Friday, February 19, 2021

Discussion: Required Reading


This Week’s Topic:
Required Reading

A few weeks back, the Top Ten Tuesday topic was books older than me. Well, we all know I am a new-release-ho, so the bulk of my list were books I read as a kid, mostly required reading. One of my international blogging buddies commented that she had not read any of the books on my list. I stopped for a second, and when I thought about it, it sort of made sense. These were books commonly found in US curriculums. I went to school in the US, she did not. 

My background: My first two years of high school were jammed with the usual suspects. A mix of American and English authors - Golding, Shakespeare, Twain, Orwell, etc. Come my third year, we were able to pick electives for our english classes. I took American Lit, where all we read were American authors. 

Needless to say, that one comment had me wondering - is required reading a thing in other countries? If so, what books do they read. This prompted me to google my heart out. I found articles (really liked this one) and many threads, where people shared their required reading lists, or at least, what books they had read in high school. 

I was unsurprisingly most familiar with what students in Europe read. They were authors who dominate "the classics" that most of us know about - Homer, Voltaire, Faust, Dickens, Austen, Goethe, Kafka, Huxley, Camus. In Russia, they read all the Russian classics - Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Turgenev, Pushkin, Lermontov, Esenin, Bulgakov, Gogol, etc, which I am also familiar with. But there were some surprises too. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see how widely The Diary of Anne Frank is read. To me, this is a book that transcends borders as a story of resilience and the human spirit. I also loved seeing that many countries had their students read books that were quintessential of their culture and written by local authors. I feel like authors from certain countries tend to dominate the literary world, and it's great to see support of local authors. Another surprise was seeing an author I had read in my German class, Friedrich Durrenmatt. I didn't realize he was kind of a big deal. If you become required reading, haven't you arrived as an author?

This was a very interesting googling adventure for me. I commended my high school teachers for trying to incorporate literature from different parts of the world (Things Fall Apart was one studied in my high school), loved seeing how many books we have in common all over the world, and enjoyed learning about books I wasn't familiar with. 

Now it's your turn!

What were you required to read 
and where did you go to school? 
Let us know in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. It would make sense that required reading would look different in different parts of the world. I remember being forced to read a lot of Shakespeare, Twain, Jack London, and a few other books you often see like Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, and The Great Gatsby.

    I don't like required reading. At all. By forcing kids to read a certain book that they may not like, we turn reading into a chore. I really think that there would be more readers in the world if required reading didn't exist. My daughter was able to pick her books from a rather long list and as a result, she was able to pick books that she had a greater chance of enjoying. I think that the system that I grew up with turns people off of reading for life.

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    1. As a kid, I was mad about required reading, but once I was in college, I realized it wasn't so bad. I read a lot of books I would not have chosen for myself, and they weren't all terrible. There's also that bond I share with all the other people who had to read the same books.

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  2. It's cool that the idea of a "classic" is pretty universal and many other places are reading similar books to us, but the incorporation of local, maybe less well-known authors is amazing. I remember reading Things Fall Apart in school, too, although I would say we mainly stuck to American or British authors during the school year.

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    1. I took a look not too long ago at the summer reading list for my district, and one of the choices was Eric LeGrand's book. I love that, because he lives in our town and went through our schools.

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  3. I'm in the US, and we did have required reading. Fortunately for me, I loved *most* of the classics that we had to read. I know plenty of people, however, (my husband being one of them) who were avid readers *until* high school. The required reading killed the loved of reading for them.

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    1. I didn't love them all, but I appreciate that I read books I would not have otherwise picked up. I feel like the ones I didn't really love I might appreciate more now. Some seems too "old" for me. I don't know. I don't know if required reading killed my love of reading, but I didn't have much time to read other books once I was deep in high school.

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  4. I liked most of what I had to read in high school, but it's true that it is very much a who's who of American and British literature. For example, I've never read a Russian novel - that I'm aware of. I'm sure it was interesting to see what other countries consider classics. Fun topic!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. American authors dominated my required reading, but I did take American Lit. We only read American authors and we read a LOT of books.

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  5. The books I remember from high school are Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby. In junior high Flowers for Algernon, Romeo and Juliet, and The Outsiders are the only ones that I can remember.

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    1. Pretty much the who's who there. We never read The Outsiders at my high school. Such a good book.

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  6. I'm blanking on most of what happened during my school years. It feels like nothing was relevant back then and I just spontaneously erased most of it from my memory. Then again, I had a couple of awful teachers in high school (classical high school, to be precise). They tarnished my love for literature.

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    1. I was waiting to hear from one of my international friends!!! I am curious about what you read more than my American counterparts (no offense to them)

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  7. I would have never thought to look at other countries. Sometimes I feel like I didn't read a lot of the "required readings" that other American HS students had to read, which makes me wonder how important are these required readings then!?

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    1. I don't know how important they are. Though, I did love that Finland had only one required book, which was considered the most Finnish book ever. When I look back on my required reading, there were hits and misses, but I love that so many people shared this experience with me.

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  8. I am, in retrospect, kind of impressed that required reading in my mid-80s high school education included Cry, The Beloved Country, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Color Purple, and The Chosen. I think this was all freshman year, when we also read Romeo and Juliet and had to get parent permission to see the 1968 movie because it shows Romeo's butt.
    I literally remember nothing about sophomore English. Junior year was MacBeth, Walden, The Stranger,and The Crucible. Senior year we read Hamlet and Great Expectations. Honestly, I was into classics at that age, so I don't actually remember what was assigned and what I just read from some other likely options: Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Hawthorne.

    It IS fascinating to see what other countries read! Thank you for that link! I read Things Fall Apart and a bunch of Russian lit in college.

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    1. Wow! My district was progressive, but The Color Purple probably would have been a bit much for high school. Other classes in my high school did read The Chosen and Cry, The Beloved Country. I kind of like that my district only have two years of set English classes, and then we got to pick elective. My sister did a horror class, and they read all the classics - Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. They even made little horror movies. I read almost no books in college. I took the one required english class and never looked back.

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  9. Pretty cool... The Diary of Anne Frank was one that pretty much everyone studied in school where I grew up. It's definitely stayed with me over the years.

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    1. I was reading a Reddit thread and people from South America and India were saying they read Anne Frank in school. I thought that was incredible.

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  10. That link is really interesting! My graduate school had international students who were learning to be translators. We did talk about what we were forced to read as kids. I was surprised at how universal To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice And Men are. Lots of people (including me) were forced to read those. I wasn’t forced to read Anne Frank until college. In high school, I remember tons of insufferable Shakespeare. We read Stephen King’s The Stand, which was awesome. Catcher In the Rye, And Then There Were None, In Cold Blood, Night, A Prayer For Owen Meany, lots of short stories and poetry.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. We did like one Shakespeare a year, and I liked the plays we did. I got lucky. I appreciated how timeless certain themes are, I guess. I feel like we read a lot of "grow up" books as kids. I think back, and most of the books I read for school didn't have teens in them. It's nice you got to interact with readers from all over the world and compare your reading.

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  11. I'm in England but I think most of the required reading we did in school was American? I think they picked based on what classics were quite short - we did Great Gatsby, Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Handmaid's Tale and Holes! And Catch 22, but that wasn't short, that was dire

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    1. Holes is such a great pick. It didn't exist when I was in school. I am surprised you read so much American Lit. Other than the year I took an American Lit class in high school, I read English classics.

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  12. i did have required reading when i was in school and it was many of the classics. whether they still do that here in the us i don't know
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. My daughter graduated in 2013, and they still featured many classics back then. I feel like there may be a big shift now.

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  13. I went to school in the U.S. and we definitely had mostly required reading in high school. I remember reading Twain, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Dickens, Steinbeck, and Golding. We used to call them DWMs (Dead White Males), lol. For the most part I enjoyed what we read, but was definitely a much happier camper when I got into courses that allowed me a little more choice in what I was reading.

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    1. My school was in a town that was Rutgers-adjacent, so a lot of professors lived there. I don't remember too many complaints about reading the classics. I think there is something to be said about any book that tackles themes in a way that is still relevant hundreds of years later.

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  14. I might have been the one making that comment Sam! In Belgium we read indeed The Diary of Ann Frank and for our English class we read 39 steps, and the Great Gatsby. We read Germinal by Zola, Les Fleurs du mal from Charles Baudelaire. Some Marcel Pagnol too and François Mauriac (sinister). I read of my own free will The Three Musketeers and all of Alexandre Dumas's stories!

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    1. It was you! 39 Steps. That is cool. I actually know who Zola and Baudelaire are, though I have never read them. I feel they fall in with the "classics" crowd.

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