So last week, I ranted like crazy about Dune. My WORST EVER assigned reading book that, despite being in my genre, I HATED WITH THE PASSION OF BURNING HELLFIRE.
I am dramatic.
But there are really good books that I was assigned for school reading as well. ONE OF THEM is even in my Top Ten. So, without further ado – this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the gorgeous ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.
I’m going to start at the lower grades and move up, because honestly, there are some SOLID books intended for elementary school kids that deserve some appreciation.
Holes by Louis Sachar
This book was kid snark right around the same time as Judy Bloom was busy being awesome. I always LOVED this book. It was interesting and odd and had a lot of mystery and rhyme to it. Not to mention, Stanley Yelnats has the WORST luck in the world (but it was all because of his dirty rotten, pig-stealing, great-great-great-great grandfather).
When I was in fourth grade, our teacher read to us as a class. I have really fond memories of this book, and The BFG as well. Then, of course, this book became a movie, and it was even better.
Boy by Roald Dahl
Every self-respecting bibliophile has read Matilda. Many of us have read The Witches, or James and the Giant Peach, or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Or, you know, ALL of Roald Dahl’s books. But, how many people have read his autobiographical works? I did! Fifth grade. We did a “living biography” project and when I got ousted out of Walt Disney, I went with Roald Dahl. It was AWESOME too because his autobiography is really friendly to his target readership.
My favorite story in this little collection, and one that sticks with me still, is the dead mouse in the candy shoppe.
For the LIFE of me, I cannot remember what required reading I had in middle school – all I remember is researching Greek Myths in 7th grade. There was a lot of great recreational reading in middle school… so I’m going to skip right over to high school.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
This is such a sad sweet story, dealing with issues of race and of child abuse, as well as women’s rights and the struggle between what you know is right, and what society thinks is right. The teacher I had in 10th grade English was a big fan of including non-traditional but deeply important books in her curriculum, and I’m so glad she included this one – it’s definitely one of my favorites.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
This is definitely not a typical book found at the high school level. In 11th grade, we had a project to choose an American author and research their books and themes. Stephen King was taken fast… and I quickly learned that most my favorite authors of the time were European! I went with Madeleine L’Engle, whose work I vaguely remembered reading in elementary school. It was an excellent choice – it reintroduced me to her writing (which I love), and it turned out that my teacher was friends with her granddaughter! I did well on the project.
AND THERE’S A NEW MOVIE COMING OUT AND IT LOOKS MAGICAL.
The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Before I took my Sci-Fi & Fantasy Lit class, I was not introduced to Terry Pratchett. I KNOW I KNOW I AM A DISGRACE. His literature is fun, witty, expansive, and just plain good reading. If you aren’t familiar with it… he writes in a WHOLE universe but you can pick up any book and start reading without being lost. There are wizards and witches and the night watchmen, and my personal favorites: DEATH, DEATH OF RATS and DEATH’s daughter Susan.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
I took two English classes my senior year of high school, because English is my thing. Nicely balancing out my sci-fi/fantasy class was Humanities I. This was more about the human condition, but also included things like watching Grizzly Man because my teacher liked it *shrug*. This book, however, is a GEM. It’s beautifully written and so empowering for me, who grew up in a rugged patriarchal, strictly religious household. It was a little bit of rebellion and one of my favorite books ever.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
I reread this book every few years because it’s incredibly good, and also because it gives me something to think about in regards to the future of technology. Feed gets a bad rap, mostly for the way it’s written (serious slang) but I think it’s utter brilliance. It’s one of those books that people either love it or hate it, and I LOVE it and I’m so glad I was assigned this, because I don’t know that I would have found it otherwise.
I had a lot of interesting reading in college – including Beowulf and The Song of Roland but since I was a History Major, there was a lot of non-fiction. I’m choosing to keep this list to fiction and prose. Fortunately, there were a few instances where I actually got to read fiction (HUZZAH!) and these are my favorites.
Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
I am a sucker for classic fairytales. My college freshman English teacher said we could pick ANY piece of classic literature but we had to write an essay as to how that piece of literature spoke to the depths of human desire and I chose this, arguing the constant pursuit of immortality and the inevitable loss of innocence and how they were connected. I remember feeling quite pleased with how smart I was being, but since my academic computer is long since dead, I cannot share my brilliance with you. *shrug*
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
I praise this book a lot, but I’ve read it a few times and I think it is philosophically interesting and ripe for the imagination! I read it first as a sophomore in high school (willingly) the was assigned it TWICE in college – as a freshman and as a junior. Translation is key with this, especially since it is prose. I like the edition pictured above a lot… the beautiful Barnes & Noble leather bound edition is HARD to read.
Since this is a short story, I chose not to include it as part of the overall list, but…
Button, Button by Richard Matheson
This is an incredible, interesting exercise in morality and science fiction. We read this in 9th grade and to this day, I still think it is brilliant and I occasionally use the question asked by the story as an ice breaker at awkward gatherings.