Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Assigned Reading - Wins, Fails, and Misses

Last week's Top Ten Tuesday topic about school got me thinking about assigned reading.  I've never really been a mood reader so assigned reading never really bothered me the way it did a lot of my friends in school.  I even liked some of them.  And then there were some I really really didn't like and some that it seems like everyone read but for whatever reason I never got assigned.  In college I didn't have to take many lit classes as I was a Information Systems/Computer Science Major so these were all high school assignments

The Wins:

1.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I think this one was fairly universally popular.  I don't know anyone who really hated it though I will say that when I listened to it again a few years ago I got SO much more out of it than I did in 9th grade!

2.  Macbeth by William Shakespeare - This is one of the examples of a teacher making all the difference.  In my school 11th grade was English literature with a good chunk of the first semester being devoted to Shakespeare.  We did a combination of reading the play on our own, listening to a really excellent radio drama, and then a lot of discussion and even now -20 years later- I still feel like I have a good grasp of Shakespeare dramas.  This play was probably my favorite.

3.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - I think this was 10th grade which was American Literature though it may have been 9th.  It's been awhile.  I liked this one and Steinbeck's straightforward writing style instantly appealed to me.

4.  Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - This was from 12th grade which was World Literature and this was pretty much the only book that I actually liked.  While my 11th grade teacher really made me love so many classics my 12th grade teacher did pretty much the opposite.

5.  A Separate Peace by John Knowles - This was in 9th grade and I had to read this one right after reading the first fail on the list below.  I don't remember much about other than I liked it so much more by comparison!

The Fails:

1.  The Pearl by John Steinbeck - I went into this one really optimistic.  I liked what I'd read of Steinbeck and it was short so how could it miss?  Are we even sure this was written by Steinbeck?  It was not a favorite!

2.  Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevsky - My senior year class was considered "World Literature" and the teacher was very prestigious with all kinds of degrees and accreditations and only taught the AP classes so one would expect a pretty good class.  However, I think she had burned out or was counting down days to retirement or something because the class was essentially sit down and read your book for the hour and then take an incredibly detailed test.  For a bunch of 17 years olds this was probably not the way to approach Russian literature.

3.  Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner - I'm not a fan of Faulkner.  The page long sentences make my eye cross and this one had that plus randomly changing POVs.  This was the only book I got the Cliff Notes for (do those still exist) and it was pretty much like "Yeah this book is super confusing".

4.  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce - I don't think I've ever been confused more by a book.  Part of the problem was this was assigned by my senior lit teacher so class discussion was pretty much nil.  Most of what I remember about this book is sitting in study groups with a bunch of other confused teenagers trying to figure out just what exactly Joyce was talking about.

5.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens  - This was assigned in 9th grade.  14 just does not seem like the right age to read Dickens.  I hated it.  I hated Pip.  I hated Dickens.  I hated Estella.  Pretty much the only person I didn't hate was Miss Havisham and that was mostly because I found her house fascinating.  I did try and reread this a year or two ago and while I still didn't like it was at least able to appreciate Dickens' writing.

The Misses:

1.  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - I think this might have been optional reading one summer but it never really interested me until years later when the movies came out (I know, I know.  I'm so embarrassed).

2.  Animal Farm by George Orwell - I don't remember this ever coming up on any list so I never read it.  I'm thinking about trying it out on audio.

3.  Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - I've read Pride and Prejudice but somehow never got to this one.  I'm thinking of getting this one on audio too.

4.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This one never came up on any list and I'm also not sure I'm really itching to read this one.  Interestingly enough J did read this in high school and really liked it.

5.  Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck -  I actually read this last year and I'm kind of glad that I never read it in high school.  I don't think I would have appreciated it nearly as much if I'd read it as a teenager.

Do you have any assigned reading wins, fails or misses?


  1. I had a similar experience with Shakespeare- it was 11th grade and we did Romeo and Juliet and a few others, but that one sticks out in my mind. Sense and Sensibility is one I'd like to read, as the Emma Thompson adaptation is a favorite.

  2. I did Hamlet at school and enjoyed it, and I saw 'The Scottish Play' as a stage performance. I'd love to see Othello. I had to read Animal Farm and never greatly liked it and I hate Wuthering Heights! Liked the song though...

  3. I'm pretty much with you on the wins and fails! I'm not a big Shakespeare fan but I do enjoy some of his plays. For me, the best one is Othello, though. And OMG Of Mice and Men. I think that was my first ugly cry ever. In your misses, I didn't read any of them in school either! I did read The Hobbit and Sense and Sensibility later as an adult and love them both though. I still need to read Wuthering Heights - I read and LOVED Jane Eyre in school, so I'd like to see what her sister brought to the table :) Great Post!

  4. Like you, I had an English teacher who was a nun and shaped my love of English in the 8th grade, and it was followed by another English teacher in 9th grade who taught me to love Shakespeare and the classics. They were the reason I was once going to be an English Professor. Teachers can definitely make a difference! You've given some great choices here. Happy Tuesday and Hugs...RO

  5. I am a mood reader and there were very few assigned books that I ended up liking in high school. I did love To Kill a Mockingbird and reading lots of Greek Myths. But that's about it. I hated The Great Gatsby, wasn't a fan of Great Expectations (we read that in 9th grade too, which seems insane!). We read three Shakespeare plays throughout high school (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and another one I think but I can't remember which one!) which I didn't hate but didn't love. I wish we read some of his comedies instead! We also read Heart of Darkness which I hate with a passion!!! We read so few books written by women. We never read Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte or Emily Bronte during the British Literature class. I really find that so annoying when I think back on it.

  6. I very definitely did not like assigned reading in high school or college. Or I rarely did. May I suggest that Sense and Sensibility be on your list soon. I love that book and I love the movie with Emma Thompson. I'm also not a fan of Faulkner.

  7. I had so much assigned reading as I was an English literature major at FSU. Right up my alley! I loved so many of the assigned books with the big exception of Beowolf. Ugh.

  8. I liked most of the required reading in school, fortunately. Although I never met a Shakespeare play I liked, try as I might. Maybe if I had your teacher... I loved Crime and Punishment though, unlike you. Someday I would like to reread it.

  9. Animal Farm was something I read on my own in high school and LOVED it

  10. I remember doing a ton of Shakepeare in school and didn't hate it. I have to agree that the teacher can make all the difference. I didn't read The Hobbit until my daughter was reading it in middle school and I didn't love it.

  11. I loved To Kill A Mockingbird. I hated Call of The Wild by Jack London and my ego took a hit reading Merchant Of Venice. I still don't get that book. Great expectations was okay.

  12. I hated The Old Man and The Sea, and I ended up having it assigned two more times in college. Ugh. 😒

    In seventh grade my best friend was reading The Hobbit and trying in the worst way to get me to read it, but I tried twice and I just didn't care for it. A friend gave me their paperback the summer before my senior year and I read and loved it, so yes, I think you need to be in the right mood for it. ☺

  13. Great list! I read Portrait of a Young Man at university but am none the wiser! Great Expectations at high school - not that in love with it! Animal Farm - very painful! The Hobbit was never prescribed but I couldn't have managed it!

  14. I think the teacher was key in my love of any assigned novel. I will say that I enjoy seeing Shakespeare performed but find reading his work tedious.

  15. I remember having to read Watership Down, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, and something for Robin Hood and for The Three Muskateers. I definitely read the first three. I did read 1001 Nights also and used my Barbies to act out a script with group mates in high school, LOL.