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High School Books I’d Like To Revisit

Surfing blogs the other day, I came across a reference to The Scarlet Letter that thrust me back to my Grade 10 English class. I never, ever liked having to read novels for school, but looking back now I wonder what I’d think of them as an adult—both because I’ve reached my full cognitive development and because I wouldn’t have to discuss them in a room filled with other people who didn’t feel like reading these books. A great Twitter discussion resulted, and I added to my list from people’s replies about books they read as an adolescent and have re-read since or would like to revisit.

  • We read Animal Farm in Grade 7. The people who wrote that curriculum should be fired. Seriously? Twelve-year-olds? This one is at the top of my list to read with adult neural pathways established.
  • Next is The Scarlet Letter. I enjoyed it in Grade 10, and I’m curious about what I’ll think of it having had some life experience.
  • Then there’s To Kill a Mockinbird, which I loved as an adolescent. I think I’ll love it as much, if in new ways, now.
  • In Grade 7 I read Black Boy. The book made a big impact on me then, and writing a paper about it became my first real lesson in revision. A lot of revision. That’s my most salient memory of this book, and it deserves better. This one’s on the list, for sure.
  • Finally, A Separate Peace. I don’t remember anything of it except that I enjoyed reading it. And so I’d like to read it again.

Two books lots of people read in high school that I didn’t but that I’d like to: Lord of the Flies and Catch-22.

Our next book-club book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I understand is a popular high-school read; I’ve just started it and already know I’ll love it.

Are there books you read in school that you’d like to revisit now? Books you didn’t read that you’d like to have read?

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John Markos O'Neill

Not so many high school books, but a few college ones.

Don Quixote: someone (Aubrey Bell, says Google) once said that a person should read Don Quixote as a youth, then in midlife, and finally again in old age.

War and Peace. Seriously. It's an amazing book, and I must admit I skimmed the ending.

I always meant to read Ulysses, but never did: we didn't read that one in college.

Julie

Books I would like to revisit
Animal Farm (read it on my own at the time, so totally didn't get it)
The Pearl

Books I didn't read in HS but would like to now
Lord of the Flies (started, on my nightstand)
To Kill a Mockingbird (read it last summer)
Anna Karenina
A Farewell to Arms

Books I loved in HS
Farenheit 451
Orwells 1984
Crime and Punishment
The Metamorphosis

Books I didn't love in HS but maybe I didn't get them
Sister Carrie
Tess of d'Uberville

I was supposed to read War and Peace over summer break, but I didn't. And I had to read Catch 22 twice.

Cynthia

OMG A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- my all time favorite book ever. You'll love it! The original movie is great too.
We read the Outsiders in gr. 8 which I'd love to at least re-watch the movie- I remember feeling so scared and sympathetic for Ponyboy and his pals…

blondechicken

Oh that's weird, I read your first paragraph and my first thought was “A Separate Peace”…and there you are with it! I remember that I found it depressing (and I was already pretty down in HS) but I'm curious about how I'd process it as an adult!
I'm embarrassed by all the books I DIDN'T read in HS (they were never assigned), as I've always been a big reader:
Crime & Punishment
Ferenheit 451
War & Peace

Kim Werker

Maybe we should make a little book club for ourselves. Not a terribly ambitious one; maybe set a goal just for two or three books in 2009. So we can get the best of both worlds: To revisit (or read for the first time) these “school” books, and be able to discuss them.

Anyone interested?

haley

Oh you'll love Animal Farm with an adult brain! It's such a great parallel to what was going on in the political world at the time.

And I think you'll also enjoy A Separate Peace. Lovely book.

I can't think of any I read in high school that I would like to revisit. I just finished my M.A. in literature so I think I'm good for now… I think I'll take up reading Cosmo for a bit.

LisaBurrito

War and Peace totally got a rap for being stupidly long but I read it in high school (Peter makes fun of me because I told him I was reading it at the beach) and loved it. You just have to ignore the ending where he goes on a lecturing rant. Really, I remember it being quite the page-turner. I mean, the last Harry Potter book is probably longer. ;) (That said, I also read Crime and Punishment during grade 11 math class so my tastes at the time clearly ran to the depressing Russian genre.)

Amie

The Catcher in the Rye. I've always related so well to that book. Oh, and Our Town. There's something so cut and dry about that one. Again, I relate to it. It's very much my personality at times.

Melf

How about A Catcher in the Rye?

Melf

Oh, duh. Didn't read the comments first. Oops.

Melf

Flowers for Algernon. Loved it.

Jocelyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my all-time favorite. I remember crying like a baby.

kristi

I remember reading _The Pearl_ in 8th grade. Vividly. Like the teacher's handwriting with the vocabularly words on the board. I always feel like I should re-read _Grapes of Wrath_. I hated it the two times that I tried to read it in my callow youth. Now I see more clearly that that was actually a lot of my father's experience (born in 1933, with a single mom in southern midwest during the depression. They really did work their way across the country to California… or maybe I knew it then and that's why I hated it…) and I should read it. My favorite Steinbeck is _Travels with Charley_ though!

Read Hemingway too, which I think I enjoyed at the time, but don't remember at all clearly. Didn't read Melville.

_A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_ I loved. A Separate Peace. To Kill a Mockingbird. I read all those again and again, starting probably in middle school.

I didn't read Anna Karenina ever — or any Russians that I can think of until college.

I have very strong memories of Animal Farm and The Lord of the Flies. I spent my Junior year of high school as an exchange student in Germany. I didn't have very many books in English, but I had those two (I think they were used in the HS English class there), so I ended up reading them over and over, even though they were dark and ugly and totally not the thing to have to read when you're feeling isolated and disconnected anyway.

Kim Werker

I can only imagine how significantly your experience in Germany was coloured
by those books. I managed not to get through The Grapes of Wrath the couple
of times I tried, either, which is surprising, and I'm sure I'd love it now.
I'm putting it on my list. East of Eden, though, is one of my favourite
books.

I read some Chekhov in university, and I'd like to revisit him; I even still
have a book of short stories. My prof at the time was a Freudian fiddler
with a wandering eye, and those were the most salient aspects of the class
for me (also the part about how I said, “*This* is literary interpretation?
Time for a new major”).

marikka

You know, as a fourteen-year-old, I did not like or get Holden Caulfield, but deep down I knew I would get him later, which was why I tried again at twenty, while living in Wyoming. That was the first high school book that I revisited, although I was still in college (re-reading Jane Eyre and Things Fall Apart don't count because I did that for college English classes). And as a twenty-year-old, I loved the book, which I think has more to do with my college experience than anything; I think I needed to grow up and live through more to see Holden as anything more than whiny.

marikka

The book I know I need to revisit is Beloved by Toni Morrison. I continue to be amazed that someone had sixteen-year-olds read that book and expected them to understand it in any capacity. And there's a part of me that thinks that finally reading Cry, the Beloved Country and Love in the Time of Cholera should be done, but then the rest of me starts thinking about when I get the final books to the Y: The Last Man series. Plus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I only get along in short stories for some reason.

And The Great Gatsby. I know I should re-read that one, except I hated it with such an intensity that I'm afraid to even touch the book. And because I interview kids for my alma mater, I always encounter The Great Gatsby as a favorite of theirs and I always struggle to hold my tongue. And this isn't like the Catcher in the Rye dislike, because I knew I was missing something there; this is all a matter of just not liking or caring for a single character, which is my one prerequisite for a book. If there isn't one thing redeeming to the story, my brain shuts down.

marikka

You know, as a fourteen-year-old, I did not like or get Holden Caulfield, but deep down I knew I would get him later, which was why I tried again at twenty, while living in Wyoming. That was the first high school book that I revisited, although I was still in college (re-reading Jane Eyre and Things Fall Apart don't count because I did that for college English classes). And as a twenty-year-old, I loved the book, which I think has more to do with my college experience than anything; I think I needed to grow up and live through more to see Holden as anything more than whiny.

marikka

The book I know I need to revisit is Beloved by Toni Morrison. I continue to be amazed that someone had sixteen-year-olds read that book and expected them to understand it in any capacity. And there's a part of me that thinks that finally reading Cry, the Beloved Country and Love in the Time of Cholera should be done, but then the rest of me starts thinking about when I get the final books to the Y: The Last Man series. Plus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I only get along in short stories for some reason.

And The Great Gatsby. I know I should re-read that one, except I hated it with such an intensity that I'm afraid to even touch the book. And because I interview kids for my alma mater, I always encounter The Great Gatsby as a favorite of theirs and I always struggle to hold my tongue. And this isn't like the Catcher in the Rye dislike, because I knew I was missing something there; this is all a matter of just not liking or caring for a single character, which is my one prerequisite for a book. If there isn't one thing redeeming to the story, my brain shuts down.

marikka

You know, as a fourteen-year-old, I did not like or get Holden Caulfield, but deep down I knew I would get him later, which was why I tried again at twenty, while living in Wyoming. That was the first high school book that I revisited, although I was still in college (re-reading Jane Eyre and Things Fall Apart don't count because I did that for college English classes). And as a twenty-year-old, I loved the book, which I think has more to do with my college experience than anything; I think I needed to grow up and live through more to see Holden as anything more than whiny.

marikka

The book I know I need to revisit is Beloved by Toni Morrison. I continue to be amazed that someone had sixteen-year-olds read that book and expected them to understand it in any capacity. And there's a part of me that thinks that finally reading Cry, the Beloved Country and Love in the Time of Cholera should be done, but then the rest of me starts thinking about when I get the final books to the Y: The Last Man series. Plus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I only get along in short stories for some reason.

And The Great Gatsby. I know I should re-read that one, except I hated it with such an intensity that I'm afraid to even touch the book. And because I interview kids for my alma mater, I always encounter The Great Gatsby as a favorite of theirs and I always struggle to hold my tongue. And this isn't like the Catcher in the Rye dislike, because I knew I was missing something there; this is all a matter of just not liking or caring for a single character, which is my one prerequisite for a book. If there isn't one thing redeeming to the story, my brain shuts down.

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