Friday Wrap-Up: What Was Your Favorite Book in High School?

Can I just say that I totally highlighted the crap out of 1984 by George Orwell and wrote long papers about the parallels in our society and his dystopian one? Yep, that was me.

I also scattered exclamation points all over my copies of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Dharma Bums, because, I mean, it’s like he really got it and I was all about running away to San Francisco to hike a mountain and join a movement that had ended 20 years before I was born. (After track practice of course.)

Of course I loved those books and many others, as books like those come to define a time and a place when your body and your mind’s cognitive development haven’t quite met up. But…

My two favorite books were a little bit more unexpected, and even with their faults and absolute zero to do with my own life, helped shape who I am today. They were books about love, about becoming a woman, and about truth in all its varied nuances that people may or may not actually consider truth.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros is, at the surface, about a family’s journey back and forth between their new home in Chicago and the ancestral home in Mexico City every summer.  At the center, it’s a book about family and the youngest daughter’s eventual understanding of the art of storytelling, truth, and how people live day to day.

The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende is a collection of stories told from one lover to another in an Arabian Nights style. The stories cover the expanse of Allende’s favored subjects–from strong women, to love and compassion. In them, she creates a new way to see the magic in the every day world.

In anticipation of a week-long event I’m planning out that will pair the “classic” high school books with some new, perhaps more relevant choices for students, I’d like to get to know your favorite books from high school.

Which books changed you in high school? Which books made you who you are today? Which books do you re-read every few years to see how they’ve changed? 

About nikki_steele

Freelance writer and editor. Creator of BookPairing blog.
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  • Dani

    If “1984” ran your highlighter dry, you should definitely check out “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. Talk about “holy crap” kind of scary insight/prescience.

    • Nikki Steele

      Ooh cool! Will have to check it out.

  • Joanna Hennon

    I’ve had Caramelo on my list for ages, maybe I should bump it up! And I’ve always loved Allende, though I think that The House of the Spirits is my favorite. You know, I can’t remember what I liked to read in high school, how strange!

    • Nikki Steele

      You definitely should, I love the book and it’s still on my honored book shelf. I did love The House of the Spirits as well, it’s such a classic of hers.

  • Kim Ukura

    The book that helped me “get” literature and symbolism and how mind-bending books could be was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It’s one of those books that transformed my brain when I was like 16.

    • Nikki Steele

      Oooh that was a great one as well. I didn’t read that one until I got into college, but I remember being blown away at how such a “tiny” book managed to carry such a great intensity.

  • Melissa

    I haven’t read either if your favorites, so obviously going on my must-read list. In high school I loved Hamlet, The Odyssey and Picture of Dorian Gray.

    • Nikki Steele

      Hooray, hope you love them!
      Aww you were always such a classic gal. We read The Odyssey as well and it was amazing to realize just how “fun” those literary classics could be.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    Two of the books I looooooved in high school (to the point of writing papers about the symbolism in them, etc) were Frankenstein and Catch-22. I also was obsessed with Hamlet.

    As for more pop fiction… um, anything and everything? I was still not very discerning at that point, and read basically whatever snagged my eye at the library.

    • Nikki Steele

      Oh Catch 22 was such a great one as well! I talk to people nowadays that are like, “I don’t get that book” — what’s not to get??? It’s such a stupendous book.