On the Books I Read for High School: Year 13

My final year of high school was my best school reading year yet. I’ve talked about my lacklustre Years 9-11 and my mixed Year 12, so it’s nice to look back and know that I ended high school on a high note.

For English class, I read two novels and one play. Only two were compulsory reads. The first compulsory read was Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I fell for this book. Truly and madly. I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was romantic. I loved the simplicity of the premise and the complexity of its execution.

I also read my first Shakespeare. My teacher picked Othello and I have to admit… I was a wee bit disappointed. Of all his plays that actually intrigued me, Othello didn’t quite make the list. That being said, I didn’t hate Othello. I thought I would, but I didn’t. Although it didn’t really excite me, I did like the different themes and found it an interesting read.

An optional book (for all those opting for a feminist lens when writing comparative essays), was Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I absolutely devoured this book. Devoured it. I stayed up half the night so that I could finish it in one sitting, and even when I’d finished it I didn’t want to put it down. It made my heart feel heavy.

For Classics, I read three books. We started the year off with Homer’s The Odyssey. Most of the girls in my class weren’t a huge fan of this, but I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it was an epic tale. I thought it was exciting. And I’m so incredibly grateful that I got to read this in class, because I’m not entirely sure that I would’ve got to it otherwise.

We also read Virgil’s The Aeneid. The whole point of the assignment was to compare the two. And to be honest? I found The Aeneid really hard to read. It felt a lot more political (probably because it was) and the plot didn’t feel as fun. There were endless pages of killing and fighting, and while it certainly planned on mythology of the time, it didn’t have that fantastical element that The Odyssey did.

My teacher also recommended that we pick by Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a spin-off The Aeneid, focusing on Aeneas’ wife, Lavinia. Spin-offs in themselves are always interesting reads, but I do have to say that this one didn’t really grip me. To be fair, that probably has something to do with not particularly enjoying the original.

And there you have it! All the books that I had the great joy (…well, that’s probably pushing it) of reading in high school. My final year was infinitely more enjoyable than the others, and I’m forever grateful to both my English and my Classics teacher for setting texts that pushed me out of my comfort zone.


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