My Top 7 School-Assigned Books {}

To be completely honest, I never much liked being told what to read.  For someone who loves literature class, I was always very critical of any book assigned by my teachers or professors.  It's what made me such a natural book reviewer, I guess.  I always have a dialogue going on in my head while I'm reading.

Even though I can be harsh on the books I'm assigned, there have been a few that really got under my skin.  Books that I actually enjoyed reading that didn't feel like work.

Here are my top 5.

#7. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

I actually read this book as an adult for my Adolescent Lit class (I was a Middle School Ed major).  If this book isn't offered to middle schoolers, it should be.  It had me so hooked.  The story revolves around a young Mexican immigrant during the Great Depression.  The writing is phenomenal and the story was beautiful.  If you have a 12-15 year old daughter, put this book in her hand.

#6. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee

This one was for my Post-Colonial Lit class, which is still one of my favorite Lit classes ever.  Who knew there was such mind-blowing lit on this topic?  And South African native, Coetzee, tops the list.  This book, while totally bizarre and unpredictable, haunted me.  I still think about it to this day.  I've been meaning to read more Coetzee, and I have a couple on my shelf waiting for my stubborn ass to pick them up.

#5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Ethics in Literature class here.  This was an easy book to love.  The topic revolves around colonialism, religion, motherhood, childhood, coming-of-age, death, and just so much more.  This book prompted me to write a very passionate, angry essay about assimilation and just, yeah.  I love seeing this book on the shelves at the book store.  This is one I'm glad the teachers made me read.

#4. Maus by Art Spiegelman

Wow.  I read Maus, a graphic novel about the holocaust where the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Nazis as cats, in one night and at about two o'clock in the morning, tears running down my face, I just sat and wondered what just happened to me.  If you haven't come across this graphic novel yet, it's written by the son of two Holocaust survivors.  It's raw, haunting and so, so, so powerful.  So, so so powerful.

#3. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

Here's a book I probably wouldn't have ever picked up without someone holding a grade over my head for it.  But I'm so glad I did.  What a great book for my young impressionable mind.  I remember being a little surprised by how easy this book was to read.  It's worth picking up if you see it.

#2. The Handmaid's Tale

Women's lit class for this surprise there, right?  I had people in my class who were straight up angry with this book.  A couple people protested reading it and one girl was brought to tears during our discussion.  I think if I had picked this book up for enjoyment, I would not have been happy with it, but because I read it for a greater purpose, I read it through a different lens.  It's supposed to make you sick with hatred, but you're also supposed to learn and grow from that, and I'm grateful for that opportunity.

#1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I had tried to read this book so many times before.  I always wanted to love it, but I struggled with it a lot.  Finally, in Women's Lit again, I broke the barrier and began to love this book.  I have a distinct memory of ditching another class and holing myself up in the library to read this book.  It finally gave me the confidence to read more classics.  Later that year, I finally read all of Pride and Prejudice from cover to cover just for fun.  

I still liked Jane Eyre more.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite books assigned in school?  Share anything on the topic and link up below!

Link up

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Next week's topic: Books that tackle tough topics & controversial issues


  1. Hi! Can you link my blog? Also, I just linked to the homepage until I write the post and then I'll switch it to the permalink. Thanks! (You can delete this comment; just a heads up!)

    Allie //

  2. I have not heard of some of these, but am adding them to my to-read list. I have read The Handmaid's Tale and The Poisonwood Bible. I think I may have liked them both more if I was able to have class discussions about them.

  3. I read The Poisonwood Bible while I was studying abroad in Uganda. What an amazing context to read it in. I agree that it was a very informative story and really causes the reader to examine what colonialism has done to our world, but to be honest, I was so glad to be done with it because it was so damn depressing.

  4. As an English teacher, it's always very interesting to read people's opinion on assigned reading. It's an interesting topic to read for me.

  5. Now I'm interested in reading The Poisonwood Bible.

    I've never heard of Maus. I think I'd like to read that too.

    Maybe I'll read both books AFTER my hormones calm down lol.

  6. Wow, you got to read some interesting books! Maybe if I had included college required reading in my post, I would have had some better picks, but even then I read a lot of history books and never had to take an English class, so it probably wouldn't have mattered haha. I started The Poisonwood Bible last year and never finished it; I'll definitely have to pick it up again. Maybe I was just in a weird funk that month I tried to read it or something, because most people I know and respect as readers loved it! I actually did read Esperanza Rising when I was pretty young, but I don't know if that was by choice or through the school. I also read The Handmaid's Tale for pleasure around Christmastime last year, and I thought it was fantastic. And I also mentioned Jane Eyre in my post, but as a book I wished I had been required to read! Haha. I'm not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice (or any Jane Austen, really—the storylines all seem so similar); I agree Jane Eyre is definitely better.

    Sorry for the novel of a comment! Thanks again for letting me co-host this week. :)

  7. I have not read any of these but I've been meaning to read The Poisonwood Bible just because I've heard a lot about it. And now I'm curious about Maus and The Handmaid's Tale.

  8. I agree with you about not liking to be told what to read. It seems the higher my education went the lower my tolerance for what we were required to read.

    I've always wanted to read more of the classics but having to read certain ones in school and the whole discussion on them has soured me. Maybe when my kids are required to I'll join them :)

  9. Wow, I've never read any of those books! The majority are on my TBR list, however - especially Jane Eyre, which I already have a copy of on my nightstand just waiting for me.

    I'm actually grateful to have been given assigned reading, because it introduced me to books I'm certain I would have never read otherwise. I know there are some instances in which I rebelled and refused to either finish or start certain assigned books, but for the most part I enjoyed what I read.

    I think it may even be because of those assigned books that I've been reading more classics than before - such as reading The Great Gatsby, The Catcher In The Rye, and Oliver Twist in my free time due to being introduced to similar books or authors in high school.

  10. I was never assigned any of these but now have some new ideas!

  11. MAUS WAS SO GOOD. That was an assigned reading of mine in University (like, two years ago) so I barely count it, considering I took the class BECAUSE of the great assigned readings, haha. Love your list!


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