In the May 2019 newsletter, we asked people what the most memorable novel they read was in English class.

Here were their responses:

BL: I took a course in contemporary gothic lit a few years ago. One of the novels was Pet Semetary by Stephen King. I had read it before but studying it in class gave me a deep appreciation of not only this particular novel but all of King’s canon. His massive and broad knowledge of human psychology, spirituality, legend, the land, mythology, and religion all contribute to his horror. That he writes books that are page-turners which incorporate all these facets in a way that is so accessible is amazing. Another book we studied was Beloved by Toni Morrison – not the easiest book to read, for sure, but well worth the effort. It’s a very creepy ghost story that gets under your skin and parks itself there. Much of the book is open to interpretation and is left unresolved which has put the book back on my list to read again. I think this is a book that will be a unique experience each time it is read, a pretty remarkable feat, imho. I think had I read Beloved on my own I would not have had a clue what some of the rumbling and rambling sections had to do with the main story.

Ayesha: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham really made an impression on me (in the US apparently it was called Re-Birth). The way people were treated for their differences was really horrible and the idea of those with ESP being able to hide their difference was appealing. I also liked the connection to my region of the world (Oz/Australasia) when they were evacuated to Sealand (NZ), where differences were celebrated…

Chris: Hi Graeme. I think the most memorable book that I read in high school was “Huck Finn.” It introduced me to more adult themes (family abuse, alcoholism, racism, the dangers of a young boy in the world, etc.) and also revealed to me the brilliance of Mark Twain’s work. He is still one of my favorite writers–the more I read Twain’s work, the more I appreciate his skill and wit.

Jan: When I was in 6th grade, I read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I was totally captivated by the whole adventure, sailing across the ocean (which I am deathly afraid of), finding the monoliths and solving the mystery. Plus, the book had actual pictures from the journey and that was when I saw my first whale shark. After that, I read every book on archeology…on land and under the sea, that I could get my hands on. Today, MANY years later (lol), I still watch all the documentaries on exploring distance lands and finding new (and old) civilizations. Plus, I think it had a profound influence on my love for history and geography. And travel!

Sam: Funny! I mentioned this already in last month’s subject with regards to my favorite character, but I’ll say it again here. My favorite reading assignment from high school was A Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger did such an amazing job at creating a typical teenager with the character Holden Caufield. Got the whole gamut of life from the viewpoint of a teenager down so well, it was just impossible for me not to relate to the protagonist and practically think of him as one of my buddies. I found most of my school reading assignments boring, mainly because I felt they had nothing to do with me. This was different and was factually one of the stories that really got me interested in reading. Up until then, I had always considered reading this annoying and laborious thing I had to do sometimes if all else failed or if I had to do it to pass a class.

Marie: My most memorable one was To Kill a Mockingbird.

Vicki: In college I took a Modern American Literature class. We read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. If I had read this on my own, I wouldn’t have made it through the first section. Instead, our discussions in class let me “see” this book and story. I haven’t been able to let it go since. The book helped me appreciate the narrative point of view of the different voices as they each looked at what happened. I picked up more of Faulkner’s work because of it.

Linda: As for the most memorable book I read in High School, it would be “Hatbox for Mimi”. Bet none of you have heard of it. Why did it mean so much to me? We had to write a book report on any book of our choosing. I chose this book because it was about a young girl who dreamed of going to the big city and becoming a model. Back when I was a teenager,I weighed about 100 lb. and tall with long straight hair and I fit the model image at the time,(Kind of like Cher), so I always wanted to be a model. This book was an inspiration for me. I never made it, but didn’t matter as I lived the life through that book. Now as for a book we had to read: The Works of Edgar Allen Poe. Loved most of them, especially “The Telltale Heart”. Gave me the creeps, but loved it. Also had to read “Lord of the Flies” and really liked it, too. Our English teacher was quite hip at the time, so she usually gave us really interesting books to read or let us choose for book reports. Once again thanks for the newsletter. I read one book this last month that stands out for me “Then She Was Gone” by Lisa Jewell. Really creepy, but good. Have a lovely month of May, finally winter is over in Iowa.

kaceye: I had two. Of Mice and Men by John Steinback because of the relationship between George and Lennie and the way it ended. It was so sad. I thought about it many times since.
Then Great Expectations. I know Pip was the main character but what I remember most is Ms. Haversham. I can still see the table spread for her wedding that never happened but was still there after all those years.
I could never bring myself to read them again they affected me so. Now that I’ve thought about them again, I may get them from Audible if available.

Bill: The ten anagram character names/series:

1. Jack Reacher
2. Harry Bosch
3. Alex Cross
4. Myron Bolitar
5. Peter Ash
6. Will Robie
7. Gabriel Allon
8. Stone Barrington
9. Mitch Rapp
10. Gamache

I am not sure I understand what you asked about the 5 correct book titles.
Authors of these ten characters/series: I have read all of the books by Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Stuart Woods, Vince Flynn/Kyle Mills, Harlan Coben, Nick Petrie, half of the Daniel Silva books, half of the James Patterson books, only “The Camel Club” by David Baldacci (others are on my bookshelf), and only “Still Life” by Louise Penny; plus many other authors, especially series.

What was the most memorable novel you had to read for a school English class?
The answer to this question is “Animal Farm”. “Far From the Madding Crowd” is a close second.

What’s the most memorable novel you read in class and why?
Answer: “1984” Reason: in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we were subjected to a lot of “propaganda” politics/cold war issues and it was all very sensitive to us as teenagers. “1984” seemed too uncomfortably real and scary at the time, plus our principal was a PH. D. and retired Military General who gave speeches each week in full school assembly about the issues and what could happen.

Interestingly, both of these novels were written by George Orwell and discussed a lot in English literature class.

Thanks for the fun anagrams.

Tom: It’s been over 50 years since High School but one book stands out: Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rolvaag. It is the story of immigrants who settled the Dakotas. It’s about the isolation and hardships and character of families in a very harsh environment. I probably don’t remember it as well as I think I do but it made a real impression on me. If you think people have a hard life today, this is your antidote. It is a magnificent story.

Thomas: Hello. Thanks for another great newsletter, Graeme. As far as reading books during school, I can recall walking about a mile to the library, remember reading some and having to do book reports. As for titles and characters I am basically clueless. That was in the 1960’s. About the only book coming to mind is “The Ox-Bow Incident” by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. I don’t recall the characters so much other than from watching the movie. That reminds me, I need to add it to my DVD collection. I have a hard time remembering what I read a few months ago, let alone over 50 years ago. Thanks for mentioning the Bosch series again. I believe I can watch the latest episodes now on Amazon. And I think I will give reading the series another try.

dbreiman: 2 great books I read for high school English, and which informed my future thoughts and values were Germinal by Emile Zola and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Peggy: The most memorable book I read for English was To Kill a Mockingbird. I was in the process of growing up, but had never really been exposed to or aware of the ugliness that life offered others around me. This truly opened my eyes. As a result I became more sensitive, and I hope, more inclusive of the friendships offered me based on the quality of the heart and soul of the people involved.

Thanks for your newsletter, I enjoy it – a good way to explore authors new to me!

Ann: Hi Graeme,

The most memorable book I read for my English A level (a long time ago now) was Schindler’s Ark. Thomas Keneally wrote a beautiful, inspiring story weaving fact and fiction together in a time of horror and unspeakable acts of inhumanity.

Jeanne: Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird were my favorite books. Also anything Pearl Buck. Obviously human behavior and interpersonal relations made an impact on me. Still consider these two book my favorites.

Phillip: The most memorable novel I read in class was CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller. As I look back on it 40 years later I can clearly see how accurate it was and still is and probably always will be. If you buck the system even if it’s clearly in the wrong and doesn’t make sense, they’ll be nothing but trouble waiting for you. Thanks for the lesson in reality Major Major.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Memorable Novels in English Class

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