In the March 2024 newsletter, I asked readers of our newsletter what books they read in high school that they actually enjoyed.

Here are the responses:

Gay D: for whatever reason I didn’t reply (I don’t think) to what book did you read in school that made an impression on you? And the answers would be:Island of the Blue Dolphins, Witch of Blackbird Pond and Johnny Tremaine. I grew up during the Vietnam War with a neighbor shot down and killed (Navy helo gunner) and a friend who was just back from that, Navy also, and looking back I’d say he had PTSD although we didn’t have a name for it back then. So, not in school, but:Message from Vietnam by Daniel Steele. I remember Dickens in school. Everyone seems to have read that author. And we had an English teacher whose favorite was Canterbury Tales and she read some of it complete with an accent and otherwise directed us to dissect it.

Christine: This is about the “required reading” question—yes, I know I’m late, but I just got home from two months in physical therapy after an argument with a car. (The car won.) ​I can’t say that I enjoyed any of my required reading, though I don’t remember what any of it was, except for Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. (OTOH, I read both Oliver Twist and David Copperfield independently and enjoyed both.) I think required reading is just another great way to turn kids off books. I’d rather see schools say, “Read one book of your choice each month (more if you have the time) and list them. Be prepared to talk/write about one your teacher selects.”

B: Hi!

Thanks for your always-worth-reading newsletter.

My educational path was a bit wonky so I read very few books in high school, but one I loved was All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

In post-secondary I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin, Pet Sematary by Stephen King, and Beloved by Toni Morrison. Genre specific courses are great and I found they increased my reading pleasure and understanding of the books I read on my own. Just wish there was more variety to choose from.

Christine: Our American Literature high school teacher actually had good books for us to read. I will just pick one, the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, only because I was interested enough to re-read it again as an adult.

Nancy: I hardly remember reading assignments from high school, probably too far in the past! The one I remember is A Tale of Two Cities, which I absolutely loved & which was probably enhanced by the fact that the whole school (all-girl) watched the classic 1935 film version of the book & swooned over Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton. Other than that I recall nothing except reading Romeo & Juliet, and As You Like It which were also enjoyable, although not strictly speaking, novels.

Kenicia: When I was in school, one of my classes started to listen to A Tale of Two Cities on audio together. However, we didn’t finish it. I read the book several years later and loved it. It is the only Dickens story I really enjoy. The self-sacrifice always moves me deeply.

One teacher didn’t assign specific titles, but she had a list of books that we could get ideas from. I know that is where I first learned of Anne of Green Gables. I devoured the entire series. I also think Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were on it. I thought both were wonderful, but Wuthering Heights was my favorite.

Chris: Hi Graeme-it’s been interesting to think about the books we were required to read in school that we actually enjoyed. A few that stand out for me were a couple of classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. Yes, the writing was stylized and took some time to get into, but the characters were vivid and the storylines compelling. I have happily read them again and again, as quality writing is always a joy to read. I have to say, though, that my least favorite book was “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles. No one in our class liked the book and the point of the story escaped us. I might give it a try again, but only when my TBR list is empty! Ha, ha.

Kathie: Wow, this one is easy because THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck – that I read while in school – became one of my favorite books of all time. Yeah, it was long and sometimes not easy reading, but it struck a chord in me that never left. As a matter of fact, I just picked up a copy in a used book store so it’s on my bed stand, waiting for me to pick it up again. After I finish reading FIRST LIE WINS (which, unlike you, I am not feeling at all and may not make it through).

Joy: I had a really good English Literature teacher in high school who would dress the part when we read the Classics. When we read Shakespear’s
Julius Caesar he wore a leaf coronet and a toga. The students dressed in togas too (sheets)

When we read about the Civil ‘War he wore a Reb uniform.

No matter the book, he dressed up.

i think the book I enjoyed the most was A Tale of Two Cities-he dressed as Louis XV (or one of the Louis)

Sadly, he was only at our school for one year otherwise we all would have signed up for another class from him. He went on to teach at a college.

Hollins: School was quite a long time ago, so my memory needed some jogging.
I remember enjoying Alexander Dumas (The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo). I must have enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo quite a lot because I remember reading it in the 8th grade!
I also enjoyed some of Charles Dickens – David Copperfield,Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
1984 – George Orwell
The Mysterious Island, Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days was in French class.)

I never read one of the books you mentioned – Lord of the Flies. I heard so many book reports about it I never felt the need or desire to read it.

Barbara: I was in high school from 1959 – 1963. The only book I can remember reading was Great Expectations as a Freshman. I recall it very vividly because we had to write a paper on it and I got an F on it because I didn’t write what the teacher wanted. I don’t remember the prompt for the paper so I’m not sure what it was I did wrong, but I remember that F. I wasn’t used to that. (Except in math.) But I didn’t go to Junior High because my elementary school went up to the 8th grade. We didn’t learn how to write papers there.

I have a recommendation for people who like historical fiction or have a connection to the Vietnam War or nursing. It is “The Women”, by Kristin Hannah. It follows a young lady who wanted to become a nurse and then decided she wanted to serve in the military to make her Dad proud of her. She studied nursing and went to Vietnam as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corp. The story follows her on her journey there and after she comes home. It is very exciting and very sad because she ended up with PTSD, just like the Infantry who fought on the ground.

I was working at an Army Basic Combat Training base at the time of the war and heard lots of stories about the experiences there. This book is right on the money from what I heard and it was also sad that our military had to return home to such terrible treatment and the women were not even recognized as even being there at all. But, unfortunately, it was real and this book tells it like it was.

Pat: the book I read most in grade school and have read now several times as an adult was Jemina the daughter of Daniel Boone. and somewhere in the past I was either given or bought this book at a sale and it still had the original sign out card in the slip case in the front of the book with my name on it when I signed it out at school. what a sweet memory

Vicki: In college I took an American Lit course that introduced me to some good books as well as ones I hated. My favorite was My Antonia by Willa Cather. In high school it has to be Romeo and Juliet. That sparked a life long love of Shakespeare, including taking one class later devoted to studying some of his tragedies. Since I had been reading since I was 5 or so, bad assigned books didn’t stop me from reading on the whole. I still shudder at the thought of some of those bad (to me) books.

It helped if we then discussed the books in class with more clarification. I wouldn’t have liked The Sound and Fury by William Faulkner if I had read it on my own. But the teacher kept explaining and pointing things out. I ended up liking it enough to try other Faulkner novels.

This discussion has definitely been a blast to the past!

Sam: >From school the one that sticks out the most from school is Catcher in the Rye. That really hit home with me as a teenager and was one of the books that actually inspired me to read more.

Faye: What book did I read in school that I liked? That’s an easy one for me but let me throw in a little background.

I’ve been a prolific reader from a young age but one thing I have a problem with to this day is reading a book because I have to. That’s the reason I do not join book clubs. The minute someone’s tells me I must read a certain book something in me rebels. That happened to me big time when a school assignment was to read Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” and turn in a book report on it.

I put it off and put it off until suddenly I was at the point where the book report was due. Things were not looking good but then the Fates smiled at me. The old 1935 film of the story showed up on television one Sunday afternoon. I watched the movie and wrote my report. Got a good grade to boot. But the thing is, I LOVED the story! After writing my book report I could not get to the library fast enough to check out the book. I’ve read it multiple times and, when Audible became a thing, I bought the audible version and discovered the book anew. I still love it.

On the other question, which book did I not like, is also an easy answer for me. I was one of those little girls who loved horses more than anything. I read every horse book I could find, many multiple times. So imagine my surprise when we were handed the assignment of reading “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck. A horse book! How had I missed it? I couldn’t wait to get my hands in it. Oh my. Not only does the horse die but I can still remember the description of the vulture. I swore I would never read another Steinbeck book as long as I lived.

Fortunately, I got over that resolution and found an appreciation of Steinbeck. To this day, “East of Eden” is an all time fave. But I have never reread “The Red Pony” and I never will.

Linda: When in my younger school days, I read every Marguerite Henry book I could find. Sometimes I would read them twice. I also read every animal book. Then in my teen years I read Hatbox for Mimi and made me want to be a model. Never made that goal. lol Then in my teen days in school, I read all of the Phyllis Whitney books, some Victoria Holt andy a lot of mystery books. I think you could say I was never without a book next to me. I tried to instill that in my son, but he quit reading right after he turned a teen. Now my granddaughter , who is 12, is my reader. She and I share the YA fiction books. I am so glad she loves them as much as I do. I cannot fathom not readin

Elizabeth: I really enjoyed reading Johnny Tremain in middle school.
I also loved First Lie Wins.

Phil: Hi Graeme, the book that made the biggest impression on me from my Senior year in High School was Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. What a crazy cast of characters. I grew up in a military family so I think that’s why this book really hit home with me

kat: i liked ‘harriet the spy’ in school!

Tracey: 1984!!!!!!!! By the time it was assigned to us in school, I had already read it several times. I actually didn’t need the copy they provide you in class, I used my own well worn copy.
Another book that never got assigned to me in school was The Grapes of Wrath, so I decided a couple of years after graduation to read it on my own. I was bored to tears.

Donna: Oh, I loved this question! What book did I read in school that I really enjoyed?

I had a wonderful teacher in high school named Mr.Dodge, who was so enthusiastic about literature and tried to enthuse us with a love of reading and I went on to work for 17 fantastic years in a library.

The book I loved was “Cue for Treason” – A Tale of Shakespearian England by Geoffrey Trease. I have a copy of the book that I found in a second hand bookshop and which I treasure.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Books in High School You Enjoyed

One Response to “Reader Mailbag: Books in High School You Enjoyed”

  1. Jill Astin: 3 months ago

    How many ways to read are there? My father was a lifetime reader and I inherited that from him. He subscribed to Reader Digest Condensed Books for years. After reading what he wanted, he would give them to me. I read everything in all of those books. Many of my favorite authors I discovered there.

    When Kindle books started I admit I believed you could not get as much satisfaction from reading without the physical presence of a book. Then I was given a Kindle for Christmas. I thought what a waste. But then I saw a list of 100 books to read in a lifetime on Amazon and that most of them were available on this new toy. I was hooked. I traded off, every other book is a paper book and then a Kindle one. I subscribed to Unlimited and some of those books offered audio. First listen I was hooked.

    Then I upgraded my cell phone and discovered Libby. I love it all. I tend to have 3 books going at the same time. One audio, one, paper, and one Kindle. To keep them straight they are different genres.


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