Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Classics

Ah, the classics. More commonly known as the books you were forced to read for school assignments. Some I enjoyed. Some I did not. Some, I’m not even sure why they were assigned to that particular class. Here are my thoughts on some of my school assigned books, from eighth grade to senior year in high school:

Eighth Grade: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD I loved this book. It’s always bummed me out that Harper Lee never wrote anything else. Despite being only thirteen when I read it, I understood it and I think most of my classmates did, too. It’s so smoothly written that you can just fall in while reading it and absorb everything about it.

Ninth Grade: A SEPARATE PEACE As I once stated, I didn’t enjoy this book. It seemed like a bunch of teenage poor-me narcissism. It didn’t catch my interest, nor most of the rest of the class. Honestly, I think part of the problem was assigning it to a Freshman English class. We were too young to have the patience to cut through the crap and look for deeper meaning. If given the chance to read it again, I wouldn’t. Bad association, maybe.

Tenth Grade: THE SCARLET LETTER This was one of the ones that I loved, but most of the rest of the class didn’t. Again, it was a bit advanced, although I think as sophomores, we should have been able to understand it. The problem was that it’s a book you have to plod through, being low on action and high on characters and description. Still, it’s one of the ones that remains vivid in my mind. It’s been ten years since I’ve read it and I can still picture the scene of Hester Prynne sitting with Dimmesdale in the woods.

Eleventh Grade: GREAT EXPECTATIONS Another one I didn’t enjoy that much. I’m just not a fan of the Dickensian writing style and honestly, I felt little connection to the main character. Pip just felt like a pawn through the whole thing (which I guess he was), that his life was for others to dictate and the few times he tried to change things (namely, being with Estella) he was too powerless to do anything. It just didn’t resonate with me I guess, but reading it was an interesting experience. I think it should definitely be kept in school curriculums.

Twelfth Grad: A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY How did I feel about this book? Let me tell you a story: when I was in college, I was talking to my mom when she mentioned how she was reading the book Simon Birch was based off of. Remembering my experience in high school, I screamed and told her to burn the copy she had and any others she found. So yeah, I’m not a fan and probably can’t be unbiased about this book. I just didn’t enjoy it, although I know a few people who did. Me, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, ever, and don’t think it was beneficial to my education. It was slow, stodgy, and so jam-packed with in-your-face symbolism that I thought my brain was going to melt trying to keep track of it all.

Okay, so that’s my take on the educational classics. How did you feel about them? Or the books that you had to read for high school/college? Am I absolutely unforgivable for not liking some?


  1. Interesting how different school districts change around the assigned books. I never read A Prayer for Owen Meany. Never assigned. but I read all the other ones, and I sort of agree with you on them.

    To Kill a Mockingbird in 8th grade? My niece, who's starting 5th grade in the fall, has been assigned this for summer reading. I didn't pick it up until encountering it in 10th grade classes (my school never assigned it), but I loved it.

    A Separate Peace was our first assigned novel in 12th grade. Hated it.

    The Scarlet Letter was assigned to us in 11th grade. Like you, I liked it, but the rest of the class didn't.

    I read Great Expectations in junior high. We got to pick from a list, and that was the one I picked. I liked it at the time, but as I've gotten older, I like it less and less. I guess my Dickens phase had passed.

  2. I've read them all, but the only one I read because it was assigned was Great Expectations, and that was freshman year in college. The rest were never assigned reading while I was in school. Not sure what that says about my education, although I chose to read them on my own, which also might say something about my education. Hmm, now I'm thinking.


    TKAM is my favorite book of all time, and I have read it with 8th graders many times. I haven't read it with kids for a few years now, but I'm planning on doing it this year and I'm really looking forward to it.

  3. Of those, I read The Scarlet Letter and Great Expectations educationally. I liked Scarlet Letter, and didn't actually read Great Expectations. I've tried it again a couple of times since, with no luck whatsoever. I read A Separate Peace just for fun, though, and that's probably why I liked it.

    I don't really remember most of the books I was forced to read. There was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (loved it), The Outsiders (was traumatised by it), and Silas Marner (liked it). Other than that... just a lot of Shakespeare. Which I like.

    Funny you should mention this now, though, because I've had a whole bunch of classics come up on my to-read list all at once. I'm having to dig further into my to-read list or go back and re-read some lighter fare just to break it up a bit.

  4. I don't know if I'll have to read any of these books in high school. Most of the books that we had to read in 8th grade weren't classics, and I really didn't like any of them. Maybe the classics will be better. ;)

  5. I've read most of these on my own. My favorite was Great Expectations. I was never assigned these in school because I went to a non-traditional school. I think it is a better experience when you are not forced to read them.

  6. Up until recently, I would have had to say I'd read NONE of these books. But I read "To Kill A Mockingbird" a few months back. So at least I can cross one off the list :P

  7. I LOVED To Kill A Mockingbird. I think it's the only one on this list that I read.
    I'm not a huge fan of classics. I'm not sure why. I do like Pride and Prejudice, but Sense and Sensibility? Bored to tears. Someone will probably beat me up for saying that... ;) Great post by the way! :)

  8. Ugh, I did NOT like the so-called "classics" the school foisted upon us - I found them all, quite frankly, either boring, or so confusing linguistically that I was too focused on detangling myself from it to pay attention to the actual story. A friend and I actually had a discussion about this and we both came to the same conclusion: Keep the language simple so that the actual story can shine through!!!

    Having said that, I have high school to thank for turning me on to two awesome authors: Margaret Atwood and Evelyn Lau. I had to read Margaret's Robber Bride for a project and fell in love with it, and our English class had a shelf full of books that I randomly went through one day and found Evelyn's Diary of a Street Kid which, again, just hooked me. So it wasn't all bad! :-)

  9. Oh my gosh! We have exactly the same thoughts on all the books, except your 12th grade read--and that's because I haven't actually read that one. But, I don't plan to since we apparently have the same fabulous taste in literature!

  10. man, i didn't have to read ANY of those! We read a lot of hemingway, as well as Pride and Prejudice and A Passage to India and Tale of Two Cities. To this day i still love those last three


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