What I Read in High School

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I just realized it’s been TEN YEARS since I graduated high school. I could say it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but that would be a lie. Because It feels like a lifetime ago. Which is a good thing, because I wasn’t the greatest person in the world back then. Everyone has issues in high school. But mine resulted in an explosion of awkward bitchiness that still makes me cringe. I wouldn’t go back if you paid me.

One thing I don’t hate about that period of my life is what I read. High school was when I discovered young adult and adult literature. (I read a lot of books I probably shouldn’t have been reading at fourteen, but whatever.) So, today, I thought it would be fun to take a look back on the books I was reading in high school (outside of assigned reading).

Since I didn’t read quite as much as I do today – though I was still a voracious reader – many of the books I read really defined my high school experience. Here are some of the books that immediately come to mind

The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory. I probably shouldn’t have been reading this as a freshman. But I distinctly remember being kind of very obsessed with Philippa Gregory books my freshman and sophomore years in high school. This one sticks in my brain, because it’s about Elizabeth I’s (alleged) affair with Robert Dudley, and I had a friend in high school named Robert Dudley who looked remarkably like the portrait of Sir Dudley in the back of this book. It’s been a very long time, so I can’t really say much else about this book, but I’m pretty sure it was my favorite of Gregory’s novels at the time. (I do really want to reread her books and see what I think of them as an adult.)

Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot. This is my favorite of Cabot’s Boy series, and I’m still obsessed. This series – and this book in particular – is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I’ve reread them more times than I can count (maybe even more than Harry Potter) and I still think they’re oh so fun. I remember passing my copy around at the lunch tables, but only managed to find one friend who appreciated it as much as I did.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This was my first real experience reading a book because everyone else was reading it. It might have been my first encounter with magical realism, which is now one of my favorite genres. I remember the story really making an impact on me – I was a bit obsessed with this book for a while (which probably isn’t the most healthy thing for a sixteen-year-old). Still, when I think about how reading affected me growing up, this book is a part of that story.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. My parents don’t read (at all), so they basically let me read whatever I want. This book was my first real experience with censorship. I was allowed to buy the book, so my copy was passed around like contraband until it was confiscated by a friend’s mother. I honestly probably wouldn’t have read this in high school if so many of my peers weren’t clamoring for a copy, but I’m so glad I did, because it led to my love of Augusten Burroughs.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Thanks to this book, I still cannot see or hear the word ‘officious’ without immediately thinking ‘seeing eye bitch’. As I’m writing this, I have an insane urge to pick this book up again because I know it’ll make me smile. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may be more impactful, but this book was a huge part of who I was in high school, and, in a lot of ways, taught me the value of reading outside the box.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. This was the first Stephen King novel I read after my ill-advised reading of It in eighth grade. And it’s still one of my favorites. I actually reread it a couple of years ago, and just really love the psychological aspect of this book. For me, this is the book I think of when I think Stephen King. And I am totally okay with that.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld. I distinctly remember picking this up in a used bookstore on a family trip to Solvang (if you ever find yourself in central California, make the trip out to the adorable little Danish town) because there were books on the cover. This was my first experience with gothic literature, and while I don’t remember all that much about the story, I remember loving this book. It’s definitely one of the books I want to revisit, because my reading tastes have changed, and I want to see how I feel about this book now.

Looking back, and writing this post, has made me feel so nostalgic. Reading was such a big part of my life, it was something I felt defined me, and I am so glad I came back to it as an adult. Now excuse me while I go reread all of these books.

Are there any books that became a huge part of your life as a teenager? Share them in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “What I Read in High School

    1. Hahaha, yeah, these aren’t exactly appropriate for school. I got pretty lucky with my English teachers, but still went to history in college instead. But I ended up getting a masters in English, so I guess it worked out.

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  1. Really interesting! As a high schooler, at the end of it, anyway, I know that the books that I read before their content was considered good for my age are the ones that remain the most with me. I remember reading gruesome thrillers, facing for the first time a story of love that included sex (*gasp*) and this was a good thing for me. As a shy girl reading this sort of proibited books gave me an understanding of the incredible range of emotions and people that walk this world. These books thaught me to not limit myself. I remember reading the Thirteenth Tale when I was fifteen (maybe) and that was my first time reading a story of a love that becomes a sickness. Most of all I can remember the atmosphere of this old house, secrets suffocating young dreams and dust covering everything.

    P.S. I’m really inspired by the genre of magical realism, but reading Hundred Years of Solitude I felt incredibly bored. Do you have some suggestions?

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    1. You explained that perfectly! I had a very similar experience, and I definitely learned more about people from books than I have from actual people. It’s definitely made me a better and more open-minded person.

      I love magical realism! I haven’t read that one yet, but some of my favorites are The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (also great historical fiction), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Slade House by David Mitchell, and ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman (my favorite is Neverwhere). The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is also a fun, very short novella, if you want to read some classic magical realism. Good luck!

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      1. Gaiman is my favorite author! But I never thought of his novels as magical realism. In American Gods, Anansi boys and the ocean at the end of the line there are scenes so outerworldly at the end, sort of metaphisical…

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        1. He’s mine, too! Maybe I see his novels as more magical realism because Neverwhere is so engrained in my brain. It’s bordering on urban fantasy, but I still think of it more as magical realism. (It’s so hard to define!)

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  2. I had this (holy crap I’ve been out of HS for TEN YEARS😨) epiphany last year, so we’re around the same age. I discovered Philippa Gregory in freshman year too, and that kind of segued into the likes of Angela Knight and Marjorie M. Liu… Definetly not appropriate for early high-school, but, eh. Education comes in all different forms. For instance, I learned that I REALLY like historical and paranormal romance.

    I also read the Lovely Bones in HS, and, honestly, I remember it as being the first book to seriously perturb me. Might also be one of the reasons I’m so addicted to true crime now. It’s easy to see how events from our adolesence form and mould us, but books too, often okay a major role in our lives, so it’s important to look back on our favorite tomes too!

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    1. I read The Lovely Bones in HS, too! I was probably around sixteen, and it definitely affected me a lot. I think the books I read as a teenager really became a part of who I am. (And I always love finding bloggers who are around my age – I feel like so many book bloggers are so much younger than me, and it makes me feel old haha)

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