Am I a nerd for admitting that I kind of liked high school? At least, some parts I did. Mostly the academic parts. Not so much the emotional part. Looking back on those years, I remember them being something like this:
By the way, that is entirely accurate.
All teen angst aside, part of the reason I really liked school were the English classes. Smarty pants like me who performed well in their first year and maintained a certain grade point average had the opportunity to take an advanced English course with twice the amount of reading, and twice the amount of work.
And I was all like, where do I sign up?
Even though the following books were all required reading at some point time or another in my high school career, I’m not ashamed to say that they were some of the the things that I enjoyed the most during my time there.
Like, whoever was the genius who put Rule of the Bone (Russell Banks) on the course list should have gotten a raise. There wasn’t one kid in my class who didn’t rush out to read it. The characters were skipping classes, smoking spliffs, and having sex with highly inappropriate people- we were sixteen and we loved it. The whole class finished it, every single one of us.
Lord of the Flies, too, is the perfect example of a sinister book that works well in the classroom. William Golding’s classic novel sends a dark message in a time where students are prone to squaring off into social factions and in some ways I think it’s an appropriate and timely read.
Why none of John Wyndham’s novels haven’t been transformed into modern-day, big-budget sci-fi thrillers yet is beyond me. The Chrysalids is particularly creepy and perfect reading for a moody teenager. Although we were never required to read them for school, I would recommend Chocky and The Day of the Triffids as well.
Another popular (yet disturbing) read among my classmates was Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage, a dark re-telling of the Noah’s Ark story. It’s a fascinating read and one that opened the floor to a really interesting discussion, but it’s definitely not for the faint-of-heart. Newcomers to Findley’s work may want to try The Wars first for something a little less controversial.
Canadian authors like Findley always have a place on the reading lists of high school students. Some considered it a drag to be forced to read something simply because the author was born in the same country. I, on the other hand, was happy to discover that not only did Alice Munro and I share a birth country, we share the same birthday. Maybe I’m a little biased, but she’s one of my favorite Canadian authors and I have my high school English teacher to thank for that. Who Do You Think You Are? was the first collection of her stories that I read and it was the perfect read for a teenager trying to find her place in the world.
Lastly, a list that features books that I loved and read as an adolescent wouldn’t be complete without Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Before The Twilight Series, it has to have been the favorite read of moody teenage girls everywhere. Heathcliff is kind of a bad boy, and Cathy is all angsty on the moors, and there’s an impossible love triangle, and ghosts and lots of fog- who knew an English lit class could get so emo?
Certain books hold up to the test of time because they deal with themes that are no less relevant in the world we live in today than the historical contexts in which they were originally written. Even though we experience adolescence differently today, we strive for the same things as these characters and identify with their struggles.
In that sense I think reading can provide great comfort to teenagers who feel isolated and misunderstood. I know reading was a great outlet for me while growing up, and although some of these books may come across as a little old-fashioned or slow to the quick-talking, Snapchatting youth of today, I hope they still might find some value from one of the classics on their high school course lists.
After all, that’s why they call it “required reading”.
I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company. Full disclosure: I do receive a small commission from Amazon when you choose to buy from my site. It keeps this blog running and food in my dog’s bowl, but rest assured I would never suggest you buy something I wouldn’t buy for myself. Enjoy!