Do you remember the books you read at school? At the time, some of them could not have been less appreciated, if we’re honest, but looking back now they provided us with our first exposure to some of the world’s finest, most celebrated fiction. And as the new school year is fast approaching for all of our children, we thought it would be fun to run through the books from our school days that we REALLY should have appreciated more at the time.
Of Mice and Men
Written by the great John Steinbeck and published in 1937, Of Mice and Men tells the story of migrant ranch workers George and Lennie, who move from place to place through California in search of work during the United States’ Great Depression.
Way back when we were reading Of Mice and Men at school, we likely couldn’t see past the early 20th century setting, dead puppies and that strange glove that Curley wore, but the book is a compelling and captivating exploration of dreams, loneliness, companionship and oppression – themes you might not appreciate fully until you’re a little older, like we are.
Lord of the Flies
Written by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies tells the tale of a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island during a nuclear war, who attempt to govern themselves with truly dire results.
When we were reading Lord of the Flies at school, most of us would have likely been distracted by passing notes (notes – those were the days!) and carving our names into the desk with a protractor, but Lord of the Flies is a fascinating parable about civilisation, innocence and the universality of human nature – if only we’d known at the time.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most celebrated works of modern literature. The book, too, takes place during the Great Depression of the United States and tells the story of Atticus Finch, an attorney appointed to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, narrated by his daughter, Scout.
While some of the racial epithets used were a bit distracting and shocking to us as younger readers, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a warm and humorous juxtaposing examination of very serious issues including rape and racial inequality.
Written by author Mary Shelley and published in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of a young Genevan scientist who creates a creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment, told as a final correspondence between a ship’s captain and his sister.
As young whipper-snappers, we were likely preoccupied with whatever was going to go on at lunchtime rather than taking in the themes of the book. While Frankenstein’s language may have been a bit difficult to digest during our school years, too, looking back it’s a fine example of both gothic and romantic fiction, and is considered by many the catalyst for the creation of the science fiction genre.
The Great Gatsby
Penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, The Great Gatsby tells the story of the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who has passionate obsession for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan.
A bit of a depressing read for younger readers and, if we’re honest, a bit of a slow burner that lacks in the form of monstrous characters to keep our at-the-time short attention focussed on its pages, The Great Gatsby is a curious and glamorous tale that explores human aspiration and the depraved side of the American dream.