3 Books You Read for Class in High School that You Should Read for Fun Now
If you are anything like me, you absolutely loved reading books for literature class in high school, and it was the means by which you discovered some of your favorite novels. If you are anything like much of the rest of the world, you detested reading books in school, and counted on SparkNotes and a prayer to help you pass literature class.
If you fall into the second, broader category of people, then perhaps your impression of certain classic novels has been tainted by your first experience reading them (or not reading them) in school. However, I would be willing to bet my coffee that you would benefit from and enjoy these books if you were to revisit them now. After all, one way in which the classics stand out is how you more often hear someone saying “I’m re-reading...” than “I’m reading...” when talking about them. A classic novel never exhausts all it has to say and teach its readers; thus, you usually glean more from re-reading a classic novel than you did reading it back in school for the first time.
Evergreen Podcast’s original podcast show, Novel Conversations, explores classic works of literature that tell some of the most enduring and endearing stories in Western civilization. These stories dissect human nature, explore historical periods or dystopian societies, and capture the imaginations of children and adults alike. Novel Conversations tells these stories and discusses them, encouraging readers to pick them up for the first, second, or third time!
1. The Giver
Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a beautiful, haunting dystopian novel with surprising depth. I remember feeling both fascinated and scared reading this novel for the first time in 7th grade. I had never read anything like it before, and the world of “perfect” harmony and contentment frightened me. It had the effect of making me grateful for things in my life that I had always taken for granted, such as color, free will, and even conflict. I had never before imagined a life so contrary to the life I knew and with which I was so comfortable, and having re-read the novel several times since then, I am amazed that it still opens up new appreciations and revelations for me.
2. The Old Man and the Sea
Although technically a “novella,” Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a short but powerful story of an old fisherman and his intense battle with a large marlin fish. Hemingway is known for his simple, direct, unembellished but powerful language, and although the plot is simple as well, the themes are quite grandiose. This was one of those books that I was not initially excited to read because it was branded a “boy's’ book.” And, indeed, the book is about a man (and a young boy) and explores such ideas as courage in the face of defeat and what it means to be a man. However, there is much to get out of this book for everyone, and I personally loved being able to grasp the idea of what it is like to be one with nature. It is a sad story, but it is a real story, and I appreciate that aspect of it as well.
3. The Great Gatsby
It is rather hard to find a list of recommended classic novels without finding The Great Gatsby on it. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most celebrated novel paints a picture of life in the upper classes of New York City in the 1920s. I, for one, have always been fascinated with the “Jazz Age,” and therefore I loved this novel the first time I read it as a sophomore in high school. I have read it at least three times since then, and I find more to love about it every time I pick it up.
Although labeled a “depressing” book, I think that The Great Gatsby tells a sad but beautifully poignant story of the pursuit of the American Dream in Fitzgerald’s signature descriptive prose; and while it does not end on a happy note, it ends exactly as it should end. If you gave up on it back in high school and swore never to pick it up again, I kindly implore that you give it a second chance - or at least listen to our Novel Conversations podcast about it! We might be able to persuade you!