It’s back-to-school week on The Bookish Blog! I haven’t actually gone back to school now in four years (wow), but there’s always a sort of excitement with back-to-school time that I think everyone can feel around this time of year.
I definitely enjoyed my summer vacations, especially the further on I got in school, because I had more time to read. I was always a bookworm, ever since I learned how to read, and it was rare to see me without a book in my hand. From the Great Illustrated Classics set my mom bought for my sister and me in elementary school to the Babysitter’s Club books to Harry Potter and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, I was never short on good reading material growing up. But there were a few books I read that I didn’t love. And almost all of those were required reading.
There’s something about a book being assigned to me that makes me like it at least 50 percent less than if I’d read it of my own volition. Whether this is because English teachers have a knack for making you analyze the shit out out of everything you read (lol sorry Katy), or because I’m on of those stubborn people who automatically wants to do the opposite of whatever I’m told I have to do, I don’t know. It’s probably some combination of the two.
I’ve compiled a list of the books I remember being required to read throughout school, and how I felt about them at the time. Here we go.
• Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (Fourth Grade) – I think this was one of those situations where my teacher read it out loud to the class. I distinctly remember all the boys groaning audibly every time my teacher brought this book out, but I liked it. I was going through a phase where I was reading exclusively “girly” books like Little Women, A Little Princess, and Anne of Green Gables, so this was right up my alley at the time.
• The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (Eighth Grade) – I loved. This. Book. It was dark, yet relatable, and the characters were vibrant. This was one of the few required reading books that I read ahead of what was assigned. I think my teacher’s passion for teaching this book really shone through, which made me enjoy it even more. Plus we watched the movie when we were done, and everyone knows that movie days are the best days in class.
• To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Ninth Grade) – I remember thinking this book was okay when I read it the first time. It certainly wasn’t terrible, but I don’t think I really got it. I lived a pretty sheltered life and went to school in an almost exclusively white area, so I hadn’t experienced racism in a way that would have allowed me to understand this book on a deeper level. I reread it with the release of Go Set a Watchman came out last year and enjoyed it so much more. It really is a beautiful piece of literature and I wish I had appreciated it more at the time.
• Tuesdays with Morrieby Mitch Albom (Ninth Grade) – I seem to be the only person I know (besides the other people in my high school of course) who was required to read this book, which is probably because Mitch Albom is from Michigan and that’s where I graduated from. This book is nonfiction, it’s about Albom visiting his college mentor in the final weeks of his life, where the two discussed life basically. There were a lot of in-your-face life lessons in this book, so while it was well-written, it almost felt like a lecture.
• The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tenth/Twelfth Grade) – I read this book by choice (via teacher recommendation) my sophomore year. I liked it. It was a pretty quick read and I wasn’t bored by it, but it certainly wasn’t one of my favorite books. Then my senior year, I took an A.P. Literature class and I was required to read it and do THREE PROJECTS about it over the summer. It wasn’t summer work that I minded, it was the fact that I had to do a creative project (I think I ended up making a soundtrack for the book), keep a chapter-by-chapter journal, and write a paper about this book. There’s only so much I can say about the eyes on the billboard and the significance of the green light. I have since read this book one more time since high school and I found that I did enjoy it the third time through, proving my point that being required to read something makes it suck.
• The Crucible by Arthur Miller (Eleventh Grade) – Meh. I really had to dig deep to remember what I was required to read my sophomore and junior years because nothing really stood out. The Crucible is a play about the Salem Witch Trials, which I think sounds more interesting than it actually was. My teacher made us do that annoying thing where she assigns people characters and we read it out loud in class. Which I guess isn’t really annoying because that’s the way plays are supposed to be read—out loud. But I have to read a book to myself to really take in the information. I tend to zone out when a book is read out loud, or I do that thing where I would read ahead to make sure I knew which parts I had to read out loud so I wouldn’t mess it up, and then completely missed the parts I didn’t have to read. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
• Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Twelfth Grade) – Words cannot describe how much I detested reading this book. My class was split into three groups and we each had to read three books throughout the year, which were on rotation. My group got Invisible Man first, and it was like pulling teeth. We took forever to read this book. All of us hated it. We took so long in fact, that we only got through one other book (Heart of Darkness by Joesph Conrad) the entire year. We never got to the third book in the rotation. I don’t even remember what it was now. This may be another case of “I wasn’t deep enough to understand the content of this book” at the time, I don’t know. Maybe I would enjoy it more now that I’ve had more life experience, but I just can’t bring myself to reread it when there’s so much other stuff out there that I actually want to read. I feel guilty hating this book, so there’s that at least.
I’m sure there were many more throughout my school years that I was required to read, but these are the ones I remember. Moral of the story: you get more out of reading something by choice than you do when someone tells you that you have to read it. And also rereading books at different points in your life will affect you differently. So maybe give some of the books you weren’t very fond of in school a second chance a few years after graduation. Best of luck to everyone returning to school in these next few weeks!
***Side note: I will be switching to Thursdays after this week! This is for a couple reasons, but this way the week will be Sunday through Saturday instead of Monday through Sunday, which makes more sense (at least to me because I’m an American). See you guys Thursday!***