Reading is one of my absolute favorite things to do, and while I don't do a lot of it, these are some books I read in high school (actually read) that you should revisit if you went straight for the SparkNotes version. Shoutout to my senior year English teacher for introducing me to most of these amazing books.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
What you might know about it already: "To be or not to be", The skull scene, the fact that the Lion King was based off it.
Why it's actually worth reading: There are lessons to be learned. Hamlet is a play about loss, revenge, and the toll it takes on a young prince. It's about suffering, pain, and ways to deal with it all. Of course, there's "to be or not to be?" -- to live, or not to live? Hamlet chooses life. That's a pretty big deal.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What you might know about it already: The Little Prince is a children's book, so you may have already read it. In my case, I hadn't read it until I was assigned it at the beginning of my senior year.
Why it's actually worth reading: A lot about adulthood can be learned from a book we may have read when we were six and only cared about pictures. There are valuable lessons to be learned in the illustrations and all of the characters The Little Prince meets. It teaches that sometimes you have to let go, despite how much it may hurt.
No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
What you might know about it already: I feel like this play isn't taught very often, so it's possible you may have never even heard of No Exit. I hadn't before I'd started reading it. If you have, "hell is other people" is one of the big takeaways from it.
Why it's actually worth reading: The play deals with existentialism and the after-life for three different people who end up locked into a room together with no way out and only three couches. It's about torment and regret and a lot of very complex ideas that are presented in a very easily understandable way. The characters are also extremely well developed. It's a short play so it won't even take a long time to get through.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
What you might know about it already: The green light, "Old Sport", the film with Leo, the symbolism.
Why it's actually worth reading: The symbolism. The Great Gatsby is FILLED with symbolism, in every action, on every page. There are lessons to be learned through Fitzgerald's almost excessive symbolism. Though there is so much of it and it will take a while to catch on to just how much symbolism there is, once you get the hang of it, reading the book becomes really enjoyable. Not to mention, the story is great and the characters are really developed. "So we beat on..."
The Giver by Lois Lowry
What you might know about it already: This is another book commonly assigned to younger readers, but I hadn't picked it up until I'd just started my senior year of high school. The two days I spent reading it were very well spent. Also, a movie was released not too long ago.
Why it's actually worth reading: The story is beautifully haunting. It's a dystopian centered on a colorless world. Everyone's life is planned out for them by the state. Secrets are kept from everyone. It follows Jonas, a 12 year old, who is about to receive his life plans from the state. He starts to learn the secrets and he wants to break free. It's a quick read that will keep you turning pages until you've reached the end, wanting so much more.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
What you might know about it already: This is another play that I'll admit I wasn't actually aware of before I'd begun reading. The biggest theme in Death of a Salesman is the American dream, and tends to get grouped in with that.
Why it's actually worth reading: There is so much complexity in a not-so-long play. It centers on a family, the Lomans: Willy, Linda, and their two sons: Biff and Happy. Happy grew up in Biff's shadow, Biff grew up being raised to be everything Willy could never achieve. It deals with the ills of reality, and shows the way relationships can be formed and broken and how life just takes a toll after living the same life for 40 years without a break in what you're doing.
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