I know I just wrote an article about how I wasn’t crazy for high school English, but here’s the thing: I miss English class more than anything. After I graduated high school, and while in college, I became thoroughly addicted to in-class literary discussion, eventually getting a B.A. in English. Maybe it’s the difference between high school and college class structures, maybe it’s because of changes in myself, but in college, I fell hard and fast for the magic of English Lit class. And now that I’m out, I’m dying to go back.
Books you read for English class have their own special shine to them. They have to be ripe with literary merit, and they have to have room for interpretation and discussion. They awaken thoughts and opinions inside of you, and they beg to have papers written about them.
With this list, I tried not to just rattle off the old stand-bys. I pulled a mix of contemporary and older literature, selecting books that awaken that English major spirit. (Not that you had to have majored in English or even gone to college to get a kick out of these.) Some of the books on this list were actually parts of my personal curriculum, while others deserve to be.
So, dust off those highlighters and sharpen your intellect. Class is in session.
1. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Elena Ferrante has certainly been making waves — if you love English lit and you haven’t picked her up, this is definitely your next read. Telling the story of two girls growing up in tumultuous Naples in the 1950s, Ferrante’s writing is elegant, captivating, and has just the right amount of heft to it. As John Freeman puts it: “Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.”