On the Books I Read for High School: Years 9 to 11

A lot of the people I went to high school with had a love-hate (to be honest, mostly hate) relationship with the books we had to read. I’m no exception. I wasn’t required to read a huge number of books for high school, despite gravitating towards the humanities. In my first three years of high school (Years 9, 10 and 11, as they are called in New Zealand), I was only required to read one book a year. All three of these were for English class.

These years were the least exciting for me, probably due to teacher’s desperation to find a simplistic text that could also be easily written about. And so, in Year 9, I read Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl. The following year, I read The The Wave by Todd Strasser. In Year 11, my first year of proper exams, I read The Diary of Anne Frank.

I don’t know anyone out there who wasn’t completely enthralled by Roald Dahl’s tales as a child. I certainly had my fair share of favourites.

Boy is a collection of memoirs from his childhood. Just like his novels, it’s full of hilarious moments that are bound to have you in fits of laughter. And just like his novels, there are a number of moments that take on a slightly more serious tone.

To be honest, my lack of enjoyment of this book was probably because the teacher I happened to have at the time. She didn’t really sell the book, and I really struggled to write an essay that I found interesting but also met her standards.

So even though it was beyond amusing and incredibly memorable (seriously, I still remember some of the stories in this book like the back of my hand… and they still make me laugh!), I found it hard to just sit down and enjoy this book for what it was: a really wonderful memoir.

The following year, I read The Wave by Todd Strasser. Based on a true story (very loosely, if you believe some accounts), it follows a school that experiments with discipline. When a history class conveys their dismay at the Nazis unfaltering obedience, the teacher begins to toy with the students’ ideas of conformity and solidarity.

A straight-forward book with a terrifying message, this book frightened me. It’s pretty simplistic and not mind-blowingly well-written, but the story in itself was enough to make me shudder. And it was certainly enough to ensure that I remember it pretty darn clearly.

Next was The Diary of Anne Frank. I’m always a little ashamed to say that I didn’t really enjoy reading this. Even though the story itself breaks my heart, I found reading about her life in the attic a little bit tedious.

But while I didn’t necessarily like reading it, I’m really glad I did. It’s stories like these that ensure that we’ll always remember, no matter how many years have passed.

There we go! The three books that I was required to read for my first three years of high school English. Sure, they didn’t blow my mind, but I’m definitely glad I read them.What were some of the books you read for high school? Did you love them? Hate them? Let me know!


#BetterWorldBooks Challenge: ‘Lust’ by Roald Dahl and ‘The Roots of the Olive Tree’ by Courtney Miller Santo

I’m not a huge fan of challenges, to be honest. Sure, I set a goal on goodreads like everyone else, but I don’t typically go for the others. This year, however I came across the BetterWorldBooks Challenge and thought I’d give it a shot.

On a side note, I want to be very clear: all the books I’m picking for any challenge that I choose to do has always been picked specifically for that challenge. It’s not me picking up a book and realising three weeks later that it conveniently fits a category. I want these challenges to push me to read things I might not have, and I don’t think that convenient way of thinking allows me to do that.

Anyway, enough with that. Here are the first two books that I read for the challenge!

The first challenge I picked was to read a collection of short stories. For this, I chose Lust by Roald Dahl. Penguin recently decided to release some of his short stories in four anthologies: Cruelty, Deception, Lust and Madness. I was pretty excited to read this, chiefly because I’ve only ever really read his work aimed at children.

There were a stories that I did really enjoy, but there were also a few that didn’t resonate with me. My absolutely favourite was The Great Switcheroo. It tells the story of two devious men of similar physical attributes who decide to see if they can get away with sleeping with the other’s wife. It’s a bizarre (and sort of disturbing, to be honest) premise, I know. But it was actually a great (…and, again, disturbing) read, and I got a real kick out of the final lines.

So there were some hits and there were some misses. In the end, it just wasn’t the best collection of short stories that I’ve come across. I much prefer Margaret Atwood’s collections, The Tent being one of my all time favourite books.


The second challenge, I found slightly peculiar: to read a book with a colour in its title. For this one, I opted to browse my bookshelf to see if any of the books I hadn’t read that fit. I wasn’t actually expecting anything, so was pleasantly surprised to see The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo.

The book follows a family that comprises of five generations of women. Set on the olive farm that they all grew up on, this story really hopes to expose the complexities of family life. I liked the idea of the multiple generations and I understand that it has a personal significance to the author. However, I also felt as though having so many central characters in a relatively short novel might not have been the best choice.

There isn’t a lot I can say without spoiling the novel, but it was essentially a nice look at five characters who have complicated relationships with each other. It also addressed people’s desire for immortality. Or, at the very least, a bloody long life. It was a nice read overall, but it didn’t really excite or capture my attention the way I’d hoped it would.

And there you have it! Let me know how your challenges are going. I hope you’re all finding some great reads.