My Personal Opinions on Books Required I Read in High School

The collection of books I have read because I needed to for English has definitely been different in some ways and similar in other ways. They are seen having connections to each other and reflecting upon the same ideology yet are seen to have their own individual themes and connections. First, I will be describing why or why not this book was interesting to me. Then, I will describe the symbolic sentiment behind the book and will elaborate on whether it is useful for me. Then, I will describe whether someone should read the book in total based on these categories and elaborate why I believed reading this book is worth it or a waste of time.

Cover image for Slouching towards Bethlehem : essays / Joan Didion.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion: I am going to be starting with this book first because it is the only nonfiction book I was required to read this year. Based on interest level, it was extremely boring in my opinion. The first chapter was very interesting because it spoke about how a wife was on trial for killing her husband and how it was a huge thing in the news but after that chapter, it became very hard to read without the looming threat of sleep within my proximity. However, the content in the book does make up for how boring it was. The book is a series of essays divided into three sections: Life Styles in the Golden Land, Personals, and Seven Places on the Mind. Each of these sections were informative in their own way. The first section described multiple things occurring in California, including events occurring in her own life. The second section talked more about how humans affect others and why we do what we do. The third section talks more about her and other people’s lives and how they struggle. So, as a book required to read for school, I believe that reading it is worth it as it is very enlightening and definitely allows us to reflect on our actions. If you were to read this book for the purpose of entertainment, you should have stopped right after the first chapter and move onto another book.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Cover image for The grapes of wrath / John Steinbeck.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: My teacher went more in depth in this book when we were discussing it in class, which could be why I have the opinion I do. But altogether, I love this book so much. The beginning was very boring to me but as soon as I reached more the time where the family begins their journey to California, I couldn’t wait to read what would happen next. This book basically describes a family in the era of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and how they must venture to California from their dear home in Oklahoma because they cannot make any money where they are. Not only did this book capture my attention but it also opened my eyes to the lives of people who I don’t relate to and who struggle so much to survive in our world. This book describes the greed of those who benefit from the desperation of these struggling families, otherwise known as large corporations. It shows how people could become families with anyone if they help each other through their heartbreaks and painful endeavors. And most importantly, it shows that people together in their anger could make a difference, like bundle of grapes filled with wrath. I would recommend anyone to read this if they can and think this book should be discussed more among people.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald ; edited by James L. W. West III.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This is probably the book that most people know about and have read in high school. I have known about this book since I was 8 but never really knew what it was about until this year. Basically, it is about a man named Gatsby who is neighbors with a guy named Nick Carraway and wants to be loved by Nick’s cousin named Daisy Buchanan (yes, she is married). The plot of this book interested me but the characters ruined it for me. They basically had no personality whatsoever besides being rich and wanting to be loved but finding it in the wrong ways. Tom Buchanan is one of the few characters I believe is unredeemable when it comes to fixing and saying that is definitely extreme but it is true. This book has so many undertones of misogyny from the epigraph of the book: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!'” Of course, we shouldn’t judge a book based on this since it came from another time and era but I believe teachers should definitely and directly tell their students about the more obscured sexism in the book so the students don’t adopt it as a normalcy in our society. There are many symbols and one could definitely make connections on the longing of being better and richer than someone else and competing with time before what you want is gone forever. But personally, I believe that this book doesn’t deserve all of the hype that it gets. It was a waste of time in my opinion and it could be part of the high school curriculum since it does talk a lot about class differences and how the rich use people who are poorer than they are. But I wouldn’t recommend reading until it is required for school.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for The scarlet letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: This book differs from the ones I have talked about before because it is more outdated and more seen as a classic. Despite this, I really liked the book. This book is about a woman named Hester forced to wear an “A” on her chest because she has committed adultery with someone she doesn’t wish to confess and gave birth to a child as a result. It is set in a Puritan town where couples are to stay together until they die and even then, they must remain a widow and not try to be in a romantic relationship with anyone else as that would be a betrayal to their dead, former spouse. The author, Hawthorne, wishes to exploit the wrongdoings in Puritan society at the time and how they are seen as hypocrites, essentially, when it comes to someone who sins. This book definitely has some more older terms of symbolism shown through transcendentalist and romantic ideology but I found the plot of this book very interesting. The sentences don’t match the standard of grammar that we have today and the author does enforce his ideologies on the readers but I still enjoyed this book very much. I would recommend this book to people who like the forbidden love trope and like nature as a main symbol in a book.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Cover image for A streetcar named desire / Tennessee Williams ; with an introduction by Arthur Miller.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams: The people that have already read this book probably think I am going to say negative things about it and I am, definitely about Stanley Kowalski, but I would first like to highlight the entire book. This book is about a woman named Blanche DuBois who is forced to live with her sister, Stella DuBois, and her abusive husband, Stanley Kowalski, after she loses her childhood home, Bella Reive. This book starts off interesting and I liked the plot. I started to hate the characters and their doings but that means the person writing the book (or play, in this case) is so good at writing that they are evoking an emotion out of me. The characters are definitely bad and good in some ways, which I liked because it added complexity to the story and definitely connected symbols together. For example, Blanche DuBois avoids the light which stands for the truth and we all know her as a notorious liar throughout the story so it connects more. I continue and Stanley is a piece of trash and becomes the one of the other people that I find unredeemable and people who if existed in the real world, I would punch in the face. Then, the ending turns out to be very terrible. Again, one must not judge things in the past but still…I did not like the outcome of this book. I believe the ending should have taken another turn but for the book, it seems reasonable why it would be that way and still, I hate that. Despite my sayings of the book being interesting, I still wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone at all and would never read it a second time. I liked some things about it but the bad things about it outweigh the good things so I wish someone only reads this if they are forced to. However, the ending of the movie is way better and that should have been the ending of the play but alas, it wasn’t.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

I would like to end this article with how these opinions on these books are just that, opinions. You have every right to disagree with whatever I say, especially when it comes to A Streetcar Named Desire and The Great Gatsby. Let me know what you think about a certain book in the comments! Thanks for reading!

-Saanvi V.

2 thoughts on “My Personal Opinions on Books Required I Read in High School

  1. Thanks for sharing! The Grapes of Wrath seems like an interesting book that I will definitely be checking out soon! Good job!

  2. I’m heading off to high-school soon, and after seeing some of these books, I can’t help but to be excited to read them; whether I read them for school or for my own pleasure. Thanks for this!

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