From Steinbeck to Salinger, these are the five famous books that all students will remember from school essays.
No matter the school or city, it seems that it is standard practice to roll out a specific set of literary classics.
There is much to learn from the world’s masterworks: moral principles, social mores, personal and political struggles, and the plight of humanity.
And given their extensive reach across the Irish and international educational system, it is safe to say that these are the top five famous books that all students will remember from school essays.
5. The Catcher in the Rye – for the loss of innocence
J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most iconic books of the 20th-century. Indeed it was banned from schools in Ireland in October 1951, following its release that very July.
However, the cult classic found its way back on the radar, and it continues to be cited on Ireland’s English curriculum to this day.
The novel is a coming-of-age tale, and the primary concern for the protagonist is a loss of innocence.
Sexual awakening, loneliness and disillusionment with the ‘adult world’ are all seen through the eyes of the character, Holden Caulfield. And most essay writers – current and former – will remember this literary classic from English class.
4. Lord of the Flies – for the darkness that lies within
Lord of the Flies is another coming-of-age, age-old classic that offers its readers talk topics including the concept of civilisation, mob mentality, humankind’s inherent evil, and war.
The plot follows the lives of a group of plane-wrecked British schoolboys on a deserted island, and their internal and external power struggles to maintain control of their spiralling situation.
Faced with the fears of starvation and strandedness, the boys’ inherent darkness takes hold. This is, hands down, one of the top five famous books that all students will remember from school essays.
3. Of Mice and Men – for the failure of the ‘American Dream’
Published in 1937 by John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men tells of two migrant workers and lifelong friends, George and Lennie as they arrive in California to begin new work on a farm.
The text – which seems to have found its way into every classroom on the Emerald Isle – explores themes of male friendship, the failure of the ‘American Dream’, and fear, amongst others.
It also teaches students about the predatory nature of human existence as profound loneliness and isolation overwhelm each character.
2. Macbeth – the Shakespeare classic
While it may not be a book, this is one that all students will remember from school essays. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play, which tells the tale of a fight for supremacy and the callous lengths the power-hungry will go to take the title.
This play was first staged in 1606. So, it is really quite impressive that this text continues to be taught in schools around Ireland and the world.
Top themes explored in this Shakespeare classic include the corruption of power, excessive hubris, and cruelty versus masculinity.
1. The Grapes of Wrath – the one that sparked a Nobel Prize
This is the second John Steinbeck included on our list – and for a good reason. The Grapes of Wrath is, without a doubt, one of the famous books that all students will remember from school essays.
The text is often cited as the work that earned Steinbeck his Nobel Prize, and it also won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Grapes of Wrath follows the lives of migrants and their plight during the Great Depression in America in the 1930s.
Themes that are often explored in this text include the power of human relationships, mans inhumanity to man, and selfishness versus dignity and honour.
The book is also a great piece of historical fiction, offering insight into the experiences of migrant families that were impacted by the Great Depression.
So, there you have it: the top five famous books that all students will remember from school essays. Which texts do you remember? And, more importantly, which classics do you feel should have been in our top five?