We all know we're supposed to read all the books that get assigned in class, and actually doing the reading tends to help with getting a better score (especially on reading quizzes). But let's be real, no one actually has the time to get it all done all the time. Between extracurriculars, homework from other classes, and staying caught up with The Bachelor, you have to make some sacrifices. Unfortunately for english teachers, those tend to come in deciding which books will actually be read for class, and which ones just get a quick once-over on Sparknotes.
But amidst the torture that ensues from being forced to read portions of All the Pretty Horses and Dubliners, there can be a few gems. So here is my list of the books I actually read (in full) for school and that you should read too.
1. The Kite Runner
I actually pulled an all-nighter sophomore year reading this one. Well-developed characters, a strong plot-line, and calculated suspense make this one of my favorite books of all time. By the time I finished The Kite Runner I was in a puddle of tears, and unregrettably so. Hosseini manages to create a complex main character that takes the reader along with him for his journey through unspeakable circumstances, loss, joy , and family struggles.
2. Lord of The Flies
It's beyond creepy, I'll start with that, but Lord of The Flies is a psychological masterpiece. It's gripping and suspenseful, like one of those freak magic acts on America's Got Talent that are disgusting and that make you just want to look away, but you can't help yourself from peaking through your fingers to see what happens. It's a short enough read, but the raw authenticity makes the pages seem to flip even faster.
3. The Crucible
Abigail Williams, what a woman. This manipulative, calculating mastermind plays the town of Salem in this play about the Salem Which Trials (that also serves as an allusion to the McCarthyism of the 1950's). The Crucible has all the makings of a great soap opera show: love, death, revenge, naked dancing in the woods, plus some voodoo magic. If you have some extra free time, the movie rendition stars Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis and is just as over-the-top dramatic. Fun Fact: the real Abigail Williams went on to flee the town and become a prostitute!
4. The Great Gatsby
If you enjoyed the movie adaptation with Leo DiCaprio even slightly, you should give the book a chance. The iconic characters provide a fascinating glimpse into a world that most of us can't even imagine. The Great Gatsby also provides a new perspective on how entitlement changes people that is relevant to a lot of societal issues that have been prevalent lately in the news regarding privilege. It's an easy read that's pretty straightforward, but will come in handy in future conversations and classes because at the end of the day, it's a classic for a reason. Read The Great Gatsby, you won't regret it old sport.
5. The Metamorphosis
Okay confession, this is the one book on this list that I didn't actually read in class, but the class before mine read it and it's one of my favorites so it's included. Kafka is the man behind the term "Kafkaesque," and The Metamorphosis definitely shows you why. The famous story of a man who awakes to discover he has turned into a cockroach addresses the mundaneness of our lives and the absurdity within it.
7. The Thing Around Your Neck
When I finished this collection of short stories, I sat in silence for a solid five minutes (which is probably the longest amount of time I've been quiet). One after another, each story has a chilling truth attached to it. Adichie's TED Talk (link here), which discuss the danger of a "single story," has grown to be incredibly popular as of late, and The Thing Around Your Neck combats the nature of a single story like nothing else. Each short story introduces a new main character who has more to their story than meets the eye. Honestly, this book is just a huge eye opener to the circumstances of others and beautifully written.
8. This Boy's Life
Arguably one of the best memoirs , This Boy's Life is charming, funny, and oddly relatable. Tobias Wolff manages to write everything the Catcher in the Rye tried to be but fell short on. The second book to have a movie adaptation staring my BFF Leo except he's considerably younger in this one. Toby is a realistic adolescent character who is just moving through his life and it's such a personable story that it makes the reader feel like they know him as a human being and not just as a book character.
9. To Kill A Mockingbird
Okay hear me out, I realize everyone has to read this at some time in their high school career (or three times if you changed schools like me woohoo), but it really is a good book. Scout's perspective is really fresh amongst the more mature narrators that often occur in books you have to read for classes. Every time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, a different part sicks with me, and that's the beauty of this book. Beyond the major characters and their plot lines, the town has an assortment of fascinating characters whose lives we only get the slightest glimpse into. Plus you have to read this or else you'll never understand what Boo Radley jokes are referencing.
10. Winesburg, Ohio
Anderson was actually a huge inspiration for Hemingway, and you notice a similar writing style in Winesburg, Ohio to what you'd find in For Whom The Bell Tolls. The short, declarative statements combined with longer examples of figurative language come together to crate fascinating short stories that all revolve around the same small town. You'll like some of the stories better than others (my personal favorite is "Adventure"), but as a collection, they're cohesive and varying, which makes this book a pretty breezy read.