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What's Your Favorite Book That You Didn't Read in School?


O Latin

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I've noticed that whenever "what's your favorite book?" or "what book has impacted you the most?" topics come up (here and elsewhere), people often mention books they read in school. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I just find it odd because although I am a voracious reader, I pretty much loathed everything I ever had to read in school. So I thought I'd ask what's everyone's favorite book/book that impacted them the most that they did NOT read in school.

 

Exceptions:

1. You read the book in school but read it another time (either before or after) on your own.

2. You read the book as part of a school assignment but the specific book wasn't required (i.e. you had to read a book about World War II, but could pick any book you wanted within that category).

 

My answer is most definitely "Name of the Wind" and "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss. I have never been the type to have one single favorite book, but those two win hands down. The day the third book in the trilogy finally comes out will be better than having a new Harry Potter was.

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English majors probably can't play. So I won't.

Having taught high school English for 16 years, I am pleased when people say something they read in school impacted them. At my second school, one colleague and I worked together to restructure the entire literature curriculum. We worked hard to pick out a wide variety of novels and plays in different genres and styles so that no student would "loathe" everything they read.

I'm sorry that the people in charge of your education did not take the same care.

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I loved a lot of the books I read in school. I like to read and discuss books.

My favorite book I did not read in school- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. It was unlike anything else I had read up until that point.

But I think I was lucky in that I really liked a lot of the books that I was "forced" to read- Brave New World, 1984, The Crucible, Slaughterhouse-Five, Handmaid's Tale, Housekeeping- just to name a few. The books that stand out as ones that I "hated" were Return of the Native and The Great Gatsby (the teacher killed that one, she was OBSESSED with the novel and analyzed it to death).

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I loved a lot of the books I read in school. I like to read and discuss books.

My favorite book I did not read in school- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. It was unlike anything else I had read up until that point.

But I think I was lucky in that I really liked a lot of the books that I was "forced" to read- Brave New World, 1984, The Crucible, Slaughterhouse-Five, Handmaid's Tale, Housekeeping- just to name a few. The books that stand out as ones that I "hated" were Return of the Native and The Great Gatsby (the teacher killed that one, she was OBSESSED with the novel and analyzed it to death).

Trade Secret: We are more likely to analyze the ones we don't like to death. We have nothing else to offer with those. I was accused of being obsessed with Great Expectations and analyzing it to death. Truth is I completely hated that book and could not find a way to engage them in how charming it was. And they hated it, too. As a young teacher, I didn't realize that just saying, "hey, this is not my type of book, but here is why we are reading it" was a better approach. So I pretended to like it and we analyzed it to death.

Also, in the modern world of "curriculum standards" we must document that we taught standard 12.2.16 letter B which is the use of symbolism in an allegory or some such thing. So what students see as "analyzing to death" is teachers meeting some random curriculum standard so they can write down that they covered that in Chapter 14, paragraph 4, sentence 3 of whichever novel. Unfortunately, I'm not really making that up at all. Only the numbers are made up.

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I've been thinking about this and I think there are a few reasons I didn't like most things I read in school.

1. I just don't like the writing style of anything written before about 50 years ago. I've tried to read numerous "classics" on my own and I've never found one where the old-fashioned writing style didn't kill the enjoyment of the book for me. I've been trying to read Tolkien lately and I can sort of tolerate him, but it still is too stiff and stilted for my tastes.

2. For some reason (I don't know if the school system pushed this or if it was the teachers themselves) all of my English teachers preferred NOT to have us read the actual book, but to read a play based on the book. We never actually read "The Diary of Anne Frank," for example, we read the play based on it. I think they liked this because it allowed them to divvy up the parts amongst their students and then read aloud, which forced everyone to pay attention. I understand this motivation, but it's harder to be impacted by something that's being read in a monotone by your screwball eighth grade classmates.

3. I hated the forced interpretation "this is what this book means and there is no other possible interpretation." I remember reading "Animal Farm" (which was one of the few books I read in school that I didn't totally hate) and having it pounded into our heads that it was an allegory of the Russian Revolution. We had a worksheet where we had to fill out which character represented which Russian Rev figure. Years later, in college, I took a class on the French Revolution and I was like, "this totally sounds like Animal Farm!" I wish there had been more freedom to offer up our own interpretations.

4. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don't like how "classics" are often held up on a pedestal or considered more intellectual, while modern literature is frivolous and silly. If some people like them, great. Obviously they wouldn't still be around if nobody liked them. But I hate the idea that there's some sort of canon of books by dead old guys that everyone needs to have read in order to be an educated citizen.

5. Finally, I never read a lot of the books that people mention enjoying when they read in school (1984, Brave New World, The Great Gatsby), so maybe I just missed out on all the good ones. (For the record, the books I hated most were The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, A Tale of Two Cities, and Fahrenheit 451. I did enjoy Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird.)

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Trade Secret: We are more likely to analyze the ones we don't like to death. We have nothing else to offer with those. I was accused of being obsessed with Great Expectations and analyzing it to death. Truth is I completely hated that book and could not find a way to engage them in how charming it was. And they hated it, too. As a young teacher, I didn't realize that just saying, "hey, this is not my type of book, but here is why we are reading it" was a better approach. So I pretended to like it and we analyzed it to death.

Also, in the modern world of "curriculum standards" we must document that we taught standard 12.2.16 letter B which is the use of symbolism in an allegory or some such thing. So what students see as "analyzing to death" is teachers meeting some random curriculum standard so they can write down that they covered that in Chapter 14, paragraph 4, sentence 3 of whichever novel. Unfortunately, I'm not really making that up at all. Only the numbers are made up.

Sadly, I have been out of high school for almost 20 years, so I suspect the "curriculum standards" were different.

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War and Peace. I did study it during my degree, but read it before and have read it about half a dozen times in total. It's just a fantastic, incredible epic. Tolstoy is really the greatest.

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I have 4 books that I read over and over. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my favorite of all time.

I love older YA books. My 2 best friends are New WOrlds for Josie and Callie's Corner.

Finally, Having it All by Helen Gurley Brown. What can I say....I was a young teen when it came out and I thought she was pretty awesome.

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Fantasy nerd here. I was just going to name Rothfuss's books, but you beat me to them, O Latin. Damn you! :lol:

I guess I'll just have to suggest Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series, another great fantasy series. Although for non-fantasy, I love love LOVE Chekhov shorts. They are just so beautiful.

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I've been thinking about this and I think there are a few reasons I didn't like most things I read in school.

1. I just don't like the writing style of anything written before about 50 years ago. I've tried to read numerous "classics" on my own and I've never found one where the old-fashioned writing style didn't kill the enjoyment of the book for me. I've been trying to read Tolkien lately and I can sort of tolerate him, but it still is too stiff and stilted for my tastes.

2. For some reason (I don't know if the school system pushed this or if it was the teachers themselves) all of my English teachers preferred NOT to have us read the actual book, but to read a play based on the book. We never actually read "The Diary of Anne Frank," for example, we read the play based on it. I think they liked this because it allowed them to divvy up the parts amongst their students and then read aloud, which forced everyone to pay attention. I understand this motivation, but it's harder to be impacted by something that's being read in a monotone by your screwball eighth grade classmates.

3. I hated the forced interpretation "this is what this book means and there is no other possible interpretation." I remember reading "Animal Farm" (which was one of the few books I read in school that I didn't totally hate) and having it pounded into our heads that it was an allegory of the Russian Revolution. We had a worksheet where we had to fill out which character represented which Russian Rev figure. Years later, in college, I took a class on the French Revolution and I was like, "this totally sounds like Animal Farm!" I wish there had been more freedom to offer up our own interpretations.

4. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don't like how "classics" are often held up on a pedestal or considered more intellectual, while modern literature is frivolous and silly. If some people like them, great. Obviously they wouldn't still be around if nobody liked them. But I hate the idea that there's some sort of canon of books by dead old guys that everyone needs to have read in order to be an educated citizen.

5. Finally, I never read a lot of the books that people mention enjoying when they read in school (1984, Brave New World, The Great Gatsby), so maybe I just missed out on all the good ones. (For the record, the books I hated most were The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, The Crucible, A Tale of Two Cities, and Fahrenheit 451. I did enjoy Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird.)

I think you had bad teachers. Instead of painting the literature and English classes in general as bad and narrow, perhaps just acknowledge that you had bad teachers who chose a bad curriculum and taught it badly.

I started teaching over 20 years ago and never did any of the things on your list. We also had a varied curriculum including many genres and a range of time periods.

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They weren't all bad, though. Some of them were. Some of them were spectacularly awful teachers who really should have found a new career. Some were mediocre. And some were absolutely fantastic teachers who impacted my life in so many positive ways. Sometimes they would even admit that they didn't like what they had to teach and how they had to teach it, but the state/school board/No Child Left Behind said they had to. I did have a couple of wonderful English classes that I really enjoyed later in high school and in college, so I don't think all English classes/teachers are universally bad.

I also didn't mean to categorize the entire body of "literature that is commonly read in school" as bad. It's not bad, it's just mostly not my thing. I don't like YA or romance novels either, but that doesn't mean I think they're universally horrible. And I do try to give classic literature another chance every now and then because tastes change. Right now I'm on a sci-fi kick, and 1984 and Brave New World are on my list to read.

Not really relevant but funny story about The Crucible, though. Even though that was ALREADY in the seemingly preferred form of a play, we didn't get to read the whole thing. We read one or two acts and then watched the movie. A couple of years later, I got to see the play and I really enjoyed it. I never understood why we couldn't have just read the whole thing (it wasn't that long and this was AP English, we could have handled it).

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I read Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility when I was out of school as well as David Copperfield. I loved them all and enjoyed Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin novels, too. You'd better like to read about seafaring and the Navy, though, if you venture into Patrick O'Brien territory. fortunately, I do.

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When I was in high school, I had a very stern, school marm-like English teacher who didn't seem to have a kind bone in her body. For an assignment where we could choose from a variety of authors, she told me that she thought I would really like Willa Cather, and I read Lucy Gayheart. It had a profound impact on me as a 15-year-old young woman, and I've always marveled at how well she actually knew me and my tastes, after all.

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The Venables by Kathleen Thomson Norris. I'm very fond of this book, as it was the first "grown-up-type" book I picked out myself at a used bookstore. I've read it many times and still have it, tattered and falling apart, even though I have done major book purges through the years. While at that store, my dad picked out A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court for me, and I never did read that. Glanced at the first couple pages and then closed it up and wondered why on Earth he liked it! I figured it was a boy thing and guiltily purged it years later.

I also loved Ayn Rand's Anthem. I read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead multiple times, but felt as if Anthem summed them up nicely in a much shorter version. ;)

Not my favorite, but the most eye-opening...I was very surprised I liked The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. That might have been on a summer reading list for school though...we had a very wide selection to choose from, including plenty of modern books.

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I read "A Little Princess" when I was 6. It was a beautiful hard-cover book I received as a gift.

When I got older, I read "Nicholas and Alexandra" and It made me a Russia junkie.

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