Wednesday, 12 August 2015

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five required reads

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

Because I took both GCSE and A-Level English, I had a lot of required reads over the years. I actually found it harder to shorten this list down than I'd been expecting: I hated most of the books at the time, because the constant repetition and focus on them really took away from the impact of the stories for me, but reflecting back on it now I do appreciate most of them a lot more.

5) 'An Inspector Calls' by J. B. Priestley
'An Inspector Calls' is a murder mystery play, the events of which happen over a twenty four hour period. An inspector turns up at the door of a middle class family and announces that a young girl has committed suicide due to their selfish behaviour. More and more twists and turns get unraveled, explaining exactly how and why the young girl felt pushed to kill herself. It was much too over-dramatic and pompous the first time I read it, but now I've read it so many times it feels as though it's become a parody of itself. 

4) 'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck
Partially because it's the name of a pretty great band, partially because it's an okay book, 'Of Mice and Men' had to make my list of required reads. I was a bit unsure on it at the time: the misogynistic beliefs and values of all of the characters really grated on my nerves (I mean, come on, not even giving Curley's wife a name?!) but the relationship between George and Lennie - friends who were practically brothers - was heart-warming, and it's a great story of how you really will do anything for your family. 

3) 'All My Sons' by Arthur Miller
'All My Sons' is a play about an engineer in World War II, who sent out faulty plane parts which led to the deaths of twenty one pilots (yes, that is where the band got their name from - yes, that's the only reason I loved this play as much as I did). I think this one rates more highly than the other plays I read for required reading because we went to watch a brilliant performance of it at a lovely little theatre, so the story and the characters are more alive in my head. 

2) 'Stone Cold' by Robert Swindells
I can't remember exactly what happened in 'Stone Cold', but I know that I read it when I was around fourteen and the fact that it focused on a serial killer murdering homeless people in London was nightmare-inducing. Definitely my creepiest early required read, but I've always loved the morbid and the macabre so this was right up my alley. I really need to re-read this one, because I only read it the once, but it had a huge impact on me. 

1) 'The Collector' by John Fowles
Another hugely creepy novel, I fell in love with 'The Collector' and read it twice just for fun before the school year had even begun. Telling the story of Fredrick Clegg, we follow his distant obsession with the beautiful Miranda, building up to him kidnapping her and locking her in his basement just so that he can be near to her. I've read a YA novel similar to this - 'Stolen' by Lucy Christopher - but because it included Stockholm Syndrome it was much easier to empathise with the kidnapper and the story became rather cutesy and romantic. However, the same cannot be said with 'The Collector', because Fredrick's actions get more delusional and demented, culminating in one of the creepiest novel endings of all time. That being said 'The Collector' is probably one of my favourite books of all time, not just my favourite recommended read - it's absolutely bloody brilliant.

I hope you enjoyed my Top Five Wednesday! Did you have any required reads that you would really love and recommend? I'm expecting at least one of you to tell me to hurry up and read 'To Kill A Mockingbird'...  


  1. Did you read Of MIce of Men and An Inspector Calls for GCSE because that what I did. I dropped English after AS so I don't really have that much required reading favourites. I think it more of a US thing than a UK thing. Kind of skipped this topic and picked something else.

    1. Yep, both were for GCSE! It definitely seems like it's more of a US thing, which is annoying - some of the required reads I've seen people talking about look like they would have been interesting to study.

  2. I love 'of mice and men' I read it for my GCSE English exam and coursework and I've loved it ever since! It's on my list too! So jealous you got to read 'the collector' as an assigned book, that's one of my favourites and I would have loved to have studied it properly!

    1. I hated it SO MUCH while studying it for GCSE, but since reading it for fun a couple of years afterwards I seemed to connect with it much easier when I wasn't ripping apart the dialogue and the characterisation. I'm glad you love 'The Collector' - a lot of my classmates found it too creepy and weren't enamoured with it, so we didn't spend as much time on it as we could have (it also really freaked out my teacher, so I'm surprised she set it as one of our texts).