Top 9 Books/Plays from High School English Class

It is a fact of life that, no matter what level of education you are in, you sometimes have to complete assignments that you don’t want to do. In English classes, this particularly applies to the assigned books. Some of them you completely hate, and some of them are just okay. But there are also the books you, maybe surprisingly, really liked. It’s always nice when you can look back fondly on some of the books or plays we had to read in high school. Because I’m a senior, and because this fact has put in a reminiscing mood, I have decided to reflect back and compile a list of my nine favorite books and plays that I remember from high school English class.

1.  Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples (1989)

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Shabanu is a young girl living in the Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. For the most part, she is living a good and carefree life, until one day, when tragedy strikes her family. In the face of this tragedy, she is called upon to sacrifice her dreams, and her freedom, in order to make things right again for her family. I honestly don’t remember why I liked this book so much, I just remember that it is one I really enjoyed.

2.  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)

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I don't think that I appreciated Speak as much as I should have when I first read it, but looking back on it, I recognize how powerful it is. During the summer before her freshman year of high school, Melinda Sordino is raped at a party, and then ostracized by her peers after calling the police, which ends the party, although she is unable to vocalize to them what happened to her. The rest of the novel follows Melinda through her depression, and her triumph as she begins to overcome her trauma and reclaim her voice.

3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

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To Kill a Mockingbird is the timeless classic about growing up and important lessons about life and human nature. Scout Finch, a young girl in Maycomb, Alabama, is the carefree daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch. When her father becomes the defense lawyer of Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, Scout and her brother Jem are confronted with some harsh truths about human nature and the criminal justice system. Despite being published almost 60 years ago, the lessons it teaches remain relevant today.

4.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

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The Great Gatsby is told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, an aspiring writer turned bond salesman. When he arrives on Long Island, he becomes intrigued and later acquainted with his mysterious, and extremely wealthy, neighbor Jay Gatsby. As their friendship develops, Nick discovers that Gatsby has a long-held secret and is devoted to his dream of creating a future that recreates his past. This novel is an intriguing examination of the destructive nature of wealth and dreams turned obsessive. This book remains one of my all-time favorites, and I look forward to when I can read it again.

5.  Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606)

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Macbeth currently holds the title of my favorite Shakespeare play, even though it is the third one I ever read. In the play, Macbeth is a well-respected Scottish general who, after learning from three witches that he will one day become king, is provoked into killing King Duncan by his wife's and his own ambition. After this initial murder, he must kill even more people to protect himself, leading him to become a tyrannical and mad king. As is true with many of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth is a warning of how easily power corrupts, and how this corruption ultimately leads to a breakdown of social and political order.

6.  King Lear by William Shakespeare (1606)

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In addition to political power, a second theme often present in Shakespeare’s plays is family, both of which are present in King Lear. In this play, the title character divides his kingdom between two of his daughters based on their flattery of him, but disinherits the third when she refuses to do so. Over the course of the play, Lear descends further and further into madness, as his rash decisions at the beginning have tragic consequences for everyone involved.

7.  Medea by Euripides (431 B.C.E)

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Based on the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, Medea tells the story of Jason and Medea’s marriage. After having two children together, Jason leaves Medea (a former barbarian princess) to marry the Corinthian princess Glauce. After her status in Corinth is threatened, Medea sets out to get revenge on those who wronged her, and does something unimaginable in the process. This play is a riveting tale of betrayal and revenge, and it is one that I highly recommend.

8.  Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (1818)

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Frankenstein’s monster is a popular, frequently used character in modern horror stories, but if you’ve never read the original novel, I would highly recommend it.  After Victor Frankenstein brings his creature to life in an attempt to play God, he is left horrified and later endeavors to destroy his creation  Like Macbeth, Frankenstein is a story warning against unchecked ambition, but it is also a story about taking responsibility for your actions.

9.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)

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In Lord of the Flies, a group of British schoolboys are left stranded on an uninhabited island with no adults after a plane crash. While they initially attempt to govern themselves with order and structure, the organization of their “society” gradually breaks down, eventually leading to the boys resorting to savagery and anarchy. This novel is a fascinating look at social order, and how quickly it disintegrates when a few key elements are taken out of place.

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