Student Life

“El Gato” ranks required reading

by Joey Robinson

As students at LGHS, we are all going to, or have read, a large number of books during our four years before graduation. For those of you who read ten books a week, this number may seem insignificant, but the fact remains that assigned reading will become a large part of your life. As a senior, and someone who considers myself fairly well-read, I have recently taken the time to look back on the various novels that were once objects of praise, or contempt, and compile a list of what I consider to be the very best and the very worst.

The Best:

1. Ender’s Game–Orson Scott Card (freshman year summer reading): This book is one of the most mind-blowing, action-packed, philosophical, and disturbing books I have ever read. Card tells the riveting story of a phenomenally intelligent young boy who is recruited to defend his home planet as the commander Earth’s spacecraft fleet, only to find that, in the end, everything he thought was a simulation was in fact reality, and he is now responsible for the extinction of an entire species. Along the way, the reader is enthralled by Ender’s struggle with himself and his contemporaries, as well as shocked by the brutality and savagery exhibited by young children in dire situations.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird (freshman year English in-class): In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee tells a narrative of hope, loss, and oppression in a courtroom in the 1930s. On top of the challenges lawyer Atticus Finch must face in court, we also read of the coming-of-age of his two children, Jem and his sister Scout. In truth, Atticus is the best part of this novel: his brilliant speeches, incredible talent with a rifle, strong sense of morals, and constant determination to do what is right make him one of the greatest characters you will ever have the pleasure of reading about.

3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (junior year English AP summer reading): This is a classic tale of insanity and societal judgement. Along with quirky, hilarious, and sometimes plain confusing characters, the reader is granted the uncomfortable experience of living inside the head of Chief Bromden, the mentally deluded main character who possesses the conviction that everyone around him is a robot working for some shadowy omnipotent organization. The book is immensely fun to read, and will keep even the most difficult to please happy.

Honorable Mention: Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (junior year English AP summer reading): Although books on grammar are typically ponderous and dull, author Lynne Truss’s zero-tolerance and profoundly hilarious approach to common mistakes makes this book both enjoyable to read and incredibly educational.

Honorable Mention: Hamlet (senior year English AP in-class): I suspect most people in English 12 AP will be just as surprised as I was to discover that Hamlet is actually a very intriguing, suspenseful, and tragic tale. In Ms. De Soto’s class, you will watch a very well-done movie that faithfully recreates the play, which is a far more enjoyable option than actually reading all 400 pages of it.

The Worst:

1. The Dispossessed (sophomore year English Honors summer reading): If this book was written as a normal fiction (or even historical fiction) novel I might like it a lot more. However, author Ursula K. LeGuin makes the terrible, terrible choice to write The Dispossessed as a science fiction book, and an awful one at that. The book is set on a moon where a group of people with socialist principles have settled (gasp! the Soviet Union!) that orbits a planet full of capitalist oppressors (gasp! the West! the metaphors in this book are so deep!). The most annoying part (besides the plot) is the constant, awful allusions LeGuin throws in in order to justify the book’s science fiction label. For example, at one point, the “brilliant physicist” Shevek learns of the theory of relativity written by an Earth scientist named “Ainestain.” Get it? It’s a corruption of “Einstein”! Oh, LeGuin, your wit never fails.

2. The Bean Trees (freshman year English Honors in-class): The Bean Trees is a failed experiment in character development. The boring plot follows the boring story of a boring girl, for whom changing her name from something boring to “Taylor” is a huge life decision, as she leaves her boring hometown, only to find a random baby in a basket right outside a boring gas station, whom she kidnaps and eventually takes to a boring house to move in with some boring health freaks who seem to only eat processed vegetable matter. What I’m trying to say here is that the novel is one of the dullest I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few tedious books in my time.

Honorable Mention: Franny and Zooey (sophomore year English Honors in-class): Franny and Zooey would be more aptly titled “Rich White Kids Have Mental Breakdowns.” The main characters, Franny and Zooey, one of whom is male and one of whom is female (I forgot which), are far less than enthralling, and most of the mercifully short book is filled with descriptions of how much the two chain smoke and lay around in bathtubs contemplating how difficult it is to be a privileged upper-class member of society.

Too Afraid of Ms. De Soto to Mention: Jane Eyre

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