Required Reading That We Actually Love


To Kill a Mockingbird 

Published: 1960

Author: Harper Lee

          This American novel—written by Harper Lee and published in 1960—explores harsh discriminatory and racist ideals which plagued southern American society throughout the 1930s. The novel follows Atticus Finch, a wealthy lawyer, his two children, Jean Louise (“Scout”) and Jeremy Atticus (“Jem”), and other members of their small town in Maycomb, Alabama. Placing a strict focus on Atticus’ defense case in support of Tom Robinson, an African American citizen, leads the readers to learn about tragic consequences for which African Americans suffered at the hand of racist southerners. Although the specifics aren’t completely non-fiction, the chapters do an exquisite job at portraying the hardships and prejudice faced by Southern communities. 

          Mr Malossi, an AP Language and Journalism teacher at BHS high school said To Kill A Mockingbird is his favorite mandatory book because “…it’s a book that transports the reader to a different time and place. It deals with the most crucial struggles of the 20th Century: the acceptance of an entire race of Americans as Jim Crow Laws were ending. This takes place in the 1930s and it’s just a really great story of growing up and acceptance, not just of Tom Robinson, but also of Boo Radley. So you have the dual stories of growing up and dealing with adult themes of racism, which really makes for a beautiful mix.” 

The Catcher in the Rye

Published: 1951

Author: J.D. Salinger

          Once novelized in 1951, after two years of serial releases by author J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye quickly became one of the most widely read books of its time. Even all these years later, this novel is still dissected and analyzed by almost every American high school student. The original purpose was to critique society’s faults in the eyes of adults, however it’s relatable to adolescents because of themes including mental health issues, callous views, hostile behavior, nostalgia, despondence, alienation, and reflective thinking. While maintaining strong language and a sound grammatical structure, this novel still manages to convey “growing pains”—making it a perfect option for young readers. Although the novel does describe some more mature scenes, creating imagery through the use of profanity, these details do not take away the integrity of this literary success. Discussing familiar feelings with teens using classic literature—as this book achieves— allows students to better connect with the material because they may be able to develop an attachment to the characters, plot line, and themes explored. 

          Deborah Unter, a senior at Bethpage High School said, “My favorite mandatory read is The Catcher in the Rye since I believe that a lot of people can relate to it, or at least parts of it. It’s about growing older and coming of age. As high school students everybody is on their own journey of figuring out life too and coming of age too. I love the discussions spurred by this book and the connections we can make with each other that stem from this novel.”

The Outsiders

Published: 1967

Author: S.E. Hinton

          Published in 1967, this coming-of-age classic by S.E. Hinton has become a must-read for eighth graders around the nation. Hinton started the novel at only 15 years old, wrote most of it when she was 16, and turned 18 right around its publication. Following the lives of young characters—specifically high school boys—rather than adults allows this novel’s youthful readers to better connect with the problems they face. It can be extremely hard to create a classroom environment in which middle school students want to read, however this book tends to keep students on the edge of their seat. Most students enjoy reading books that feel relatable to their own lives, making The Outsiders a top choice for teachers and students alike. Although the book explores some funny and playful situations, ultimately it teaches students about some very mature topics including tests of friendship and realities regarding differing social classes. 

          Rebecca Melman, an eighth grader at JFK Middle School, said she thinks this book is so great because “…you can relate to the characters in the book and it means something in our personal lives. It shows that you can do anything you believe and to never give up.”