5 Unforgettable Books We Read in High School

5 books we miss from high schoolPaperback Paris

Do you ever miss what you read in high school? I remember my teachers gave us some excellent reads during my time, and I am thankful for that. Out of the list of books we read, there were a handful of books that impacted me most.

Some of those books came to me at a time when I needed them most, and it’s also endearing to know these literary classics are being taught in high schools today. So to hopefully inspire you to revisit some of these nostalgic reads from your own adolescence, here are five books worth picking up again:

1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald 

books we miss from high school great gatsby
Scribner / Penguin

Synopsis: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. — Goodreads

Why I Miss It: What I enjoyed most about Fitzgerald’s classic was understanding Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan, even though she didn’t deserve Jay. He would have done anything for her, and when he becomes extremely wealthy—throwing massive parties just to get her attention—it only proved that Jay deserved way more out of life than a woman who toyed with his heart.

As like most hopeless romantics in literature, Jay deserved someone who would love him for him—and sadly, Daisy was not that kind of girl. Not only is The Great Gatsby a classic because of Fitzgerald’s lush descriptions of the extravagant parties taking place in the book but also due to his skill at making the reader feel a part of the extravaganza. It’s also fair to say the twists and turns in the novel makes it equally hard to put down.

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

books we miss from high school jane eyre
Penguin Classics

Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead and subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. — Goodreads

Why I Miss It: Jane Eyre was my favorite novel I remember reading in my English class—I was team Rochester throughout the whole novel! I loved the way Mr. Rochester looks at Jane and sees her for who she was. I also loved Jane as a character; she was never afraid to open her heart to the possibilities of love despite everything she went through as a child. The connection Rochester and Jane share in Charlotte Brontë’s is undeniable. Jane Eyre should be read by every hopeless romantic.

3. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck 

books we miss from high school of mice and men
Penguin Books / Penguin Classics

Synopsis: The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream—a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually, they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes such as the friendship of a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of John Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play, and three acclaimed films. — Goodreads

Why I Miss It: This novel has stuck with me all these years because of the relationship between George and Lennie. George always had Lennie’s back, and Lennie always had George’s best interests at heart. The ending of this novel, though, is what really affected me most. Spoilers aside: This entire story comes to a halt when George is forced into making an important (albeit difficult) decision concerning his friendship with Lennie. If you’re a sucker for a good book on friendship and the hardships one must endure for the greater good of that friendship, then I promise the sentiments in Steinbeck’s classic will speak to you.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

books we miss from high school to kill a mockingbird
Arrow Books / Hachette

Synopsis: The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature. — Goodreads

Why I Miss It: If you have not read this, then please do yourself a favor and go to your nearest bookstore immediately. This story depicts what it was like to grow up in the South at a time in which the vestiges of slavery had still been present. It is an accurate and alarming portrayal of what it’s like to go against everything you believe in for the sake of the common good. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, Harper Lee writes Scout with such flawed, innocuous purview that it makes To Kill a Mockingbird all the more heart-wrenching. Also, if it interests you to know: Lee wrote a sequel to this called Go Set a Watchman (equally reader-friendly).

5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

books we miss from high school pride and prejudice
Penguin Books / Penguin

Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners—one of the most popular novels of all time—that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing room intrigues. — Goodreads

Why I Miss It: The perfect man in literature, without a doubt, is Mr. Darcy—the epitome of my dream guy. At first, Darcy does not think that Elizabeth Bennet is good or pretty enough for him. But gradually he falls in love with who she is as a person (an understanding we’d like to see represented a lot more in today’s writings, btw.) But the best part of Austen’s novel is Darcy’s beautiful confession to her about how in love he is with her.

There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude for these classic authors for giving us such magical worlds to escape too. I am personally grateful for having met Scout, Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Rochester, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet and George and Lenny. I will carry these books and characters with me for the rest of my life.

These are some of our favorites from high school

Tell us which books were most valuable to your high school experience in the comments below!

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a sophomore in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate.