Why Required Reading is the Worst

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!***

Series Set In Schools

When you think about series of novels set in schools, I’m willing to bet that 99% of the world’s populations’ first thought is Harry Potter. The 7 book series, aside from being highly magical, follows Harry, Hermione and Ron as they navigate through the trials and tribulations of school life; exams, evil teachers, prefects, head boy, head girl, sports teams. Even something as detailed and mundane as needing a parent or guardian to sign a permission slip for a trip. Rowling thought of it all.

Enid Blyton has written not one, but two series set in schools; St Clare’s and Malory Towers. St Clare’s was a girls boarding school with the first in the 6 book series being published in 1941. All published originally by Methuen, the series should be read in the following order (as quoted on www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk):

The Twins at St Clare’s - published in 1941

The O’Sullivan Twins - published in 1942

Summer Term at St Clare’s - published in 1943

The Second Form at St Clare’s - published in 1944

Claudine at St Clare’s - published in 1944

Fifth Form at St Clare’s - published in 1945.

As of 2000, Pamela Cox has written 3 sequels to the original series; The Third Form at St Clare’s The Sixth Form at St Clare’s and Kitty at St Clare’s.

After finishing her final St Clare’s book in 1945, Enid Blyton then started another series in a school setting; Malory Towers. This is another 6 book series, comprised of First Term at Malory Towers, The Second Form at Malory Towers, Third Year at Malory Towers, Upper Forth at Malory Towers, In the Fifth at Malory Towers and Last Term at Malory Towers. Pamela Cox again wrote sequels to the original series as of 2008, those being New Term at Malory Towers, Summer Term at Malory Towers, Winter Term at Malory Towers, Fun and Games at Malory Towers, Secrets at Malory Towers and Goodbe Malory Towers.

A more modern, but probably equally as well known school series is the H.I.V.E series by Mark Walden. I only discovered this series a couple of years ago and despite being in my twenties, they instantly became a firm favourite.

The 8 book series follows Otto and his friends through their adventures at the Higher Institute of Villainous Education. The Institute is a school of villany where children with a particular talent for wrongdoing are sent. I found this such an interesting idea (that also reminded me of the villain.net and hero.com parallel series by Andy Briggs) that really made you think about the different between good and bad. As, even though you spent the whole time reading with the knowledge that you were reading about baddies, they weren’t ever that bad. There was always someone bigger and badder right around the corner.

Libba Bray wrote a trilogy set in a British boarding school titled The Gemma Doyle series. www.fantasticfiction.com describes the first novel ‘A Great and Terrible Beauty’ as “A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-wordly fantasy-jumble…” and this sums up the series pretty well. A Great and Terrible Beauty is followed by Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing, and all three knit together to form an atmospheric, magical story.

These are the main series that spring to my mind when I think about books set in schools, but my sister did have another suggestion which I have never read; the Private series by Kate Brian. She has had a selection from the series on her bookshelf for as long as I can remember, but I have never felt the inclination to read any of them. I may get around to it one day and be pleasantly surprised, you never know.

If I’ve overlooked your favourite, or there are any obvious series that I’ve missed, lt me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to give them a read.

Hi everyone!

It’s "Back to School" week here on Bookish!Now, I’ve been out of school for a while, but this week’s theme got me thinking: many of the most important things I’ve learned in my life came after school – as I encountered discussion about feminism, gender, race, representation in media, mental health, systemic injustice (and tons of other things) for the first time – as I started transition – as I started to seek a voice for myself and a new way of being in the world.

As I grew, so did the realization that I had been shielded, isolated from a whole world of experiences, stories – and, most sadly and most terribly – whole oppressions, marginalizations, and cruelties.Whole histories of which I was and am ignorant. Lives I didn’t even know had been lived – lives being lived right now. Whiteness & my assigned gender blotted so much out of my sight – stole language from me (in terms of my gender) – and left me unable to hear so many others’ voices. This was a terrible realization to have, and it continues to come in pieces over long time. These are all things that should have be obvious to me but weren’t -- they are everyday realities to others.

I’ve started to realize the dimensions of patriarchy – of white supremacy – of capitalism that have made things this way. How we are made to internalize whole systems of sexism & misogyny, racism & white supremacy, transphobia & transmisogyny, ableism – ideas of how we should look, live, and think. And how privilege works to give material safety, shelter, education – voices – to some and not to others. It took me too long to realize these things – to even start to.

And so, I have been thinking especially of all the things I want to learn that I was never taught– and all of the things I want to unlearn that I was taught – and all of the things I need desperately to relearn that I had learned before – and of how much I don’t even yet know that I will need to learn, un- or re- learn.

Ursula K. LeGuin speaks on the subject of unlearning inher commencement speech to the Bryn Mawr College. The concept has become a kind of touchstone in my mind. At the risk of her repeating me repeating her, I’ll share a quick quote:

Thinking about what I should say to you made me think about what we learn in college; and what we unlearn in college; and then how we learn to unlearn what we learned in college and relearn what we unlearned in college, and so on…

I am trying to unlearn these lessons, along with other lessons I was taught by my society, particularly lessons concerning the minds, work, works, and being of women. I am a slow unlearner. But I love my unteachers - the feminist thinkers and writers and talkers and poets and artists and singers and critics and friends, from Wollstonecraft and Woolf through the furies and glories of the seventies and eighties - I celebrate here and now the women who for two centuries have worked for our freedom, the unteachers, the unmasters, the unconquerors, the unwarriors, women who have at risk and at high cost offered their experience as truth. "Let us NOT praise famous women!" Virginia Woolf scribbled in a margin when she was writingThree Guineas, and she's right, but still I have to praise these women and thank them for setting me free in my old age to learn my own language.

LeGuin is talking about women specifically– but the point and project of unlearningare more broadly applicable outside the context of her speech.

All of the voices I never heard, never chose to hear, or didn’t know where there – I want to hear them.

I want to never stop hearing them. My goal, in the future, will be to amplify these voices, whenever possible, so they are even louder. I want everyone to hear this yelling & screaming & howling until the whole damn thing starts to change.But first I have to hear them. I have to sit and listen. So, today, I am mapping a path forward. I will go and I will listen. But the list I have below is only to the next exit, the next turn – there is a long, long road to travel – and I am eager to be on my way.

And so in thinking of what “Back to School” might mean for me –I think – it means something simple, in theory – it means expanding the kind and amount of the voices I hear in my media. To – as LeGuin might say – listen to experiences offered as the lived truths that these voices have to share. To start listening more broadly and more often. I want to put that theory into practice in my life, and let it bet a kind of second school. It’s only one very small step against very big forces in this world, but it is one that I hope will be followed by another step and another, for the rest of my life. This is the school I think I should have been in the whole time.Because I feel like this school’s goal is getting everyone free & the mostimportant lesson they will keep teaching is: no one’s free until we’re all free. So, those of us who didn’t hear before – we have to hear now, we mustlisten now – we can’t ever close our eyes again. At least, I think it will only all start getting better if we start listening – more closely andmore often. I want my reading – the way I read, the what I read – to reflect that mission.

As I go on at Bookish, I want to challenge oppressionwhenever I see itin my reading and in my writing. Just as importantly,I want to challenge my own internalized versions of those oppressions – my prejudices – my internalized white supremacy, transmisogyny, ableism – amongst many other things. In discussingtopics like these, I am very likely to make mistakes, say ignorant things, and miss other things entirely. I hope the things I say will never be hurtful, but in order to go forward I have to admit that I am likely to make grievous mistakes, despite my best efforts. I do not want to excuse those mistakes, now or ever.I am coming from a position of certain privileges, especially whiteness, and I want to always be open to criticism, instruction, and anger. Because I want to be open to learning.

“Back to School” is an admission of my many, many ignorances – that I have so much to learn.  But it is alsomy announcing a fury at the injustices I have seen. My goal is to learn how to learn, again for the first time. As LeGuin said of herself, I will say of me too: “I am a slow unlearner. But I love my unteachers.”

For my first curriculum list, I am explicitly exploring books by black authors (with one exception). I realize, too, how fundamentalan illustration of my whiteness it is that this list, specifically, was preceded by quotes from a white author (no matter how fitting – it illustrates that the store of what I have read is largely white). I hope this listwill help me to unlearn & relearn how that happened – to reverse it – so that, in the future – the store of my mind – and the soil of it will bear more plentiful, more various, more colorful, and richer blooms.

I have not read these books yet, but this “to-read” list is an invitation to read & un-re-learn with me.There is so much more I want to explore – so many more voices, histories, people, worlds. But I will let this be the first step towards a new lifetime of learning.




I chose these first three books as my introduction to black non-fiction by three of the century’s most renowned writers.(It is alsoimportant to mention that both James Baldwin and Audre Lorde were openly gay.)



The Autobiography of Malcolm-X as told to Alex Haleyby Malcom X and Alex Haley (1965)


Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (1984)



Genre Fiction

I recently happened upon this incredible article, in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, titled Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction. I strongly urge you to take a look! As for why genre fiction in the first place, I will defer to Maisha Z. Johnson at Black Girl Dangerous.



Of One Blood by Pauline Hopkins (Published Serially 1902-3)


The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany (1962)


Imaro by Charles Saunders (1981)


Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (1987)



Witches and Marxism

Silvia Federici writes about the problem of “primitive accumulation” – or, how class distinctions ever came into being. She argues that systemic sexism and racism were intentional projects designed to foster the growth of capitalism. That a war on women “witches” created the conditions necessary for the breakdown of feudalism by tearing apart traditional communities. I’m still learning about this – but that was enough to make this a must read.



Hey Teach! 5 Fantastic Fictional Teachers

Well, well, well… it’s that time of year again: Back to School Week at the Bookish Blog. I’m not 100% sure, but I may be the only regular contributor who is actually “going back to school” in a few days. Back to school has always been a favorite time of year for me. It’s all about new clothes, fresh supplies and the low-level anxiety of meeting new teachers. But the last five years have been a little different… because I AM THE TEACHER!

And as such I spend the last few precious days of Summer Vacation writing syllabi, course calendars, and assignment prompts… all an attempt to try to follow in the footsteps of both the real and the fictional teachers I have looked up to my whole life. So today, as I take a break from planning the next 16 weeks down to the minute, I thought I’d share a few of those fictional teachers who have always set a good example.

Max Medina from Gilmore Girls

Now, I know that Mr. Medina is not from a book… but he is fictional and he did teach literature. Max was not only the most prominent teacher of the patron saint of bookworms, Rory Gilmore, he was always the one who dared to give her a bad grade and challenge her to be better. I still love watching the too short classroom scenes in that first season, because you can tell from just those few scenes that he is a passionate, caring, and supportive teacher. He’s also the kind of teacher I would have developed an unhealthy crush on at 17. All that, plus I envy his course reading list… ugh if only I had been able to go to Chilton Prep.

Professor Piper from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I like Professor Piper. I know her character is not really fleshed out, that her internal life and her teaching philosophy are not given real attention, but something about her has always struck me as ideal. Maybe it’s a combination of who she’s written and how the audiobook narrators performs her, but there is a calm, evenness in her that is admirable in an instructor. She actually share’s a lot of traits with one Max Medina (Maaaaaaaaax Medina—Gilly’s will know what I’m talkin’ about), in that she recognizes talent, isn’t bothered by having to dole out some tough love, cuts slack where it’s deserved—all things I strive to bring into my own classroom—and also I would have had an unapologetic crush on her had I been privileged enough to take a class with her. I do wish that there had been more of her, I would read a whole book about her.

Miss Honey from Matilda by Roald Dahl

What list of lovable teachers would be complete without the inclusion of Matilda’s sweet as her name teacher, Miss Honey? The answer is none. Miss Honey, is the kind of teacher that we should all aspire to be, not because she’s nice, but because she’s the kind of teacher who sees and encourages potential in her students and acts with kindness and integrity. She contrasts this pedagogical philosophy against the monstrous Trunchbull who is easily one of the most loathsome teachers in all of literature… obviously the MOST loathsome is Dolores Umbridge… of course.

Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole

Miss Frizzle is the teacher we all wish we had in primary school and not just because of her Magic School Bus and the amazing adventures she takes her lucky students on—though… let’s be honest those were perks that no third grader would turn down. The real reason to love and admire the strangest teacher at any school is because she made the subjects that she taught come to life, she engaged her students and showed them a world that they often took for granted in dazzling new detail. Sure she had the help of a bus that could fly, shrink, and otherwise transform, but I’m a firm believer that the bus was powered by Miss Frizzle’s passion for education and her love for her students.

Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I mean… duh. Sure I have a handful of wizarding Professors to choose from, and Professor Lupin nearly edged McGonagall out. But What Minerva may have lacked in the warm-n-fuzzy department she made up for in the dedication to her students educations even going above and beyond occasionally—when it was warranted. But something I deeply admire in her is that she believed in the rules, she believed in order, she believed in discipline, which makes the moments when she does in fact deviate from those beliefs in order to support a student or fellow faculty member all the more poignant. Minerva McGonagall is an educational badass and with her in your corner there is no way you can fail.

Honroable Mention: Mrs. Jewls of Wayside School from Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Maybe it was her name… but when I was in second grade I wanted to be Mrs. Jewls… a replacement teacher who makes her students prove to her that they aren’t actually monkeys.


Hey there! My name is Anisha and I am today's guest contributer! I am honoured to be able to share my love for reading on The Bookish Blog and I hope you all enjoy my post on beautiful book covers of 2016! 

Let’s get started!


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is such a pretty book!I love how minimalist it is and the cute illustrations of Cath and Levi. Other editions have a small bubble with Baz and Simon too. It’s really adorable! My copy of the book also has fanart in the inside covers, with the characters and one of my favourite scenes from the book. It's really quite beautiful! And for those who haven’t read the book yet, it’s an amazing story too! It’s heart-warming, relatable and well written with lovable characters, so try and get hold of it.


The cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous! I love how colourful, vibrant and appealing it looks, which really made me want to read the book. And the book isn’t just aesthetically beautiful on the outside! The inside too, is quite beautifully done in the formatting of the text and the use of illustrations.

And it’s an awesome read!


The covers within this series are so gorgeous, wow! I love how bright they are. The fonts and formatting of the title along with the image of Feyre on the side are so cool. The cover is very appealing and shows up beautifully on camera (another win for me!).



This is a book I am yet to read, but I cannot wait until I get my hands on a copy! Looking at the cover really makes me want to read it. Not only is it super colourful and fun, it has ice cream and DOGS! I cannot wait to read the book and if it is half as good as the cover, then I can die happy.



This was another cute cover! I love the bold text and the starry blue background. I also love the illustrations of Sam and Camilla and how they are connected by the laptop cord that runs between them as they sit on opposite sides of the words.

The cover represents the story really well and it’s very eye-catching and appealing. I hadn’t heard about this book from anyone but when I saw it and decided to pick it up, the cover was the first thing that I noticed and was drawn to.And the story is very adorable!That is pretty much it for my favourite covers post! Thank you for reading and make sure to share in the comments what some of your favourite book covers are!



Anisha from Empowered Internet Women, a book and baking blog!

Time to Check in with Reality

It's done, guys. Summer is officially nearing its end, and all over the world people are prepping to welcome everyday life back once again, students and workers alike. This is the last day of my summer holiday, and let me just tell you something: I am so disappointed in myself. I've only read three books the last three weeks, and that is just NOT acceptable. I've been in this huge reading slump and it's stressing me out. And now it's too late to do anything about it, so... Knowing me I'll probably pick up a book later tonight and become totally hooked on it, like, an hour before I'm supposed to be in bed, resulting in me staying up waaaay too late and heading into work tomorrow looking like a complete train wreck. 

So this week we're working with the theme "Back to School" here on Bookish. A light, contemporary high school fic is just what I need right now, because I've been trying to get immersed in heavy fantasy book series for weeks now, with no luck. I'm just not feeling it. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

Besides I always find it really exiting reading American High School / College fiction, simply because the reality presented in them is so different from anything I've ever experienced. We've got High Schools and Colleges here in Norway for sure, but we go about it all so differently - we don't really have school sport teams, and the concept of campus dorms are a rare thing. Not to mention that you can drink legally from the age of 18 over here, so the whole party scene is different.

So here we go, a list (you should all have realized now that I'm a HUGE fan of lists) of 5 High School / College centric books suitable for early fall that will get you back in reality mode, whether you like it or not. They're also personal favorites of mine.

1) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Who doesn't love a socially awkward bookworm with a dose of anxiety trying to adjust to her new reality as a freshman College student? Cath is one of the most lovable characters I've ever come across in a book, and I can relate to her so much.  

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't Google.)” 
― Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

2) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Social ladders and high school cliques are common themes, but it's rare to get to see things from the Queen Bee's perspective. Samantha is part of the mean girls gang and is a highly popular senior who sails through life - until things take a sharp turn and she dies. This book is simply beautiful, and it's set to hit the big screen sometime in the future, too. 

“It's like high school holds two different worlds, revolving around each other and never touching; the haves and the have-nots. I guess it's a good thing. High school is supposed to prepare you for the real world, after all.” 
― Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

3) The Story of Awkward by R. K Ryals

Peregrine Storke is heading off to College, determined to leave childish things, imaginary worlds and her nerdy persona behind. She ends up in Awkward instead, a place of her own making - one she created as a child when she wanted nothing more than escape the real world and live in a place where imperfections are considered beautiful. This book, ladies and gentlemen, is simply hilarious. 

“Awkward silence in Awkward wasn’t any less awkward than it would be in the real world.” 
― R.K. Ryals, The Story of Awkward

4) White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

High School can be tricky and difficult at times, but is made nearly unbearable when you have a craving to suck souls out of people's bodies and the new guy in school is a demon hell bent on making your existence miserable. This is one of the best High School-slash-Supernatural books I've ever, ever read. 

“There has to be good and bad in the world. There has to be a choice.” 
― Jennifer L. Armentrout, White Hot Kiss

5. Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Because JLA is my favorite author. Samantha finds herself beaten and broken on the side of a road, with no recollection of her former life and what happened to her and her missing best friend Cassie. When an unfamiliar family claims her and she slowly, but surely learns that she used to be an A-class bitch and part of a mean girls' High School clique, she's deeply shocked and ashamed. This book drags you into a good old fashioned mystery as Samantha tries to figure out what happened to her the fateful night Cassie went missing, and taking on a mission to make amends for past mistakes she doesn't even remember ever doing. 

“I was stuck in a life I didn't remember, squeezed into the shell of this girl - this Samantha Joe Franco - and the more I learned about her, the more I was starting to hate her.” 
― Jennifer L. Armentrout, Don't Look Back

I hope your transition from lazy summer days to hectic everyday school/work life goes smoothly. Maybe these books will help you relax and lean back a little if life gets too hectic. Have a lovely week, everyone!