Every Wednesday, people from all over the bookish world gather ’round to share their top 5 lists concerning whatever theme that week. All under the watchful eye of the Mother of all Top5’s, Lainey.
This week’s top five consists of our favourite books we had to read for school. Being from Belgium, my experience with this is probably a whole lot different from all of you, so for those who are interested, I will share the required reading at my high school below. But first and foremost, my five!
5. Anne Provoost, Fallen
I read this in my fourth year – out of the six, so I was around fifteen, sixteen back then – and to date, it is one of my favourite YA novels. Back then, I had already found my way into the fantasy genre, so this was really out of my comfort zone but I liked it a lot. This was a book that the whole class had to read, I believe, and we had to do a creative writing assignment along with it. I did an Inception-like dream-within-a-dream sequence, which the teacher really appreciated.
4. Stephen King, Firestarter
In senior year, our English teacher was really laid back and she had us read whatever we wanted as long as it was in English. My collection of – English – books didn’t start to grow (read: explode) until the year after, so I took a trip to the library where Firestarter was on display. I had already heard a great deal about Stephen King, but never read him, so I decided to remedy that. Watched the film as well, afterwards, but both were a lukewarm affair, despite all the flames..
3. George Orwell, Animal Farm
Our teacher in junior year, however, who taught Dutch as well as English, was a different affair. A very nice lady, but she really liked her classics and was way more strict in what we had to read. As such, she requested we read Orwell, Shakespeare, .. and we had some lengthy debates on all of them.
Animal Farm was, alongside 1984 the best we had to read that year. As a book, Animal Farm was a very good novel, but it is the debate we had afterwards that did it for me. As a 17-year old in 2005-2006 with the interests I had, a lot of the background was lost on me. Thank god for teachers who know their stuff!
2. George Orwell, 1984
Same goes for 1984. The debate in class really enhanced my experience of this and on top of it all, I found this to be a really disturbing novel and it made me think. Now, ten years after reading it, it’s freaky how much closer society has gotten to the one from the book..
1. Kelley Armstrong, Bitten
For my favourite required reading, we go back to senior year and the laid-back teacher. One of the assignments that year was that we had to form groups of four pupils and give our own lesson. One lesson had to be about an English-speaking country, but the other lesson was completely free. While my group did not consist of the most brightest bulbs in terms of originality, I took creative control and decided to center the lesson around by Kelley Armstrong. I was hooked on that series back then – which reminds me that I still have to finish it – and so I kindly forced three others to read the first couple of chapters and give a lesson on werewolves and Fantasy in general, including a self-made “Creatures that go bump in the night crossword”. Best thing ever, if you don’t mind me saying so.
As I said in my introduction, my experience with required reading is perhaps a bit different. Compared to others, the amount of reading we had to do across our six years of high school was pretty limited. For Dutch, my mother language, we had to read a couple of books a year, especially in the first three years, but all we had to do was write a report on it, so the choice of books was more often than not free. Some teachers had a reading list, but while we were limited to the books on there, we only had to read one for the assignment. for the next one, there would either be another list of no list at all. In the latter three years, we studied literature in all its forms (fairytales, myths, novels, plays) and had to read pieces, but never the complete work. These courses were pretty theoretical and dealt with the different aspects of a fairytale, play.. So it was more advised to read pieces of a lot of different writings to get a better understanding, rather than read one whole work. There have been some books that were assigned to the whole class, but never more than two to three a year. Same goes for the foreign languages. As for English, we always had to read the whole book but here as well we had free choice – aside from junior year, as I said in my top 5. I don’t remember ever having free choice for French, but here the books we had to read were shorter works of fiction who barely scraped 100pages. Those were the typical books written for students learning a foreign language.
As I said, I always felt like I had way less books to read during high school compared to others and there were no typical high school-books. How about you? What is your experience with required reading?
Click here for a complete list of all the participants in T5W.