Books to Read, Not Sparknote


Graphic made by Gaby Dinh

Katlyn Lee, Editor in Chief

From the tortuous tales of Greek Mythology to the minimalist works of Ernest Hemingway, students are assigned various readings during their years in high school. Although many required reading books are received with wearied sighs, some of these notable works of literature have been worth the read. So here are the books that I sat down to enjoy and read without relying on SparkNotes to cram plot points before a test.

“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck is a simple but telling work that explores the pursuit of the American Dream. The story follows two migrant workers, George and Lenny, who are looking for employment to save up and have a farm of their own. George is the brain to Lenny’s brawn, and is also looking after Lenny, who has a slight mental disability and naïve character. The two finally find work at a nearby ranch, but Lenny’s unintentional actions leads George to make some tough decisions for the sake of his friend.

Despite being a novella, the book is dense—with profanity, pain, and discrimination. As a freshman, I was slightly disturbed by the grueling imagery and cruelty of agricultural life in the 1930s, but was soon engrossed with the plot’s complications and character development.

Not your typical dystopian novel, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” explores humans’ tendency toward barbarism and savagery. A group of English school boys, all in their early adolescence, are stranded on an island after a plane crash. At first, the boys bask in their newfound freedom and carefree lifestyle, but soon lose their civilization to chaos and disorder as food and resources become scarce.

Golding eloquently portrays the boys’ moral decline and leaves readers wondering whether our current society can potentially have the same fate.

One of my favorite novels by far, “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger is an adult-oriented work that speaks to the teenage heart. Narrator Holden Caulfield is a sixteen-year-old struggling to find his true identity in a society filled with “phonies.” Having been expelled from his prep school for poor academic performance, Caulfield wanders around New York City, where he encounters alcohol and prostitutes, while suffering from alienation. At the end, Caulfield experiences no real maturation or change, but instead concludes the story with a warning to the reader.

“Catcher in the Rye” is undoubtedly controversial for its explicit content, but its plain-spoken protagonist goes through emotional turmoil and a battle for innocence that many growing teenagers can relate to and appreciate.

Unfortunately, not all works of literature are created equally, and some of these critically acclaimed books were not among my favorites. The books that I relied on SparkNotes to understand include: “The Odyssey,” “Frankenstein,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “The Heart of Darkness.”