11 High School Books You Should Reread

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Kamil Porembinski via Flickr
You can't judge a book by its cover or by the first time you read it in school.
If we take a moment to be honest with ourselves, we'll admit that we didn't really read anything in high school. And if you're anything like us, you probably leaned a little more on SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to get through English class than you'd be proud to admit. Even the ones we did read all the way through, we really can't say that we retained much more than the barebones plot. Sorry, English teachers.

Thankfully, in our copious amount of free time since high school, we've returned to these classics and discovered there was a reason our teachers assigned them: These books are good. Duh. So learn from our mistakes and take a look at some of the books that you haven't touched since high school but should give a second chance.

See also:
10 Young-Adult Books to Read This Summer

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Scribner
11. The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

So you saw the movie. Whoop-dee-do. Don't be that person who thinks that's a substitute for reading the book. As with pretty much every other book-to-movie adaptation, the book is way better. It encapsulates what Americans obsessed over in the 1920s, and in many ways still do today: status, money, and love. Now that we're older and maybe have found ourselves too preoccupied with wealth or love, we can appreciate the cautionary tale of falling victim to these vices and the tragedy of a man, who appears to have everything, self-destructing over the one thing he'll never be able to own. So while the book may lack a catchy soundtrack and Leonardo DiCaprio, do yourself a favor and read it anyway. If nothing else, reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's simple, precise, and almost lyrical prose is worth it.


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Penguin Books
10. The Grapes of Wrath
By John Steinbeck

We'll be the first to admit it; The Grapes of Wrath is a tough read. It's long, at least for a high schooler's attention span. It's a sad story -- about the Great Depression, loss, poverty, embarrassment, death, etc. And John Steinbeck's ability to translate dialect to his written work is expertly accurate and frustrating. However, beyond those hurdles you'll find a beautiful, honest story of the American ideal of a family sticking together against all odds, keeping their dignity as best they can, and stubbornly pursuing a brighter future. After finishing this classic, you won't question why it won Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize and a spot on many English classes' syllabi.



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Ballantine Publishing Group
9. Fahrenheit 451
By Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag is a fireman in a world where, instead of fighting fires, he creates them to burn books. The masses are kept blissfully unaware of anything beyond their state-of-the-art television screens, and freedom of thought and inquiring minds are feared most. In the age of reality stars, smart phones, and all-day TV show marathons, it isn't hard to imagine Ray Bradbury's dystopian world coming true. And it's this reason that Fahrenheit 451, which was first published over 60 years ago, is still relevant and even more of an urgent reminder that life should not be lived through a television (or computer) screen.

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6 comments
james8394
james8394

I'd add Moby Dick. I know it's a mess as a novel but having read it as a class read and discuss in 8th grade it was the first time I was exposed to the concept that art can work on several levels at the same time. I'm grateful for that knowledge. 

Tiffany Herr
Tiffany Herr

I was into Ray Bradbury stuff back then. Thanks for the reminder!

valleynative
valleynative topcommenter

I've read 8 of them since high school, but only two during high school.

And I've now enjoyed the first couple of paragraphs of The Bean Trees.

Thanks for that.


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