Tuesday, October 9, 2012

High School Reading: For the Birds?


Do you remember what you read in high school? Did you like it? Or did the assigned reading stay in your book bag (like mine did) because the Cliffs Notes were much less painful? You know what I'm talking about. Or maybe you loved it all, in which case, you get a gold star.

I bring this up because I recently came across an interesting article in the HuffPost, suggesting alternate titles to some of what's been the meat and potatoes of our high school English curriculum. Titles that look delicious to me, such as Gabriel García Márquez's 100 Years of Solitude and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. If you can, take a minute to flip through the slideshow.

The article got me thinking about how little I enjoyed what I read back then (actually hated it). Was it because I was an unsophisticated reader? Or maybe the material didn't resonate, or was too difficult? What would happen if I revisited these titles, today? And lastly, what might my young mind's reaction have been to authors such as Laura Esquivel, Sandra Cisneros, Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez and Victor Villaseñor? I can only speculate.

Here are a few of the titles my memory coughed up from those years:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

See any common threads, aside from them being classics? Hello. They're all depressing as all heck. Between the exploitation, murder, injustice and pathological apathy and boredom (Mr. Caulfield), it's no wonder I wasn't a depressed kid. Perhaps twenty plus years of life experience would give me enough of a repository to draw from to help me appreciate them, today? I have to find out.

So I'm curious. Did you love all of what you read in high school? I'd love to know what high school students outside the U.S. are reading.

Please share! :-)