Required Reading: Books I read in High School- Inspired by Kristin Kraves

orangutan list

Yeahhh I’ve been horrible at blogging this month! And I can’t blame school or anything like that, because I graduated years ago and only promise that I’ll be back to blogging properly soon! Since we are well into September though, I thought I might talk about the books that were my required reading way back when. While it may not be fresh in my memory, I still have plenty to say about all the books I studied and was totally inspired by the lovely Kristin Krave’s awesome post on the topic! (Also, dudes, her blog is jam packed with fantastic content and to top it all off is gorgeous to look at!)

the tempest

The Tempest– My first official go at a Shakespeare play in school… and I didn’t really like it. I blame the random person I met at my cousin’s drama college that said it was about “oh look at all the magic I can do… but I’m not gonna bother doing it now!” In fairness, that’s not the best summary of the play, though I still think of that every time I think of the play! Fortunately this wasn’t my only introduction to Shakespeare and had more to look forward to…


Macbeth– this was my favourite for quite some time, because, let’s be honest, it’s probably the most entertaining of Shakespeare’s plays!


Othello– I had pretty mixed feelings about Othello- while it is dramatic, well written and has one of the best villains of all time, it never did capture my attention the way some of the others did.

merchant of venice.jpg

Merchant of Venice– I’m fairly torn about my feelings for this one. Part of me doesn’t know why every school teacher likes to be edgy by choosing it. Even if it’s not as anti-Semitic as Jew of Malta, thanks to the “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech, the villain is still a racist stereotype. That said it does explore the nature of prejudice, given what a-holes everyone else in the play is. Still, while it’s interesting to study, I’ve never been overly keen on Merchant.

jane eyre

Jane Eyre– I’ll admit, I was pretty dorky and had already read this by the time it came up on the syllabus, which meant I got to be that annoying kid that said “oh look at the foreshadowing” every so often 😉

to kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird– this should be on the syllabus in every school- not only is it one of the richest texts you can choose to study, but the story is also deeply impactful and has stayed with me all this time… okay admittedly I do also remember it really well because I reread it a lot in preparation for my exam- yet one of the best things about this book is that wasn’t a chore in the slightest!

all my sons

All My Sons– I have to admit, I don’t remember as much about this one, though I do recall finding it dramatic and being very invested in it.

yellow wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper– this was such a great book to be set- entertaining, complex and ridiculously short (let’s be real- who doesn’t want that for an exam text?). There are so many reasons why I’m always recommending this one on here- but just in case you haven’t read it, it’s out of copyright, so you can check it out for free on Project Gutenburg (it’ll only take you half an hour and is perfect pre-Halloween reading!)

pride and prejudice

Pride and Prejudice– it was actually thanks to this being put on the syllabus that I ended up loving it. I’d already picked this up a few years earlier and hadn’t been taken with it. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew I’d have to reread it, there’s a chance I’d have given up on Austen altogether. Instead, I gave her books another shot and now she’s one of my favourite authors.  But if you want to read more about how that came about you can check out this post.

tess of the d'urbervilles

Tess of the D’Urbervilles– I was pretty ecstatic to be set this, because I already loved Hardy. I know he can be hit or miss for readers- he just so happens to be a massive hit for me! I love the drama, emotional intensity and evocative landscapes. Tess is easily one of his best works, yet I was also happy to use it as a springboard to explore Hardy’s Wessex and other works.


Rapture– this is the only poetry collection I’m including on here, cos most of them were from all different poets and compiled by the exam board. One poet that examiners all seem to love is Carol Ann Duffy…. because they hate children and want us all to suffer immensely. When I think of this poetry collection my brain still recoils with an UGH NO! I think of all the books on this list, this is the only one I truly DESPISE. Why? Because it’s pretentious, nicks all of the best lines from actually good poems and, contrary to what some critic I had to quote said, it did not “twist cliché into something new”, it was, quite simply, just clichéd.


The Great Gatsbywhat Gatsby? Okay, if you can’t tell from my lame joke, I’m a fan. While this book isn’t long, there is a lot packed into it: tremendous characterisation, a layered story and exquisite prose.

Arkham cover D final

Picture of Dorian Gray– I chose this as part of an independent study, because obviously I already loved it- yet I will also say that this is always one of my go-tos of “a book that everyone will love”, because I feel like there’s something in it for everyone.

dr faustus

Doctor Faustus– I chose this to go with Dorian Gray for the independent study and I found it incredibly inspiring- well in terms of writing, I’m not taking notes on how to live my life from a man that sold his soul to the devil!

never let me go

Never Let Me Go– my teacher suggested this and it was supposed to compliment the more anti-hero led works I’d chosen for my independent study, though I can’t say it was a lighter read. If anything, it was the most depressing of the bunch! That said, it was an excellent pick and my favourite Ishiguro to this day.

And that’s about it! What were your favourite books you studied in school? Which books did you hate? Let me know in the comments!

81 thoughts on “Required Reading: Books I read in High School- Inspired by Kristin Kraves

  1. Psssh…You have had a lot of things on your mind these past few weeks, so it’s amazing that you even managed to put out posts. You should be proud of that, really mean it! 😊
    As for your question, well as I live in Holland we have a bit of a different schoolsystem here, plus all the books I have read as a child were Dutch children’s books 😊 And for the life of me I could not even remember their titles anymore if you asked me now (besides those would be in Dutch and that’s total gibberish anyway lol 😂😂). post, and great to hear you will be coming back. Just take it easy though, no need to rush! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aw you’re too sweet! Thanks for the amazing shoutout. I love that you did this because I am nosy and always want to know the books people had to read in high school. It looks like you read a lot of good books. I wish I was assigned something by Jane Austen! The Great Gatsby and Never Let Me Go are two of my favourite books of all time!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne the most of any of our school books. I didn’t have an issue with the book, but with my classmates who just couldn’t figure out Hawthorne’s didactic story. It took us so long to get through it…

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  4. School was so long ago I barely remember half the books we were forced to read. We didn’t actually do much Shakespeare, just the Merchant of Venice and Macbeth. I can still remember that bloomin quality of mercy speech from Merchant as we were made to memorize it and recite it to the class.

    I do remember reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller and really enjoying it. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon was also good but the language was not the easiest. That being said I very nearly gave up on To Kill a Mockingbird on page 2 as I couldn’t understand it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah I completely get that! Yeah I don’t feel like I did much, once I sat down and thought about it. hehehe!

      Oh that’s cool- I didn’t do that but read it separately and really liked it. Yeah I was lucky to have a teacher who explained that you had to push through the first two pages cos they don’t make sense till you’ve read the book


  5. Aaaah I’m so happy because I’ve 1) read a ton of books on this list, and 2) have a lot of copies of the books you mentioned that I’ve been wanting to read for a very, very long time 😆 I read To Kill a Mockingbird a few years back with my eighth-grade teacher, and even though I know I would have loved it if I read it independently, I had an *amazing* teacher who made the entire experience even more wonderful. I feel like, for a lot of school assigned readings, if the teacher is passionate about the book they’re teaching, you’re bound to love it — or at least appreciate it — too. 😊 Great post! I’m glad you’re back at writing posts again! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My sister is reading Jane Eyre and Never Let Me Go and she hates them. I was so shocked… how can she hate Jane Eyre? But each to their own, and surprisingly, she is pretty okay with reading Macbeth, and finds it easier to offer well-developed opinions on Macbeth. I think we did most of Shakespeare’s works (and acted them out, yay!) but not Macbeth and Hamlet which I hear are the best ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. From your list, I’ve only read Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Gatsby. I loved the first two and the last made me conflicted. Beautiful, but sad. As a high-schooler, I wasn’t too thrilled about the lack of a happy ending, but perhaps I’d feel better about it now. The school books I remember reading are The Last of the Mohicans, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and then my memory is blank from there. I remember liking them, but I can’t remember much about them!


  8. Your experience with Jane Eyre was my experience with To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it the summer before I started high school because I ran out of books in the house and thought to finally read the “boring” stuff. I was pleasantly surprised. I was so hooked.

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  9. That was a great selection of books! Of course half the fun goes away when you have to analyze the text but still great reads. Where I live there is no book reading in the curriculum, we only get excerpts of texts and some poems unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My list of favorite books that we read in high school would probably have a lot in common with your list. It would include
    The Awakening by Kate Chopin
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
    Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
    Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    But I feel like my college required reading influenced me far more than my high school did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many great books on that list! I read crime and punishment and frankenstein in high school too, though sadly not for required reading (that would have been cool!) I do really want to read some of the others- particularly one flew over the cuckoo’s nest. And yeah I definitely agree with you about being more influenced by uni reading- it’s just if I shared that list we’d be here all day 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! We read Crime and Punishment my senior year of high school and the teacher tried to have us do a mock trial of Raskolnikov, which led to a lot of arguing about whether or not to try him according to the laws of the contemporary US or 19th century Russia. We went with US laws because we were more familiar but then the trial ended rather quickly once it was established that no one in the book had acted in accordance with such laws and therefore the case was not admissible in court. In retrospect it seems like the assignment was rather poorly thought out!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. So many of Shakespeare’s works are required reading. Jane Eyre is on my TBR and I can’t wait! To Kill A Mockingbird is amazing ah and The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my absolute favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love Hardy too!
    I feel guilty for not appreciating the classics when I had to read them in school and I’ve always wanted to re-read them because now I’d actually value them. I just have to find the time. 🙂


  13. I also studied Othello and Macbeth in high school – I guess Shakespeare is generally a must! Believe it or not my 6th grade primary school teacher even had us put on a production of Hamlet. He was very passionate about it and clearly wanted us to do it justice. I’m not sure whether we did or not… but we certainly enjoyed ourselves.

    Now I think about it, at one point in early high school we studied a fantasy book called ‘The Gathering’ and I later went out and bought more books by the same author (Isobelle Carmody)… so that was possibly my introduction to the fantasy genre! I guess I have a lot to thank my English teachers for, even though I found some of the other books we studied tortuous 🙂 I remember ‘In the Skin of a Lion’ being one I particularly hated!


  14. Great list! My school didn’t have that many required reading and I wished I had read a lot of these in school, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare cause it’ll be interesting to talk about it in detail with other people instead of just reading about other people’s thoughts online like I did when I read them.


  15. I find it really interesting how people’s reading tastes can be so similar and yet also so different. See, while I also loved Macbeth, I enjoyed The Tempest (though not as much… Macbeth is probably my favorite Shakespeare ever). And while I really enjoyed Jane Eyre, I was completely indifferent to To Kill A Mockingbird.

    The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne) was another of my favorite high school reads, and I also enjoyed The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway) and Rose (a poetry volume by Li Young Lee). I don’t remember what I thought about Gatsby, though, so that one is earmarked for a re-read.


  16. It’s good to read a post from you, I hope you’ve been doing well! ❤
    I LOVED Never Let Me Go so, so much, it was such a fantastic read – what a great teacher to suggest that book, haha 😀


  17. Funnily enough the only two in this list I’ve read are The Great Gatsby and the Picture of Dorian Grey and I didn’t even read them in high school. I ended up picking them up because I saw the film version and wanted to read the book too. I’m not a big classics reader, unfortunately the required reading I had to do in high school destroyed the genre for me a little. 🙂

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  18. The most memorable book they assigned us in school was probably “I’m the King of the Castle” by Susan Hill. It’s basically Lord of the Flies, but with only two boys. It scared the shit out of me and made me temporarily afraid of crows.


  19. You have a great list there! My favorites from high school where Crime and Punishment and A Tale of Two Cities. Disliked Heart of Darkness and barely made it through Portrait of the Artist as Young Man. To this day if someone brings up Joyce I mentally run for the hills!

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  20. I remember reading The Merchant of Venice in middle school but I didn’t like it? Idk. Shakespeare is way too much for me lol. Julius Caesar and Hamlet are the only ones I genuinely enjoyed.

    Yay! You’re going to be back soon! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I would have loved to study Austen in school! I love Hardy and Jane Eyre is my favourite classic book. I read Shakespeare in school but can’t get into it now. I studied Dr Fautus but can’t remember much. The Remains of the Day by Kazuro Ishiguro I found boring. But I was introduced to A Room With A View by E.M.Forster which I loved, bought my own copy and have reread. The Great Gatsby wasn’t for me, Dorian Grey was ok. I love classics and it’s great to read a blog post with books I’ve read! I was tempted to read Never Let Me Go and I have To Kill A Mockingbird on my Kindle to read. I’ve joined this read a classic a month thing on this book forum I visit but instead of reading the classics I own I’ve ended up reading others. It’s not so bad but I’m missing reading my favourite classics.


  22. I read Never Let Me Go pretty late in the game, but it is one of two books that makes me cry. As for Macbeth, I read it when I was in 3rd grade. As such, I had a very limited understanding of the nuances in the play. I assumed Macduff was the main character because he kills the bad guy (meaning Macbeth).


  23. When it comes to required reading, I really think the teacher makes the difference! I was fortunate enough to have had AMAZING English teachers throughout high school. Some of my favorites were Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, and East of Eden.


  24. As English is not my native tongue I still had books to read for the English lessons and The Great gatsby was among them. 39 Steps too but not many more!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Our entire year got to read Of Mice and Men except for one class (mine) who had to read Hobson’s Choice. Most. Boring. Book. Ever.

    I can’t remember that many of the books that we read at school but we did study the poems of Maya Angelou which were amazing.

    Oh and thank you for recommending The Yellow Wallpaper – I loved the novella and it meant I got a question right on University Challenge last week!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What a great choice! I love To Kill a Mockingbird and I really liked Of Mice and Men.

        It was something along the lines of “born 18-whenever, which female author wrote several works of utopian feminist fiction but is best known for her novella “The Yellow Wallpaper”? I got a whole FIVE questions right this week #humblebrag 😂

        Liked by 1 person

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