The Best Books We Were Assigned in High School

Of all the books you were assigned in high school, which was the best? That’s the question I wanted our staff to answer. It’s fun — yet maybe a little disconcerting — to travel back to that formative point in your memory. Why did you like the book? Was it the charisma of the teacher who assigned it? What were you going through at the time?

I was surprised (for some reason) to see so much continuity here, to see books that I loved, too, at the time, or maybe a few years earlier or later. It struck me that these high school assignments are a point of connection that spans generations — hence the recent ordeal with Harper Lee. I don’t have children, but it’s obvious to me that the books we’re assigned in school stay with us, shape us, guide us, and, in certain ways, undo our evolving expectations of what life will bring. Call it politics or ethics or something else, but it’s there. What we read together helps define who we become.