My 5 Monday: Required Reading

Happy Monday my bookworms! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been slowly settling back into my second home, NYC. Coming back to NYC is always a little like riding a bike, I fall right into my old ways like no time has passed: waking up to my cat’s meows, standing at my favorite end of the subway platform, going to the same place for my favorite oatmeal, and of course, listening to an audiobook through it all.

Because it’s Monday and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs a little pick me up, I wanted to start a new weekly blog post called “My 5 Monday” which is a top five of my favorite bookish things. And this Monday I wanted to talk about some of my past favorite books, specifically my favorite required reading from my school days. My fiance is in grad school, (working his butt off and making me so proud I may add!!) and it sometimes makes me think back to my school days and all the reading that was assigned. In fact, some of the books I was required to read in college actually became a few of my favorite books of all time, and wanted to share “My 5” favorites.

In college, I was a Geography major, and have always been a lover of maps. Senior year though, I returned to my first love, reading, and took a few literature classes. I took Latino Lit, focusing on POC narrators and authors, and Classic Lit, where we read classic literature but with more intersectionality: feminist and LGBT+ focused specifically. I learned so much in these classes; both of them shaped a lot about what I know and think today, and I even got some favorite reads out of it!

And with that, here are My 5 Monday: Required Reading edition.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel that doubles as a memoir of Alison Bechdel’s growing up. Don’t be deceived by the title or the fact that this is a graphic novel, it is not necessarily fun and lighthearted. Although she has a knack for comedy too, Fun Home illustrates the dysfunctional and darker family issues such as internalized homophobia and death. I love how Alison Bechdel can lets us into these family issues and hardships in a, well, fun, way such as a graphic novel. If you want to know the woman behind the Bechdel-Wallace test a little more closely, this a great and quick read, yet also full of rich meaning.

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I don’t really think I could accurately sum up such a classic in a few sentences, but this book really changed my outlook on a lot of aspects of life and religion. It also happened to take place in some of my favorite Californian scenery- San Luis Obispo County. The first 200 page description of rolling hills may not appeal to everyone, but it really holds a special place in my heart. I finished this book in a few sittings, despite the length of the book; ok maaaaybe I finished because I was approaching some deadlines, but I like to think that it was really just that compelling. The ending brought me to tears (probably the first time that had ever happened to me) so this book is really special to me, more than I could sum up on this fine Monday afternoon.

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

It’s kind of funny that this book is number three on my list, because that’s the exact amount of times I’ve had to read it for different classes. I love this book for many different reasons, but it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated this book the first time I read it, I think I was too young to really grasp it. By the third time this was assigned, I was enthralled. I feel like this book has grown up with me through the years, I read it at three different stages of life, and each time it meaning something different to me. This is a quick read that I will staunchly defend as important feminist literature with themes in: free will, love, and ultimately being a woman in the Victorian era.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I promise I’m not being biased when I place this as my second favorite required reading even though it DID assist me in winning a regional competition in literature when I was in middle school. I read this book numerous times, wrote essay upon essay, and was even tested among other students on my knowledge of it. So to say I know this book like the back of my hand is an understatement. You would think with how many times I read it, this book would grow tired and boring. However, reading this book over and over again actually added to my love for it. This book was probably one of my best friends in middle school, and think what you want about me for saying that 🙂 This book was stuffed to the brims with important life lessons that kids and adults alike can benefit, and Scout will always be my little heroine.

1. The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

To say this novel, read in my Latino Lit class, changed my outlook on life is a complete understatement. Told in three different perspectives, and set during prominent historical moments, this book intertwines politics, love, history, and war. Partly set during the Guatemalan Civil War, Red Scare, and the Rodney King riots, this book covers so many important topics that will make you want to scream and cry and hug your loved ones all at once. This book impacted the way I think, and it made me love reading again after a very long dry spell of books. Whenever someone wants a reading recommendation, this is the first one I go to, and one I will always hold dear. It’s a tough read, but it will teach you in ways school doesn’t, and is an incredibly important required read.

Honorable mentions: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

Before I started my love of thrillers and mysteries, I loved my required reading. These are some of my first loves and ones I will carry with me for a long time. Thanks for reading about some of my favorites- now I want to hear yours! What are some of your required reads that became favorites? What about ones you read but couldn’t stand? What do you think we should all be required to read in schools?