Year of Required Reading, Part 0


As I said in a previous post, I’m going to make 2019 the “Year of Required Reading.” I want to take books that I was required to read in school and read them again to get a fresh perspective and to evaluate whether I think they are good choices.

I’m posting my list this early so people have time to give some input before I begin. I have some rules for how I’m choosing books. I don’t want to pick something I’ve read in the past ten years.

I’ve gone back to The Great Gatsby, Ethan Frome, A Separate Peace, and many others since school. These won’t make the list.

I also want to put a few “new” books on the list. Many schools have tried to encourage reading with modern YA books. These didn’t exist as required reading back when I was a kid. I’m also curious how these are.

My list so far.

Re-read:

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck. I decided fear shouldn’t be the reason I avoid a book. And let me tell you, I don’t have good memories of trudging through this as a kid. But I’m optimistic that I’ll appreciate it this time.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve never gone back to this. I’m expecting good things.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame de Paris) – Victor Hugo. Yes, I actually read the full, unabridged version of this book in high school for summer reading. I remember being completely blown away by it. I’d never read anything with such narrative depth and tragedy. It changed how I thought about books. And yet, I never re-read it for some reason.

Newfangled stuff:

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson. I can’t actually tell if this is “high school” level or lower, but I found this to be the most common contemporary book on the lists I looked up.

Looking for Alaska – John Green. I’m not sure there’s a more famous YA author out there right now. Let’s judge this! (Sorry, I promise to keep an open mind.)

Monster – Walter Dean Myers. This one is on here for me. It sounds seriously dark. It’s one of the only contemporary books on these lists that I found appealing based on the premise.

And that’s it so far. I only plan on probably one more in each category.

My knowledge of Shakespeare is quite weak. I’m tempted to add one of his plays. Let me know what you think. There’s still plenty of time to change any of these and add stuff.

Previous years:

Year of Giant Novels (2016)

Year of Short Fiction (2017)

Year of Mystery Novels (2018)

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One thought on “Year of Required Reading, Part 0

  1. If you want to read a Shakespeare play, I guess it ought to be “Romeo and Juliet”, since it’s the most common required reading.

    Also, I know a teenage daughter of somebody I know was required to read “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov. It caught me by surprise, because in my time SF would never make it into required reading, even classics like “Foundation”. But of course, times have changed, and I suspect many SF classics will now become official literature classics.

    Of your list, the only book I’ve read is “The grapes of wrath”… and my experience was probably even worse than yours, because at that time my English wasn’t even good enough to make sense of the title. So I remember it as a horrid book that I didn’t even want to check on the dictionary the words I didn’t know, because I felt pretty sure I wouldn’t want to know anyway.

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