Eh, I don’t know that I’d force Conrad on them. “1984” and/or “Brave New World” are nice if you’ve got a group of kids who would appreciate them, and they can engender some very thoughtful discussion. You’d probably get a great deal of interest with “The Catcher in the Rye” (or possibly “Nine Stories”). I adored “The Great Gatsby” when we read it in high school, but for some reason large numbers of my peers seemed to have a virulent hatred for it. We acted out “Waiting for Godot”, and that was a lot of fun, although very few people actually got it. (Myself included! ) “Orlando” is fun! If you want to try the reading-Shakespeare-out-loud route, think about “Macbeth” or possibly “King Lear.” Maybe also consider a short play to be read aloud–Williams? Chekhov? Ibsen?
The general feeling about “Of Mice and Men” seemed to be sheer confusion, with occasional mockery thrown in. No one liked “The Crucible.” Boys don’t want to read “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights.” “Candide” was a bad experience–extremely low levels of attention/comprehension. And please, for the love of all that’s holy, no “Scarlet Letter”!
I agree that “Slaughterhouse-Five” is a really, really, really good book; however, in this day and age, you might well not be permitted to teach it–even when I was in school back in the Dark Ages, the remotest suggestion of anything controversial was immediately snuffed out by the administration.
And yes, I know–italics for books, not quotes. But I’m lazy…