HomeEntertainmentTaking aim at the worst required reads

Taking aim at the worst required reads

The average teenager obviously isn’t going to pick up a classic work of literature voluntarily, so someone came up with the solution of forcing us to read for a grade. I have gone through four rigorous years of English at CHS and have worked my way through a variety of required reading, from the enthralling to the unbearable. Here are my top five worst books assigned at CHS.

5. Shakespeare’s plays

I understand that Shakespeare has literary merit, but do people really expect high-school students to actually read him? It’s barely even English, especially with all those metaphors and figures of speech woven in there.

I just try hopelessly to figure out why Ophelia asks Hamlet such nonsensical questions as, “How does your honor this many a day?” I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Besides, in some cases, Shakespeare just doesn’t have the greatness he once had. Everyone who ever had to read Romeo and Juliet surely agrees that a guy who shows up outside a girl’s window at night when they’ve just met is a creep. Maybe it was romantic back then, but today it’s just not.

It’s a good thing someone invented SparkNotes because, in my experience, people hardly ever read the actual book, and, honestly, who can blame them?

4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.  D.  Salinger

The story isn’t terrible, but the main character is hard to appreciate.

Holden Caulfield is a troubled teenager who gets expelled from school and then goes wandering around New York for a few days, getting into trouble and being lonely and angry at the world.

His own sister complains that he doesn’t like anything. Furthermore, he doesn’t seem to learn a single life lesson from this experience.

“How do you know what you’re going to do till you do it?” he asks at the end. “The answer is, you don’t.” No, Holden, the answer is that you need to take responsibility, make good choices and plan to not fail.

Alas, he still hasn’t learned. So, basically, the entire episode is pointless.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté

A lot of students loathe Jane Eyre with a burning passion.

It is unnecessarily long and rambling, of course, but authors got paid based on word count, so you can’t blame Bronté for filling up so many pages with nothing.

There are a lot of things in that meandering plotline which don’t appeal to high schoolers, such as Jane Eyre’s romance with a much older man, her cousin’s proposal to her and the crazy wife in the attic. By the way, that violent, animalistic portrayal of an insane person is utterly unrealistic. It’s an insult to mental patients everywhere.

2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I will be forever grateful that we were spared the entire thing and only had to suffer through certain agonizingly dull chapters of Walden.

It’s basically Thoreau living alone near a pond and writing repetitively about nothing of any significance.

It doesn’t have a plot of any kind!

1. The Stranger by Albert Camus

As I read this book, I was amazed by the total lack of emotion, characterization and plotline. Later, I learned that it’s supposed to be that way, so this guy actually had the talent to write something decent; he just chose not to!

The book is all about a philosophy called existentialism, which states that nothing anyone does really matters, and we all come down to the same thing in the end. Such an uplifting theme. What are they trying to teach teenagers these days?

The main character is eventually shunned by society for having a disturbing lack of emotions about things like the death of his mother, falling in love or being tried for murder.

The idea is that society expects people to express more emotions than they actually feel, but Camus succeeds only in making his main character look like a complete psychopath.



Latest comments

  • Hi Janie,
    I am with you on all of the books except The Stranger. I think that book has a few very relatable and important topic for teenagers: How much of our society is perception and how much is reality? Can you ever truly know what someone else feels?
    Unlike Catcher in The Rye, the issues brought up in The Stranger raen’t just the issue of a disguntled teen and tied to a particular cultural time period. For all intents and purposes the themes in The Stranger are timeless philosphical questions.
    While the other books might have some merit I also agree that their language use is often a barrier.

  • oh and Shakespeare? to whom i was introduced via Zeffirelli’s film version of R&J, and then via an AMAZING English teacher at CHS? give him (or her, or THEM — the jury is still out!) another chance. think of it as an epic poetry slam, as spoken word, as a PLAY, and LISTEN to it. let the language wash over you instead of trying to translate each phrase.

    (and really? THAT’S the quote you chose? She’s basically saying — and you can HEAR it, if you say it out loud — “How have you been lately, Sir?”)

  • and yeah, Catcher in the Rye is sort of overrated. but remember, before there was John Green, this was one of the only books out there — written by a man — that gave teenage girls a peek into the mind of a male teenager (albeit a pretty unlikable one). plus, bonus points for swears. also, green ink on a baseball mitt — pretty awesome.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.