Print Story Ask Husi: books they made you read in school
By clover kicker (Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 09:45:32 AM EST) (all tags)
I once heard that Moby Dick is only regarded as a classic in the US, and non-Americans don't have to read it in school.

Did you Brits have to read Twain?

Did they make you Americans read Dickens?

Boring poll inside:

In Canuckistan, we had to read a bit of Twain and Dickens, along with Canadian authors you lucky foreigners have never heard of.
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Ask Husi: books they made you read in school | 36 comments (36 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Robertson Davies by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 09:52:33 AM EST
Would you rather battle Klingons or trolls?
I consider myself well read, but the only Canadian by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 09:56:24 AM EST
classic I can think of is Anne of Green Gables, which I have never read, and while it's set in PEI (to which I have never been, but I have been to NB) I'm not even sure if the author was Canadian. So what are the great Canadian classics of literature?

It has been so long since I had mandated reading I don't remember all that I read, but a quick partial list would be:


Canterbury Tales
Burnes, Wordsworth, Donne, Lovelace, Suckling, various other UKian poets



Great Canadian literature classic by ad hoc (4.00 / 2) #4 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:15:36 AM EST
Tek War?

Seriously, anything by Robertson Davies. I just love his stuff.
Would you rather battle Klingons or trolls?

[ Parent ]
Anne of Green Gables by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #19 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 03:25:18 PM EST
Authoress was indeed Canadian.

PEI is a lot like the farming parts of NB, with nicer beaches.

I ain't too cultured, so asking me about classics might be barking up the wrong tree.

I actually enjoyed Robert Service, the rest of my mandatory reading I can't recommend (or remember, for that matter).

[ Parent ]
Answer: by thenick (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 09:57:45 AM EST
"Did they make you Americans read Dickens?"

Yes, they did. In High School we read Great Expectations, The Tale of Two Cities, and A Christmas Carole. I think there was another one, too, but I can't remember which one.

And there are great Canadian authors, like Douglas Coupland and, um... many other talented scribes.


"'Vengence is Mine', quoth Alvis. And then he shot the guy, right in the freaking face!"

I am about to piss you off.. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:26:56 AM EST
I never had to read:
  1. Moby Dick.
  2. Tom Sawyer.
  3. Huckleberry Finn.
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  5. Of Mice and Men. (is that what the dustbowl one is called?)
My childhood was full of little known authors like Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Occasionally I branched out and read furriners like Le Guin.

The dustbowl one is 'Grapes of Wrath' by yicky yacky (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:08:37 AM EST

'Of Mice and Men' is the dead kitten one.

Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
[ Parent ]
Ah. Didn't read that either. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #13 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:49:25 AM EST
I did read a lot of shakespeare in highschool and college, though.

... My mistress' eyes are nothing like the son...

Of course, now the words to that sonnet are confused in my head with the Sting tune.

[ Parent ]
what sort of deviant school did you attend? by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #21 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 03:31:19 PM EST
Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn weren't that painful, and I sorta enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reading some of Heinlein's novels at my age is pretty goddamn painful, but it might have been more convincing in my youth.

[ Parent ]
No, no, you don't understand. by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 05:13:48 PM EST
School had nothing to do with it. I pretty much read science fiction continuously from the time I was 5 till about 25. I'm not kidding - my first library book, ever, was I, Robot.

I never did not have a book in my hand. I don't remember them ever assigning me something to read in school, but it wasn't necessary - it would have been like tossing ice cubes at a glacier.

[ Parent ]
didn't they hold you down and forcefeed you? by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 05:17:43 PM EST
In elementary school I once missed an hour of afternoon classes because I was reading in a quiet corner of the library and didn't notice the bell had rung.

Sounds like your local librarians had good taste, cool.

[ Parent ]
Looking back... by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #31 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 02:53:10 AM EST
They were always making books available to us all - through a in-class book shelves, a book club, and so on, and DO remember writing a couple of book reports, but they weren't on the "classics".

I remember doing a book report on a bio of Tom Edison. But I can't think of any others.

In high-school a nun taught us to love Shakespeare (well, by "us" I mean "me") by having us act it out in class instead of just reading it. I played the witches in Macbeth; and when Mary Malfaro played Romeo and Frank Barbalace played Juliet - well, let's just leave it at that, shall we?

[ Parent ]
memories by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #25 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 06:01:34 PM EST
I used to go to the school library every morning, check out a couple of books, and return one before leaving, reading the other one at home.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Reading by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:33:59 AM EST
I had amazingly little reading mandated in high school. I know I read Twain, Salinger, Cooper and a few other obvious American authors in "American Lit", but managed to avoid any other lit classes.

It's hard for me to say for certain, because I managed to read a lot on my own.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

I did not read Moby-Dick* in school by The Fool (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:36:31 AM EST
However, I did once (as an editor of a school newspaper) publish an edition that contained the complete text of Moby-Dick* rendered as 4.3 point font on 8 pages of newsprint.

* or, "The Whale"

Ugh... Don't remind me... by atreides (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:42:23 AM EST
The very mention of Bleak House makes me want to shank someone.

Have you seen The Passion yet? Here's a spoiler for you: Jesus dies.
"...compassion is more than a 16 point word in scrabble." - MostlyHarmless

The Masterpiece Theatre by LoppEar (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:45:26 AM EST
(stolen from BBC) version that wrapped up here this week, quite excellent. Not enough to make me want to read it, maybe when I'm old and gray.

[ Parent ]
I'm not enemy of Masterpiece Theater... by atreides (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 10:54:58 AM EST
...but fuck that Dickens guy. The best way to be the hero of your own life is to avoid him like the plague.

Have you seen The Passion yet? Here's a spoiler for you: Jesus dies.
"...compassion is more than a 16 point word in scrabble." - MostlyHarmless

[ Parent ]
None by LoppEar (2.00 / 0) #11 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:00:43 AM EST
I read a whole lot volutarily as a US kid (Twain, Dickens from your list), but after sixth grade never had a school-assigned reading list. So my forced reading stops with "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Shiloh".

What I can remember being required to read by lm (2.00 / 0) #14 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:56:03 AM EST
Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, Easat of Eden
Dickens: Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities
Twain: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn
Bryant: Thanatopsis (I had to memorize this)
Shelly: Frankenstein
Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Julius Caesar, The Tempest
Bronte: Jane Eyre
Foster: The Red Badge of Courage
Poe: Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Telltale Heart, the Cask of Amantandillo(sp?), Bells
Asimov: Fantastic Voyage

I'm probably missing a few, but those are the ones that I remember.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Poe by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 03:27:16 PM EST
Some of the few required readings that I actually enjoyed.

[ Parent ]
Once upon a time, I had the Black Cat memorized by lm (2.00 / 0) #26 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 06:03:32 PM EST
But the Black Cat pales to Bernice when publicly performed.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
higj school required reading by 256 (2.00 / 0) #15 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 01:14:44 PM EST
another canadian perspective:

john knowles: a separate peace
wo mitchell: who has seen the wind
william golding: lord of the flies
charlotte bronte: wuthering heights
margaret laurence: the stone angel
margaret atwood: the handmaid's tale
michael ondaatje: in the skin of a lion
george orwell: 1984
geoffrey chaucer: canterbury tales
ts eliot: murder in the cathedral
homer: the odyssey
shakespeare: romeo and juliet, the twelfth night, merchant of venice, macbeth, king lear, hamlet
I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni

grade 13 in Ontario I bet? by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 03:08:50 PM EST
That's a bunch more than we managed back home. No wonder Down East is the undisputed king of Canadian illiteracy.

[ Parent ]
yep by 256 (2.00 / 0) #22 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 04:18:27 PM EST
and i actually did grade 13 english twice and the assigned novels were different each time.
I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni
[ Parent ]
Canadian Authors by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #16 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 02:02:02 PM EST
We read quite a few Canadians.

I was introduced to Haliburton, Elizabeth Smart, Munro, Ondaatje, Robert Service, Mowat, Wyndham Lewis, Atwood, Klein, Frye - these all made some reading list or other.

Part of my major was Western lit, so the American and UK authors lists would be silly to try.

Robert Service may be my favorite Canadian author by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 02:43:25 PM EST
Anecdotic by bob6 (2.00 / 0) #27 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:54:11 PM EST
Foreign authors have very little place in French education however we had to read some. From the top of my head we had Poe, Twain, Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury. We also had a bunch of neither french or english authors like Kafka, Cervantes, Dostoïevsky, Khayyam, Basho, Euripides, Buzzati...

Interestingly enough these were taught in French class. For some mysterious reason I was never given a British or American authors in English class (French english teachers usually suck, I doubt they ever heard of Canadian litterature). I'm obviously skipping non-fiction books I had to read in other disciplines (philosophy, physics, biology, etc).

You'll also notice that english litterature I was taught was quite genre oriented. That was pleasant at the moment since I was kinda geek but with hindsight I find it denotes misplaced contempt for english litterature from French litteracy educators.

France by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #29 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 01:29:01 AM EST
I'm told Joyce is big in France too.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I wish by bob6 (2.00 / 0) #32 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 02:55:29 AM EST
But I guess it's studied in universities rather than school. Not in my cursus.

[ Parent ]
Ulysses was the first time I realised by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #33 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 04:15:24 AM EST
that it's OK not to be able to read one of the greats.

It was first published in France, wasn't it?

I read a touch of Le Malade Imaginaire (Molière) when I was in a French class in France, but as it was just on an exchange, I guess that's not an adequate data point.

[ Parent ]
Published? Of course... original and translated by bob6 (2.00 / 0) #35 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 06:09:07 AM EST
Molière's nice and entertaining.

[ Parent ]
Required reading by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #28 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 12:17:08 AM EST
A random, probably incompete selection.

Julius Caesar & Macbeth, Shakespeare.
Philadelphia, Here I Come, Friel.
Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck.
Hard Times, Dickens.
Walkabout, Vance Marshall.
Empire of the Sun, Ballard.
Animal Farm, Orwell.
Lord of the Flies, Golding.
Pride and Prejudice, Austin.
Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne, Unknown.
Poetry by Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Shelly, Byron, Keats, Manley Hopkins, Dickinson, Yeats, Kavanagh, Heaney most of which I've probably forgotten.

I didn't have to read any of those three by Farmgirl (4.00 / 2) #30 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 01:58:46 AM EST

As a way of distracting myself from morning sickness though I've trawled the murkier waters of my memory and compiled the following list of what we did read.

First couple of years of high school, the teacher had a thing about WW2 so stuff like The Silver Sword (Ian Seraillier) and The Cay (Theodore Taylor), and a bit of grim apocalypse with Z for Zachariah (Robert O'Brien).  Then a bit of Shakespeare for light relief (Romeo and Juliet).  Bored yet?

Then I moved to NZ where, among others, we read USian things - Bless the Beasts and Children (Glendon Swarthout), and To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee).  Some NZ stuff - Manhunt: The Story of Stanley Graham (Howard Willis) which I thought was called Bad Blood, but apparently that was the film, and The Makutu on Mrs Jones (Witi Ihimaera) which I think was a short novel. Also some NZ poetry.

Then back to Scotland and in 5th year - Hamlet, various sonnets (Shakespeare); The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum (Heinrich Boll); some Burns and some other Scottish poets whose names escape me; The White Bird Passes (Jessie Kesson).

For the last year it was Morning Tide, The Silver Darlings and Highland River (Neil Gunn);
Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and her Children, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Bertolt Brecht);
As You Like It, possibly Othello, various sonnets (Shakespeare); The Assistant, The Fixer, and The Natural (Bernard Malamud).

Bugger, still feel sick.

I can't be bothered to change this sig.

Bless the Beasts and Children was a great film by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #36 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 07:56:41 AM EST
Hold on-- I'll fetch a bucket.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
My compulsory reading: by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #34 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 04:21:36 AM EST

An Inspector Calls, JB Priestly.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding.
Macbeth, Shakespeare (also we saw Twelfth Night at the RSC)
Z for Zachariah, Robert C O'Brien, or some others from a choice of apocalyptic ones.

No Dickens, and no Twain. That's all I remember reading.

We had plenty of compulsory films to watch in my post-16 French syllabus. That was where I learnt most of my m4d 1337 literary skillz.

Ask Husi: books they made you read in school | 36 comments (36 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback