Favorite novel read in high school


I have recently been hired to teach English to Juniors, both AP and traditional. I’m supposed to be getting a list of the class sets that they have, the books read in previous years, and a budget to buy a set of my choosing.

I’m leaning towards Heart of Darkness or The Jungle , but wondered what some of you liked as students?

My favorite book in high school was probably Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s still one of my favorites today. I don’t know where other people were in terms of age when they read it, but I first read it in high school. It wasn’t an assigned reading either. I would have liked to had a part of the class really go into the story.

I didn’t really appreciate Conrad until much later in life. Too language intense and difficult to relate to a 16 year old’s experience. Not to denigrate Conrad in any way – he’s wonderful. It’s just that the books that had a real effect on me at that time were much more accesible.

I know it’s trite, but the two books that immediately occured to me are Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Salinger’s Nine Stories. Hesse’s Siddartha was also a favorite at that time in my life.

Thinking back, I was required to read some books that just weren’t age appropriate. Not in a Helen Lovejoy way, more that I didn’t have enough literary experience at 16 or 17 to really appreciate Pride and Prejudice or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I’m re-reading Pride and Prejudice now and appreciating it. I don’t know that I’ll every appreciate Tess.

On the last day of class, when you don’t have to deal with them any more, recommend they read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and any other Hunter S. Thompson they can get their hands on.

Cry, the Beloved Country – by mumble
Things Fall Apart – by Chinua Achebe
Grendel – John Gardner

I’d recommend books that aren’t too depressing, though - 99.8% of the books I read in high school were depressing as heck, and pretty much put me off them full stop.

I loved Pride & Prejudice, but I’m a big squishy girl, so that probably explains that. I liked the EM Forster novel we had to read – Where Angels Fear to Tread. I recently read Howard’s End and enjoyed that too, but I think Angels is more accessible because it’s fairly short.

How about some Virginia Woolf? Mrs. Dalloway, anyone?

I’ve read both Heart of Darkness and The Jungle and didn’t enjoy either of them. I appreciate them, but didn’t enjoy them. The same goes for A Tale of Two Cities and Far From the Madding Crowd. If you’re going to pick a Dickens’s novel, I’d go for one of the more humorous ones. I could have gone without ever touching Hardy, as well. For a novel (hee hee) alternative, have them read Daniel Deronda. That George Eliot is a woman should keep them entertained for a bit.

Word. I’d also steer clear of Chopin’s The Awakening and Melville’s Billy Bud. I want the weeks I spent reading and studying those back. I actually cheered out loud at the end of The Awakening.

Not because of some feminist victory or anything like that, but because the book was over. I would have prefered a more violent end, say, stoned to death by high school sophomores, but that’s just me.

Sorry if anyone here is a big fan of either; I’ve no quarrel with you, just those books.

Whew! Glad to get that off my chest. As for stuff I liked: Salinger is good. Everyone does Catcher in the Rye, which is a fine book, but I’m a bigger fan of Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters. To this day I can’t pick it up without reading the entire thing. I also loved the Illiad and the Odyssey, but they might be a little long for your purposes. I also liked A Tale of Two Cities, but I appreciate it a lot more now that I studied more about European history.

The Great Gatsby, without question. My favorite novel. Most of my other favorites were plays, but I also enjoyed Catch-22 and The Once and Future King.

I remember really liking Silas Marner. I also remember being in the minority on that one. I also liked Crime and Punishment. I recommend staying away from Ethan Frome, which was universally hated.

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! :slight_smile: ) “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… :frowning:

A fabulous play to read aloud if you want a selection from the Greek classics is Lysistrata. My class took turns performing characters from this one, and it was the highlight of our World Literature class. The archaic language only added to the humor.

Novel: **Pride & Prejudice ** by Jane Austen. Her capacity with the English language is masterful.

Play: **Antigone ** by Sophocles. I was lucky to be able to study it as a text simultaneously in both my English class and my Ancient Greek class.

And the piece of work that I found boring beyond all telling and that I couldn’t bring myself to finish: **The Catcher in the Rye ** by JD Salinger. What an irritating git Holden Caulfield was!

I’d go for either “The Outsiders” by S E Hinton or “The Chrysylids” by John Wyndom.

Avoid “Lord of the Flies” and “The Red Pony” by Steinbeck at all costs. Even after thirty years and thousands of books, the images in those stories still haunt me. I dodn’t mean that in anything resembling a good way.

Alan Paton…

Mine were:
Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
Girl of the Sea of Cortez - Benchley
Sharpe’s Eagle - Cornwell

Watership Down, which remains my favorite novel. Yeah, you could say I’m soft, but… okay, yeah, I’m soft. But it’s still a damn fine book and not just a story about bunnies.

Books that I wish I had been assigned, because I can’t motivate myself to read them but feel somewhat illiterate for never having read them:
Moby Dick
Slaughterhouse Five
Catch 22
The Arabian Nights

And books that I was forced to read in school but got no value out of it:
The Unvanquished
The Scarlet Letter

Assigned books? Catch-22 and Till We Have Faces.

Day of the Triffids John Wyndham

Fellowship of the Ring Tolkien

Alice in Wonderland Carroll - Strange book (and author)

I should point out that these were books I read as electives, our English teacher was very liberal with the curriculum. the setworks I enjoyed most were:
[li]Animal Farm[/li][li]Sons & Lovers[/li][li]Lord of the Flies[/li][li]Midsummer Night’s Dream[/li][/ul]

Same here!
*To Kill A Mockingbird * was another favorite, although that was junior high.

Darn, mine have pretty well all been mentioned already. Foremost, Brave New World (and to a noticeably lesser degree, the other end of the dystopian see-saw, 1984). Pretty much any Shakespearean comedy; for classes I had to read Taming of the Shrew and any number of tragedies and histories, but for the extracurricular theater troupe, I also got Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

One book I didn’t read in high school, but would love to see on the list as a modern study in parody/homage, maybe for some pulp before Spring Break when the kids’ minds are prone to wander, is William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (shocking that somebody with my username would recommend that one, huh?). C’mon, it’s fun and has at least a little something for everybody. Many students have seen the movie, and you can have some discussions on the differences (as well as know who did and didn’t actually read because of said differences).

I don’t recall anything from my assigned reading that has stayed with me as a favorite novel, but then we had elective English courses after one semester of composition in 10th grade, so I took creative writing, “Narrative poetry and drama of England”, and mythology my 10th-11th grade years (no novels there) and after moving to another school my senior year, did the typical 12th grade senior survey of British lit (much of which I’d already studied from the elective class on British poetry and drama).

On the other hand, I did do a lot of reading on my own. My creative writing teacher organized an after-school group to read and study Joyce’s Ulysses with a prof from the local university, and it remains in my top ten. I stumbled across Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in the public library my senior year, and it remains at the very top of my list of favorite novels (along with Tristram Shandy and Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49).

I read and loved at the time all of J. D. Salinger and a ton of Hermann Hesse (Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Magister Ludi) but outgrew both relatively quickly.