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No one likes assigned reading; it’s okay to admit it. A lot of the time they are boring and drone on and on and on. Each page is a chore! However, my rebellious "I'm not going to read this and you can't make me" stage in school meant that I missed out on some really great literary works, just because I thought they were boring and unrelatable at the time. I couldn’t see the use of them or how they applied to my life, so I searched the internet for overviews, summaries, and key themes within the novels. Thank you, Sparknotes, for helping me pass 10th grade.
Now, I like to think I’ve wizened up in my seven years out of High School and my much more agreeable nature in college has helped with that as well. So, in my opinion, these are five books I was assigned to read in school that I wish I had taken the time for.
'The Merchant of Venice' - William Shakespeare
Shakespeare is a monster to get through at any academic stage. Thankfully, I was assigned this one while in college so I had a better grip on my time management. Yet, I was still required to finish the entire play in two days and I couldn’t even fathom it. So I didn’t do it. Oh, how I wish I had. This play is intelligent, funny, and poses so many arguments about how we treat those that are inherently different to us, as well as how we dismiss virtue and humility in favor of riches or revenge. Shakespeare is also famous for his wily female characters, of which this play is not short on.
'To Kill A Mockingbird' - Harper Lee
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this novel recently and whether or not it should be banned from schools. While this novel did not hold that forbidden appeal when I was in high school that it does now, and I admit to having not read it then, I have since read the book and discovered what a gem it is. Ultimately, TKAM is a story about morality and that preconceived notions should not be the basis for how people are treated. The reason people think it should be banned is the very reason the book was written, and why it should stay in the school curriculum. It makes you uncomfortable because it is intending to do so, to help us change and be better than those before us. Are you curious now?
'Lord of the Flies' - William Golding
This is another book that I refused to read and hated during class. However, after trying again in my free time, a couple years after it was assigned to me, I have discovered I don’t hate the book itself. I just hate being told what to read, when, and how to read it. Lord of the Flies is a brilliant novel rich in symbolism about what can happen to society if left to its own devices. This is portrayed by a group of young boys that survive a plane crash on a deserted island and descend into violence with nothing and no one to keep them in check. They fall to their basest traits, behaving like animals until they are rescued and the terrible things that happened on the island stay on the island, including the dead body of one of the boys.
'Little Women' - Louisa May Alcott
Most guys will scoff at this one because its a book about women and there's not a lot of "action," per se. Nearly everyone knows the story or has seen the movie, even if they haven’t read the book. However, I would suggest reading it anyway because it is beautifully written, shows the power of chasing after your dreams when no one says you can, and stresses the importance of family. Each sister has their own story, their own struggles, and it is only together that they overcome their poor living conditions with music, good spirits, and generosity that returns to them tenfold. These are life lessons which everyone can benefit from, even today.
'Frankenstein' - Mary Shelley
Anyone who enjoys a good gothic tale should not pass this up. Mary Shelley does a fantastic job of marrying the Romantic style with a gothic flare, using descriptions of the sublime alongside the horrific. There are so many philosophical questions that could be asked about this novel, including those of inherent evil based on appearance, or of our relationship to our creator. This is something uniquely explored from the perspective of the creation, scorned by his creator. And if you have a darker sense of humor, Victor Frankenstein’s constant whining about how awful his life is (through complete fault of his own and he refuses to admit it), is comical at times!
Hopefully, the way I described these books has you itching to give them another go! Even if you don’t feel interested by, or have the time for all five, I would recommend getting to Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies, and The Merchant of Venice if nothing else. Happy reading!