Friday, June 24, 2011

Top 5 books you were forced to read in high school (according to TIME magazine)

List by TIME

"I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget."
- William Lyon Phelps

Oh, interwebs how you make me laugh! Initially, that wasn't my first reaction on seeing the title of TIME's original post - Top 10 books you were forced to read in high school. I was indignant and slightly peeved. Yeah sure, one or two of these may have been required reading (not Macbeth, thank goshness, I've never been a Shakespeare fan even when mum used to read his comedies to us as bedtime stories) but the rest I looked up voluntarily and, furthermore, enjoyed. Why? These books:

  • taught me to think critically
  • showed me the true power of words and thoughts
  • gave me an historical perspective
  • taught me about human nature - the good, the bad and the beautiful beyond words
  • showed me that sometimes standing up for yourself or others offers a special kind of freedom even when it doesn't feel like it at the time
  • helped me discover that sometimes people suck and do bad, horrible things but that sometimes the good guys win, too
  • taught me that life isn't always fair
  • showed me always, always lessons about life and hope, most especially when it often seems like there is none
  • helped me to find my own voice

  • In short these titles, and many others just like them, were my teachers and my friends. Which is why I'd like to think that TIME meant their post title as tongue-in-cheek humour, even if their post intro makes me suspect otherwise...



    Honourable mention:
  • Lord of the flies by William Golding
  • The great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A farewell to arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • The scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


  • Animal farm / George Orwell
    A political satire and propagandist warning, disguised as an animal fable. The events in the tale mirror those in Russian history between 1917 and 1945, including the chasing out of the Tsar and the gradual creation of Stalin's power.

    The catcher in the rye / J.D. Salinger
    A 16-year old American boy relates in his own words the experiences he goes through at school and after, and reveals with unusual candour the workings of his own mind. What does a boy in his teens think and feel about his teachers, parents, friends and acquaintances?

    A separate peace / by John Knowles
    Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

    Of mice and men / John Steinbeck
    Revolves around two central characters: Lennie and George. Lennie is a man with the strength of two, but with the mind of a child, whose whole world centres around George, who steers him through life and protects him.

    To kill a mockingbird / Harper Lee
    Set in a sleepy town in South Alabama during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Six-year-old Scout and her friends are fascinated by the mysterious Radley place and its reclusive occupant. But their focus shifts when Scout's attorney-father is called upon to defend a black man accused of rape. Classic tale of injustice, friendship, and coming-of-age. Pulitzer Prize in letters. Fiction. 1961

    2 comments:

    Claire at Latitude said...

    Oh, well put! Something about the word “forced” simply shouts “child abuse”, but I have absolutely no regrets about having some of those books as prescribed reading at school. They left no scars.

    catatonia said...

    Hi Claire! Thanks for commenting :) I really objected to their use of the word 'forced.' It leaves a foul taste. Much like you I don't believe these books left any scars. If anything, they left me with ideas and possibilities and dreams. I'm certain that if not for books like these, and many others like them, I wouldn't be working in libraries and, worse, I wouldn't genuinely enjoy reading as much as I do.