Yesterday I had a bit of fun and made a list of ten books that were a huge part of my childhood. I mentioned that I started reading more advanced books in sixth grade (thanks again Ms. Bonnie Kane) so my days of reading juvenile fiction was really limited to the first ten years of my life. Today I’m going to list ten (you knew I wasn’t going to stop at five yesterday) books that were assigned to me during my school years. I will limit this to stuff before college. I went to college so many times during the twenty years it actually took me to graduate that it would be hard to remember some of them. One that does stick out is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (thank you Dr. Kevin Larsen). That was assigned for a Christian Evidences class at Mid-Atlantic Christian University (Roanoke Bible College when I was there). Now that is out of the way, here is today’s list.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I spent one year (sixth grade) at W.L. Greene before being shipped off to Southern Nash Junior High. Those who know me know that this was a pivotal point in my life. One of the reasons is Bonnie Kane. She was the English teacher and she has us reading things that were a bit beyond our comprehension. I have gone back and read this book several times as an adult and I am sure than I didn’t “get it” when I was eleven years old. It is a classic though.
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I got a surprise in eighth grade when Bonnie Kane transferred to Southern Nash Junior High and became my English teacher for two more years. By this point I was already reading books which were probably better suited for adults (mostly Stephen King). Ms. Kane continued to have us read things that were probably outside of our normal range. This one is still a favorite and I have read it numerous times.
- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton – I think this was another one of Ms. Kane’s assignments. This one sticks out for a couple of reasons. The first one is that Ms. Kane had us write an alternate ending for it. There is a pivotal scene near the end (I won’t spoil it for you) and she has us imagine different outcomes. I don’t even remember what mine was but that was my first taste at writing original fiction. The second is the fact that John Cusack references it in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank when he asks a former teacher if she is still “inflicting that Ethan Frome damage” on her students. That’s funny.
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles – This one is a “coming of age” and a “loss of innocence” tale set in a New England boarding school during World War II. I can remember getting the assignment and thinking it was going to be terrible. Turns out that it is a great book and one I have revisited again.
- Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes – Oh man, what a book. This story about a mentally challenged man who receives experimental surgery which makes him intelligent. Algernon is the mouse which had the same surgery. This book is frequently targeted for removal from school libraries for various reasons. I won’t go into all that here. I will say that it is one of the saddest books I have ever read.
- Lord Of The Flies by William Golding – I don’t know if this one is still required reading but I think it should be. This book is fascinating and terrifying. I believe it touches upon the sinful nature of humanity in ways that few works of fiction have. What happens when we totally give in to our own carnal desires? This one answers that question.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell – The first of Orwell’s books on the list (you know the other one too. The first thing I remember about this one is its length. We (my classmates and I) were tickled to have something so short on the list. It was a quick and easy read. Of course, most of us probably didn’t realize exactly we were reading at the time. It’s interesting to go back and read now.
- 1984 by George Orwell – This one was weird reading because we read it in 1984. That seemed like a really big deal at the time and there was a lot of coverage (TV and magazines) about it. Most people are aware of the topics covered here and the conversations about whether Mr. Orwell was a “prophet” still continue today. I haven’t read this one in years. Honestly, I don’t plan to read anytime in the near future.
- The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – We read this and Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn around the same time. We probably didn’t catch everything that Twain was trying to get across in these two. At the time they seemed like cool stories. It wasn’t until MUCH later in a college American Lit course that I started to see what Twain was saying. The satire was lost on me as a teenager.
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This one is last because I decided to (as the say) save the best for last. I’m not employing hyperbole when I say that this is the greatest novel ever written. That is my sincere opinion. I know that I’m not alone in the opinion. I honestly don’t know how many times I have read this one or how many more times I will read it again. Outside of the Bible this is the book that has had the biggest impact on my life. Perhaps I will devote an entire post to the reasons why at a later date.
I hope you enjoyed this. As with the list yesterday, feel free to comment and/or share your own list.
Grace and peace.