Top 5 School Books We Didn't Fully Appreciate

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

John Steinbeck

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

William Golding

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

Harper Lee

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.


Mary Shelley

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

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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.

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    "Lord of the Flies" is a novel that has captivated schoolchildren ever since it was first published in 1954. A teacher himself, Golding clearly understood what excites and interests children. It is not only a gripping story, with strong, sympathetic characters, but it also raises timeless and profound questions. Part of its lasting appeal, particularly in schools, surely arises from the way it tackles universal issues. The novel is a catalyst for thought-provoking discussion and analysis, not only concerning the capabilities of humans for good and evil and the fragility of moral inhibition, but beyond. The boys' struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be. All of these concerns are current today and can be easily related to the novel through effective teaching and learning. This new educational edition encourages original and independent thought from students, as well as guiding them through the text. The introductory material includes a biographical section on William Golding as well as providing information about the novel's historical context, which will be ideal for students completing GCSE and A-Level courses. At the end of the text there are chapter summaries, comprehension questions, discussion points and activities plus a glossary of less familiar words or phrases. This new edition includes William Golding's essay on "Lord of the Flies", "Fable". All of these are intended to inspire and generate creative teaching, learning and love of the novel.
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    This is a stunning new clothbound edition of Mary Shelley's infamous work of horror fiction, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. These delectable and collectible Penguin editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design. Obsessed by creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life by electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. This chilling gothic tale, begun when Mary Shelley was just nineteen years old, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. This edition also includes 'A Fragment' by Lord Byron and 'The Vampyre: A Tale' by John Polidori, as well as an introduction and notes. Mary Shelley (1797-1851), the daughter of pioneering thinkers Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, eloped with the poet Percy Shelley at the age of sixteen. Three years later, during a wet summer on Lake Geneva, Shelley famously wrote her masterpiece, Frankenstein. The years of her marriage were blighted by the deaths of three of her four children, and further tragedy followed in 1822, when Percy Shelley drowned in Italy. Following his death, Mary Shelley returned to England and continued to travel and write until her own death at the age of fifty-three.
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    'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place'. George and his large, simple-minded friend Lennie are drifters, following wherever work leads them. Arriving in California's Salinas Valley, they get work on a ranch. If they can just stay out of trouble, George promises Lennie, then one day they might be able to get some land of their own and settle down some place. But kind-hearted, childlike Lennie is a victim of his own strength. Seen by others as a threat, he finds it impossible to control his emotions. And one day not even George will be able to save him from trouble. "Of Mice and Men" is a tragic and moving story of friendship, loneliness and the dispossessed.
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    Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
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    Harper Lee's acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize after its publication in 1960 and is hugely influential in its exposure of racial prejudice.

    Set in the American Deep South, the story is seen through the eyes of six-year-old Scout, whose lawyer father Atticus Finch defends a young black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

    As Scout's family deals with the hostility and prejudice as a result of the case, there's a dawning realisation for Scout of all the inequality and injustice in her world.

    Powerful and moving, this 'Great American Novel' is a must-have addition to every reader's bookshelf and with the publication of follow-up Go Set a Watchman already one of the biggest sellers of the year, now is the perfect time to rediscover the hugely important book.