What’s the Best Book you were Forced to Read?

dracula-book-cover

I’m talking about assigned school reading here. Schools down here in Texas mostly assign classics in the classroom, which isn’t bad, but I’d like to see some more variety. I’ve heard of teachers assigning The Hunger Games for class. Like…where the heck was that teacher when I was in school?! I know John Green’s books are assigned. And several others. But my experience in the classroom was with books that were written decades before I was born, and sometimes centuries before.

Let me just make a random list of books I remember reading in school. This isn’t necessarily going to be in any order or by genre or anything. Romeo and Juliet. Does that even count? The OdysseyDraculaJurassic Park12 Angry Men. Was that originally a book? The Great GatsbyBeowulf. I’m just naming whatever I can think of. I’m sleepy. I Have Lived a Thousand Years. Of Mice and Men. That’s all I can come up with. I just sat here rolling my head on my desk in an effort to stay awake. I don’t think that list really fits with my previous assertion that I read a lot of classics in school. Oh well.

I know there are a million more books I was assigned during my time in school, but I only listed out those books for your benefit. I know which book was the best. Dracula. I’ve written about that book several times on here, because it’s quite honestly the only assigned reading book that’s stuck with me. I don’t hardly remember any part of any other book I was forced to read in school. But I remember the Count. I remember Mina. And Lucy. And Harker. Van Helsing. The gypsies. Shapeshifting. The pure evil of it all. And no, I didn’t take a look at the Wikipedia page for the book. I don’t have to. I even know the year it was published by memory. 1897.

I know I liked The Great Gatsby, but I couldn’t tell you hardly anything about the story itself. Oh! We read The Giver in 8th grade. No idea what it was about. I know Jurassic Park pretty well, but that’s a good book while Dracula is iconic. The others…eh.

Now you know the best book I was forced to read in school, what’s yours?

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80 thoughts on “What’s the Best Book you were Forced to Read?

  1. I WISH I had been forced to read Stoker’s Dracula in school!
    I don’t remember that many books from high school but in College I was asked to read a book titled Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty. I didn’t expect to enjoy it but I ended up loving it!

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  2. The Great Gatsby was fantastic! I also loved The Catcher in the Rye, Hawthorne Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. I’ve re-read all of them. What about Great Expectations, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Catch 22?!

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  3. ‘My Sister’s Keeper’, and ‘The Cinnamon Tree’. Really enjoyed both of them, though Macbeth wasn’t bad either! 🙂

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  4. I read incredibly boring books during elementary and high school too, but the one that I liked and really stuck with me was Dante’s Inferno. I still remember the famous line “Abandon all hope, you who enter here”.

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  5. I really enjoyed reading Dracula in school…my Brit Lit teacher described it as the “Twilight of its age” merely because it was a book that spawned a lot of vampire inspired books during that time period. I think my favorite book I read in school was “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros. So lyrical. It’s the book that inspired me to be a writer!

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  6. The only good book I’ve ever been forced to read is the Outsiders. Really great voice, intriguing plot, well-developed characters, and it was written by a sixteen-year-old girl. (S. E. Hinton, or something like that?)

    https://kamrynthewanderer.wordpress.com/

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  7. I liked the fantastical elements of Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Huck Finn was also enjoyable.

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  8. In high school I read the unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo, which I loved, and we also read Ender ‘ s Game, which I would like to reread for pleasure. I loved Pride and Prejudice too.

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  9. I missed a lot of school due to health but I read of mice and men and while I didn’t exactly enjoy it. It stuck with me. I think it was the first time I stopped seeing good and bad as a black and white thing and started to see the grey areas. My half brother is a fair bit younger than me (he’s 13) and rather than analysing poems like I used to have to do, he analysed song lyrics of something that was in the charts at the time. I’m not sure whether to be jealous or worry that he and his classmates won’t appreciate poetry the same as I do.

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    • I remember the Of Mice and Men movie more than the book. I think I was shown a movie. And your brother sounds pretty much like everyone in his generation. I don’t know anyone off of WordPress who reads or writes poetry. But I bet just anout anyone has tried deciphering song lyrics at some point.

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  10. When went to high school books were written on scrolls or we had bards to recite epic poetry. The tale of Gilgamesh was was a hot new piece of cuniform. And we would drink dilluted wine from a lambskin and wrestle with much older men in the gymnasium. Aaaah, school days.

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  11. I enjoyed Of Mice and Men and The Joy Luck Club actually I read Ender’s Game in school too and I loved it. There were maybe a few more I enjoyed, but they’re not coming to mind

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  12. Wuthering Heights is my favourite book that I was forced to read in school.

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  13. I had to read Fight Club in college and loved it. I’ve been a fan of Chuck Palahniuk ever since.

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  14. Great piece John. For me in college it was the Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon or the Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi as the teacher was really pushing us to reach beyond established readings. In high school it was probably Animal Farm. I had had no interest in reading and my teacher (thank you Brother Cecil) really showed us how deep literature was meant to take us.

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  15. Well, there’s Hamlet – but I’m a freak of nature who actually likes about 50% of Shakespeare’s plays. lol. In all seriousness though, I have read Hamlet about a dozen times, and only 3 of them for school. (I do totally agree that Romeo and Juliet is crap, though, and certainly not reading material that’s going to be appreciated by a roomful of 14 year olds even if it was amazing.)

    I lucked out a bit – most of my papers were ‘pick a book/author off this list of a dozen choices’. It was hard not to find something enjoyable when given options. That’s how I discovered “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke, which I still suggest as an excellent sci-fi read.

    Also notable from my required reading:

    “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkein
    “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne
    “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
    “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov
    “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
    The Oedipus Trilogy (though admittedly mostly Oedipus Rex. Antigone was also decent, but Oedipus at Colonus wasn’t particularly memorable) by Sophocles (I did mention above that I’m a freak who actually likes old books, I believe. lol)
    “The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kingston

    Honorable Mention goes to “Of Mice and Men” and “Frankenstein” – both good, but not great, reads.

    On the other hand, there were also books I genuinely disliked. I can’t fathom the number of people who liked “The Outsiders”, for example. It boggles my mind how that book got popular. Mind you, I read it in middle school, so all I have left by way of memory of it is the fact my eyebrow twitches any time someone mentions it. lol. I also have a deep loathing for “The Great Gatsby” that I can’t explain, and “The Grapes of Wrath” nearly puts me into a boredom-induced coma every time it crosses my mind. “Great Expectations” remains the worst books I’ve ever been forced to suffer through.

    I do sometimes wonder though, just how many of the books I was forced to read I disliked because they were genuinely bad, and how many of them I disliked as a matter of rebellious teenage principle.

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    • Hahaha your eyebrow twitching! 😂 That was funny. Looks like I only read one of the books you mentioned and it wasn’t The Outsiders. But I do like your last comment. That you question how many of the books you didn’t like because they were bad or because they were forced upon you. Very good point.

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      • A lot of people love ‘the Outsiders’. Then again, a lot of people love ‘Twilight’. I’m not a lot of people. 🙂

        And, it’s true. In school, I think we go into a lot of our projects with an assumption/determination of loathing, because we’re forced into it. But, a lot of the things I read as assignments were much more enjoyable as leisure reading later in life than they were as homework as a kid. Makes you wonder what would happen if you went back to those books of your own free will as an adult. Would you change your mind about them? The answer is, of course, no way to know, since you’ve already been biased against them.

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      • Another commenter said the same thing. That we should think of rereading books that we were forced to read in school to see what we think now. I’d have to doubt that we’d dislike all those assigned reading books as much as we once thought.

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  16. I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite. So many titles already mentioned that I remember reading. I liked Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of The Flies, most of Shakespeare’s work, I somewhat remember a story called The Euphio Machine, we did a group project where we had to design a poster to “sell” the machine. I loved The Raven and Annabelle Lee by Poe. We also read The Outsiders in middle school and t really remember the book, but the entire seventh grade class movie in the auditorium after we finished reading it. That same year, when we were studying the Holocaust in social studies, they incorporated it into English and Reading class as well and we had to pick a book to do a report on. I found a book called Alicia; My Story by Alicia Appleman Jurman which was a great book that actually gave me nightmares. Wuthering Heights was never assigned, but I picked it up at the bookstore on my own in about my junior year and it has become my favorite book. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read it.

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  17. I actually enjoyed most of the required reading in school. Because, you know, I’m a mega-nerd. But the one that sticks out the most with me is Flowers for Algernon. I’ve talked about it before, and it’s one of my favorite books. I won’t list the dozens of books of required reading I liked. That would take up quite a bit of space on this page. Who needs that? 🙂

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  18. The only book I can remember liking somewhat that I had to read in high school was The Great Gatsby. I’m pretty sure there were other books that I liked more, but I really can’t remember 🙂

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  19. I think the best ones I had to read in school were Perfume by Patrick Süskind and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I really want to re-read them now to see how much I enjoy them without the weeks and weeks of analysis in class…

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  20. Probably Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I never thought I would like it that much.

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  21. Dracula was my favourite book I was forced to read at school as well. It was also the story that sparked my love for reading. I was also forced to read a lot of Australian texts that have made no impression on me what so ever. Dracula will always stick. The fog, the blood and the darkness. 🙂

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  22. Pride and Prejudice, hands down. I remember thinking I wouldn’t like it, but then I read it two times in a row—the moment I turned the last page I immediately started again from the beginning.

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  23. Five words, How to Kill a Mocking Bird

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  24. It’s a toss up between The Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men. I loved both those books so much.

    Although I really REALLY wish Dracula had been one of those I was – ehem – “forced” to read. I would have willing submitted to such “torture.” 😉

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