We all did it. It's sort of a universal right-of-passage for teenagers, avoiding the reading assignments for English class. It's not that teenagers despise books, but the numerous "chapter questions" that go along with reading the book that your teacher assigned makes everything about it dreadful. No doubt there are copies of every William Shakespeare play hidden under the contents of messy lockers at this very moment.
Still, if growing up has taught me anything, it's that those books assigned to us in high school actually were worth reading. And now that you're, presumably, able to read for pleasure, I recommend reading (or maybe re-reading if you were studious and actually did your work) the following books. You can enjoy them now as they should have been enjoyed years ago since you won't be quizzed at the end of the month on what colour shirt the main character was wearing in Chapter 7.
1984 by George Orwell: Big Brother is watching you. Orwell's novel about how our reliance on technology will inevitably lead to a dreadful dystopia is a book many of us should have not only read, but taken a little bit more seriously. If you're at all interested in politics, then this book is for you. Also, the technology is reminiscent of how The Observers take control of the world in Fringe. If you're upset about the show's end, this book should fill the void.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Shelley's book is horror as it was meant to be written. Not only does it have a decent level of "creepy," the book is also incredibly intelligent. It taps into societal fears like real horror should. Spoiler alert: "Frankenstein" is not the name of the robotic green monster.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: If for no other reason, you need to read this book because Baz Luhrman is making it into a guaranteed blockbuster film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But even if it wasn't being released on the big screen this year, Fitzgerald's attempt to de-mystify the American Dream is filled with lessons we all need to learn about consumerism, true love, and following our dreams.
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare has somehow established a reputation of being dreadfully boring. A Midsummer Night's Dream will prove otherwise. The play is sort of like being thrown in the middle of an acid trip. Seriously. A group of people are controlled by fairies in some sort of whimsical forest. I'm still not quite sure what exactly is going on. The play is also classified as a comedy, a little different from the typical Shakespearean dramas most of us are familiar with.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: If you're a fan of romance novels, then this needs to be the next book on your reading list. It's the classic story of tragic love, mixed with family drama and the tiniest bit of hauntings. You may think you understand the popular culture references to Heathcliff, but don't be so sure you understand his character type until you actually read the book.
Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger: Holden Caulfield, the main character of Catcher in the Rye, would say that we're all a bunch of phonies — and he's sort of right. This book is best looked at as a teenager's rant against all of the injustices of the world. However, Holden speaks with a level of honesty that we all wish we had, no matter our age.
Maria Vicente is a literary agent intern living in Ottawa, Canada. She likes coffee, books, snail mail, and magic. You can find her on Twitter (@MsMariaVicente) or check out her website (mariavicente.com)