So obviously, since I am a writer, reading is also a big part of my life. Though I have been horrible recently about actually sticking my face in a book, it’s something that I get randomly passionate about. This is one of those times. Here I’m just going to talk about some of the books I’ve been assigned to read so far in high school (because, as you will learn, I didn’t actually read a lot of them). This is going to be a long post, so strap in.
I’ve been in advanced English classes for a long while now, so coming into high school, I had to be somewhat versed in a classic novel over the summer. This classic novel was To Kill a Mockingbird. From what I remember of this book, it was pretty good. Nothing besides kids playing during the summer really happened, but it kept me engaged. It was easy to understand and a pretty alright read for those who decided to actually read it. Not my favorite school book and not my least favorite.
Also on the summer reading list, we had to choose a book from a long list of books about a culture other than ours. This idea is absolutely brilliant and I love that they made us do that. It’s really easy in high school English classes to get really caught up in the dead white dude telling dead white dude stories. This challenged that and I liked it.
I read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden which really wasn’t too much about a different culture. I believe the narrator was Jewish maybe? She was definitely living in America, though. This book, however, was amazingly interesting because it was an autobiography of a girl who was schizophrenic. I absolutely loved this book and I could not put it down. I actually want to read it again now that I’m talking about it.
Since we had to get some old-as-shit stuff up in this experience, we also read Medea. I honestly don’t remember much from that other than Medea killing everyone and also the absolutely horrible version of the play that we saw at a local college.
This year we also read Romeo and Juliet, the play by the ultimate dead white guy. I had a fabulous freshman English teacher and she made Shakespeare bearable and understandable, but I hated this book because WHY. WHY ARE THEY SO STUPID. My basic thoughts on that entire play.
Next, we read Animal Farm, which was planned very well because it aligned with what we were learning in World History. I guess it was alright. It was easy to understand, if kinda boring and pointless. The metaphors aren’t even thinly veiled. Why not just write a history book. Come on.
And, finally, my freshman year we read Anthem by Ayn Rand. Though I may have been the only one in the entire class, I love, love, loved this book. I loved how it was written, I loved the unpopular opinion presented in it, but more than all of that, I loved the fact that it was fiction that wasn’t realistic. Well, it was, but you know what I mean. It was post-apocalyptic fiction and I absolutely adored that. This, along with I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, are my favorite high school books thus far.
In a few days, I will begin my junior year, so sophomore year is still pretty fresh. And this is where I began to skip out on reading the classics because they were stupid and I hated them.
For the summer reading, we did Of Mice and Men. I didn’t skip this one, but let me tell you, if I hadn’t been unsure of how the teacher would test or if I would be comfortable cheating, I would have. All of the random, pointless nature descriptions. All of the boredom. The entire time, I was hoping for someone to die just so something would happen. Didn’t care when Curly’s wife died. Didn’t care when George had to shoot Lenny. The only time I felt a flicker of anything was when he killed that puppy. You don’t mess with goddamn puppies.
The next thing we read was also old as shit. Oedipus Rex. I’m not a fan of the way the teachers call on monotone students to read parts whilst reading plays, but this one was actually okay despite that. Violence and weird shit is what interests me and let’s just quote my favorite human being here- “Oedipus was the first motherfucker.”
The next book we read was another culturally diverse book about Judaism. It was called The Chosen. And while, again, I really appreciate these attempts to get us away from the dead white dudes, this book was not relevant to us. It technically is a YA book, but not even the slightly homoerotic relationship between the narrator and his best friend could get me through this book. I read about a third and then used Sparknotes for the rest.
Next we have Catcher in the Rye. This book is very deceiving because at first you think it might be alright. It’s kind of funny and relatable and you’ve heard it’s about mental illness, so you’re like, “Okay, this could be good.” You would be wrong. The voice of the narrator is enough to make me stop reading and use Sparknotes. He is literally the most annoying narrator I have ever come across in any book, ever.
The next book was about the Vietnam War. It was called The Fallen. Or was it Fallen Angels? Whatever it was, it was boring as hell. It was good for a history lesson, but the narrator was so detached that it made me not care about the thousands of people who were dying. The narrator didn’t seem to give a shit- why should I? Sparknotes was really my literature for this year.
The next book, I actually really did like. We got to choose one of three books for an independent reading thing and I really liked that. I care about my opinions and my friends’ opinions of the books more than I care about the teacher telling us “This is what it means”. It was called Staying Fat for Sarah Burnes and it was actually funny in a relatable way. Plus, there were a lot of discussions about religion and abortion that I could vehemently argue with. Yes, I argued with a book. I didn’t actually care very much about the main plot aspect, though. I didn’t give a crap about Sarah Burnes or her storyline. I just stuck with it for the religion arguments.
And the last thing we read this year was another by the biggest, deadest, whitest dude in all of literature- Willy Shakespeare. This year we read Julius Caesar. And let me just say that this play probably isn’t bad. It has murder and ghosts and betrayal and weird whippy goatskin races. It probably would have been just fine if my English teacher hadn’t stopped every five lines to tell us what something meant. No, we did not go to college and major in English. No, we were not alive in Shakespeare’s day. No, we probably don’t read him in our spare time. But we are also not idiots and can get the gist of what is being said without you having to stop and tell us that that means that they are about to TOTALLY JUST STAB CAESAR. (Can I be the only one who was thinking about this throughout the whole play? I mean, I was even a sophomore. Just like Gretchen Wieners.)
I know what you’re thinking- isn’t this post long enough without you adding a year you haven’t even finished yet? Yes, but I’m on a roll. Leave me alone.
I just finished up my summer reading for junior year today (two days before school starts. Procrastination!). When Broken Glass Floats is yet another book that is culturally diverse. I like that shit. Or I like what they’re trying to do at least. The book was alright too. It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t the worst. Though it sounds horrible to say, I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see more gruesome stuff. And I didn’t even cry. This story was kind of detached too.
And the last book that I will mention in this uber-long post is How to Read Literature Like a Professor. It presented some cool thoughts and ideas, but it was so redundant. It could have been about half as long and still accomplished what it set out to do.
My closing thoughts on this random topic- I like unrealistic fiction. Where’s the unrealistic fiction? Am I the only fucking person here that likes unrealistic fiction?