The Books We Read at School

What were your recollections of English Lit? Was it having to read something incomprehensible in two weeks and then be able to quizzed on it, write essays about it and generally be tortured in ways that you hadn’t realised existed. How awful it all was and I was a reader! Imagine if you weren’t? Looking back at Hardy and Dickens brings me out in a cold sweat even now but there were gems that I am eternally grateful for.


Last year I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Quite rightly this always scores highly in any poll of best loved, best written, most important book of the decade, century millennium. Coming back to it was amazing, it is such a beautiful book but now that I’m an adult I understand themes that completely passed me by. My feet are still firmly in Scout’s shoes but now I understand Atticus’s fears. Which made me wonder about some of those other classics that I have never read as an adult, with all my years of experiences to add to the novel how would they read?


Being a parent made me look at Mockingbird differently but can you imagine how reading Lords of the Flies affected me, I’m looking at my own boys through very narrowed eyes! As a student I enjoyed 1984 and Animal Farm, as a voter and, as I get older, an observer of history I find them two of the most incredible call to arms.


And what about the books I have studiously avoided because they were on the alternative syllabus, in avoiding Wilkie Collins and DH Lawrence have I overlooked Steinbeck and Salinger.


What’s to be done with English Lit? Maybe it’s all for the better now but I wonder how many people there are out there who studiously avoid reading the “classics” because they remember the torture of Chaucer but forget the brilliance of Mockingbird. For what it’s worth I’m loving Steinbeck, Lawrence is pants and no one will ever make me read a Dickens ever again in my life.

2 thoughts on “The Books We Read at School

  1. I've been re-reading lots of poetry which really I haven't read since A levels. Just fab! Really enjoyed going back to the War Poets, and also a bit of Beowulf. BUT I will never read Milton again, ever, ever, ever.

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  2. I have just re-read Dracula and totally loved it. I had forgotten what an adventure story it is. I don't think I will ever love the Romantic poets though, just not my cup of tea.

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