Ranking Everything I Had to Read in High School

It seems like we all read variations of the same material in high school. It's as if high school teachers across America are given this long list of novels, plays and epic poems from which to choose required readings. Looking back, some of them were not that great, and I don't even understand how they came to be on this big, long list. Some of them, however, are still my favorites to this day. So, here's a list of everything I had to read in high school, ranked from best to worst.

  1. 1. Lord of the Flies

    Most of the people in my class hated this book, but William Golding provided this future English major with symbolism galore. The line "Ralph wept for the age of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy" still gives me chills. My copy of this book is so outrageously highlighted that I almost need sunglasses to read it. If you didn't read this book in high school and you want to question the nature of human existence, I highly suggest this book.

  2. 2. The Crucible

    Man, I love a good allegory. The Crucible, which centers around the human tendency towards hysteria, is an absolutely timeless play by Arthur Miller. There's something so entertaining about the fury this play evokes from me. I have such strong feelings about the characters — mainly that Abigail is horrible in every way. Also, John Proctor's declaration that "God is dead" is still one of the most powerful things I have ever read.

  3. 3. Dante's Inferno

    While we didn't read the entirety of Dante's Inferno, I loved every word of what we did read. I haven't gone back and reread this one, but I have to admit I might not enjoy it as much without my tenth grade English teacher walking me through and translating it into modern English. Once again, I found the symbolism so enthralling, and the story itself was also fascinating.

  4. 4. Romeo and Juliet

    Look, I know it's trendy to hate on Romeo and Juliet, but hear me out. I hated it, too, when I first had to read it in my freshman year of high school. Then, I took a Shakespeare class at UNC (shoutout to David Baker), and I learned to read the play in a completely different light. Once I got past the ridiculous love story, I was able to really appreciate the work and understand why it probably remains Shakespeare's most famous play.

  5. 5. Macbeth

    I liked Macbeth, don't get me wrong, but it was a little too intense for me. Something I really appreciate about it, though, is the idea that it's impossible to escape fate. Philosophically, I don't subscribe to that idea; however, as a literary theme, it's wildly intriguing. I also concede that Lady Macbeth is one of the most iconic characters of all time, and her "unsex me here" soliloquy is entirely chilling. Overall, I think I just enjoy the witches more than the actual plot.

  6. 6. A Separate Peace

    I'm not going to lie, I had to go back and refresh my memory for this one. I just remember being endlessly bored when I had to read it for my freshman English class in high school, but while reading the plot summary I felt kind of touched. It's essentially about the competitive friendship between two young boys during World War II. I'll definitely have to reread it through new eyes.

  7. 7. Of Mice and Men

    This one, for the most part, just upsets me. Nothing seemed to go right for poor George, Lennie or any of the other characters. The ending broke my heart. Enough said.

  8. 8. The Iliad

    I'll be honest, I have no idea why we read this in high school. This was another instance of my tenth grade English teacher walking us through a complicated, ancient-sounding text, only this time there was nothing super intriguing about the plotline. That being said, The Iliad was entirely forgettable — I couldn't tell you a thing about it. 

  9. 9. Beowulf

    I don't know why we had to read this one, either. It's another epic poem that was impossible to decipher without the guidance of a teacher who studied it for years. I think the story had something to do with honor? Umm... I'm not even sure.

  10. 10. Wuthering Heights

    Ah, yes, my least favorite book of all time. I actually am way too passionate about my hatred for this book. A basic summary: everyone is sad or angry all the time, and then they die. That's it, that's the book. I read every word, each one more dreadful than the last. The song "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush is a masterpiece, though, infinitely more entertaining than the book it was inspired by.

There it is, all the books I read in high school ranked from best to worst!