A Facebook post from a friend has inspired me to create a small list of books from high school English class I want to re-read. I have already completed the first of five on a shortlist that includes a couple of books which I wished I read in school, but was never on the curriculum. Like my restaurants list, more will likely be added, but since books take time to complete (and I am also completing a program in fundraising management, so there are textbooks to read as well), additions won’t be made as quickly.
English was NOT my favourite subject in high school. I thought some of the books were boring and much preferred history and math. It’s funny that I actually LIKED drama, since it’s closely related to English. But then again, I preferred being ON STAGE rather than reading plays. However, more than 15 years after I graduated, I just wanted to go back and refresh. I had a tough time coming up with a list, as I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. I only wanted to start out with five, with the goal to finish by the end of the summer. I also didn’t want to have to purchase too many – maybe one or two that might need replacing (like university, we had to purchase our books in high school. Books were available second hand, of course, but I never purchased English books used. I also didn’t sell my English books), but not all.
The first five are:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith): Read in Grade 9 and again when I was 20 (for fun). The story takes place in 1910s Brooklyn and centres around the hardships of the area’s residents at that time. Brooklyn at that time was mostly made up of lower income ethnic families (Francie’s family is Irish and German). The book was a bit dogearred, so I bought another copy.
The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton): I never read the book in school, but saw the 1993 movie when I was a teenager. It is a look (and critique of) old upper class New York, which Ms. Wharton’s family was part of.
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte): Another book I read in Grade 9 and perhaps one of my favourites from school (and no wonder – the whole young governess falling in love with her older employer was kind of Sound of Music-ish. And The Sound of Music is one of my favourite movies). I also saw it as a commentary on social class – Jane was pretty much treated like dirt by her wealthier family members before being shipped off to a school for poor girls.
Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald): A non-high school book that I became interested in after Gatsby, but never got around to reading it. I don’t really know too much about the book, other than the fact that it was Fitzgerald’s last completed novel and that it takes place in the South of France. I think this will be the book to read after The Age of Innocence.
A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving): I read this for my Writer’s Craft course in my last year of high school. I first heard of the book not in OAC Writer’s Craft, but in an English class the year before. We were in the middle of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, when my English teacher brought up the fact that John Irving observed her English class when he was researching for Owen Meany and the fact that my alma mater was in the story. Yeah, the main character, Johnny Wheelwright, is an English teacher at BSS (Bishop Strachan School). The school is fictionalized to an extent, but the location, name and uniform descriptions are very real. The book centres around Johnny’s friendship with Owen, a dwarf who believes that he is “God’s Instrument.” It is highly influenced by The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (which I read a year later in first year university).
Other books I’d love to re-read are: The Little Prince (I read it in French in high school, but my language skills have gone downhill since 1995-1996, so it’ll have to be the English translation), Catcher in the Rye (Grade 9 English – see the theme here? Grade 9 was a very good year for books) and Wuthering Heights (which I actually DID NOT read in school).
Do you have any books from school that you’d like to re-read?