Hello, readers! It’s time for another Top 5 Wednesday! T5W was created by Lainey over at the booktube channel gingerreadslainey. You can see topics for the rest of the month by joining the Goodreads group! This week I’ll be discussing my favorite required reading books that I’ve read over the years in school. This is a topic that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough in the online book community, so I’m glad for the chance to share some of my favorites. I used to hate required reading when I was younger, but high school really changed my mind about the “genre.” Of course I don’t like every book I’ve had to read in school, but I’m definitely open to reading them and have come to appreciate many required reading books. I imagine that being an English major would be rather difficult if I still hated classics. Ha! Now let’s get to it!
(1) A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The reason this book is first on my list is because it was the first required reading book I ever loved. It was the book that made me come to terms with the fact that required reading doesn’t have to be a chore. I never in a million years expected to enjoy A Separate Peace but, as I was reading it over the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I couldn’t put it down. I loved the World War ll setting, the boarding school aspect, the characters, the writing, everything. I desperately need to re-read this sometime in the future because I’m sure I’d love it just as much a second time.
(2) A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
This wasn’t the first Hemingway novel I ever read, but it was the one that made me realize how much I loved him as a writer. I’m grateful that my high school English teacher was so enthusiastic about this novel because it made me want to read more of Hemingway’s works (and I did). A Farewell to Arms takes place during World War l and follows an ambulance driver for the Italian army. It’s emotional, it has several memorable quotes, and it’s just fantastic. There are scenes that are still vivid in my mind every time I think about them despite it having been nearly 5 years since I read it.
(3) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I read this in the same English class that I read A Farewell to Arms and was once again surprised by how much I loved it. Going into The Grapes of Wrath, all I could think about was how large it was and how it would probably drag on forever. Turns out, a 500 page novel about the Dust Bowl can actually be entertaining and quite moving. I grew attached to every one of the characters and found myself routing for them to find success and happiness. This novel is a great look into the Great Depression, and it’s definitely a must-read if you haven’t gotten around to it yet.
(4) The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Of all the books I expected to hate through the years, none had seemed more repulsive than The Mayor of Casterbridge. That title alone sounded bland and terrible and sleep-inducing. I read this for my British Lit. class last year and had disliked most everything we’d read before this book. I had no reason to believe it would be any different. I was definitely proven wrong. The characters are so complex and interesting; I was hooked by their stories and problems from the first page. I even read ahead of the syllabus because I wanted to see what would happen next. It’s political, it’s humorous, it’s shocking, and it’s depressing. I would love to re-read this one as well, and I highly recommend it despite it’s gross-sounding title and boring cover/synopsis.
(5) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
I had been interested in reading this novel for awhile before I finally got the chance in one of my college English classes, and it was everything I hoped it would be. The characters are quirky and unique, and there’s so much amazing symbolism strewn throughout the novel. When I went to write my essay about it, I had a hard time coming up with a topic because there were too many good options. I think this is a book that would appeal to a lot of readers, including ones who may not like classics or required reading. It was a fun ride, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I also quite enjoyed the movie adaptation.
This list was actually quite difficult for me to narrow down because I could think of so many favorites off the top of my head. Here are some of my runner-ups:
- Maus Vol. l & ll by Art Spiegelman
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- The Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus (Includes: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides)
- Sappho (poems) by Sappho
- The Pearl by John Steinbeck
- Antigone by Sophocles
Yeah, I know. I have a lot of love for Greek and World War ll works, but those genres are my favorite as far as classics and required reading are concerned. I had to at least give them a mention.
That’s all I’ve got for this T5W! Please share your favorite required reading picks with me – I’d love to add them to my TBR if I haven’t already read them.
Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica