Five Assigned Books That Ended Up Being Amazing

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.18.45 PM

We have all been assigned reading- in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, and of course in college, both undergraduate and graduate. A lot of these novels and stories that we are more or less forced to read aren’t awful, and we probably like the majority of them. But unless you’re extremely unusual (or lying) they aren’t always the books that you would choose to read on your own, if given the choice.

That being said, there are a handful of books that I am so thankful I was assigned to read or else I never would have experienced what turned out to be awesome stories. I chose my top five that I hope everyone get the chance to read at least once, assigned or not. These are books I either had never heard of before they showed up on my syllabus, or just never got around to checking out. I am so, so happy I did.

The Giver (Lois Lowry)

This book was assigned to me in sixth grade, a time when I was more concerned with learning how to apply eyeliner correctly than I was with almost anything else. I did love reading, but I liked to do it on my own in a bubble bath to escape my numerous siblings. I was a little wary of assigned reading- I didn’t think anyone had the right to tell me to do anything, let alone tell me what to read. I always, in my 12-year-old entitled brain, thought I knew what books were the best and the English teachers just picked out the most boring material on principle. I had never heard of The Giver before and when the teacher handed out copies to the class, the first thing I noticed was the picture of an old man with a beard on the cover. I can almost guarantee I rolled my eyes. I wrote it off as just another snooze-fest and prepared myself to have to struggle to get through it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This book captivated me, and honestly blew my prepubescent mind. The concepts and ideas in this book had never even started to occur to me, they were things I had never thought of before and they were so interesting. This book is geared a little bit more towards young adult readers, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.14.05 PM

A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)

I was assigned this as summer reading in high school and was immediately turned off as soon as I took the book out from the library. For one thing, it was extremely long, something I, at the time, equated with annoyingly wordy and boring. For another thing, the cover had a picture of an armadillo on the front, which not only confused me, but also made me not want to read it. I was 17 and had way more important things to do than read about weird animals. This book ended up being phenomenal, though- emotional and heartbreaking in all the best ways. To this day, I still think of certain quotes from it, particularly pertaining to death and moving on. It really stuck with me and I ended up making a notebook that summer, documenting my favorite parts.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.14.53 PM

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

Yes, I think we all know it’s a classic and Charlotte Bronte is a genius and so on. I think that may have been one of the reasons I really wasn’t too thrilled about being assigned this in college. I thought it was going to be one of those overrated novels that everyone knows about, but is actually not really fun to read at all (ahem, Wuthering Heights, I’m looking at you.) This novel was not what I was expecting at all, though, and I think the best part about it was how empowering it was to me. I was going through a terrible break-up at the time and to read about this woman, so long ago, having her heart broken, too, but loving herself too much to let it stop her from doing anything, spoke to me louder than anything else. I can honestly say that this book helped me to get through a terrible point in my life and I never would have even opened it if it were not assigned to me.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.15.35 PM

The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

This is a book I was actually excited to read for the sole purpose that I could then say I actually had read a Dostoyevsky novel. I was expecting to be miserable and confused and bored the entire time, though. Admittedly, the book is long and dense-it has a good deal of characters with very similar names so it takes a lot to keep on top of the story and what is actually going on. My professor at the time said she assigned it to us because Crime and Punishment was “too easy” for us (she was clearly a little psychotic). I’m happy with her choice, though, because this book opened my eyes to such profound ideas, sometimes I couldn’t believe I was reading words that a normal human being had come up with. Although, I suppose Dostoyevsky wasn’t exactly a normal human being…Also, his portrayal of his female characters was pretty badass and I loved him for that.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.16.13 PM

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway) 

My love (obsession) with Hemingway began with this book. I didn’t really know what to expect when I was assigned this. I knew very little about Ernest Hemingway, only that he had written The Old Man and the Sea and I had read that in middle school and hated it. It took me only a chapter to realize that I was going to absolutely love this book and I needed to know everything about Hemingway. I told my professor and fellow classmates at the time that this was the type of book I liked to have a cocktail while reading. They all laughed at me, but I was being completely serious. Reading this book feels like you’re hanging out with someone awesome who is telling you about his antics and adventures. You just want to kick back, have a drink, and listen.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.17.45 PM

Kaitlyn Seabury | News Cult