For the Love of Books | 4 Books Read in School That Are Worth Re-Reading

I can’t be the only one who recalls novels read in school English Literature classes with a slight shudder. As evidence of said slight shudder, I give you The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy (‘O’ Level set book, JMB examination board, 1984). And incidentally, my sister-in-law chose ‘Thomas Hardy and the Gothic’ for her Masters in English; she heartily disagrees with my opinion of Hardy.

However, with age and maturity comes the realisation that some of the novels you were forced by Miss Mitchell to read aloud were, in fact, pretty good:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby has built a mansion on Long Island Sound for the sole purpose of wooing and winning his lost love Daisy Buchanan, who married another man while Gatsby was serving overseas. This classic American novel captures the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, while weaving a wistful story of love and loss. Even if you’ve seen the reasonably recent film (especially if you’ve seen the film) you need to read the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: In this 1960 classic, small-town attorney Atticus Finch attempts a hopeless defense of a black man unjustly accused of rape, and to teach his children, Scout and Jem, about the evils of racism. It’s been a staple on high school reading lists for years, but it enjoyed a fresh burst of publicity when its companion Go Set a Watchman was published in the summer of 2015. The stage version comes to London’s West End in mid-May, and a friend and I already have our tickets for early June.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Just because it’s compulsory reading in high school doesn’t mean this isn’t a great book. This groundbreaking classic is a Gothic romance, mystery, and psychological thriller all rolled into one. You’ll be kicking yourself for not reading (or re-reading) it years ago. And reader, she married him.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: While many believe that Emma is Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice is more likely to show up on compulsory reading lists. On the other hand, consider yourself lucky if you never read Austen in high school. If you were lucky enough to have a gifted teacher who brought classic works to life, that’s fantastic—but many of us read just enough Austen in high school to be convinced she was boring and stuffy. (I was definitely in this second category.) Give her a try now—Pride and Prejudice is a terrific place to start, and if you don’t fall in love with her writing, at least you’ll know what the fuss is about.

12 thoughts on “For the Love of Books | 4 Books Read in School That Are Worth Re-Reading

  1. You’ve sent me down memory lane! We did not read any Austen – how did that happen? From O level I remember Twelfth Night, a play called Time and the Conways by J B Priestly but cannot remember which novel (well, it was over 45 years ago!) but I do remember A level meant selected poems of TS Eliot, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Othello and my most disliked novel ever – Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. Oh how a bit of Austen would have been light relief! My friend and I went to see the 1974 Great Gatsby a couple of times, this may or may not have been for the fact that we were 16 and a little bit in love with Robert Redford!

    How lovely to already have a theatre trip lined up – I’m sure it will be brilliant.

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    1. Who wasn’t in love with a young Robert Redford!
      The remainder of the my O Level syllabus was Henry IV Part 1 and selected World War 1 poetry – lots of Wilfred Own – “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?”

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  2. I’ve not read any of these books either for school or pleasure. I do have Pride & Prejudice (with Colin Firth) DVD set & watch quite regularly, along with Sense & Sensibility (Kate Winslet).

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  3. Since you gave four book from reading in school I thought I would do the same. Not only did we read these in high school but I enjoyed them. Death be not Proud by John Gunther, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Johnny got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo, and the Human Comedy by William Saroyan. Two of these book would have a life long influence on me. The Human Comedy I have re-read many times since I first read it in 8th grade. It is my favorite book. The other is Huckleberry Finn, as I became a great fan of Mark Twain and have read every thing he has written, some works many times.

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    1. I read Huckleberry Finn with The Boy Child a few years ago, but I confess to not having heard of the other titles.
      Dalton Trumbo was the screenwriter who was blacklisted by Senator McCarthy, right? There was an excellent film about him recently, with Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad.

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  4. Somehow I still haven’t read Jane Eyre (although it’s on my to-read list) and I’ve never heard of The Trumpet Major; however, I’ve read the others. As you may remember from several blog posts, I’m a huge fan of To Kill A Mockingbird – I’ve read it several times, we’ve watched the movie quite a few times, and we’ve seen a couple of stage productions (one here at the Dallas Theatre Center, and one at a little local theater in southeast Texas starring one of my nieces as the young Scout).

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