We’re officially in back-to-school mode these days, with kiddos getting on busses and rows upon rows of backpacks and lunchboxes for sale at Target. This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic, because I’m the daughter of two career public school teachers and I’ve always loved learning.
Since I don’t have a need to buy a new backpack and fill it with colored pencils and flashy notebooks, I decided to put my back-to-school nostalgic impulses to good use. I’ve rounded up a list of books from my high school experiences that I think might be worth a re-visit!
I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to Toni Morrison’s work during my junior year of high school. Beloved was such a significant book in my development as a teenager, because it exposed me to some difficult trauma-related themes alongside absolutely gorgeous writing. Many teachers may have shied away from exposing their students to this kind of literature, but I was lucky to have an English teacher who trusted us to grapple with these things and come out of the experience as more well-rounded people.
I’ve been meaning to revisit Beloved as an adult, because I know its messages and emotional core are more likely to make sense to me as the grown woman that I am today. Toni Morrison’s recent passing makes me even more likely to move this up on my To Be Re-Read List.
Of all of the books I considered sharing in this article, I’ll admit this might be the least on-brand for the average Frolic reader. However, I’m a major believer in trying things out now and then that you don’t think will be your cup of tea.
In fact, I remember thinking, “Ughhhh…a book about the Vietnam War?” when this book was assigned to me in high school. However, I was captivated by the writing style and war stories that O’Brien spun.
I’ve actually re-read The Things They Carried in the last year, and it’s an incredible book for its meditations on war, truth, and the power of story.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Okay, so this is a little self-plagiarizing, because I wrote for Frolic about just how wonderful it was to re-read A Room of One’s Own for this first time since high school.
BUT I’m still including it on this list because, in addition to all of the wonderful feminist-y things in that text, it just feels like an inspirational choice for those of us who miss going to school.
Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own for a particularly academic audience. In it, she also advocates for women’s education and ability to write their own stories. If that doesn’t inspire you to sharpen a pencil and get to work, I don’t know what will!
Every other time that I tried to read Dickens, I just couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s because I would go in with over-lofty ambitions, or maybe the stories just didn’t speak to me. Though it’s been over a decade, I do recall really enjoying A Tale of Two Cities.
Maybe it was the high emotional stakes and political upheaval that I found interesting. Maybe it was that I remembered the Wishbone episode based on this book. Whatever the reason, this was the one Charlies Dickens novel that I got through and enjoyed. I think it would be worth a re-read to nourish my adult brain with some old-timey language and sweeping stories!
This feels like the peak “read it in high school” book. But there’s a reason that Harper Lee’s story is such a classic. Her portrayal of small town life, systemic racism, compassion for neighbors and a coming-of-age understanding of justice have taken their place in the American imagination thanks to high school teachers around the country. In fact, I will always remember when my teacher used this book to teach us about one of my all-time favorite literary words: the bildungsroman.
Though aspects of the book haven’t aged perfectly (Atticus Finch may not be the idealized symbol for white allyship that many used to hold him up to be), it’s still a classic story that is worth revisiting whenever you want to re-live some ninth grade literature vibes.
Do you have a favorite book from high school that you think is worth re-reading? Reach out to @onfrolic and tell us all about it!