September 6, 2012

Favorite Required Reading Books

Ack, I'm late again for YA Highway's blog carnival, but I couldn't let this topic pass me by! This week's prompt?

     Back to school time! What's your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

Oh man! It's so tough to choose only one favorite book. (I had some amazing English teachers in high school and college. Mrs. Wilkerson, I love you!) And so, would it be okay if I picked three of my faves?

Indecisiveness, thy name is Caroline!


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First of all, how cool is this cover? It's vintage; it's yellow; and it's "Y" doubles as a martini glass. So clever, eh?

I read The Great Gatsby during my sophomore English class, and my teacher spent weeks discussing it. To be honest, I didn't fully grasp the social commentary that Fitzgerald was trying to make--I was too busy sighing about boys--but I was entranced with the novel nonetheless.

It was the atmosphere that lured me in. Oh, the Roaring Twenties! An era tipsy with jazz and booze, with silent cinema, and with the loosening of Victorian morality. I wanted to dance at Gatsby's mansion and sip champagne with the Buchanan's. And I wanted to be Jordan Baker, playing tennis in the morning and dancing at fancy New York parties at night.

Fifteen years later, The Great Gatsby remains one of my favorite books, social commentary and all. And I really can't wait to watch the new movie!



One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Oh, Mr. Marquez!

This was my first introduction to magical realism and my first encounter with head-spinning, pure-artistry prose. From the very first line of the book, I knew I was reading something special, something that I had never experienced with the Dickens and Hawthorne novels that had encompassed my classroom reading.

Here are the opening lines:

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, like prehistoric eggs."

I still get the shivers from them. Thank you, Mrs. Wilkerson!



The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

And here's another nod to Mrs. Wilkerson.

It's hard to put into words my love for this book. But let me try....

I don't know Amy Tan. Never met her. Never glanced her from afar. But somehow, it's like she opened up my brain, scooped out some memories, and typed up a book, using my gray matter as her references.

Growing up, I inhaled books. Books about princes and dragons, about horses and dolphins, about big cities and the Big Bang. I loved to read. But aside from Claudia Kishi of the Babysitter's Club fame, I rarely encountered a girl like me--a girl with immigrant parents and a weird-sounding surname, a girl who felt American but who didn't think she looked quite American enough.

Which is why I fell in love with The Joy Luck Club. For the first time in my life, I could point at a character and think, "That's me! She's just like me!" And this was such a strange feeling because I had never connected with a book like this before, much less a book I had to read for class. In school, as my teachers droned on about factorials and motifs, I would sneak in pages of The Joy Luck Club. I just couldn't put it down.

So there you have it! I wish I could go on because I still haven't mentioned The Martian Chronicles or Possession or To Kill a Mockingbird but I'd hate to put you to sleep. Ha! I can talk about books for forever, eh? But how about you? What are your favorite classroom reads? Do spill!

4 comments:

  1. I was just talking about The Joy Luck Club the other day. It sort of gets dismissed in the realm of Asian Am lit, I think because it's so much the quintessential Asian Am sort of story and because it was such a commercial success, but I still love it for the reasons you stated. It was the first book I read that I really connected to in a deep way; like these were my feelings and my struggles. We never read this book in its entirety for class, just a few of the stories. I was reminded of JLC though because I read this year's Short Story HUGO winner, The Paper Menagerie, which is also a very Asian American story, and it totally gave me the sniffles!

    Some other favorite classroom reads: To Kill a Mockingbird (of course!), Jane Eyre, some Shakespeare (Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Hamlet). I did like Gatsby, though I didn't love it. I also liked Frankenstein, but I didn't actually finish reading it so I hesitate to list it here, lol. Oh and Fahrenheit 451, which I don't think I enjoyed that much at the time, but in hindsight I'm glad I read it.

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  2. My Italian Teacher encouraged me and my class to read 'Norwegian Wood' by Murakami. It' s amazing! Very beautiful. I am so grateful for ;)

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  3. I loved all of these, especially THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

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  4. I read THE GREAT GATSBY recently, and enjoyed it more than I expected to. Fitzgerald's depiction of Twenties New York was very convincing. I could almost smell the drinks and the motor cars. :)

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