Required Reading | Melody Abouzari
English can be a controversial subject. It's either a fan favorite or the class you dread going to next period. Maybe you don't even like your English class for the content of it, but rather for the teacher helping you learn the material. Either way, love it or hate it, required reading is a mandatory part of the Literature curriculum. Over the years, the curriculum that students are taught has been modified in order to fit today's standards, in terms of adding more diversity and more modern tales. No matter what class you're in (College Prep, Honors, or AP), reading lists are always on an English student's mind. As an avid reader myself, I can appreciate a good classic or novel recommended by a teacher, if it’s done well. And today, I’m here to pitch my favorites to you to join your To Be Read list on your phone. Here are my top 3 picks I’ve read for my favorite class, English.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Now I may be a little biased in picking this book as my favorite, just because it’s a favorite of my family’s as well. In fact, my cousin even named his two English bulldogs Gatsby and Daisy! The Great Gatsby, if you weren’t aware, takes place with our main character, Nick, moving from the midwest to New York to become a bonds salesman. The novel is set in the 1920s and has an incredible cast of characters and scenery to accompany it. It follows love, tragedy, mischief, and all the roaring ’20s had to offer to the youngsters of New York. It includes great imagery and dimension through its symbols used and is a short novel sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. It helps to read as well as watch alongside the movie adaptation, of which there are plenty (my favorite’s the 2013 version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire!). This book taught me about status, class and gender expectations, and how to break from conformity. 5/5 star book from me, special thanks to Ms. Tan for being so enthusiastic when she teaches it as well!
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
I probably sound like a broken record recommending this book, considering it’s probably on every possible Literature awards list possible. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the Deep South at the peak of Segregation and Jim Crow laws, and also during the middle of the Great Depression. The plot itself is loosely based on an event taking place in Lee’s hometown when she was roughly the age of Scout. 10-year-old Scout Finch lives with her older brother Jem, widowed father/lawyer Atticus, and Black cook/nanny Calpurnia. Scout and Jem make friends with the new boy, Dill, and play by the reclusive (and probably haunted) house of Boo Radley. In town, Atticus is called to represent Tom Robinson, a Black man who is accused of raping a White woman. The story follows the trial, and is dubbed as “probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America”. Despite its serious topic matter, it is a heartwarming tale of childhood and its struggle. However, it is also a very eye-opening read for those not aware of our country’s past and current-day battle with systematic racism. An amazing read, I would recommend it for children as young as 13 if they can handle the subject matter. If you haven’t had the chance to pick it up, I would recommend it for your next break or holiday!
3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
While this isn’t a book traditionally on most English teachers’ syllabi, I was lucky enough to have Mr. Gaughen make it a part of his curriculum. The story follows Pi, a boy from India who identifies as a Christian, Hindu, and Muslim. His family decides to sell their zoo in India to move abroad to Canada, but all goes wrong when tragedy strikes and an awful storm sinks their ship, which leaves Pi as the only survivor. Pi is not alone, however, and is accompanied by a Bengal tiger who has also found refuge aboard the lifeboat. Pi and the tiger must learn to trust each other if both are to survive their treacherous journey. While it may seem repetitive at times, it fully immerses you in what Pi experienced and allows you to empathize with his experience. It’s a tale filled with so many literary devices and allows you to interpret how the story truly went. A book that tackles religion and philosophy so tastefully, but also allows a slice of fiction, making this novel one of the most intriguing ones I’ve read in my extensive book reviewing career.
So the next time you’re bored and looking to fill up a new book on your GoodReads challenge, maybe go back to the basics and look at your required reading list for some fresh ideas.