Assigned Reading: Easy A or Contemporary Torture

Casey H.

Staff Writer

There are few assignments that produce more mixed feelings amongst the student population than assigned reading, both outside and in class. Depending on whether or not students like to read, they like the project; depending on whether or not the author writes in an agreeable style, students enjoy the book. An accumulation of quotes and opinions have been gathered, expressing love or hatred, adoration or indifference, towards the infamous assignments of high school literature.

As an introduction to high school reading, the ninth grade literature teachers assign books such as Fahrenheit 451, The Odyssey, Great Expectations, and A Separate Peace. Many freshmen have similar feelings towards The Odyssey; for instance, Ashley Beattie says, “The Odyssey was a pretty good book. I liked that it was about a hero trying to get home to his wife after forty years.” Sarah DeAngelo also liked the book, saying, “It was pretty good, but definitely not my favorite. It was really boring at some parts.” One of the more infamous books amongst ninth graders, however, is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Rebecca Palazesi expresses her dislike for it, “I hated it. I couldn’t stand it. It’s a good book with a good concept, but it was so boring from all the details Ray Bradbury put into it.” With another semester’s worth of books, there is hope that other assigned books appeal to Woodstock freshmen.

Sophomores return to school with reading of their own, as some were assigned The Once and Future King and The Book Thief to read over the summer. Annaleigh Hayes speaks highly of one of these, saying, “The Book Thief is my favorite assigned reading book. It was very different, but that made it good. It was from a point of view that you wouldn’t expect.” Shortly afterwards, classes read the Greek drama Antigone, about which Jonathan Riner says, “Antigone was interesting but slow at times. There was lots of symbolism and good meaning.” Outside of class, books such as Lost Horizon and The Good Earth are assigned. Of Lost Horizon, Daniel Maloney praises, “Lost Horizon was very good. The characters were interesting, and the book itself was thought-provoking.” With books in store such as Lord of the Flies and Pride and Prejudice, it is clear that, regardless of what has been read so far, sophomores have much to look forward to in the future.

In addition, juniors taking American Literature have been hard at work with their own assignments. Extended readings like Into the Wild and The Crucible are trademarks of eleventh grade reading material. Carlie Etienne says of The Crucible, “It was awesome. It was about all these people fighting during the Salem Witch Trials, and finally they’re like, ‘Wait, maybe this isn’t a good idea.’ I really like the plot and characters.” In Cold Blood is another notorious charge for juniors. Kimberly Bennett says, “In Cold Blood was boring at first, but it got good near the end, especially when it got to the murder. And Dick and Perry were really cute, but they died before they could get together.” Into the Wild, a book about a man living in the Alaskan wilderness, is also on the minds of juniors, with Connor Tuck saying, “We’re reading Into the Wild. It is very intriguing and exciting.”

Lastly, senior year is riddled with the last books students will be forced to read in high school. Megan Chester criticizes one of her reads, explaining, “The Stranger wasn’t good. The main character had no personality, and even though that was on purpose, the lack of emotion still made it bad.” There are many books, however, that seniors enjoy and that underclassmen look forward to reading. Bridgette’ Hudak says of the classic 1984, “It is very eye-opening because of how close it’s becoming to our society. Some of the things in it seemed far-fetched, like the telescreens watching everyone, but that is what we’re becoming. It was a very good book, though, and very thought-provoking.” Lydia Ellington speaks highly of another book, “I liked The Kite Runner. It’s an interesting view of Afghanistan and its culture and people, and it’s about how the war affected the physical nation as well as the mental state of the people who fled. It also talked about how one bad decision could ruin your life.” It makes sense that such praise-worthy books would be appointed to the seniors and allow them to leave high school with an enjoyable final literature class.

It is clear that there are mixed feelings amongst the student body regarding assigned reading. From the negative views of Fahrenheit 451 and The Stranger to the praise heaped upon The Crucible and The Book Thief, students’ opinions are as varied as the books themselves. Whether the opinion on these books is popular or not, assigned reading is here to stay, and there is nothing to do but grab a coffee, turn on a light, and try and discover why these books remain famous when some are so old.

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