Do you remember reading Jane Austen or Shakespeare in high school English classes? I remember thinking about how boring they were. And why couldn’t we read Young Adult novels instead? They were so much easier and exciting anyway! But now that I look back, there were some books that I wish I had put more effort into reading. Some books that deserve another chance. Which is why I created this list for you and everyone out there who may not have enjoyed their high school required reading list! A list of 5 classics you need to revisit from high school.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
This may appear to be a children’s book, and yes, you could read it to children, but it’s much more than that. The book consists of allegories about friendship, love, and adulthood. I read this in my high school French class in French, which was frustrating at the time. But I later realized I was so interested in the story that even though I had to translate it, I was completely taken by the story. I was determined to get through the difficulty of translating just so I could learn what happened to the Little Prince on his adventures.
I would love to revisit this book to read it in English and read it to my son when he’s a little older. When I found out I was having a boy, I even considered making his nursery The Little Prince-themed! His little fox friend is just so cute! And if you have a chance, check out the backstory of the author. If you’ve seen the Netflix adaptation of this book, they are quite a bit different. So if you didn’t like the movie, you might like the book. Not to mention, it’s a very quick read.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria
This one takes place during World War I, when the old customs of war clashed with new technology creating the horrors we know of today as trench warfare. The story is told from the perspective of an unknown German soldier who signed up to fight after his schoolteacher encouraged him to do so. His story is similar to hundreds of thousands of other young men across Europe, who lost their lives in the trenches.
This is a depressing book, as it focuses on death and despair, sickness, and loss. But that’s how it was in a lot of literature around the early 1900’s. You can see a radical shift in writing, from the start of the war to the end. Authors focused on the honor of fighting and dying for one’s own country, and after witnesses firsthand the horrors of war, these same authors changed their tone to one of sorrow for everything the world had lost.
It may not be the most uplifting book, but it is eye-opening. It brings the numbers and statistics of history up close and personal, as the author tells the story of one young German soldier just trying to survive another day in the trenches. Which is why I had to add it to my list of 5 classics to revisit.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
You may not have enjoyed Great Expectations, also by Charles Dickens, I know I didn’t. But this one. This book is amazing. It inspired the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. Seeing as Batman is my husband’s favorite superhero, I made him read this book when we were dating because I thought it was such a powerful story. And hopefully, you’ll change your mind too after revisiting it.
After 18 years as a prisoner in the Bastille prison in Paris, Dr. Manette is released and reunited with his daughter, Lucie Manette, in London. Two men fall in Lucie, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but talented English lawyer. And their lives are never the same afterward.
They are eventually drawn to the bloody streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution where they face La Guillotine. The two cities in this story are Paris and London. One is in the midst of complete chaos, while the other looks on in terror. Dickens’ writing can be tough to get through, but I promise the story is worth it.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Almost everyone has either seen the movie Les Mis or heard one of the songs from the soundtrack. It’s extremely popular as a movie, but I don’t think everyone truly appreciates the book. Where the story all started with Victor Hugo. It’s one of those books that starts out with multiple storylines, but they slowly begin to intertwine as certain events bring them together.
Of course, each character isn’t exactly singing a happy tune, as you may have guessed from the title, which can be translated as “The Miserable Ones” or even “The Victims.” I don’t want to even attempt to summarize it because Hugo packs a lot into this book. Not to mention, the length of the book is daunting. If you’re looking for a challenge, in both the length of the story and in the writing, go for it. You will not be disappointed with this book! Which is why it made this list of 5 classics to revisit. And, as a treat, you can watch the latest film adaptation with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway when the book is finished.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Another great book about the French Revolution. Emmuska Orczy tells the story of a man only known as The Scarlet Pimpernel. As hundreds are sentenced to the guillotine each day, he uses wit and cunning to deceive those in the mad frenzy of sending victims to their deaths and rescue innocent men, women, and children.
His identity remains a secret, however, one French agent is determined to find out who he is and put a stop to his plans. I read this in 6th grade and I’ve never forgotten it since. It’s one of my favorite books about the French Revolution. If you’re looking for something exciting and daring, The Scarlet Pimpernel is your guy. Kind of like a James Bond of the late 1700s and French. It’s also a pretty short book, making it easy to finish.
If you’re up for a challenge and wondering just which books from high school might be good to revisit, this list of 5 classics to revisit is a great place to start. What books did you enjoy from high school English class? Which ones did you dislike? Have you re-read any books that you were required to read in high school? Did you find that you enjoyed them more the second time around? Leave a comment below!
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