5 Classic Books You Need To Reread After High School 

So many of the books we read in high school get an undeservedly bad rap. It’s not that they’re boring stories or poorly written, but the fact that they were assigned reading that made them unappealing. (“Ew, homework.”) Maybe you didn’t understand the stories at the time but painstakingly made your way through them—or maybe you just skimmed the SparkNotes. Either way, it’s time to give these five must-read classics a second chance.

The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald
As a high school sophomore, you may have been tantalized by the flashy parties and c’est la vie attitude the characters had toward day drinking and adulterous relationships. Yearning for the Gatsby lifestyle, you probably decided that one day you’d move to New York City, impress your true love with your finest silk shirt collection, and spend every night hosting lavish parties. Now that you’re older and have spent some time in the real world, you’ll be amazed at how differently the story reads. While the love triangles and glitz may have been enough to entertain your teenage self, your adult self will probably be a little bit more interested in exploring the cracked morality and rigid social hierarchies your English teacher was always rambling on about in class.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The biggest complaint against The Scarlet Letter tends to be its stiff Victorian style—though the drama (OH THE DRAMA) between Hester Pryn, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale may have intrigued you enough to soldier through. Who can resist such an unfortunate love triangle? As an adult, you’re more likely to be taken by the terrifying differences and even-more-terrifying similarities between the way women’s sexuality was treated then, and the way it’s treated in contemporary society. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of having made it through a Victorian novel as a grownup!

Of Mice and Men, by George Steinbeck
Another story of the American Dream may that not have intrigued you as a teen, though the deep and caring relationships between the main characters may have impacted the way you viewed friendships—and George’s predicament surely moved you. As an adult you’ll have an even deeper understanding of the major themes, centered on relationships and the loss of life and dreams, likely having experienced something similar (though hopefully far less tragic) in your own adult life. And as with The Scarlet Letter, you’ll likely spend a little more time questioning the representation of women in historical literature.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Whether you grew up in a small southern town or a northern metropolitan area, you probably related to and empathized with Scout’s dislike for school. And while you might not have fully grasped the severe implications of Tom Robinson’s case, you admired the kindhearted nature and good will of Atticus Finch. You may have even enjoyed the story, despite it being a required read. So why should you reread To Kill a Mockingbird? For starters, everything about this book is relevant in 2015, a year marked by ongoing discussions of race and rape culture. And not only will revisiting this story make you fall in love with Atticus Finch all over again, it will get you ready for sequel Go Set a Watchman, which will be hitting shelves later this year.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reading a coming-of-age story as a teen makes a lot of sense. Regardless of your own experiences, you probably identified and sympathized with Holden Caulfield. You were misunderstood, too, and making your way toward an uncertain future! His story helps you put your own life into perspective, and allowed you to satisfyingly dismiss other people as being boring, insecure, and phony. But now that you’ve reached that future age toward which you were once so apathetic, the way you view Mr. Caulfield may come as a bit of a shock. While you’ve grown up, matured, and accepted responsibility in life, he’s stayed constant in his refusal to grow up. But coming-of-age stories at any age force you to reassess your own path and reflect on where you’ve come from versus where you’re headed. And that’s why we’ll always need Holden.

What was your favorite required read from high school?