Our library system has a category of books designated as "Classics," meaning all of those books that are considered to be the iconic fundamentals of great literature. However, in my library a far wiser librarian than myself re-catalogued those books as "Reading Lists," as not all of the books that get stuck into this category are really classical. Instead, these are the books that teachers have decided their students should read at any given time. Lois Lowery's The Giver is a Reading List, as while it is definitely is an example of groundbreaking fiction, it is debatable as to whether it's actually a classical book that will be read in a hundred years.
When I'm asked about this section, my general response is,"These are all of the books that people read because they are forced to." It's not that I think one second that these books are not worth reading; it's just that very few people would ever voluntary pick one up unless they're on some sort of self-improvement mission.
I was an English major, and as a librarian I adore books, love fiction, and worship authors. I was that child who constantly had her nose in a book. However, that does not mean that school Reading Lists were always met with joy.
Looking back, though, these were the books that I remember loving even though I was being told that I should. Teenagers. So annoying.
Emma by Jane Austen
Of Course. And, according to NPR, matchmakers are happier people.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Despite my having no knowledge of teen gangs, I adored this book. Ponyboy. And the movie, which I did not see until years later, exceeded my expectations with the casting. Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillion, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise with bad teeth…
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
For every teen who knew he/she was smarter than everyone else.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Before dystopia was cool.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
I believe that this was my favorite books of all the ones I was forced to read. Society, manners, and the absurdity of it all
Candide by Voltaire
I was a weird kid. But then, I also loved Monty Python.
So, thank you, my many English teachers. But I still don't forgive you any of you making me read John Steinbeck. I'm sorry, but at least the books were short.