The Truth Behind Assigned Reading

English Teachers reveal what books they would want to assign students to read.

For the most part the Academic Magnet assigned reading list has remained the same for countless years. There have been some changes to the current assigned reading list, 9th graders are no longer assigned to read Siddhartha and in my sophomore year we did not read Catch 22 for example.  For the English Department, they have to read and discuss the same books year after year which to me would become rather boring. I personally really liked Catcher in the Rye, but if I had to discuss Holden Caulfield every year I would probably go crazy. While I think it’s very important for us to read the classics, I thought it would be fun to see what books the English teachers would choose for their students to read over the summer or during the school year if they did not have to follow the curriculum. 


Starting with Mrs. Akery, who based her recommendations off of the 9th grade curriculum since she primarily teaches freshmen. She said that she would love to assign “Gareth Hind’s graphic novel adaptation of the Iliad as a summer reading requirement and then start the school year with the Iliad unit.” She said that she would also like to assign Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo either as summer reading or during the fourth quarter when freshmen read contemporary selections from around the world. She says that “it is a novel in verse that contains themes of self-acceptance and multicultural identity.” Overall I would consider the freshman year books to have some great books, Bless Me Ultima, Julius Caesar, and Greek Mythology, where all books I enjoyed. I do agree with Mrs. Akery that reading the Iliad would be a nice addition to the classical era books we read. 


Mrs. Shifflette said that she would want to teach more magical realism and Latin American Literature, specifically from the author Gabriel García Márquez and his book Love in the Time of Cholera. She also mentioned the book House of Spirits by Isabel Allende and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, although not Latin American it still falls into the category of magical realism. She said that her novel choices would “reflect more of an international selection.”



Mrs. Grayson said that she would assign Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. She said that, “this is one of the funniest novels I have read in a long time. It isn’t a masterwork of fiction, but if you are looking for a book that makes you feel a lot of different emotions in a short span of time I highly recommend it. Once you pick it up you won’t be able to put it down!” She said the book is about a girl who takes on a nanny’s position watching a friend’s stepkid who has a unique medical condition. She was very adamant on not saying what the medical condition was because she did not want to to spoil the book. I also asked Mrs. Grayson some follow up questions about the curriculum. I asked if there were any books that she doesn’t like to teach, and she said that she is happy that she does not teach 10th grade. She is not a fan of Kafka and Metamorphosis or Dante’s Inferno. She also said that Things Fall Apart gets a bad rap at magnet and sets the year on the wrong foot, but that it is an important book to read for introducing the tragic hero. She said that she also stopped teaching 9th grade because she got tired of teaching the books, but is sad that she does not teach Shakespeare and Julius Caesar anymore, a book she really enjoys. 


Mrs. Lankford said that for AP Literature they basically get to choose the majority of books that are read throughout the year as long as they choose anything that meets the requirements for the AP Literature exam. I also asked her if she gets tired of reading the same books every year, and she said that she does not get tired most of the time, but that she does get tired of reading some parts of British literature, and probably would not like teaching books from a different curriculum. Mrs. Lankford also mentioned that she does not get tired of reading Lord of the Flies, but does get tired of Life of Pi, which Mrs. Grayson agreed and said that she could not get past the first chapter. I do not really like Lord of the Flies, but I defiantly agree with the English teachers that Lord of the Flies is way more of an enjoyable to read than Life of Pi.

I could not get past the first chapter of Life of Pi.

— Mrs. Grayson

Mrs. Hurt was very blunt with her answer and said she would assign Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, or any book by Conroy. I have a feeling that Mrs. Hurt really likes Pat Conroy. She also said that she likes all the books that she teaches and does not get tired of reading any of the assigned books. 

Despite the hate for many of the books we have to read, I think overall the books are good and its important to read and learn the classics, although I really hate The Scarlet Letter (sorry Mrs. Grayson). Although we won’t read the books that the teachers recommended in school, I highly recommend reading them in your free time. Also, thank you to all the English teachers for answering my questions!