Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is: Back to School/Learning Freebie (in honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, textbooks you liked/didn’t like, non-fiction books you loved or want to read, etc.)

Okay, a little disclaimer before we start! I know that teachers do not have any actual say on what books they teach 99% of the time. I also know that no one is going to take my classics-averse ass seriously, nor would I want them to. But if you have read these, or do not want to because you are also classics-averse, then these are books for you!! 

**Pictures link to Goodreads!! 

Everyone already knows the original Romeo & Juliet story by this point, yeah? So why not zombie it up a little? Plus, my 90’s kid heart would rather you just watch the Claire Danes/Leonardo DiCaprio movie anyway.

As I said in my review of Brightly Burning, I think I read Jane Eyre once. Or rather, was supposed to have read Jane. It was dreadfully boring and while I know that some of you probably love it, I wasn’t among you. On the other hand, Brightly Burning retells Jane in space, and sorry, but that’s more fun any day of the week. Also, the romance was way less creepy.

Because Minnow Bly has cults. Look, nothing against Grimm or Grimm or however many Grimms there are (look it just says brothers, there could be 40 Idk), but cults are always going to come out on top for me. Also, apparently it is being made into a show? But for Facebook, which seems a little fake, but okay.

Honestly, mostly just because I love Nora & Kettle and want you to love it too. But also, Peter Pan has always high key creeped me out. Win-win if we just switch it up.

Just like above with R&J, there’s nothing wrong with The Handmaid’s Tale. In fact, I quite like it. But by this point, we’re kind of saturated with that particular story, yeah? And I have another such book that every single person must read to understand the bullshit patriarchal society we live in: Only Ever Yours. It’s one of my all-time shove-down-your-throat books, because I just find it that important. And it scares the hell out of you while also providing an incredible and engaging story.

Do they ever teach operas in school? Idk, but apparently this one is pretty horribly racist, so they should pass regardless. So since this book isn’t, and I quite loved it, I vote that it is way better.

Truth be told, The Scarlet Pimpernel doesn’t look half bad for a classic/school read. But I know that Rook is delightfully fabulous. And, it features a badass female version of the original so that right there makes it exponentially more awesome.

My bias here is that I truly loathe Charles Dickens and I am sorry but it’s true. (And tbh I am not really that sorry.) Holly Chase is a more modern version, and though it didn’t totally blow me away, it was adorable and quite relatable.

Fine, this isn’t actually a Hamlet retelling, it’s just about young people performing the actual play, but it does happen to be one of my all-time favorite mental health books, plus it’s way more entertaining IMO.

Moby Dick looks dreadfully boring, does it not? Plus it’s like 720 pages, and it even has terrible Goodreads reviews! With And the Ocean Was Our Sky, you get the glorious writing of Patrick Ness, a compelling story in which you will stan a whale, and pretty pictures! All in less than 200 pages and frankly, you can’t beat that. (My review will be coming soon but tbh it will mostly just say that ha.)

Okay fine so I haven’t read either of these really. I “read” Beowulf, and I use the term loosely. I basically sat there with my eyes glazed over wondering what was happening. And we only had to read a small part anyway. The Boneless Mercies is up next for me to review! So I am pretty exited for it, because it sounds awesome but also, the cover is pretty and I am shallow like that.

Any books you’d sub out of school curriculum in favor of another? And I must ask: did you enjoy classics in school? Or out of school, even?

Posted August 28, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Top Ten Tuesday / 80 Comments


80 responses to “Teach This, Not That!

  1. OHMYWORD!! This topic/spin is WAY fun, Shannon! Love it!

    Never did read “Warm Bodies,” but the movie makes me want to tweet all the heart emojis. Also, I have been meaning to read “Don’t Touch” for *so* long. Oh, and “Brightly Burning” is a book I’m curious to perhaps, someday, read!! Thanks for the remind.

    • AW thank you so much!! The movie was SO cute- you probably are even okay in this case not reading teh book, even though there were some differences. And Don’t Touch is such a fave- the first mental health book that I felt was relatable, really! Hope you enjoy any of them that you read!

  2. YES! To so many of these over the normal classics that are taught. There are so many wonderful modern releases that teach the same message. If you were my teacher I’d be excited about taking these lessons and reading those books!

  3. Haha I love your suggestions! School would’ve been a blast if we got to read books like that. I was always surprised that when I studied Frankenstein at school I ended up loving it – in fact it’s my favourite classic!

  4. Love! In my post for today, I complained about how as a teen I didn’t read any books with teen characters, and how they were hard for me to relate to since I was a teen while attending high school. I was only made to read the two Shakespeare plays, but am wholly onboard with covering the themes via a more contemporary novel. I know in the two districts I taught in, a group of teachers wrote the curriculum (I was involved with the chem rewrite at my school), and therefore, some do have a say, and can influence the books that are read. I feel like it’s all about the highbrow books, but I just a middlebrow kind of girl.

    • WOW you taught in a place that let you write your own curriculum?! That is AWESOME and more schools should do it. Because who knows better about the subject area that the person teaching it!? It was the thing that turned me off from teaching the most- no actual concern for what works best for teachers and students- at least in my area, anyway! Plus, I feel like it’d be easy to do BOTH- older “classics” as well as more contemporary stuff!

  5. Great spin on this week’s topic, Shannon! I do like Jane Eyre, but Jane Eyre in space?! I need that immediately. I love the sound of The Afterlife of Holly Chase, too. You’re not alone: Dickens is booooring. Also he cannot write women well at all. I still need to read The Handmaid’s Tale and Only Ever Yours and I really want to – I just know they’re going to make me angry.

    • Yesss it is fun! I really enjoyed it- it isn’t super profound or anything, but it’s entertaining. Holly Chase is cute- it could have been a little shorter, but it was adorable. YESSS Dickens is THE WORST. Ugh. Glad I am not alone! Handmaid’s and Only Ever Yours WILL make you angry- very angry. And probably upset. So it’s understandable!

  6. Oh I love your approach to this prompt so much! We didn’t have a lot of required reading in my day. Just a few by Dutch authors. I’ve only read classics when I wanted to which is nice.

  7. Kate Sarsfield

    I might be outnumbered here but I love the classics and re-read them as well! My only exceptions are Moby Dick (what about Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea as an alternative – and the original Spencer Tracy movie is brilliant) and The Count of Monte Christo. I didn’t finish either and got so annoyed with the Count that I actually drowned him in the bath!

    • I think a lot of people DO love them- I mean, there’s a reason they’re considered classics, right? I just really was never a fan- and I think part of it was the feeling forced part, you know? OMG the Count of Monte Christo thing is cracking me UP! That is genius!! ?

  8. Haha, this makes me laugh, I was an English major, but I’m not really into Classics. I just really like Macbeth, and Oscar Wilde, and that’s about it! Jane Eyre was SOOOOOOOO boring!

  9. omgg how dare you suggest we don’t read copious books by ancient old white men in school. ? SHANNON. HOW DARE. ?No but seriously the emphasis on classics in highschool really bothers me. Usually they’re not more valuable than reading something else?! Like…something more modern, with more diverse authors and opinions behind them?! I did enjoy a few classics in highschool but mostly the kid ones, or like To Kill A Mockingbird was good.?(Heyyyy wonder why no one’s retold THAT yet.)

    • BWHAHAH right!?!?! It is INFURIATING. That is exactly it though, the story offers no more value than any other story- so who decided that THESE were the books everyone needed to read? I actually haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, I suppose I should. And HEY you should retell iT!

  10. Hah, I love how you switched these up. I actually like a lot of classics but then there are also tons of classics I’ve never read like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. But I’m all about switching some classics out for modern versions. I’m sure they are better written anyway. 🙂


  11. OMG, this is awesome. I’ve read a ton of classics (including most of the ones on your list), but I rarely read retellings. I’d choose Warm Bodies over Romeo & Juliet any day. I don’t like Shakespeare (or Dickens, either). I would love a Minnow Bly TV show, but not for Facebook. That’s weird. And my Facebook is Trumpster trash, so I don’t go there.

    • So weirdly, I am not a huge fan of retellings either- unless I haven’t read the source material because then eh, they’re new to me hahah. OR if they are vastly different. EWWW I do not blame you about Facebook! I actually deleted my “real” one- after the election I spent hours making sure I got rid of the Trumpster Trash, but then I was like “wait- I actually hate FACEBOOK” so I just deleted it. Now I have one, but I only use it for my blog and it’s really only book people and a couple of friends from life hah. So yeah, not planning on watching shows on it, even if it IS a book as awesome as Minnow Bly!

  12. I’ve never been a fan of the so-called “classics”. For me, it was even worse because I was stuck reading brazilian classics while still in the process of learning portuguese. So if it was already difficult to read and more convoluted than necessary it proved to be even worse for me to understand all that mumbo jumbo! Great list! This would probably inspire more kids and young adult to read more books after they figure out there are more options out there other than the classics everyone loves to shove down their throats 🙂

    • Whoa, that sounds like a nightmare! While I was a Spanish major in college, I had to read excerpts of classics in Spanish and it was honestly one of the reasons I switched majors- I simply couldn’t do it! Hell, I need a translator when they’re in English! So you are my actual hero, I dont know hOW you did it, but I am impressed!

  13. I like the Victorian classics way better than the 20th century ones. Give me Dickens or Hardy over Hemingway or Nabokov any day! HOWEVER, I do love all the books you suggested as change-ups. I’ve only read Don’t Touch (totally because of your enthusiasm) and Sacred Lies, but the rest all are calling to me.

    Ironically, since I actually am a teacher, I did not have time this week to do a TTT. Frantically preparing for kids on Wednesday.

    • AW I hope your first day went well! And I am just anti- ALL classics I think? Well. Not all, but if I were to read them, I’d want to pick them on my own, because I think part of my hate is because I was forced, if that makes sense?

      Though my dad DID make me read David Copperfield when I was 10, and I think that has tainted me forever, so let’s just blame him, yeah? ?

  14. I admit it. I enjoyed most of the required classics I had to read for school and still read them for fun from time to time. A couple of my all time favorite books are classics. I love your list. Even though I haven’t read Warm Bodies yet (it’s on my TBR pile), I would rather read that than have to slog through Romeo and Juliet again. I’m not a fan of Shakespeare’s plays. Jane Eyre is one of those favorites I mentioned, and I am eager to read Brightly Burning. It sounds like a lot of fun. And anything but Moby Dick, please! Haha. I do love Patrick Ness, but haven’t tried that the one you mention.

    • I love when I hear that people actually liked them! I am kind of bummed that I didn’t, you know? I feel you with Shakespeare though- I feel like he needed an editor to cut some of his nonsense out in the worst way ? Warm Bodies is really quite fun- while being thought provoking at the same time. I think the new Patrick Ness comes out this Tuesday actually- and there are pictures! Also, it was WONDERFUL, so I hope you get a chance!

  15. As someone who works in education, I have to say that I try to share these types of stories with the teachers so that they can give ideas to the students on similar stories that might be easier to read or more relevant, etc. I love your list. Some of these I haven’t read yet, so it is great to have your suggestions! Great post!

    • That is SO good to hear! I know that every school district is different, but the ones around here are so rigid with teaching the same nonsense from 1950. It’s frustrating, honestly. Funnily enough, my Catholic school was more progressive with that stuff than a lot of public schools, go figure! Thanks so much!!

  16. I absolutely adored this idea! I also really loved the books you chose for this. I’ve read so many of these (both the classics and retellings.) I actually had to read The Scarlet Pimpernel for school and really enjoyed it (possibly even better than Rook.) And YES! I’m so excited to see Warm Bodies and The Afterlife of Holly Chase on this list because I enjoyed both of those so much and I haven’t seen people talk about them in a while,.

    • Aw thank youuu! I kind of think I’d like The Scarlet Pimpernel too, after reading the synopsis and reviews! I might actually give it a go one of these days. And I was pretty excited to be able to throw some backlist books in the mix too- it’s nice to see them resurface!

  17. Is it terrible that I haven’t heard of any of the “try this” books before now?? I’m a big believer in teachers (whenever possible) teaching both classics and modern books. Classics aren’t for everybody, but you can teach kids all about literary devices with modern novels, as well.

  18. I don’t remember doing too many classics in school. We had a year where we did plays in Honors English, so we did do some Shakespeare, but we did quite a few more contemporary books too. I remember our gifted class read Lord of the Flies in 7th grade.

    Most of the “classics” that I read were because I wanted to.

    • Oh wow that is quite fabulous! I like that you weren’t forced to read too many classics, probably made you more likely to read them by choice! I had a class my senior year called “Survey of Dramatic Literature” where we’d read a book and then watch an adaptation of it. It was exactly as awesome as it sounds basically!

  19. I don’t know anything about Warm Bodies but it has to be better than Romeo & Juliet? I mean good grief, the drama! And Minnow Bly- we’re talking cults and lies? That sounds like win. Facebook though huh? I think they’re a cult too.

    Peter Pan is a little creepy? Frankly I think a lot of these fairy tale stories are. And you know what’s even creepier (but in a good way)? That cover of Only Ever Yours.

    I am not a huge classics fan. I mean I read the few that I had to, but these classics challenges and stuff where people willingly read them. No. There’s a few I don’t mind. I guess.

      • Yes! It is a cult and I ran screaming, finally, evading the bloodthirsty pitchfork- wielding crazies. And the Russian bots :):):)

        • I’m so happy you were able to escape! We’re living The 100-style in an abandoned underground compound, but we don’t steal blood from the Facebook natives. Oh, and we have wi-fi.

          • I love all the underground compounds. The 100 has the best ones. I was partial to Mt. Weather myself… you know, minus the blood marrow drilling.

            • Ack! You saying “marrow drilling” made my bones ache. I really liked Mount Weather and thought it had the potential to work out, but good things never last. Losing that girl really broke Jasper — he was never the same after that, and became cruel. I still remember the goofy kid from the initial drop that crushed on Octavia. Now they all hate each other.

              • Jasper was a tragedy. Although Shannon liked him more than I did, I still felt bad for him, and missed him and Monty being happy. And Mt. Weather was awesome. I was pissed when they blew it up- I wanted them to move in there- and I thought they could have done more w/ the Reapers as well.

                • YES I have escaped the Facebook cult! I HATE Facebook. I do have a page that I use for if I *need* it for some reason but I go on it like, once every 4-6 months haha.

                  Lindsi, you’re still on S3 yeah? Jasper really did never get over Maya- though part of me wonders if it was less MAYA, and more THE WORLD? Like- Maya was the last straw, he was just so over the fact that the world was awful enough to kill someone like Maya who just wanted to save them. But he kind of… comes back around in regards to Earth in general. Goodness, watch the next season! 😀

                  Also- I am still angry about The Reapers. WHERE DID THEY GO!?!

                  • Same! Facebook sux! Oh my gosh when I go on there now I feel like it’s 2008 or something and I didn’t have a blog yet or Twitter. People wanting shit for their “gardens”. Um, if I haven’t talked to you since high school there’s probably a reason for that? Why are we suddenly friends NOW?

                    I think the Reapers hid in their tunnels after the blow up, but maybe they took off? Would they die without a source of Red? Poor reapers…

                    • That is the dumb part about FB- why do I want to be “friends” with someone I haven’t talked to in decades? It was amusing while people still posted life updates, but now it’s all.. Idk, cultivated to make everyone look perfect which is just stupid.

                      Also, you know I have my own story about the Reapers. I still say a couple of them made it ?

  20. I love your take on your list this week! While I do enjoy some of the classics you have and think they are a great read, looking at your list makes me want to pick up their try this options. It will be interesting to see if I can see why you suggest them!

    • Aw thank you!! And you are in the majority- seems like a LOT of people enjoyed them, which I am actually quite glad to hear! I wish I liked them more than I did- and I DO wonder if I read them now, I’d be less biased because I wasn’t being “forced” haha

  21. I’m always afraid to speak out against the classics. People get so offended and then they get mean about it. Like, it’s okay for me to appreciate that those books exist, but they do nothing to stimulate me intellectually. You can cram them down my throat all you want, and I’m still going to skim them and BS my way through papers and tests. I don’t think I completed a single book in high school that was required reading. The Tempest was probably the closest I came to enjoying something, but the wording always gives me a headache. There is other literature out there, but people are stuck in their ways — ugh.

    I remember watching the movie for Beowulf (creepy and would not recommend it). The Scarlet Letter was horrific and so was the one about the crazy girl that started the Salem Witch Trials. She just wanted in some dude’s pants, and was mad when he refused her after awhile because he was MARRIED. She was petulant and awful, and the townspeople were superstitious enough to believe a child and start burning people alive. No thank you. It seems like the women in these books always get the shit end of the stick. Why don’t they teach books that empower women and other cultures?

    I’m also a teacher, haha. I teach elementary, so those required reading books don’t effect me at the moment. However, if I do move to high school… let’s just say other books will be viable options for my students. 😉

    I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned, but most of them are on my TBR. I have a review copy of And The Ocean Was Our Sky, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m happy to see you enjoyed it and thought it was better than Moby Dick (a book about killing innocent animals — gross).

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

    • YES. That is why I had a little disclaimer tbh- because I didn’t want the hate! Like, cool if you like classics, I just do not! I was EXACTLY the same as you in high school and such- it’s super easy to BS your way through it, especially when you look up with the basic theme is. And this was BEFORE the internet so I think it takes a real talent ?

      OH! I watched The Scarlet Letter as a compromise to my mom bwhahah. I didn’t watch Beowulf but I can imagine it being a mess. And your point about teaching books with empowering, awesome women is SO ON POINT. The hell, schools? It’s just more patriarchal bullshit, no shock there.

      Ooooh good thing you don’t have to teach such nonsense- I don’t think I could do it tbh. I actually went to grad school for teaching for a few semesters but I got so MAD at how little power teachers had that I knew I would end up either miserable or not doing my job- I wanted to teach older kids, though.

      And the Ocean Was OUr Sky was REALLY good- and super short haha. The writing was fabulous, of course. And the story is from the whale’s perspective which… WOW. It’s quite powerful, IMO! I hope you love it!

      • Right? It was not easy to use dial-up internet to BS papers. Someone always needed the phone, which was the same line as the computer, or since we lived in the middle of nowhere… it just didn’t work at all. I’ve got mad skills lying my way through papers on books.

        Yes! Why can’t teachers teach about strong, powerful women? There is no shortage of books… Teachers do have very little power when it come to curriculum. Between the administration, the school board, and parents — UGH. I just want the kids to be able to think for themselves, and to leave with an open mind. What’s wrong with that? I also want to show them that there are people in the world like them, and that they are not the first ones to struggle in life. There’s so much material we could use, but it’s ignored in favor of stuff few people care about. Making school fun and engaging is the first step to keeping a child’s attention. Make them want to learn!

        I can’t wait to start it!!

        • Bwhahaha right? So- we got the internet in like 1998 I think, in the summer though so I didn’t have it til my junior year. So that was two solid years of NO internet. And THEN, like you said, it was shoddy at best. And even if you weren’t getting kicked off cause your mom needed to call your aunt, there were barely any resources anyway! Incredible, how far we’ve come!

          That is exactly it, the administrators (by and large old straight white guys, no surprise ugh) hold ALL the power, but very little of the actual hands-on experience. Teachers and other people who work WITH students understand how important all that stuff is- seeing themselves in books, having an open mind, independent thinking- but administrators are cool with status quo, infuriatingly!

  22. Oh my gosh, I LOVE THIS IDEA SO MUCH. What a unique take on it! I mean, I’m in favor of classics (and I actually enjoyed quite a few that we read in school … but also, we didn’t read most of this list, so that could be why), but I agree that they can be really hard to get through. I did like The Scarlet Pimpernel, so I’ll check to check out Rook. I don’t think I’ve read/heard of any of these alternatives, and I’ll have to look into them!

    • Aw thank you!! I do think that there can (and SHOULD) be a balance of the older classics with newer books, that’d be ideal. I do want to read The Scarlet Pimpernel- after reading the synopsis and the reviews, it looks like it is much loved! That was one we didn’t read in school, I guess we were set on only reading the crappy ones ?

      • We didn’t read it in school, either, which may be why I liked it so much? Funnily enough, I read it last year in a book club. It was someone else’s pick (obviously), but I was surprised. Went in thinking it was going to be awful, and it wasn’t. I mean, we read some awful ones (Hemingway, ugh; Ayn Rand divided the entire class on love and hate; pretty much everyone hated Shakespeare). But we read things like To Kill a Mockingbird and Night and The Diary of Anne Frank and The Outsiders. So I think we were actually pretty balanced as far as crappy classics and good classics go. xD

  23. Kel

    So, I’m not a super classics lover (though I am trying to read/listen to more of them), but I can see the benefit of including at least a few in school reading. But not so many (or certain ones) that you’ll dread reading. I think it could be really fun, instead of reading a classic and just discussing it to death, to read the classic AND a more recent retelling or story inspired by it. Maybe more schools will give that a go! 🙂

    From these classics, I’ve read Romeo & Juliet (bleh), Hamlet (LOVE), Jane Eyre (bleh) and just recently listened to The Scarlet Pimpernel (not bad). Rook (LOVE) is the only recent book I’ve read off this list, but I’ve seen the Warm Bodies movie. (And I think my 9th grade English teacher had us watch 1-2 movie versions of R+J.) Of course, there were other “classics” in school I enjoyed. The Hobbit/LotR was a favorite, and I laughed my way through Wuthering Heights (which probably says more about me than the book). I totally would have subbed out A Separate Peace, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, and The Heart of Darkness though.

  24. I love the idea of this post! I wish they didn’t teach Romeo and Juliet. I do want to read Warm Bodies so I would much rather that! I have to say I loved reading Hamlet though, and I already feel like studying the Handmaids Tale was quite a modern choice? I think teens wouldn’t mind reading it now though, if they could get to watch the telly series adaption in class afterward 😀 I remember loving watching the movie adaptions after finishing a book with the class. But then again, I also loved almost all of what we read because I’m a major nerd LOL 😛 I really want to read The Sacred Lives of Minnow Bly.

  25. Kristiana

    Nice post 🙂

    Since i born and raise in Indonesia, i never have to read all those classic books above. But i did have read some of them. Some i read as children, some after i work. Haha.. Instead, i have to read Indonesian classic author, such as N.H. Dhini, Marah Rusli, Y.B. Mangunwijaya, etc. I do love N.H. Dhini books. And I only read one of Y.B. Mangunwijaya.
    As your Try This books, i only read some of them. I think it’s time to expand my genre reading, right? 🙂

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