What books did you read at school?

Great Expectations: the ultimate novel prescribed by schools?

The literature we read in school has different effects on people. It can put someone off reading for a long, long time. It can give someone else a lifelong love for reading.

The latter is probably more applicable to me, yet isn’t entirely true. Some books I didn’t finish, whilst others will always be associated with endless mind-maps and essay plans. I will always be consumed with rage when I hear, “mark scheme” or “assessment objectives”, that’s for sure.

The books I remember best from school:

  • Great Expectations- Charles Dickens. I didn’t enjoy it as much in school as I do now. We couldn’t take the books out of the classroom (!), and so it was hard to get into the book, or remember what had happened so far. I don’t even think we finished the book, but instead watched what we hadn’t read in film-format. Ah, the English education system. After re-reading it, it’s probably my favourite by Dickens.
  • Romeo and Juliet- Shakespeare. I did enjoy reading this at school. Also, studying it almost inevitably means that you get to watch the film at least once.  
  • To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee. I loved this book. It’s definitely one of the better choices of books for children to read in school. When you’re young and alienated, this novel provides some reassurance and familiarity. As someone who struggles with social anxiety, this book was certainly a good choice!
  • Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë. This novel is a bit too large and complex for a classroom, I think. There’s just so much to think and write about, and so many of my friends ended up hating it. I’d previously read Wuthering Heights before studying it, and did enjoy exploring it in more detail. I’d never thought of Cathy’s ghost coming through the window as symbolic of a loss of innocence, however…
  • The Color Purple- Alice Walker. Probably the most awkward moment in my school life was my English teacher reading the opening of this novel aloud in class. Maybe that was the reason I could never finish it.
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin- Louis de Berniéres. When left to enjoy this alone out of a classroom, I loved it. My Mum’s not a reader at all, but she read this all in a weekend at Center Parcs (in an attempt to escape home!). 
  • The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald. This was something I’d always been meaning to read, but had been put off by its reputation. I loved it, and think that the research and reading I did around it for my exams was really useful. It’s one of those books you can’t just read and forget about – a lot of thinking and reflection is required!
  • The Handmaid’s Tale- Margaret Atwood. Not one of my favourites, I’m afraid. It was one of those novels in which you’re forced to explore the symbolism of everything. I’d rather just read it, to be honest. Everyone always says how great a novel it is, so I will re-read it… one day.
Which were your favourite and least favourite books read at school?

It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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