I hated when teachers required certain books for class. It didn’t matter if it was a best-seller or an award-winner—if it was assigned, I hated it. However, upon reflection, I have decided that some of the dreaded high school classics merit reconsideration. Below are some books and plays I believe deserve a second chance at love. You can also view this list within the library’s catalog.
“Anthem” by Ayn Rand
Man rediscovers electricity and society rejects him. Everything just goes downhill from there. As a student, the narrator’s internal dialogue bored me to tears. Now, it’s fascinating to compare our current values to the values of this dystopian society.
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
Morrison writes the story of a woman who makes the ultimate choice to save her children from the horrors of slavery. The book moves past her choice into the present and how it affects her family. This novel is often criticized for its references to violence.
“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
This is a story of a man whose life begins to collapse. He believes he’s done everything to take care of his family, but the deteriorating relationship with his son shows otherwise. I found it hard to sit through reading this piece in a classroom. Years later, though, I can better appreciate what they were saying while taking in the whole piece rather than a chunk at a time.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry
Jonas lives in what he believes to be a “perfect” world. This changes when he takes on a job that shows the darker side. There was a lot of symbolism that did not hit home until I revisited this title as an adult. When I re-read the book, I found myself drawn into the entire series. I read all four books in a couple of days and then purchased the quartet.
“Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
I did not relate to the main character becoming a bug and his life falling apart until after college. It’s dark, but it’s true.
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
This story focuses on two men during the Great Depression looking for work. Similar to “Beloved,” this piece is often faced with criticism due to violence caused by a choice. You’ll definitely want to talk about it after you read it.
“Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare
This play used to be over-the-top silly to me; now, I can see it in real life as people try to mush their friends and family together into relationships for entertainment. This piece is fun to read or see performed, especially if you’re watching the performance with David Tenant and Catherine Tate.
“The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton
This novel focuses on identity. In a high school classroom filled with students deep in their personal journey toward self-awareness, this book was hard for me to appreciate. Looking back on it, though, this is a strong story about finding and keeping your sense of self.
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
I definitely understand the perspective of younger me being disgusted by this book as a love story. However, now that I’m older, I value how the narrator struggles with ensuring her future while also being true to herself.
“Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl irritated younger me. I didn’t understand her complexity and uniqueness. However, older me has begun to recognize how her kindness affected those around her. We need more Stargirls.
“12 Angry Men” by Reginald Rose
The idea of twelve jurors adjudicating on a young person’s life did not thrill me as a student. Now, as I become more involved in politics and see this story play out in real life, I realize it tells us a lot about the people around us and ourselves.