Ranked Required Readings

Claire Moeser & Luke Kurcina, Sports Editor & Staff Writer

Senior Year

1st – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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‘Born a Crime’ illustrates Trevor Noah living in South Africa following the end of Apartheid. He was the son of a white European father and a Black South African mother during a time when interracial marriage was prohibited. He mixes humor and hardship to depict how he finds his place in the world by overcoming obstacles to socioeconomic and educational opportunity.





2nd – 1984 by George Orwell

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‘1984’ is a dystopian novel by George Orwell depicting a world order dominated by totalitarian governments enforcing oppressive social structures. It is a well written book, drawing the reader into a complex storyline with many shocking reveals. Themes revolving around socio political ideologies and human psychology spur powerful class discussion. 





3rd – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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‘Persepolis’ is Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel about her childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution. This is one of the few books in the Madison English department that is written by a woman. Many seniors at Madison will graduate without having read a book by a female author. This book holds a certain significance as one of the few that brings a female perspective to Madison literature.





Junior Year

1st – AP Language and Composition

Many students will take AP Language and Composition their junior year of high school, and because of this it tends to be a year in which English courses are not nearly as focused on reading as in other years. It is heavily based on improving intentionality in writing and writing composition, with many in class readings being analyses of shorter essays, speeches, or experts from various texts. Students focus on the basic components of argumentation and the myriad devices employed by skilled writers to communicate their message and convince their audience through both direct and subtle mannerisms and stylistic choices.

2nd – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Though junior year is often less focused on reading novels, it has historically been a year focused on American literature, even if there isn’t as deep of a dive into the analysis of these books. ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald has often been a staple of 11th-grade reading. It demonstrates the succinct, American style of Fitzgerald’s writing, providing an excellent example of the type of writing taught to AP Lang and English 11 students. On top of that, it is a fascinating look at early twentieth century American society and various character types interacting in that context.





Sophomore Year

1st – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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A group of young boys escaping war in Britain find themselves on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash. ‘Lord of the Flies’ follows their struggle to establish order and manage the responsibilities of survival. The book invites classroom discussion about William Golding’s use of direct and indirect characterization and character foils. ‘Lord of the Flies’ addresses themes like the inherent savagery of human nature, loss of innocence, spirituality, barbarity of war and the failures of a male-dominated society.





2nd – Macbeth by William Shakespeare 

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For most high schoolers, ‘Macbeth’ is the second required Shakespeare play. As can be expected from the playwright, it is an incredibly well written piece of literature. In particular, it is full of many examples of symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing, which allow sophomore readers to work on identifying and analyzing these types of literary devices. The characters and story comment a lot on the human condition and the general nature of morality.






Freshman Year


1st – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

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‘A Long Way Gone’ tells the story of Ishmael Beah, a boy from Sierra Leone swept up into the horrors of being a child soldier in a civil war that tore his home apart. From a storytelling perspective, this is a wonderful novel detailing a complex plot and the development of various characters. It is even more powerful and heartbreaking with the knowledge that it is a real, lived experience. It is a very eye opening read showing the terrible effects of war that persist in modern society.





2nd – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

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‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably William Shakespeare’s most well known play. Though perhaps being the most famous example of the ‘forbidden love’ trope, the narrative is shifted away from the romance into more of a cautionary tale, holding the characters of Romeo and Juliet up as paths to avoid rather than lovers to emulate. This serves as a great introduction to Shakespearian literature, establishing the notion that these stories may not always say what one previously thought, and the familiarity of the general story allows younger students to follow along and understand more easily.