. If I could have done nothing in school but read I would have been very, very happy!

In high school we had required reading during the summer and we had to keep journals as we went, documenting our thoughts on what we were reading. One year my English teacher told me he had never seen such a thorough journal as mine! Even today, when I'm browsing bookstores, I'll often smile when I see a childhood favorite on the shelf- and especially when I see a favorite of mine in a required-reading display for students in school now.

Some of my favorites:
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. I remember thinking I had never read a novel so beautiful or so true. It has some things in common with the flashier, better-known To Kill a Mockingbird but I always thought McCullers' book was just as special if not more so.

Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger. I was never a big fan of The Catcher in the Rye but I loved some of Salinger's other books.

The Once and Future King, by T.H. White. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this Arthurian epic.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. Of course.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey. A classic about individualism. I love the new Penguin edition of Cuckoo's Nest with the great cover by cartoonist Joe Sacco. Check it out!

I could write another post with favorite books I read on my own in high school but this will do for now! What was your favorite required reading?


Anonymous said...

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has been on my shelves for far too long!

I loved reading in school too. I would get reprimanded in class because I would try to hide a book behind my desk to read while the teacher was lecturing!

Teresa said...

I was also one of those odd students who liked most of the required reading. Great Expectations, Mayor of Casterbridge, and The Scarlet Letter stand out as particular favorites, but I can only think of a few assigned books that I didn't like(Heart of Darkness, The Stranger, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--and I ended up liked HoD when required to revisit it in college!)

Helen Ellis said...

I remember the rare snow day in Alabama when I was in 10th grade. I hadn't read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest for class and I was so relieved to have escaped showing up unprepared. I'd feared the book was over my head or about crazy grown men so why would I like it? Turned out I loved it. I read the whole book happily while confined to my "snowed in" (a quarter inch!) house.
Thanks for the memory,
Helen Ellis

Frances said...

The Once and Future King along with Le Morte D'Arthur and all things Arthurian were among my high school reading obsessions. Also, The Great Gatsby and Sherlock Holmes and... I should just stop.

Mystica said...

Pride and Prejudice was the highlight followed by A Midsummer nights dream, Romeo and Juliet and Six ages of English poetry. We were very high on classics!

Zibilee said...

I didn't really like the required reading that I had to do in high school because I think I was just too young for the books they had picked for us. I did end up really liking The Great Gatsby, but most of the others didn't really make an impression on me. It sounds like I might have liked your selections better! I do remember reading Beowulf and A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and being bored to tears!

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

The Snow Goose and A Separate Peace were both favourites, but nothing will even top reading Pride and Prejudice in Grade 10: fifteen teenage girls all falling in love with Mr Darcy at the same time is something to behold!

Anonymous said...

Chaim Potok's The Chosen was one of my favorite school books, not least because I was expecting to hate it.

Audrey said...

Great thing to think about! What do I remember? Being the only person in Mr. Klingler's English class (11-6) who didn't hate Pride & Prejudice. Reading Gone with the Wind for a book report in 7th grade (not great literature, no, but my first very, very long non-kids book). And reading my way through a shelf of children's biographies in the library at Latimer Lane School (and having a race of sorts with the older sister of the boy I had a fifth-grade crush on) to see who could read them all first.

Lynne Perednia said...

My required reading in high school was more along the lines of Canticle for Leibowitz and Lord of the Flies than the classics; had to read Jane Eyre on my own. And loved it. And still love it.

Kathleen said...

I was never a reluctant reader either. I actually loved Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

bermudaonion said...

You read some great books in high school. High school was so long ago for me that I can't remember that much of what I read. I do remember Shakespeare and All the King's Men but that's about it.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading when I was in school. I have always loved reading, from the moment I first learned how to read.

Nice mentions, here.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I don't remember reading a lot in highschool surprisingly. I remember The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter and Staggerford by Jon Hassler.

Not very much, I tell you. Oh and Great Expectations.

I LOVED Staggerford and The Great Gatsby but seriously, no wonder I turned to Jackie Collins.

Scarlet Letter? Ok, I get it Sister Wickenhauser (the real nuns name) . I won't commit the big "A", I promise.


In all seriousness, I loved to read. We just weren't required to read a lot at my school.

Andi said...

I have a number of favorites carried over from school. I should probably do a post about them, in fact.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of those books I really need to re-read. I don't think I fully appreciated it at a young age.

Jeanne said...

I've always loved required reading; I hope this is one of the few places in the world where it doesn't sound like bragging to say that it was rare anyone assigned something I hadn't already read. The most recent required reading experience I had was teaching at a college that had a "common book" that all the first years (and first year professors) would read together. The first year I taught there the common book was Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats, and I loved it. I got to meet the author, too, although she wasn't very friendly.