Dust off those school reading lists for some marvelous classics

By John Hoover

When I was in high school, we were required to read a list of books each year in English class. Good Reads1 copySomehow I managed to get by without reading most of them (I was not a very good high school student). Since those days so long ago, I’ve gone back to that abandoned reading list and read and enjoyed many of the works I should have read when assigned. My colleagues at Misty Valley Books were not like me. They did the reading when assigned and were the better for it. As kids head back to school, Good Reads returns to the books of our high school days, to those long-ago reading lists, where we’ve picked favorites to recommend.

Gone with the WindKim remembers Great Expectations ($9) by Charles Dickens. She says, “Saw the movie (John Mills version) in English class when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and loved it; then read it as a high school freshman in English class. Still my favorite of all of Dickens’ stories (with the possible exception of A Christmas Carol).”

The book Lynne most remembers reading in school is Gone with the Wind ($9.99) by Margaret Mitchell. “I was in the 8th grade and had the book propped open on my knees in Mrs. Cornelius’ English class. I was mesmerized. It’s a great classic and history of a vanished culture.”

Jory says: “I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God ($14.99), by Zora Neale Hurston.Their eyes were watching god This was my favorite book from high school — where Hurston didn’t follow conventional English language rules, and wrote about growing up black in a small Southern town in the early 1900s. Beautifully crafted, and for a young Vermonter at the time, it was eye-opening.”

For Bill, The Catcher in the Rye ($16.99), by J.D. Salinger, was the book that spoke to him in those days (the ’60s). “I was an adolescent, like virtually everyone in high school, and I was at a boarding school, like Holden Caulfield, the main character.  Later on, I liked Salinger’s other books better, because, unlike Holden, I matured a little.”

One Day in the Life of Ivan DenisovichAmanda’s pick of a favorite required reading during her freshman year of high school was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich ($14), a novel set in a Soviet gulag that is a testament to the courage and resiliency of the human spirit when faced with extreme adversity.

Several years ago when my daughter-in-law found out  To Kill a MockingbirdI had never read To Kill a Mockingbird ($14.99) by Harper Lee, she shamed me into reading it. A wonderful story set in the South that deals with issues of how we interact with those who are different from us. I can’t remember if it was assigned when I was in high school but if it was, I know I didn’t read then. (The theatrical production of To Kill a Mockingbird is now playing at the Weston Playhouse.)

Be sure to check next month’s Good Reads column as we get ready for Halloween.ghosty

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeGood Reads

About the Author: After a 35-year career as a high school social studies teacher, John Hoover and his wife, Sally, retired to Vermont. He lives in Windham where he serves as a Justice of the Peace and Library Trustee. He works part time as a book-seller at Misty Valley Books, is active at St. Luke's Episcopal Church and sings in several choral groups.

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