Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish, in which each participating blogger creates a Top 10 list around a common topic. This week’s topic was Rewind, and I got to pick a past topic I missed out on. So my Top 10 Tuesday this week is…
Top 10 Books I was “Forced” to Read
I took this topic to mean books I was assigned to read in school, but I actually ended up enjoying (and there’s more than 10). Here we go…
1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I have heard from so many people how much they hate this novel. Full confession: If I read it now, I might hate it. As a lovesick teenager my junior year of high school, however, I loved the tragic, borderline incestuous love story between Heathcliff & Cathy. In reality, though, almost every character in Wuthering Heights makes very bad decisions most of the time or even all of the time. The relationship, I imagine, may also seem borderline abusive to me now. But when I was forced to read it, I did quite love it, and it raises interesting issues of prejudice and hatred.
2. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
I was assigned this novel junior year of high school by a nun. It’s the story of Camelot, which is one of my very favorite legends of all time, told from the point of view of the women of Avalon, including Igraine (Arthur’s mother), Morgaine (Morgan le Fay–Arthur’s half-sister), Gwenhwyfar (Arthur’s wife). It also highlights historical tension in the form of pagan versus Christian ways. It’s an interesting retelling (including a threesome between one of the most infamous love triangles in legend!). It’s a solid, yet lengthy read. I’ve often thought of revisiting it, and wondering if I would be able to better appreciate all of the nuances of the story.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a book I wasn’t “forced” to read until college. I read it on my own in high school, admittedly didn’t get it, and thus, hated it. In college, however, I could not get enough of it. I loved reading and discussing it. I loved the poignancy and futility that were laced throughout one of the most important novels about the Lost Generation. I still ache when I think of it. I was admittedly not as in love with the Leo DiCaprio movie, even if it was pretty.
4. Angels in America by Tony Kushner
This play cycle is one of the most important of our time, in my opinion. I read it in an English class in college about AIDS, literature, and social theory, one of the best classes I have every taken. In these two plays, Kushner tackles complex themes about identity, personhood, religion, and society. He sets this story of prophecy in the 80’s with all of its politics, past and present. Incorporating one person who really existed, a whole host of fictional characters, and, yes, angels, it’s a haunting play cycle. I wrote my senior thesis on it, and will always love it. Bonus: the miniseries from HBO is also fairly beautiful and astounding. If you ever have the opportunity to see it live, I recommend you take it.
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I attempted this novel before I was “forced” to read it, but could never quite tackle it myself. I was required to read it in freshman year of high school, and I adored it. It’s a hard story to read, full of suffering, but also, ultimately love. The story of an abused orphan who still manages to become a good and loving person, who continues to suffer despite her goodness. Also, who doesn’t have a bookish crush on Mr. Rochester?? I totally did.
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I read this senior year of high school. Real talk: Anna herself is not very likeable. However, this was the book that made me fall in love with Tolstoy. This story, often remembered as a love story, is so much more than that. It’s a deep meditation on many facets of life, including family, duty, honor, and faith. It also contains one of the most iconic opening lines of all time: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Assigned this short novel sophomore year of high school, I didn’t think I would like it. The premise didn’t interest me, and it was the same year I read The Scarlet Letter, so I already didn’t quite trust my teacher’s judgment. (Still don’t love that one). However, this tiny little novel packed a really big punch. The ending is heartbreaking, but the friendship of George and Lennie is one of the most powerful in literature.
8. Was by Geoff Ryman
This is a novel I was also assigned in my AIDS, Lit, and Social Theory class in college. It’s hard to describe, so here’s the summary from Amazon:
“A haunting novel exploring the lives of characters intertwined with The Wizard of Oz: the “real” Dorothy Gale; Judy Garland’s unhappy fame; and Jonathan, a dying actor, and his therapist, whose work at an asylum unwittingly intersects with the Yellow Brick Road.”
I LOVE the Wizard of Oz, and this makes the original story seem much more heartbreaking, as I recall. A great read for those who love Wizard of Oz, or just imaginative stories about the American landscape, though just know it gets a bit dark. (Also, I just love this particular cover.)
9. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Jane Austen gets two spots on this list. Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorites. I wrote one of the best English major papers I ever wrote doing a close reading of Willoughby’s letter (hint: he’s not as genuine as he may seem). Great love story of two sisters. If you like Austen’s other works and haven’t tried this one, you should.
10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I honestly am not sure I was ever “forced” to read this novel, but it seems like a novel that someone would need to read in high school, so I’m going to say I was. Elizabeth and Darcy. What more can I say?
11. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Le
No list of “forced” reads would be complete without this novel, which I read for the first time in seventh grade. An important novel about racism in the Deep South, it’s about growing up, it’s about justice and lack of justice, and it’s about a father’s love for his children and his desire to do what’s right. I haven’t read its follow-up, mainly because I’m not convinced Harper Lee actually wanted to publish it, but this novel will always remain one of my favorites.
What are the books you were “forced” to read and ended up loving? Let me know below!
Images courtesy of Goodreads.