View Full Version : High School Must Reads?

06-06-2012, 07:27 PM
So, I'm looking at various high school English curricula, and they all have different books included. Some assign more than others. That got me thinking, what are some books that you think should be required reading by the time the student in done with high school? And/or, what authors?

I have my own ideas, but I'd like to hear what everyone else thinks. :)

06-06-2012, 07:30 PM
argg, i cant even go there. Orion is so difficult with books, you never know what he'll like. He picked up some random fiction book at the library and loved it, picked up the sequel and reading it is torture. In the Shadow of Man he is LOVING - more than the fiction. getting him to read books with challenging topics (ALL recommended high school lit, basically) has been a total failure so far. We will definitely be failing lit.

Stella M
06-06-2012, 09:05 PM
Shakespeare - two or three of the better plays. At least!

To Kill a Mockingbird
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Crucible.
My Antonia
The Great Gatsby

A selection of good, comtemporary YA and adult fiction.

Idk really. The list is endless! As much as you can read ?

06-06-2012, 09:06 PM
I don't think there's a definitive list. But I do think maybe there are definitive categories. So, for example, a child should not come out of high school not having read at least one Shakespeare play (preferably more), but I don't think it matters so much which one. I mean, sure, you probably don't want it to be Timon of Athens, but Hamlet, Macbeth, Tempest, Henry VI, Romeo, Midsummer's, All's Well... eh. Why quibble? It's much more important that you got a taste, right?

Stella M
06-06-2012, 09:10 PM
I think it would be good to know Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. At least!

What are some of the categories you would think important, Farrar ?

06-06-2012, 09:28 PM
Yes, well, obviously you'd want to read them all. In high school, I had to read Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Hamlet, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and King Lear. But there's some happy medium between the absurd literature regimen I suffered through in high school and what some kids could take.

I don't know... I liked your list... I think Gatsby is read nearly everywhere here and that Willa Cather (sadly) is read nearly nowhere as required reading. Of specific authors, definitely Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain (especially for Americans). Maybe... shudder... Melville. Also maybe Steinbeck. I get twisty at this point. I find it hard to pin down certain things. I think a variety of times, places, voices, styles... Like:

* a great southern novel
* a piece of modern drama
* a piece of contemporary drama
* a great African-American novel
* novels by women
* a great British novel
* an epic poem
* a coming of age novel
* a great Russian novel
* a political novel
* a satirical novel
* a great fantasy novel
* a great science fiction novel
* a war novel

There's more I'm sure... that's just off the top of my head.

Every time I think of something where I'm like, okay, but clearly a kid should absolutely have to read... The Canterbury Tales. Then I think, but what if that kid read other late medieval literature instead. What if he read The Decameron? Surely that's just as important a piece of literature, with similar themes. Or All Quiet on the Western Front, which I do sort of think every child should read... but there are other great novels about war... This is why I both love lists and hate them. They're ever so much fun to critique and refer to, but I don't like being married to them at all.

06-07-2012, 02:10 PM
What a horrid question to ask someone with a masters in English Lit!! Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spencer, Pope, Dunn, Johnson, Swift, Dickens, the Brontes, Austin, the metaphysicals....I could go on forever! The best bet is to look at the literary Canon and go from there-- you cant go wrong with anything on one of those lists (there have been arguments over what should be included and what should be removed since the 1960s). This one is pretty decent and is arranged in chronological order from the ancient greeks to the 20th century. http://codex-librorum.blogspot.com/#cont

06-07-2012, 04:17 PM
I was thinking more... I think it depends so much on the kid too. The question of what a child who is gifted in language arts and college bound should have to read is different for me than what a child who struggles with literature and is likely to go to a trade school should have to read. Both should have to read some great works, but I'm okay with the former being forced to read, say, Paradise Lost, whereas I would never, in a million years, think the latter should.

If we were talking about individual works that were absolute musts for all high school students, I would think the list would be really short. Not that students should only have to read a handful of books, but rather that I don't think there's many absolute musts. But I'm not a canon person. I think canons are silly.

What were your ideas, Kara?

06-07-2012, 06:13 PM
I like the lists given so far!

I think for authors, some Shakespeare, Twain, Steinbeck, Whitman, Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, Fitzgerald, Poe, Thoreau... The Agony and the Ecstasy was one that I personally found important in high school (but I'm an artsy type). I think that at least one or two plays that aren't Shakespeare, like Our Town or Death of a Salesman should be included.Something Greek. Ummm...I know I should say Dickens, it's just that I was sooo bored by Great Expectations...I guess I could pick another one, though. :) One of the Canterbury Tales. That's a start, I know I'll think of more!

Yeah, it's hard. When I start thinking about it, I think of more and more, but I know that we just don't have time to read everything! I suppose what I'm hoping for is to see a variety of lists, and figure out what books and authors seem to show up on everyone's.

I know that the recommendations would differ depending on the student. My guide is thinking of a child who is college bound, an average student, and not a lit. major (I know that list would be very different.) Also, I personally believe that being well, or at least decently, read is important even if college is not in the plans. After high school, it will be harder for me to personally influence choice of reading material.

This year (9th grade) my son read A Wizard of Earthsea, Animal Farm, Our Town, and To Kill a Mockingbird, plus a variety of poems, Whitman included. He read on his own too, but mostly sci-fi and fantasy.

Ooo...as a corollary to this thread, can anyone suggest, or maybe point me to a list that exists somewhere, of books that would especially interest those who are interested in Psychology? My son is very interested in the subject. I'm thinking he'd enjoy The Picture of Dorian Gray...what else?

06-07-2012, 06:35 PM
Someone on this forum (http://forloveofeducation.com/mensa-for-kids-excellence-in-reading-award-program/) recently shared a link to the reading lists (http://mensaforkids.com/ReaderAward/9_12.pdf) Mensa publishes. I printed out the one my DD is the right age for, and plan to do the same with the high school list to see what overlaps with Jazz's charter school's summer reading list. I will highly encourage him to give the ones that are on both lists a try. :)

Stella M
06-07-2012, 06:59 PM
I like that your 'highly encouraging' is in italics :)

Kara, I've been looking too, because dd14 is super loving her psychology studies. I just ordered her a YA book called The Wave. I'll go get a link.

Stella M
06-07-2012, 07:01 PM

06-09-2012, 06:51 AM
We've been very lucky to have a mom who is passionate about Shakespeare offering classes for several years. The kids have memorized passages, performed scenes, made a silent film, written a research paper, attended plays, and generally learned to love Shakespeare. Just reading the plays doesn't bring them alive. I would suggest looking for a local theater troupe where you can get tickets for a reasonable price and seeing the plays. Studying them in preparation or after seeing a performance would be more effective. We like "No Fear Shakespeare" for studying the plays, as it gives the original language and modern translation side-by-side.
I printed out the required reading lists for several prestigious private schools and for our local public high schools to give me an idea of expectations. The kindest thing I can say about the public school list is that it was pathetic. I am fortunate in having three avid readers, where my biggest problem is finding age-appropriate but still challenging reading. My 7th graders have read most of the books required for high school, either for our history program (which is heavily literature based) or on their own.
We are also fortunate to have a mom who started first a middle school, and then a high school book club. The kids are assigned a "classic" once a month and then have round table discussions moderated by the mom. It is a low pressure way to get a lot of required reading done. The kids remember what they've read because they talk about it with their peers, and after a few years, they're able to compare styles and themes across a number of genres and authors.