Top Ten Tuesday- Required Reading

The Broke and the Bookish provided two possible topics, one of which was what we think should be taught in schools. Given the fact that I'm a high school English teacher I decided this one was up my alley. I think "required reading" gets a lot of unfair shit from people ("I read in Catcher in the Rye in high school and hated it so much"). There are a lot of different possible explanations, one being that the whiner involved was an unmotivated, procrastinating teen and left all the reading and paper writing until the end of the novel study. Of course they'd hate it! The teen may not have understood the complex themes or the teacher could have taught it poorly. My point is, required reading is essential in order to expose kids to a variety of literature, whether they're receptive or not. What else would we do in English classes all day? Read articles and diagram sentences? I digress. 

Fun Home 
Alison Bechdel
Why: A graphic novel (I think kids should be taught one a year), themes dealing with homosexuality and nontraditional homes

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot
Why: A great example of an accessible nonfiction text (our advanced biology class had the kids read it this year, which was great), raises important questions about ethics

Colum McCann
Why: fantastic writing, historical tie-ins (can I get a what, what for cross-curricular opportunities?)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Barbara Kingsolver
Why: another example of a well-written nonfiction text, vehicle for teaching students about sustainability and responsible eating/agriculture 

Tortilla Curtain
TC Boyle
Why: for some it will teach tolerance; for others it will be an opportunity to see themselves and their family in characters (for once)

Family Fang
Kevin Wilson
Why: students need to see that there is such a thing as quality contemporary humor in literature, and it also provides a lesson on why readers don't always have to like characters 

Ella Minnow Pea
Mark Dunn
Why: so many fun, challenging spin-off activities that can be done with this novella

The Road
Cormac McCarthy
Why: a lot of students enjoy post-apocalyptic YA novels- this is just the literary, adult version (my students actually did a literary analysis on the first to pages the other day- I can't wait to read them)

Bel Canto
Ann Patchett
Why: so many great discussions on perspective could be had with this book, not to mention the writing is superb 

Mister Pip
Lloyd Jones
Why: I think this would a great companion piece to Great Expectations 


  1. I would love to see Animal, Vegetable, Mineral taught in schools. I deal a little bit with horticultural education at my job and a lot with home vegetable growing, so I'd love to see people taking responsibility for their eating habits (and knowledge) at an early age.

    Slightly off topic: I was at Qdoba tonight and watched an overweight little girl (maybe 5)get soda to drink with her burrito. I was both sad and appalled. She is being set up for a lifetime of health issues. Fingers crossed, she'll read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral at school and realize the consequences of what she puts into her body.

  2. Bel Canto was superb. I've been meaning to re-read it (and read some of her other books!), maybe write a review for it this time to keep my thoughts recorded somewhere. Apparently I have Family Fang on my want-to-read; doing to have to bump that up my list now ;)

  3. I really love your inclusion of non-fiction in your list. There were only one or two required non-fiction books when I was in school, and I didn't think the balance was quite right.

    My TTT

  4. Bel Canto... been on my list for ages.... Hate knowing that there are teens who might have read more books than me ;-)

  5. I love your recs, especially Henrietta Lacks. I was generally very happy with my required reading lists in high school, but I think if they had added a graphic novel or two in there it would have been perfect!

  6. New GFC follower here... I like your list, and I love that you recommend a graphic novel... I think Maus should be on that list too... I was blown away by that one!

  7. Bel Canto was a wonderful book- great list!