1. Gonissa
    Offline

    Gonissa Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Ghost Tower

    Recommended school books

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Gonissa, May 14, 2012.

    So, I've noticed that many people here are rather less than enthralled with the normal school reading books. So what do you recommend in their place? If you don't mind, explain why it's good for school, not just that it's a good book in general.

    Here's mine.

    - Replace The Great Gatsby with One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitzen

    The thing about One Day that makes it superior to a surprisingly large number of school reading books is that Ivan's life is about forty bajillion times worse than most of the protagonists we read about in school, and yet his book is far happier in tone. The reason why it would work in a school setting is because it's based off of real life, and teaches us about history. It does this without making kids depressed with life, and shows them how people survive in the thoroughly despairing environ of the Soviet gulag. Also, the book is fairly short and very interesting, making it more likely to actually be read by the students.

    One of the things Solzhentizen mentions in his other book, The Gulag Archipelago, that people who go through crap are more likely to be happier with free life than those who haven't suffered as much. This is good for teens to learn, and makes them take the crappy times with a lighter heart. It also makes you realize that the people who wrote all those depressing school reading books probably haven't been through that much.
     
  2. Keildra
    Offline

    Keildra New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't know, I didn't really read many of the books that I should have. I didn't mind The Great Gatsby, although I did not see its significance or what changes it brought to literature, the only major thing I remember about it was that I hated it until the 11th chapter and I had to do a project about the roaring '20's.
    I liked most of the books I did read the only one I hated was The Bridge to San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder, I don't know what I would replace it with though.
     
  3. Afion
    Offline

    Afion Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2012
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    I don't think there should be a paticular book that kids are forced to read. Just send them off to the library to find a book they enjoy :)
     
  4. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    But then, if no one ever read anything but what they wanted to, how would they grow?
     
  5. Kaymindless
    Offline

    Kaymindless Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2012
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Beaumont, Texas, United States
    I was in AP English so we did a bit more reading and in-depth understanding than regular English classes, but there was always a reason behind why we were reading them.

    Given the choice in high school, my only reading would have been some love stories by an author I cannot even remember now. They followed the basic plot, two teenagers fall in love, one gets sick and is dying and then they get closer till one passes away. Choice, while awesome, does not get the students/kids to critically think about what they're reading.
     
  6. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    I think there is value in the classics -- Shakespeare, Austen, Bronte, Woolf, Dickens, Joyce, Beckett etc. etc. -- many of them quite enjoyable. However, they often baffle typical high school students because they seem "out of touch." That's why I think these remakes of "Pride and Prejudice with Zombies" are ingenious. It gets kids reading classics, but getting them to sound interesting.

    I was also in Advanced English Lit courses -- we read Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was awesome.
     
  7. Allan Paas
    Offline

    Allan Paas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Estonia
    I remember school and not reading those "great" books. I did check them out, they sucked so bad, as in everything about them was EXTREMELY boring (can't put enough emphasis on that). Didn't read any of them, only short reviews to pass the tests. Oh, wait, there was one I kinda did like, The Picture Of Dorian Grey it was, I think.
    Maybe they were great but times have moved on, they are outdated (maybe not all but definitely most). Time to replace past with present, more or less.
    What to replace them with? In my mind the whole system is outdated and could be much more efficient. First that, then the details.
    Students should not be forced to read old books that are boring, that only discourages. First find what they like (if they like those old boring books then good for them) and then recommend, not force.
     
  8. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    Maybe it's because I'm a literature student, but I think if you cannot see value in the classics you are not giving them their fair chance. I will not say that I'm a huge Dickens fan, I find him slightly boring, but for his time he was a great story tell, but he got paid by the word. The longer the book, the more money he made. So books like Dombey & Sons, which is like 1000+ pages and you literally see a character grow from childhood and die (I think? I never quite finished.)

    I'm not a HUGE Shakespeare fan, but I see his value. There's a difference between enjoying and seeing value. I also think it is important to read these texts so you can see where we came from. Shakespeare created most idioms that we use in contemporary English.
     
  9. Skodt
    Offline

    Skodt Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    2
    I myself am a fan of the old lit. Such as Dickens a tale of two cities, Hemmingway A farewell to arms. Stories like Farienheit 911 are very interesting, so are stories like Orwells 1984, animal farm, and the great gatsby. I never did like them in high school I won't lie and say I did, but then again I didn't do much of anything in high school that I didn't have to.
     
  10. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    Literary genius! But I'm a huge fan of Hemmingway.
     
  11. Kaymindless
    Offline

    Kaymindless Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2012
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Beaumont, Texas, United States
    So... allow the girls to read sweat valley high series and boys quick action packed books? (This is a complete generalization of course.) I'm sorry, I just cannot find the benefit in this. Yes, allow them to read stuff that interests them, don't prohibit it but there are reasons behind them that can be found without drawing concerns from parents. How is a teacher going to have a lesson plan if each student is reading something completely different?

    I only wish we read more of him in school. One of the few I truly enjoyed reading. I can also say I still hate Animal Farm with a passion. I just don't like talking animals.
     
  12. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Is that a spinoff of Welcome Back Kotter?

    Sorry, couldn't resist after I stopped chuckling.
     
  13. Kaymindless
    Offline

    Kaymindless Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2012
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Beaumont, Texas, United States

    Oh my goodness. Oh how I wish I could spot my typos to save myself the embarrassment.
     
  14. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    The problem with this thought process is that The Great Gatsby is studied during American Literature. Alexandr Solzhenitzen does not sound like an American name to me (but you are free to tell me otherwise).

    The object of the books chosen is to highlight American authors that year. The following year is a focus on English literature in our school districts. Again, books must be chosen to highlight those regions.
     
  15. NeedMoreRage
    Offline

    NeedMoreRage Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2012
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    1
    I liked what we read in High School... well, the later years, anyway. My only complaint is that we only read classics. Schools should try to support modern writers, too. There are plenty of good books being written today, why not show some love for those?

    But I have a serious hatred for formal education. I've always taught myself, and having to prove that I know what I know to some faceless group in another city never really got me excited to crack open a book. If schools want to appeal to kids to read, they should show them why reading is relevant. Along with every other medium out there; because all of them are relevant in their own ways. We need more coverage of just media in general, not just reading and writing. I think just the fact that English classes come off as condescending and elitist is one of the reasons so many kids refuse to read.
    But that's just me doubting a system that has been in place for over a century.
     
  16. GaleSkies
    Offline

    GaleSkies Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Now and then, here and there
    I think the hardest part about high school education is simply the reading level. In the U.S. it's really low. Really, really low. (at least among the different high schools I've seen) My little brother had to read The Hobbit with me as his personal dictionary every 2 minutes. In that light I guess it's a good thing he burned straight through the Harry Potters. I felt my school did a good job mixing classics with modern authors. I got to read Sophie's World 1990 by Gaarder, and Olivia Butler, Cormic McCarthy and The Things They Carried 1990 by Tim O'Brien.

    I'm sure there are more modern authors, but I can say I felt no great love for Steinbeck, and we read 4 of his books in high school.
     
  17. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    Which four?
     
  18. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    You didn't enjoy The Grapes of Wrath? I found that book amazing! But I love Steinbeck so......
     
  19. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    P.S. Sophie's World is great! I read that in high school also, but as part of a philosophy club I joined (yeah, I was a bit of a loser in high school LOL)
     
  20. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    We read modern authors in Highschool. Some of the classics, actually my favorite line of all books is the opening sentence to Kafka's "Metamorphosis". "Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of disturbing dreams to find he had been changed into a monstrous vermin". Seriously. Cracks me up. Bad dreams = You're a giant cockroach.


    I'm drawing a blank at the more modern author's we read. All I'm coming up with is "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and now I can recall if that is a modern author or not.
     
  21. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    You read Kafka in high school? Lucky. My high school only had one book by a non-American writer and that was All Quiet on the Western Front.
     
  22. GaleSkies
    Offline

    GaleSkies Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Now and then, here and there
    Grapes, Mice, Cannery, Eden.
    Grapes of Wrath came close to being enjoyable when I was in high school. But, I ended up being a Shakespeare nerd and would toss Steinbeck to the side to reach for another play.

    Edit: OH yeah, and our class took a field trip to the steinbeck museum. (There's a hint to why I say reading level is low in the U.S.)
     
  23. Gonissa
    Offline

    Gonissa Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2012
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Ghost Tower
    Ah, well I meant just books read in high school (or college if you want) that you didn't like. And yeah, Solzhenitzen is Russian. There's just so much you can learn about history from his book without it being in your face....honestly, if kids had to read him in school they would read more.

    As far as American books go...hm. I like my country, but off the top of my head I can't think of anything that's really properly educational or somesuch, other than Mark Twain. Much of it feels like sensationalism, without any real depth of narrative or character. Don't get me started on Great Gatsby. That would just get ugly.

    But really, nobody has any suggestions for what to read instead?
     
  24. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    Well, I'm not that great with specific grade school reading levels... but beyond a certain age I recommend such classic authors as Austen, Shakespeare, Turgenev, or, yes, Steinbeck. (Fine, the last three are frequently tragic - I for one have no problem with that.) I think it's important that kids learn to enjoy really good books and also that they read books that actually engage them. (I mean, otherwise, why read at all?) And everyone will say that the book that engaged them most was the one they most liked, and we'll all get to disagree on that... which actually looks slightly pointless to me. One might just as well ask the whole of WF "What are your favorite books?" and that would be more fruitful, because the question is there not "what should people read" but "what do you think are the best books" which leaves far less room for things to... just get ugly.

    If it were possible, I would recommend that everyone read every book ever written and form his (or her) opinions from all of humanity's efforts. But, sadly, that is not possible, unless you're like Data or Jane, which I have to slightly wish I was.
     
  25. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    My senior year about halfway through the year (after the teacher had gotten to know us) we were each assigned a book personally picked by the teacher that he felt we would enjoy. I ended up reading Madame Bovary. I'm not sure why he thought I would like it...but I did. LOL

    We were an AP English course, which meant, although we had to get through all of the English literature within the regular curriculum (12th was a focus on English lit) we also had much more to read, hence Kafka and Oedipus Rex and The Glass Menagerie (actually we read 3 Greek tragedies, if I remember properly).

    As for an American author I think does provide education...Arthur Miller. I can not say enough about how much I learned about our society during t he Marxist communist hunts when reading "The Crucible" (just don't go see the Opera. It is horrible, especially if the diction sucks on the singers).
     

Share This Page