By Tsholofelo Lephuthing
As a South African matriculant learner going to university and meeting different people, I found that we all have one thing in common. No, it is not that we all had to do 12 years of schooling or that we have we are at the same university. This one commonality we have is that we all have at some point throughout high school have read the books on this list. I have decided to compile this list not to torture or remind you of all those literature essays you wrote or those long English Literature classes that you didn’t understand why you had to learn. I have come to the realisation that one enjoys something more when they do not have to be tested on it. So why not kick back and read these plays and books again and if you have never read them, now would be a good time to start. So grab a book from this list, kick back with a cup of coffee, and enjoy.
To kick off this list we have To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.: That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.” Atticus Finch is probably one of the reasons why I decided to study law. His closing speech in this novel gave me chills back in high school and it still gives me chills today. It’s worth a second read.
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name”. If you haven’t recognised this quote yet, then you should definitely read this play again. This quote is from The Crucible. Arthur Miller truly wrote a gem. It truly made me want to be around all the hysteria around Salem when the witch hunts were occurring although I probably would have been a Tituba. Get your friends to read this with you, add a bit of dramatic flair and you.re guaranteed to love it even more.
Animal Farm by George Orwell. Students across the world have probably read this book more than once or at least recognise this maxim “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. The first I read this book was in grade and I honestly did not get this book. I did not understand why I am reading about a drift of pigs who were in essence behaving “brand new”. Then we read it again in matric and my mind was completely blown. A timeless allegorical and dystopian novella that can be read and taught over and over again.
I never had the privilege of reading this whilst I was in high school but I did manage to pick it up and give it read, and I was not disappointed at all. It is worth a read and a reread. “The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again”. It provides plenty other quotable lines that can result in you having an introspective moment on more than one occasion. The fourth book on this is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.
This book was truly haunting in the sense that it made me so aware of how easy it is for one to get sucked into something that is toxic or one that you though would never suck you in. It is quite incredibly scary how this was based on a real-life experiment that was performed by a high school teacher called Ron Jones in 1967. “All I can say is, I would never let such a small minority of people rule the majority”. This one is called The Wave by Morton Rhue.
And last on this list is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This was another one that I never had the opportunity of reading in high school but I did take the opportunity and read it when I was in first year. It made me want to live in the Jazz Age era. All that glamour and lavish parties are sure to give one “FOMO” and a thirst to live in the late 1920s. “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”.
There are plenty more English Literature plays and novels set list that one should pick up and read again or even read it for the first time. Grab a comfortable chair, lay back, grab a cup of coffee and read away!