Reviewing Books I’ve Read for School

Reviewing Books I’ve Read for School

Sophia Weber, Features Editor

As someone deeply interested in language and writing, English has always been one of my favorite classes. I’ve really enjoyed most of the required reading since middle school, and I love thinking about interpretations of books beyond their surface-level meaning. I know that may be an unpopular opinion, but books have long been my escape, and as I get older I become increasingly interested in broadening my literary knowledge. Reading more challenging literature is often more valuable in a class with a teacher to guide discussion and make sure everyone knows what’s going on. 

I’m not a terribly harsh reader and usually enjoy most books I read to some degree. These are mostly my general reactions to these books, to show which ones I would skip over and which I think are worth ditching SparkNotes for (all of them, hopefully, but what can you do?)

These are most of the novels, short stories, and plays I’ve read in grades nine and ten. 


Ninth grade:


Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

 While this is an iconic play that most people have heard about, it’s still worth a read. It is relatively easy compared to other Shakespeare plays as most are familiar with the plot, and it consists of beautiful passages. This one is really fun to act out in class as well, and comparing the various film adaptations is quite entertaining, though the 1996 version is objectively the best. 


The Odyssey by Homer, Antigone by Sophocles

Both of these we read in the prose form. I remember being fascinated by the relatability of both these texts, although they were written thousands of years ago. While I did feel connected to the stories, I know that today they remain with little of their original potency in their translated and interpreted forms, and that the interpretations and the writings of these oral traditions are almost as important as the writing itself. 


Cask of Amontillado, Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

I  really enjoyed our gothic unit in ninth grade; I love unreliable narrators and both these short stories were unsettling in ways that escalated throughout until you wonder if you’ve read it right. Poe does an amazing job at writing completely delusional characters in a way that’s so much fun, as well as terrifying.


The Landlady, Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

 I loved these short stories; they show a darker side to Rhold Dahl, even darker than his childrens’ works. Both have incredibly surprising endings, and are fun to read in class as everyone starts to figure out what happened.


Tenth grade:


Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye was one of the best books I read in 10th grade along with the Great Gatsby. The language is easy to understand, but the metaphors and symbolism are challenging and interesting to interpret. This is one of the most polarizing books and it’s fun to debate. Like many books on this list, it can be rewarding to read the book again a few years later and compare reactions to your previous read, as older people often have startlingly different interpretations of it compared to younger readers. 


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was another favorite of tenth grade. There were so many great aspects of this book, including the characterization, but the best part for me was the imagery. It’s exhilarating to read, as he details parties, lights, and dinner table conversations. It felt to me like watching a movie, the book was so visually oriented.


A Streetcar named Desire by Tennessee Williams

I did not enjoy this one very much, as I felt I did not relate to the characters, and I disliked reading the play in class as the reenactments lost the drama and emotion the play was built around. I much preferred watching parts of the movie, where I found it easier to pay attention. However, I did like that none of the characters were truly good people; all had done various amounts of wrong, which gave the play dimension and readers something to think about.


Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

 Our class didn’t read all of the short stories in this collection, but from what I did read, I enjoyed it overall. Symbolism is very prevalent in this collection, and is what I would argue to be the best part; the metaphors and characters cross over from story to story, and I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the themes individually and as part of a larger work.