From West Egg to The Nine Circles of Hell: Required Reading That’s Worth It


Ashley Veazey

Books that are taught at CCHS from within the canon.

Lucy Roberts, Editor

There’s long been discussion of what novels should be taught in school. What titles can define a culture or style and how are these titles determined? 

Within the accepted canon, books like Romeo and Juliet and Lord of the Flies have received mixed criticisms from grumbling students across the country. Books that are almost universally considered “good” still receive complaints by some students simply because they’re required to read them. Many teenagers today don’t have the time to read for personal enjoyment, but don’t like the books that they’re being graded to read either, whether because of the subject matter or even simply because being assessed on a book takes all of the fun out of reading it. Moreover, everyone has a book, or a few books, that they absolutely despise. Reading assignments given for many classes can be seen as monotonous, dry, and wholly uninteresting. The worst part is that giving up on reading means giving up a good grade on assessments, so you’re often forced to invest time into the literature that you so vehemently hate. 

But some books, for one reason or another, stand out among typical reading assignments. Literature affect readers differently, however, sometimes students and teachers can actually see eye to eye on what makes great literature. Whether because of subject matter, characters, setting, plot or writing style, certain books just click with certain readers. Even the students who despise reading when they aren’t forced to do it for school can usually think of at least one book that they read for school that they didn’t absolutely hate. These books are often times the edgier, more controversial titles because students feel that they can relate to them. However, surprisingly, there are instances where students read books like The Crucible and come to realize that maybe it’s not so bad. 

A few Chamblee students shared what books have stood out to them, and what makes them different from the majority of other required readings. 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

“It had a real plotline, it wasn’t as much a true story as much as other books we’ve read. It seemed more fictional and more enjoyable. I liked how it sounded like it could happen in real life and the way the writer told the story makes you believe that.” -Addison Stephens (9th)

The Inferno by Dante

“It’s just a really interesting book, like, it really pulls you in and you really want to keep reading.” -Ashton Westfall (10th)

“I just like the whole story of it, I just think it’s really creative. I just think that the way he told the story was super interesting and it had a lot of depth to it. It was just super interesting, I just really enjoyed it and it made me want to continue to read it. -Camille Lizcano (11th)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“It was actually interesting, it wasn’t like an informational book. There was a plot behind it that was actually interesting. Everything else is very clearly an assignment, but this wasn’t.” -Chris Smith (11th)

“I thought the dynamic between all the characters was interesting. The overall topic of shadiness of rich people was really interesting.” -Matthew Lombardo (11th)

1984 by George Orwell 

“There’s a plot twist you never would have thought of. The author really grabs the reader’s attention and I can really picture [the story] in my mind.” -Kelly Ramos (11th)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

“I never bothered to read it and I knew it was a classic so I enjoyed the fact that I was being forced to read a classic so then I’m not out of the loop. I didn’t have any spoilers for the book, either, which was another reason I enjoyed it. My teacher actually enjoyed teaching the book which made me enjoy reading the book, thanks Ms. A! The themes weren’t normal themes that you’d see in a typical book.” -Ayushi Mukund (11th)

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

“I really like reading Shakespeare and it was my first time getting to read it so that was a surprising experience and then we read it out in class and people tried to do Scottish accents so that was really fun. The book itself made a bigger impact on my life too cause I did A Midsummer Night’s Dream here at the school because of it and got to see Macbeth at the Shakespeare Tavern” -Sirianna Blanck (10th)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“It’s the only book that I’ve read for school that I actually enjoyed reading and talking about. The storyline is interesting and the themes of injustice are super relevant, even today. The fact that some people consider it to be controversial is actually really disappointing because it’s definitely a book everyone should have to read.” -Kieran Ferguson (12th)