Best and Worst Books we read in High school

Elaine

Best

Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan – One of the few times I remember being given the choice of what book I can write about. I found a copy in my school Library while shelving books (Yes, I was working in libraries back then.)  It was a horror story about a girl discovering her long-lost twin was taking over her body while she slept in an attempt to steal her life.  Not scary or gory by today’s standards, but interesting reading.

The Chocolate Wars by Robert Cormier – This book had a standard new kid in school/dealing with bullies plot as well as dealing with the corrupt Authorities.  I found that part appealing, though the ending didn’t satisfy as I would have liked.  It did have a protagonist that was relatable and you couldn’t help being emotionally dedicated to his cause.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This book opened my eyes to racial discrimination as a young adult.  I wasn’t aware of this issue much till we read the book and was told that this was common even during the 1990’s.  Still, I was more interested in the main character Scout’s interactions with the townspeople than in the drama of the trial her father was involved in.  Her curiosity was infectious and watching her process the grown-up world around her was enlightening.

Worst

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell.  This was the absolute worst book I had to read in my life.  It’s the only one I can say I did violence towards (threw it against the wall three times).  It’s not to say that the book is poorly written, quite the opposite.  It was able to drive home the concept of hopelessness in a totalitarian society which was the cause for my frustration and discomfort.

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. I don’t remember much about the plot other than this kid being whiny and constantly coming up with weird and crazy schemes (catching kids running through rye grass before they fall off a cliff).  I found the scenes boring and the main character a wimp.

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. The hate of this play is less about what was written and more about a particular scene.  The whole idea of a chance meeting causing untoward misfortune on one man and the people (and nation) around him always seemed over the top in my mind.  But the main reason I hated this in High School stemmed from a particular gory scene at the end by the titular character to himself, which my teacher at the time dramatically pantomimed in front of us.  This made me feel completely nauseated and I ended up blacking out in the girl’s bathroom as a result.  So…yeah…not my favorite.

Jane 

Best

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I recently re-read this and I think it is one of the greatest examples of a coming of age story. The trial elements in the story ring true today and how important seeing societal issues through children’s perspective can share the effects of human indecencies.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Everyone should read this. I know some scholars say that this could be both fiction and nonfiction, but I think it is a great autobiography. There are content warnings for rape but it is one of the most eloquent books you will ever read.

Macbeth by Shakespeare. Lady Macbeth is perfection. One of the most intriguing plays I have read.

Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe. The main character believes that his friend has insulted him which leads the main character to bury him alive. One of the best revenge short stories out there.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The relationship between George and Lenny is one for the ages. Superb writing and world building and the OMG the ending. Also this book has great character building and arcs.

Worst

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Horribly boring, hated every moment reading this, would throw out of window

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Never again will I read this book.

Pride of Ms. Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks. Movie was better due to Maggie Smith but the story is weird and sometimes creepy.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I personally prefer the other Fitzgerald works, and I find this to be dry and to me it doesn’t really get interesting until the last two chapters. I do not think this book should be called the great American novel.

Adventure of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  Based on the exaggeration of stereotypes of the character of Jim

Stephanie

Best

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  To be honest, I didn’t particularly care about this book when I read it in high school.  But a few years later, I saw an interactive play that made me fall in love with the story.

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift.  It was so much fun watching everyone’s horrified reactions as they read, and it prompted really interesting discussions afterwards.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare.  Lady Macbeth’s villain arc.  Enough said.

Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe.  This story is very fun and absurd, and it makes for excellent meme fodder.  (Looking at you, @SparkNotes on Twitter.)

Worst

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  I understand the use of repetition for dramatic emphasis, but there’s only so many times I can read the word “burn” in a sentence before I decide to just close the book and chuck it.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  The only thing memorable about this story to me was how much it dragged.

 

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