Thursday, July 3, 2014

School reads... I actually liked

We've all been there: "your assignment for this week is to read..." And then you groan, roll your eyes, and read it anyway. I will admit that 90% of what I've read for school has been less than enjoyable (and I'd venture a guess that I'm not alone), but every now and then a good one sneaks through the fun sucking cracks of the public education system. It's been a lot of years since I graduated from high school but I'll try to remember back that far (and I'll throw in some college picks for good measure). Without further ado, here is my top 5 countdown of school reads that I actually liked.

#5: The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson

I was assigned The Lottery in my first year English class in college. Technically it's a short story, coming in at just 30 pages, but this story had me completely hooked. When it ended I spent several minutes just staring at the pages. According to Goodreads, "The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses." I can believe it. The Lottery is a story that is all to easy to identify with, which makes it all the more frightening. If you've never read this chilling tale, you should really pick it up. You will not see this ending coming. 

#4: Guests of the Sheik, by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

I very rarely read non-fiction, so when I was assigned this ethnography of an Iraqi village in an Anthropology course, I was less than thrilled. I mean, the book description is as dry as the Syrian Desert (hehe). But for whatever reason I actually did the assigned reading and I'm glad I did. It was such an adventure to read about Fernea's time in Iraq among the people she met there. Her time with the Sheik was exciting and thrilling at times. The culture is not always what you'd expect and neither are the people. I'd recommend this book if you have any interest at all in other societies (or not, honestly - I didn't). I actually passed this one to my dad who liked it as much as I did! 

#3: Lord of the Flies, by William Goldling

One of the most surprising things to me about twelfth grade English was that most people hated this book. The first thing that came to mind when I heard the title was Lord of the Rings. After I got over being disappointed that it was nothing resembling Tolkien, I greatly enjoyed this book. You know you're in for a ride when an author strands a bunch of young boys on an island. It was grim and thrilling from the get-go. Fun fact: my best friend Lisa (who also really loved this one) and I were the only two students in the class who were able to pick out the sexual references in this book (you can read an essay about them here). Our teacher was extremely impressed and gave us extra credit! Hurray! I recommended this one to my dad too, who was thoroughly disturbed and entertained. 

#2: The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H.G. Wells

This book... it had me enthralled for days during my ninth grade year. Coming in at only 160 pages, it was a very quick read, but one that has stuck with me for... well, a lot of years. It starts out mild and then heads in a direction that will make you cringe - and it'll be an ugly cringe. The Island of Dr. Moreau goes to a dark place that is all the more scary because it isn't outside the realm of possibility. I am so glad my teacher gave this to us to read instead of making us watch the movie (like she did with Romeo and Juliet) since, from what I hear, the movie was painful. This is the only thing I've ever read by H.G. Wells, but I have a few more on my bookshelf. Maybe it's time to dust them off. 

#1: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

My twelfth grade English teacher really knew what she was doing. She pumped out great book after great book. I really (really) did not have any expectations of actually enjoying Wuthering Heights. All other classics from this era put me to sleep, to be honest. But something about this book captivated me. I also fell in love with the song (as performed by Hayley Westenra). Since my first reading of Wuthering Heights I've started collecting copies, slowly working back in time. My latest edition is from 1923 - a steal I found on eBay. I passed this one off on my dad as well, but he really couldn't get into it. After he finished it and we began our discussion, he was totally shocked to learn that there had been a ghost in the story! 

Honorable Mentions: 

Were there any assigned books from your educational career (whether high school or college) that you ended up loving? I'd love to hear about them!