When I was a junior in high school, I went through a period where reading did not satisfy me anymore. At the time, I read an array of different Young Adult novels that were as stale as they were bland. Each fantasy book that I buzzed through was practically the same. The characters were monotonous, the storylines overused, the dialogue-heavy, and imagery sparse. I wanted something more, and, at the time, I was unsure how to get what I desired, so I just stopped reading.
Eventually, my creative writing teacher saw my lack of books sitting at the corner of my desk every day and questioned me. She asked what was going on and I spilled, as dully as the books I was reading, that I could not find anything good to read. Knowing that reading was my whole world, she suggested I read some classics to help cure my book slump. Desperate, I took her advice. She gave me some suggestions and later that afternoon, I found myself strolling through my local bookstore in the classics section, a section I had never ventured into before.
Now I bet you want me to say that instantly I fell in love with reading again and poof, I was back to book bingeing in my room when I should be studying for my next exam. Well, it did not exactly work out that way. These books slowly started to change my world and I did ultimately fall in love with reading again. These stories were unique, heart-stopping, and relatable, which my fantasy novels were sometimes not. Most of all, the script lining each of the pages were beautiful and meticulously placed. I was just in utter awe at the craft of these writers!
Now, as a twenty-three-year-old woman, I can honestly say that I do not read as many classics as I should. The classics that I did read in high school during my book slump, however, changed how I looked at reading. They made me more particular about which books I picked up and made me yearn for every book I read to inspire me in some way, shape, or form.
The five books on this list are the books that I read in high school that changed my life. They have a special spot on my bookshelves and I have multiple copies of them and their covers on full display for everyone to see. If you are going through a book slump, I encourage you to try one of these books. They just might help you fall in love with reading again.
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
When Holden Caulfield gets kicked out of his Pencey Preparatory Academy for failing all of his classics except English, he dreads telling his parents that he is not going to be invited back to the prestigious school after Christmas break. The day Holden moves out of his dorm, he decides, instead of returning home right away, he is going to spend three days in New York City until the school notifies his parents of his expulsion. In those three days, Holden encounters a variety of new and old faces and experiences a roller-coaster of emotions as he tries to figure out his place in the world.
The Catcher in the Rye is a coming-of-age tale from an unreliable narrator with various mental health issues. It is a novel that will make you question your sanity while reading Holden’s erratic thoughts but will also make you grin and laugh. This book truly changed my life upon reading it and it is hard for me to explain why. It just did. Even though the book has gotten slack over the years and is on the banned book list, it deserves to be read. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is truly a masterpiece and Holden Caulfield is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
When Nick Carraway moves next door to Jay Gatsby, he does not intend to get pulled into his world of wealth and parities of alcohol and love stories. He also does not intend to become fast friends with the mysterious man or to go on an epic journey with him that could lead both of them to their untimely demise.
The Great Gatsby is a tale between star-crossed lovers and the people caught in the crossfire. It is a story that will make you want to zip back in time into a world where the liquor endlessly flowed and the music made you want to get on your feet and dance. If you are looking for a quick, compelling read that will make your eyes wet and your heart ache, pick up The Great Gatsby and experience the roaring 20s in all of its glory.
As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying is a dark comedy that follows the Bundren family on their wagon-bound road trip to bury Addie, their wife and mother. The whole book encompasses the dysfunctional family’s struggles to make it across the Mississippi countryside and keep their mother’s body intact before they can bury her.
Frankly, As I Lay Dying is a sh**show and not a tale for a gentle heart. The book turns a simple journey into a twisted tale of secrets and family animosity and you can practically smell Addie’s rotting corpse while you turn the pages of Faulkner’s book. Regardless, As I Lay Dying is genuinely my favorite William Faulkner novel. It is a powerful read that will leave your mouth hanging open and you shaking your head at the Bundren family’s crazy antics.
A Separate Peace – John Knowles
Gene and Phineas know that they will be enlisted into World War II once they graduate from Devon Boarding School. They have seen their classmates go before them and they know that they will be next. The summer before their senior year of high school is their last chance to be children before they are forced to grow up and be adults. Of course, Gene and Phineas expected their final summer to be filled with games and harmless fun, but it is anything but that. The two boys lose their innocents during the summer months before the war even has a chance to chew them up and spit them out.
A Separate Peace is a coming-to-age tale of two best friends trying to navigate a dark and deadly world overcome with war. It is a story that will leave you speechless and you will never expect what is coming next. A Separate Peace made me realize that we all have to grow up at some point and face the realities our world brings, even if we are not quite yet ready to leave the childhood we have held so dear to our hearts.
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Sydney Carton is the definition of lazy. He is a raging alcoholic and some question how he can get up every day and show up to the courtroom to attend his duties as an attorney. The man, bless his heart, is just trying to find meaning in his life amid the French Revolution and he thinks he finds it in Lucie Manette – the wife of his latest client.
A Tale of Two Cities is a novel of love and heartbreak. It takes place during one of the tensest, dangerous times in our history where the guillotine was prepared to take any life that posed a threat to King and France itself. A Tale of Two Cities is a novel that will leave you clawing at your seat and screaming out loud. You will fly through this book as you watch Sydney Carton grow as a man and make the ultimate sacrifice for his love and for the meaning that is his life.