Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn’t Challenge

Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn't Challenge

You know how it goes. Your friend is talking about how much she disliked reading The Scarlet Letter in high school, or she raves about her eighth grade English teacher, who made her memorize Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” because it appeared in The Outsiders, her favorite book in middle school. You remember being assigned The Scarlet Letter, but you couldn’t get past the chapter on the Custom House, and you bought the Cliff’s Notes instead. Fess up! Sadly, you never had an opportunity to read The Outsiders. Maybe your teacher never assigned it, and it somehow slipped under your radar.

We all have a list of books we feel we should have read, probably in school, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I missed out on some novel studies because of it, but I also admit to having trouble keeping up with the reading schedules set by my teachers and not being able to finish books. When the unit was over, I set the book aside and never picked it up again. This challenge will allow all of us who feel we should have read certain books, whether they are classics of literature, or children’s books we seem to be alone in missing, to read those books!


  • Sign up using Mr. Linky below, and include a link to your blog post announcing your participation in the challenge. You may participate if you don’t have a blog. Feel free to leave your reviews in the comments or on a site like Goodreads.
  • The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.
  • You need not decide which books you will read at this time, and you may commit to any level with which you feel comfortable.
  • You can determine whether a book meets the criteria for the challenge. If you think you should have read it in school and didn’t, then it qualifies. In fact, you can even define school however you like—elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school—the list goes on and could vary based on the educational system with which you’re most familiar.

Challenge levels:

  • Literature Professor: Read 12 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • Graduate Student: Read 6 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • College Graduate: Read 4 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • High School Graduate: Read 2 books you feel you should have read in school.

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129 thoughts on “Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn’t Challenge

  1. What a great idea! Think I will attempt the Graduate Student…maybe the College Professor. I have many I would like to read…this challenge will help motivate me…thanks!

  2. Did you invent this challenge? I love it! I swore I wasn't doing challenges this year, but….aaaaa, this challenge looks so fun!

  3. This is such a great challenge! I'm always complaining about all the Classics I missed in school. Unfortunately I'm staying away from challenges next year… Well, at least that's my stance right now. If I change my mind I'll come back and sign up for it.

    Good luck and hope you get lots of participants!

    1. Do you have a Goodreads account? What happens if you leave the URL blank? If you need to, you can just input or something like that.

  4. First of all, I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed discovering both of your blogs. As a (still new-ish) high school English teacher, I visit your huffenglish blog often for inspiration and ideas. THANK YOU for what you do.

    I've been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about books I wish I had read in school, so finding this challenge today was especially serendipitous. I would LOVE to shoot for the literature professor level, but since I'm a first year graduate student on top of being a full time teacher, I think that's a little too ambitious. I think I will commit to the graduate student level. You. Are. Awesome. 🙂

  5. Oooh, this looks like fun! I have several other ambitious projects for reading and writing going on in 2011, so I'm going to aim low and shoot for "High School Graduate."

    I'll add my "linky" entry later tonight, after I've posted something about the challenge on my blog.

  6. I think I can manage grad student, although professor might be managable since I went to school during the 70's, a time that eschewed the classics! Hey, we read "Willard" in eighth grade.

    I'll need to consult my h.s. classmates for titles since I can't remember any assigned that I didn't read.

    1. Glenda, glad to have you aboard. I was supposed to finish several books and didn't. It does make a more sympathetic English teacher, I admit.

  7. This fits right in with one of my reading resolutions for 2011! Thanks for the challenge. By the way, The Scarlet Letter was the first book I was supposed to read but didn't. Just couldn't stand it!

    1. Welcome aboard! I wasn't assigned The Scarlet Letter in school. I didn't read it until I was in my late 20's, which was much better time to read it than my teens, I think.

      1. I think that's probably true for most classics. Very little of what is considered the canon was meant for teens, yet that is what most teens are assigned in school. No wonder we lose readers in their high school years!

        1. Completely agree. I know a lot of elementary-age children love to read, but some time in late-middle and high school it drops off. I have to think a significant reason is what we ask students to read.

  8. This challenge fits perfectly with my reading goals for the year. I'm in. I'll come back to sign up with Mr. Linky when it is working.

  9. Yay! I'm pretty excited because there are some great books that I should have read while in school. 🙂 Thanks for the challenge Dana.

  10. Hi Dana!

    I'm combining this challenge with the Centurions of 2011 (#newcenturions) on FB. I was a definite "underground" reader in school. If the teacher said I HAD to read something I was sure I would NOT! I was 39 before I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird! I know…sad right? So, now I am going to read some of the classics I have avoided.

    Thanks for the challenge!


  11. Great idea!

    I'll shoot for Professor, and will challenge my students to push themselves as well.

  12. Hi!

    I love this idea… there are so many books that I missed out on reading. Thank you for the push! I'm going to shoot for reading 6 books. Thanks for doing this!

  13. Done! I'm aiming for higher than high school grad…hoping for at least grad student. What did you use to make the graphic? Is that Doris Day?

  14. I am looking forward to this challenge, Dana. No matter how much I read, I still discover books I should have read, but missed over the years. I plan to read several children's literature classics and touchstone professional books I haven't read. Thanks for the challenge!

  15. What an excellent challenge! I was a stubborn student and often didn't read what was assigned out of sheer perversity, but I can't recall any I didn't read independently later on. I'm sure there are lots of books I should have read which were not assigned in my classes though. I'll put myself down for the grad student challenge level. I look forward to reading those books that others suggest!

  16. I did this last year for Moby Dick, the book they tried to force on me in seventh grade. And Scarlet Letter is a perfect example–I hated it when I was 17 but had to re-read it to teach it when I was 30 and loved it!

    1. Moby Dick in 7th grade! That's horrific! As much as I love that book, there's no way my 7th grade self ever would have understood it.

    1. I didn't read that one until college, and just about everyone in my Late Romantic Literature class had already read it. They complained because my professor wanted them to buy a certain edition, and many of them already had a different one. There are some significant differences between two editions. Norton uses the 1818 version, which has more Old English vocabulary. Percy Shelley made some suggestions for revision that involved more Latin language. All I have to say about that is that something about Old English appeals. Churchill's famous speech: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender"—"surrender" is the only word that comes from Latin. I think maybe it means "surrender" wasn't in the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. The ending can also vary somewhat by edition. Great book, and very different from what most people expect.

  17. Count me in! Thanks to my Kindle, I've got easy access to many books I have never gotten around to reading. I started with Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz over Christmas break.

    1. I love my KIndle for getting through books quickly, and so many of the books one might consider counting for this challenge are free on the Kindle.

  18. Ooo–excited for the challenge! I am also going to use this challenge as a way to meet the New Centurions Challenge on FB. I've had Don Quixote sitting on my bookshelf forever–this is the year to tackle it! I'm shooting for Professor–gotta aim high. Thanks for such a great challenge!

  19. Hi Dana! I have enjoyed reading your blogs for two years now, and I am really looking forward to participating in this challenge! I am aiming for the College Graduate level, although I would like to finish more if I have time. I'm planning to read The Grapes of Wrath, Jane Eyre, and Catcher in the Rye. I would also like to read something by Ernest Hemingway as I have never read his work before, but I am unsure which novel to choose. Thank you so much for creating this challenge! I am looking forward to it!

    1. Sara, glad to have you! Great choices. I didn't read any of those books in school! For Ernest Hemingway, I would suggest A Farewell to Arms. There is some beautiful writing in that novel. I read it for the first time this summer, and even though I knew what would happen, I was still incredibly moved. I also like The Sun Also Rises, but Lady Brett is like Daisy Buchanan. You definitely want to smack her. I honestly haven't read any of his other novels. I should add one to my own list. Maybe For Whom the Bell Tolls? I'm not sure I'd like The Old Man and the Sea.

  20. Signing up w/be a two-fold win for me-reading some great books, and resurrecting my blog. I'm not sure what I'm going to focus on just yet, but I'll definitely set my sights on the Literature Professor. 12 is a nice number.

  21. I am going to attempt the Literature Professor. Now that I am a librarian, and my daughter is starting her AP English classes, what better time to actually read the books I was supposed to in school. I think I am going to start with To Kill a Mockingbird.

    1. To Kill a Mockingbird was the first book for school that I actually finished. It's still one of my favorites. If you read along with your daughter, what a wonderful opportunity to talk about some of the books she's studying, too. Should be fun!

    2. This is my all time favorite book. I always give it as a baby shower gift and tell new parents it is the only parenting book they will ever need.

  22. I very excited about this challenge! Maybe it will help me find a new purpose for the blog I had to create for a class a few months back. Now I need to figure out what books I'm going to read for the grad student level.

  23. I'm so looking forward to this challenge! A friend of mine and I have been doing this informally for a couple years now, so this will be even better. I shall make it to literature professor if it kills me!

  24. I'm really looking forward to starting this… The real challenge will be making the time to get the reading in. Thanks for doing this as it has really seemed to get me motivated =)

  25. Awesome. i was planning on doing this anyway but this will hold me accountable. i'm aiming for professor. . .it's about time i knew what people were talking about when it comes to some of these classics. First up The Outsiders.

  26. As an English teacher I require my students to participate in reading challenges so it seems fitting that I participate in one as well. I'm not sure if it is too late to sign up, but I would love enter the challenge.

  27. I am graduating this April in Elementary Education, so I'll go with college graduate. Hopefully my student teaching and first few months of "real" teaching won't kill this goal 🙂

    1. Congratulations on you impending graduation, April. I just earned my master's in December, and it's such a relief to be done. Have fun and welcome to the challenge!

  28. I got here via a reference from Donalyn Miller. I enjoy a good challenge! I'm going to say I'll go for Graduate Student, though I will probably end up working toward Literature Professor. I think I'll start with The Hobbit . Thanks for the challenge!

    1. Welcome, Virginia! My dad read The Hobbit in school, and I've taught it a few times to my own students, but it wasn't one of the books I read until college. I enjoy that one.

  29. love this idea but going to cheat a bit. i am a librarian in a middle school and feel i need to read "the hunger games" as my next book.

    1. Go for it! I say The Hunger Games should have existed for us to read when we were in school. It's an awesome series.

  30. I've always wanted to read To Kill a Mockingbird and never have, can you believe it??!!! Well, here is my chance. Thanks for helping me.

    1. Okay, so I am new to blogging. I have signed up for the challenge, what do I do now? Is there a place where we keep track of our reading?

      1. Emily, you can keep track of your reading at a site like Goodreads or Shelfari. If you do not have an account at one of those sites and do not wish to create one, you can also add your reviews here in the comments. Good luck on the challenge!

  31. I deliberately got the 1818 edition because the research I did said it was closest to Mary Shelley's original text, which I liked the idea of, at least. I really enjoyed it, even though it was definitely different than I expected.

    1. Things Fall Apart is on my list, too. Did you get the Norton edition of Frankenstein? If so, it has an article in the back about the differences between the different versions of Frankenstein and why they think the 1818 is better.

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