SparkNotes Blog

The Best Required Reading of All Time

Just cause she had to doesn’t mean she didn’t want to: harry_is_my_homeboy hearts her required reading. –Sparkitors

In celebration of all the reading you’re probably doing for school right now (the awesome kind, not the “chapter 9 of your chemistry textbook” kind), and all the awesome reading I’m doing for school right now (I took on not one, but two honors English classes this year), I’ve created a list of the best assigned reading I’ve ever been given. Telling a Sparkler to read is like reminding a human to breathe, but here are a few to add to your list:

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
Classic whodunit murder mystery. Ten people are invited to a mysterious island off the coast of England by a person unknown to them. After a terrible storm traps them on the very first night, a person is killed. One by one, the people on the island are murdered. As the guest list narrows, those remaining start to lose their sanity trying to discover the identity of the murderer. You will not guess: with Christie you must expect the unexpected. I was assigned this the summer before my freshman year of high school, and I had nightmares for weeks.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
This was assigned at the end of my freshman year, and I finally understood why my cousin obsessed over it. ATTICUSFINCH ATTICUSFINCH ATTICUSFINCH. No reader should skip this one. And if you have thus far, get out from under your rock!

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
People love Holden, people hate Holden. I personally felt like Holden Caulfield was the world’s biggest hero. The way I saw it, he was seeing the world as it was. The pain of growing out of childhood is dramatized by Holden’s adventures one night in New York City, right after he’s been kicked out of yet another boarding school. I was drawn in when Holden dropped an F-Bomb on the very first page. WHAT? This is a school book? It held my interest because it isn’t a perfectly written classic—more like a teenager’s journal. Considering this novel draws as much criticism as praise, read with caution.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This great American classic has pulled on the heartstrings of readers for generations. Narrator Nick Carraway has just moved to Long Island from the Midwest, and the glaring differences between the lifestyles of the two places become more jarring with his every social endeavor. Nick’s next door neighbor, the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby, quickly opens up to Nick about his past love, Daisy Buchanan (a relative of Nick’s), but the great romance is soon undermined  by what Gatsby did to change his life for her. This novel taught me that people shouldn’t be written in clear black and white, but always shades of grey.

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier
For those of you who are bored to death by these titles, this is the horror story you need. Our narrator marries a wealthy older man whose previous wife was the gorgeous, funny, lively, seemingly perfect Rebecca. The “ghost” of Rebecca’s memory haunts the narrator as she tries to make a life with her new husband on his beautiful estate, still run by the frightening housekeeper who was Rebecca’s biggest fan.

The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene
I actually put this one off because I had a horrible gut feeling about it. Shows how much I can trust my gut feelings! This was so unexpectedly good that I wanted to write about it first, but my neurotic nature forced me to write about things in the order in which I read them. Maurice Bendrix is in love with Sarah, but when she ends their relationship out of the blue, he’s left heartbroken. Normally he would talk to his best friend, Henry, about this, but there’s a problem: Sarah is Henry’s wife. Maurice battles with what he thinks is Sarah’s infidelity, but finds that the truth is more complicated. This book was touching and very thought-provoking. Of everything on this list, The End of the Affair is the one I would recommend to everyone. Read it. NOW.

What are your all-time favorite required reads?

Related post: Ditch Your Summer Reading List

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