Books I Had to Read in High School, Ranked

Inspired by @bisexual // I took American Lit, World Lit, and Humanities (essentially Euro Lit), if you were wondering how all of these ended up in four years of learning. Turns out I liked high school English?
  1. 29.
    The Republic (Plato) [excerpts]
    Nothing makes me more upset than reading pure philosophical text. I think I skimmed the few chapters we were supposed to read and called it quits. The Allegory of the Cave is aight, but I missed class the day we discussed that one. And the picture vs. object is kind of interesting I guess but hell to read.
  2. 28.
    Antigone (Sophocles)
    This was a one week long unit, and I missed three days so the teacher let me skip the test. The one day I listened to reading in class I was so bored and confused... Plus I don't love Oedipus Rex that much anyway (see below).
  3. 27.
    The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury)
    I hate science fiction and space travel; reading thirty short stories about it was the worst, but I was a freshman and still cared about reading so I forced all of this dreck into my brain. Ugh.
  4. 26.
    Short stories by Edgar Allen Poe
    Selections include: The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell Tale Heart, Lenore, and The Raven. I get that Poe is important but this is so not my cup of tea. I hated the two weeks we spent on this guy.
  5. 25.
    The Aeneid (Virgil) [excerpts]
    We read four of the twelve chapters and I just don't remember anything except learning what a funeral pyre is. #RIP Dido, Carthage won't be the same without you!
  6. 24.
    The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer) [excerpts]
    Selections include: The Knight's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Merchant's Tale, and The Pardoner's Tale... Probably a few more but I just don't remember. Reading these was not terribly fun, and the fact that I can't even remember what I read speaks to how much of an impression this book had on me.
  7. 23.
    The Iliad (Homer)
    I read about a third of this and then just pretended for the rest of the unit. I couldn't remember anyone's names, and i just couldn't be bothered to care about soldiers in a war that shouldn't have happened anyway over a girl that I bet wasn't even that cute.
  8. 22.
    The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Dante)
    I read like five of the 33 books -- each student was assigned one sin to explain to the class and I got gluttony (one of the first ones discussed in the book) so I gave everyone in the class tootsie rolls and then coasted through the rest of the unit. It wasn't terrible, though?
  9. 21.
    The Frogs (Aristophanes)
    I feel indifferent toward this. The only thing I truly remember was the frog chorus chanting, "Brekekekekex Koax Koax," over and over. And something about Euripides vs. Aeschylus or something?
  10. 20.
    Oedipus Rex (Sophocles)
    We get it, you killed your dad and fucked your mom and then gouged your eyes out with a fucking broach all because you didn't listen to an old blind man. That's ageist, ableist, and ... pretty damn douchey. But I love seeing douchey bros get what's coming to them, so...
  11. 19.
    Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare)
    This is honestly a fun read, it's just literally the worst love story ever written. If it was exactly the same but without the irrational and very young Romeo and Juliet (SHE WAS 13, YOU MONSTERS), I'd argue in support of it!
  12. 18.
    The Woman Warrior (Kingston)
    I did not like reading this at the time (probably because I had to write a paper on this one), but it has aged really well for me. The fusion of genre (nonfiction, memoir, folktale) is so interesting and innovative, and It really allows you to see a picture of what formed Kingston's childhood and how she became who she is.
  13. 17.
    The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)
    I have very mixed feelings on this one. The epic migration that the Joads take is so interesting. But I hate the alternating chapters with such a passion (which is kind of weird to me, because I am a sucker for shifting perspectives in literature), but here I think it does the story an injustice. Maybe I was just too stupid to understand them? All I know is that dumb turtle metaphor at the beginning is the only one I care for.
  14. 16.
    The Importance of Being Earnest (Wilde)
    I remember finding this one really funny and easy to read, but the actual plot didn't stick with me over the past five years. Something about two guys disguised as the same fake person in love with two different girls? Maybe I'll give it another chance. Or maybe I'll just watch the movie, let's be real.
  15. 15.
    Beowulf (Unknown)
    I was expecting to hate this one (anything remotely Game of Thrones-y puts me off quick) but I actually LOVED it once I figured out the metaphor for Grendel (SPOILER ALERT: fratricide). Would recommend, wouldn't read again.
  16. 14.
    Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston)
    Another one I don't really remember well but remember liking a lot. I would like to read this again but I think sophomore year me was just excited to read about by a black woman about a black woman, something so rare in public school English classes. And weirdly, this book had the greatest in class debates (more than The Catcher In The Rye), so I definitely want to revisit that.
  17. 13.
    Three Cups of Tea (Mortenson)
    This would probably be a little higher if it didn't come out shortly after I read this one that a lot of the "factual" information in the book was found to be fabricated or twisted. Good read that makes you feel good, but it dragged in the middle due to being a constant switch between "build schools in Asia" and "fundraise to build schools in Asia."
  18. 12.
    The Tempest (Shakespeare)
    This is one of my more favorite Shakespeare plays. It's weird and fun and everyone has really cool names. It just makes me happy thinking about it.
  19. 11.
    Anthem (Rand)
    I hate Ayn Rand and almost everything she stands for, but I like this novella. It's short and cute and has a clear thesis and makes me feel like individualism is cool (still pro-collectivism like a god damn socialist, though, sorry...)!
  20. 10.
    The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)
    This is unpopularly high, I recognize that. However, while reading this book is kind of sucky (OK, it's very sucky), WOW what an awesome story about what it is to be a woman in society, religion, sex, sin, motherhood... Wow. So cool.
  21. 9.
    The Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri)
    How cool to read a collection of short stories about the immigrant experience at the turn of the millennium. REALLY eye opening, beautiful... I need to read more of her work. THIS WON A PULITZER, READ IT.
  22. 8.
    Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
    This was probably my first foray into real classic literature in an unabridged form, and it does not disappoint. It's so sad but so touching and powerful and beautiful.
  23. 7.
    The Catcher In The Rye (Salinger)
    I loved this at first read. LOVED it. But I was an angst little shit. I mean, I still am, but I have some perspective now. I am afraid to read this again, but I am told it becomes a new text when you read it as a non-teen, so I might do that.
  24. 6.
    Things Fall Apart (Achebe)
    Like TEWWG, I was just excited to read a book that didn't take place in America or Europe and discussed people I'd never heard from (or of, honestly). I read this one again in college for an anthropology class and was reminded how great this one is. You learn about culture while getting a fully fleshed narrative that ALSO attacks imperialism and the white man. I'm in (says the white man very seriously).
  25. 5.
    Candide (Voltaire)
    Unconsciously sparked my pessimistic and nihilist heart with, "We must cultivate our garden." This was funny and smart and biting and if I cared a little more about philosophy I would read this again for sure.
  26. 4.
    Madame Bovary (Flaubert)
    This is a hard book to read. But how fulfilling is it when you finish it???!!! Definitely some problems within it, but told so captivatingly and with a level of detail that is hard to top.
  27. 3.
    The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
    I liked this enough when I read it in high school, but I read it again before the movie came out a few years ago and realized how great it truly is. I get people that don't like this one, but this is so up my alley of "rich people problems in 20th century America."
  28. 2.
    To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee)
    Who doesn't love this book, seriously? I gotta read this again. (No intentions of reading Go Set a Watchman, though...)
  29. 1.
    The Kite Runner (Hosseini)
    This book is so great. I think about this often, and really would love to read this again now that I know a little more about the history of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and refugee migration. Hosseini is also the only author I have read from this list outside of school; if you haven't, read A Thousand Splendid Suns (still need to read And The Mountains Echoed)!