30 Day Book Challenge Day 15 – Book that should be on HS/College/Uni required reading list

This is another tricky one to answer. When it comes to university level required reading, it really depends on the subject area and genre that the student is studying, and I could spend days listing the books that I think should be on those reading lists. However, as an English and History teacher who teaches students generally between the ages of 12 and 18 in Australia, a country with varying levels of literacy throughout, I will focus my suggestions on that age group instead. And yes, I know the challenge for today was to name one book, but it is just too hard with this topic to stick to one, as I’m sure many of you will understand.

One of the challenges I have found in my brief teaching experience is getting kids to, well, read at all. Some of them love reading and devour books, but many who weren’t brought up with books and stories in their homes (which is sadly a large amount of them) not only don’t care for books and reading, but don’t even really ‘get’ it – they don’t know how to appreciate a book, and when they have boring books thrust upon them during their education, it only strengthens this apparent resentment towards what for many is one of the most enjoyable pastimes of all. And in a way, it’s hard to blame these kids, with their televisions in their bedrooms, mobile phones constantly at their side by a younger and younger age, internet and social networks now at their fingertips like never before. There have never been more distractions for young people than there is today.

Tomorrow When The War BeganThere are many different avenues by which we might be able to overcome this particular challenge. One of them is to utilise this technology, and I think in the very near future we will see this really come to fruition, however I’ll probably go into that in another blog some time. For me, I feel like we need to find shorter books for the students (because presenting a child who doesn’t read with a big 500 page novel is probably not going to entice them), but we also need to find more exciting books. As a teenager I read the Tomorrow When The War Began series, and thought that was great. A lot teenagers now are also into fantasy books, in particular most recently The Hunger Games, a book series which I am yet to check out, so I cannot fully comment on, but it is definitely a possibility – I don’t think we should brush off the fantasy genre so readily if it gets teenagers reading with it’s exciting other-worldly adventures.

Of Mice and MenThere are other books I have read that I think different ages of teenagers would enjoy, and that would also serve well to break down and analyse and study more academically, and I am going to focus here on books I didn’t study at school. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is one of the most loved novellas of all time, and clocking in at only 121 pages, this book won’t be too demanding on even the most reluctant readers. What I love about this novella is the simplicity of the story, focusing on the friendship of two drifters, George and Lennie, as they attempt to get work and stay out of trouble, and yet despite this, the novella is in fact very layered, and perfect for studying in depth.

Slaughterhouse-FiveAnother author who I never studied but suspect I would have loved in school is Kurt Vonnegut, and the two novels that spring to mind from him are Cat’s Cradle, a bizarre dystopian novel satirising the end of the world and the madness of mankind, and Slaughterhouse-Five, the funny and powerful depiction of the firebombing of Dresden, and one of the world’s best anti-war books. Again, both these books come in at about 200 pages, so quite easy to read in that respect.

PerfumeAnother book I think should be on the list to make teenagers think differently is Perfume by Patrick Süskind, an incredible tale of suspense about a murderer who possesses a powerful sense of smell, despite not emitting an odour himself, which serves as a great way of looking at how books can focus on other, less common senses (other than sight and sound, like most novels do).

Long Dark Tea-time Of The SoulLastly, I think it would be great to see some funnier works enter the High School reading lists, just to lighten the mood a bit. Both of the Dirk Gently novels by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-time Of The Soul are both hilarious, relatively short, and despite the seeming madness, are full of interesting insights into people, society and the bigger picture of the world, all of which can be discussed in depth if one wants to do so (for those wondering why I have not mentioned the other famous series by Douglas Adams, it is mostly because I feel these two books tend to appeal to a wider audience, that’s all).

So, what do you think of the books I have suggested? Do you agree/disagree with any of them (I will admit I have just thought of them all on the spot)? What books do you think should be on such reading lists?

6 thoughts on “30 Day Book Challenge Day 15 – Book that should be on HS/College/Uni required reading list

  1. I haven’t mentioned any of the ones you mentioned. Within that age diferential I would say that a book like Harry Potter would be mandatory. I started reading them exactly from the age of twelve. It is the main cause I developed my reading habits and why I’m now able to read Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Dickens and so on. If someone is not into books, you need something really compelling to draw them away from their TV’s, laptops, cellphones, iPads and so on. Harry Potter might do the trick.

    • Good suggestion! I do agree, Harry Potter definitely has the potential to help bring some children to reading, including those who don’t read at all. I think there’s a lot of books from that fantasy genre that should be considered for the exact same reason!

  2. So Matt I would like to concur with you on all these titles although I have to admit that I have not read the final book on your list.

    I believe that all students of English once they get to year 9 should have these on their reading list as it is probably wishful thinking to imagine they would buy these books to have on a shelf after reading as we nerdy English teachers do

    • Awesome to hear, thanks! 🙂 And you should definitely read the final book on my list, it’s hilarious!
      And this is very true! I think students at that age would be capable of reading all these books – it was that age I was mostly thinking of when I wrote this. But yeah, it would be so much easier if they were all book nerds like us English teachers 😛

  3. I was one of those that always loved and still loves reading. But Of Mice and Men was the first book I read at school that I actually liked, and to this day is still my favourite book, and Steinbeck my favourite author.
    While I’m not such a fan of Tomorrow When the War Began, I think it’s also a brilliant idea to get kids reading because it is about kids and has great pace. And it’s especially important because it’s about Australian kids. So much of what Aussie kids have to read in school is about American and English adults. That should be changed.

    • Oh wow! That’s awesome about Of Mice and Men, I wished I had read it at school. I am yet to read Steinbeck’s other works, but I did just buy East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, both of which I am looking forward to!
      And I totally agree, we need more books about Australian kids and Australian life. I think part of the problem there, actually, is a giant hole in the market – there just isn’t that many Aussie novels aimed at that age group and set here, and certainly not many good ones. I think more need to be written, but most certainly the books they read need to be changed. I like the idea that in the near future the curriculum will likely include Asian literature as well, as that is surely as important at the moment!

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