Why Your High School Reading List May Be More Interesting Today

Becca Van Sambeck
Becca is a recent Fordham grad, a former German beer hall girl, and a new Brooklyn resident who used to read the dictionary for fun as a kid. She has only gotten slightly less lame since then. She loves pugs, chicken fingers, reading and Game of Thrones.

Even though there’s actually hundreds of millions of books in the world, we’ve all been in that position where we declare we have nothing to read (see also, all the times you stood in front of your packed closet and declared you had nothing to wear.) In dire times like these, one of the solutions for me has been to take a look back at the classic literature I was forced to read in high school.


My first dive into John Steinbeck was his infamous novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” and I will absolutely admit that I read about an eighth of that book. Once I got to a chapter that was literally just a long winded description of a turtle crossing the road, I was out. And of course, I understand it was symbolism! It was deep, it was beautiful, it was boring. No thanks, Steinbeck.

Yet I ended up loving his other book “East of Eden,” which is definitely a must read for anyone who hasn’t yet — that book has beautiful prose, a message about the importance of free will, and one of the craziest, most evil characters ever set to paper-Cathy Ames.

So in my twenties, I set out to read “Grapes of Wrath” again, and realized-okay, I didn’t love it, but I could appreciate it for what it was.

This got me thinking. There’s plenty of books you may have been asked to read in high school but didn’t actually read, or didn’t like, or read and loved and don’t remember, that are really worth revisiting. These books are hardly boring.

If you’re a Gossip Girl fan, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is basically a 1920s version of the series, with Nick Caraway as a sort of Dan Humphrey entering this world of glitz and drama and bad people. Anna Karenina has secret love, custody battles, descents into insanity, and an infamous train scene. What’s not to love.


People were fairly disappointed by Harper Lee’s follow-up “Go Set A Watchman.” So with all the buzz surrounding that novel and recent racial tensions, there’s not a better time to pick up “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It’s an American classic that will have you wondering about Scout and the American justice system.

Another book that feels very timely considering world events would be “1984” by George Orwell. Also, kids killing kids was done way before “The Hunger Games” series in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.”


Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” will give you a way better romance than the Katherine Heigl rom-com you were going to watch while flipping the channels. The movie with Keira Knightley will even give you the chills — a movie adaptation that actually lives up to the book (as best as it can).

Remember how much you loved J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”? Reread it and don’t be surprised if you don’t identify with Holden anymore.

So next time you’re convinced you don’t have a book to read, think back to that high school reading list-of the gems you want to rediscover and the ones you didn’t even consider. They’re worth taking a look back on.