Top Ten Tuesday: Top Books We Were Forced to Read…and LOVED!


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books We Were Forced to Read…and LOVED!

We’ve decided to focus on books that teachers forced me to read that I ended up loving!


1. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

My 10th grade history teacher assigned our class this book, but she didn’t monitor that we were reading it (I think there was one worksheet we had to complete). She gave it to us and said, “Read this within the next two weeks.” As a 15-year-old, I didn’t do it. I think this is the only assigned book I remember not reading in high school. In my second year of college, my professor assigned me this same book, and this time, I read it. The first few chapters were rough, but then I grew to love the family and learned so much about the time period. I will never look at meat or Socialism in the same way. The only element I dislike about this book is the political tirade at the end of the book.

2. Native Son by Richard Wright

This is a stretch because colleagues forced me to read this one, but they are teachers, so I am including it! I introduced a new course a few years ago, and there were very few books left to choose from (all of the others were being taught in other grades, and we had run out of money to purchase new books). I was not looking forward to this 500-page weighty book, but I decided to give it a try. It hooked me from the very beginning, and I knew it was a great one to use for the class. This book is incredibly important to our history, and while it leads to some uncomfortable class discussions, they are important discussions to have. Once again, the political tirade at the end of this book irritates me (like The Jungle), but the rest of the book makes the reading worth it.

3. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

This is one of the best books I read in college. Edward Abbey lived in the desert of Utah for three seasons. He examines and discovers the world in fascinating ways. The book is a mixture of philosophy, humor, and adventure. This nonfiction work reminded me of a modern-day Thoreau or Emerson (two of my favorite classic authors). I give this book to my students who are very contemplative and introspective, and they always seem to enjoy it.

4. Inferno by Dante Alighieri

I never would have made it through this book without the support of my professor. It is certainly a difficult read that is complex in its language. I read it for a class called The Literature of Hell and Sympathy for the Devil. You can only imagine how many neat texts I was exposed to in this class (from Paradise Lost to The Turn of the Screw to The Golden Compass–we had a lot of fun examining the Devil and Hell as they are depicted in literature). It was fascinating for me to learn about the levels of Hell in Dante’s Inferno and read the awesomely grotesque imagery. I love how readers can examine this text from a variety of points of view. I find myself still thinking about this text, ten years after I took the course.

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green

This was the first book I read for my Methods class in college (at least, in my memory it is), and it introduced me to the world of young adult literature. My professor, Wendy Glenn, was well-informed about the wonders of young adult literature, and she opened my world with this book. While I had been reading YAL for years, I hadn’t thought about the field from the perspective of a future educator, and this incredible book showed me that I could transform my students’ reading habits in ways I hadn’t considered before.


This one was tougher for me. In middle and high school, everything I was forced to read I did not like. Luckily, this changed a bit in college where at least it was more 50/50.

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I had never read Hemingway until I took 20th century literature during my literature degree and I wish I had been introduced earlier. I love how he writes—just so to the point, no flush, and amazing dialogue. I fell in love with his literature after The Sun Also Rises and I used The Sun Also Rises or other Hemingway books as often as I could during the rest of my literature degree.

2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I read this one during my women’s lit class. At the time I hadn’t read Jane Eyre and was fascinated with Antoinette. I immediately read Jane Eyre once finishing and it is so interesting how the perception of “the madwoman in the attic” was so different than others.

3. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Everyone should read this one. Period. Though a bit didactical, it makes you look at the world just a little bit differently.

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I loved almost all of the books that I read in my adolescent lit class once I started my education degree, but Speak was definitely one of the most memorable. Such a brilliant piece of literature that touched on my soul and I have never stopped sharing with stduetns.

5. Lay that Trumpet in our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy

Also from my adolscent lit class, this book ignited my love of historical fiction. It was fascinating and I loved researching the event it highlighted after reading.

Where you forced to read a book that you ended up loving? Please share!


17 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Books We Were Forced to Read…and LOVED!”

  1. I’ve been reading YA for a while now and I absolutely love this genre of books =) Haven’t read Looking for Alaska though, and I have a feeling I’ll soon succumb to the “forces” of the blogosphere because everyone seems to have read and loved John Green’s books!

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

  2. I read Speak recently because of the amount of hype going around the blogosphere. I’m really glad I did read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it!

  3. I’ve only read one of the books on your lists (SPEAK, which I loved BTW). *Sigh* So many books, so little time. Great picks!

  4. I think I actually might love Wide Sargasso Sea more than Jane Eyre…it is such a great interpretation! And Speak is definitely one of the most powerful YA books out there.

  5. I love Looking for Alaska. What a great book!

    I read The Jungle in high school – unsurprisingly, I became a vegetarian afterwards. Still am too. Lol. It had a huge impact on me.

    • Wow. It did have an impact! It definitely made me look at factories in an entirely new light. I taught it for three years to my high school students because I loved it so much.

  6. That class on the literature of hell sounds amazing. I want to read The Inferno, but I’m sure I’d never make it through just reading it on my own.

    My TTT


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