The best books you’ll read for school

Doing your readings has never been so fun

These books are worth studying.

Reading for school doesn’t have to be boring, but all too often class reading lists make even the keenest students go for a snooze. In hopes of restoring your faith in classroom literature, The Journal ran through some of the best books Queen’s English classes have to offer.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Equal parts thrilling and heartbreaking, Eden Robinson’s portrait of Indigenous life is an essential read. Following a teenage girl living on a Haisla reserve, Monkey Beach is a gripping journey through memories. The story isn’t organized chronologically, making each vignette captivating and ripe for rereading.  

Monkey Beach is bizarre and weird, punctuated with mysticism and spirituality. One of the standout characters is a little red-haired man who appears in visions to the protagonist—his arrival signals looming tragedy. 

At its heart, Monkey Beach is a story about the power of family, community, and tradition, and how they bind us to the ones we love—both living and dead. It’s a far cry from your usual academic literary fare, but one worth studying, nonetheless.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

Far more common amongst the university literary canon, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an enduring classic that doesn’t bear that label lightly. The novel is terrifying, suspenseful, and awfully sad. We’re all reasonably familiar with Frankenstein’s plot, yet it remains a book begging to be read.  

Frankenstein’s Being remains one of literature’s most tragic, fascinating character studies. Although perhaps astutely moral, Frankenstein refrains from being didactic. It’s also an incredibly accessible classic. Even though it was written in 1818, the novel’s register remains consumable for a broad university audience. 

The book’s endless interpretations make it an apt candidate for an essay. You’ll be forced to grapple with what it means to be a human, how we allow appearances to affect our perception of morality, and our responsibilities to the natural world and nonhuman animals.

Frankenstein is mesmerizing, halting, and astonishingly thought-provoking. It’s essential reading for English students and non-English students alike. 

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett 

Samuel Beckett’s avant-garde is very weird, but also very good. 

The play is largely absurd, with characters talking themselves in circles. It’s essentially comprised of the discourse of two men as they wait for the titular Godot. Very little seems to happen, yet it’s incredibly humorous, ridiculous, and profound. 

Waiting for Godot is sincere and heartwarming in an odd way. It dramatizes the struggle between hope and despair, as the main characters long to be apart but realize their future lies in the other. It’s tender and loving, underlining and examining—often harshly—the dilemma of being human. 

This story wears many hats (literally); Waiting for Godot is really what you make of it. Much like life, you’re the one who gives it meaning. It’s a scary story and almost too potent. It makes you wonder why it all happens and, when you close it, where you’ll go when it all ends.

Reading books should enrich your life, not fill you with existential dread. Hopefully, whatever books are on your reading list this semester, there’s something you’re excited about. After all, the best essays we write are about the books we like most. So, above everything, allow yourself to fall in love with a story.  

School books deserve love too.

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