Discussion: School Reading and English Courses (Back-to-School Edition)


With school right around the corner, it’s time to finish up those summer reading books an get your hands on the remaining books that you’ll be reading during the upcoming semester.  And then comes the stress of restraining yourself from highlighting the entire page or trying to find the correct page in class when you seem to be the only person with a different edition of the book.

I’m certainly no stranger to summer reading and have taken my fair share of English courses.  This year, I decided to take AP English Literature & Composition, and we have a rather hefty list of books to tackle throughout the year.  If you have any doubts, you can admire the $200+ pile of books that I purchased in preparation for the course:


I’ll begin this post by stating this outright: I’m not a huge fan of classics, mainly predicated upon the language differences between modern English and that of the author’s generation (Shakespeare is far from my favorite author).  Classics have served as some of my least favorite books – cough, cough, Pride and Prejudice.  While I have little patience for classics, particularly when they’re required reading for school, I did discover a few favorites throughout the past several years, such as A Tale of Two Cities and The Great Gatsby.

Summer reading (and school reading in general) arouses a variety of emotions in students, ranging from utter hatred to pure joy.  Some despise picking apart every last description of a flower or identifying each and every flaw of a character.  Others enjoy hearing a variety of literary viewpoints and could argue for days about a character’s motive or the author’s intention during a controversial scene.  The selection of books and the courses taken can have a significant impact on someone’s love or hatred of classic literature.

Recently, there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding summer reading and whether it is beneficial.  Many claim that it stimulates students’ imaginations and brains, allowing them to continue to learn and expand their literary horizons.  Parents have noted that it encourages their reluctant readers to pick up a few books.  On the other hand, the argument has been made that it discourages reading, applying a negative connotation to the activity.  Others attest that summer reading is pointless as minimal students actually complete the assignments and those that do learn nothing in the process.  Lastly, a handful of parents argue that it places too much stress on students, particularly during their only free time throughout the year.

As I’m sure many would agree, there is a rather large distance between reading for pleasure and reading for school.   Personally, I find pleasure reading much less stressful – and actually quite relaxing.  On the other hand, school reading tends to be a bit stressful due to upcoming deadlines and concerns about not identifying all of the key components of the work.  Also, there is no option to declare a book DNF when school reading is involved…unless you have a strong desire to fail the upcoming test or essay.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried pretty much every form of notetaking under the sun.  In the past, my teachers have placed a heavy emphasis on quotes, often calling attention to those that they consider the most important during class.  Therefore, rather than switching back and forth between typing my notes on my iPad and highlighting quotes in my book, I’ve resorted to taking notes solely in my books (aka annotating).  Yes, I actually write in my books.  I should rephrase that: I write only in the books I read for school.  And while this kills a tiny portion of my soul each time I do so (see my full rant here), I’ve found that it’s the most effective method, particularly with my study habits.

I’ll be the first to admit that my annotations can get a bit sassy at times (although it does make for a very interesting study session before the test).  I also tend to get a little annotation happy…my annotations have a tendency to jump from average:



to an explosion of ink and highlighting that looks a little like this:



What can I say – I get a little carried away at times!

What are your thoughts on summer reading?   Do you have any favorite or least favorite books that you read for school?  What are you favorite methods to take notes during English class?

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I am a senior in high school and an avid reader/reviewer, horseback rider, and graphic designer.  Since a young age, I have fostered a love of reading, beginning with my forays into the Nancy Drew series.  I’ve branched out significantly in my reading tastes since then, and my favorite genres include young adult, romance, mystery, and thriller.  I’m constantly trying to expand my horizons, however, so I do dabble in other genres.  While I’m not reading, I volunteer at a hippotherapy center and a veterinary clinic, practice agility with my dogs, play piano, and sketch.
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3 thoughts on “Discussion: School Reading and English Courses (Back-to-School Edition)

  1. Man, that is a LOT of books! I have never been a fan of classics either. I recently read Pride and Prejudice for the first time and I was not a fan. I did love Jane Eyre though. And Great Gatsby is one of my favorites as well. Happy reading!


    • Yes, I still can’t believe how many books we’ll be reading this year! I wasn’t a huge fan of Jane Eyre, although I did like it a bit better than Pride and Prejudice (most likely because Pride and Prejudice is one of my least favorite books of all times). Hopefully we’ll both have an opportunity to enjoy a few classics in the future!


  2. Pingback: Discussion: Ebooks vs. Physical Books | Brewing Up Books

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