As we’re starting to wind into the Holiday season (already!!!) we thought we’d put out a couple of quick suggestions when you’re thinking about gifts for your high school aged friends, nieces, nephews…whatever.
We wanted to draw attention to two classic books that, more often than not, are left off of the standard curriculum. Many schools evade these two works because of the concepts and philosophies they bring up: Grapes of Wrath for it’s hard look into the American class system, and often brutal evaluation and glance into the working class conditions during the Dust Bowl and the Depression, and Atlas Shrugged because of it’s starch adherence and propagation of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, which, let’s just say, doesn’t get every principal in the world excited.
So now that I’ve given away the two winners for this Fall, let’s take a closer look at them.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck, as I’m sure you already know, is by far one of the greatest American authors of all time. He has a large collection of classic works, which includes The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Winter of Our Discontent, The Pearl, and, of course, Of Mice and Men.
While he is a popular author to read in high school, most schools focus on Of Mice and Men, and leave Grapes of Wrath off of their lists, due in part because of it’s sheer epic length, and in part because it deals with a number of really difficult themes surrounding poverty in America.
Even though the setting is 80 years ago, many of the conditions presented have a clear analogy to today’s world, and can be difficult to cover in the classroom.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents a completely contrarian philosophy to that of Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath. Her Objectivist outlook describes a world where extreme greed and unrestrained Capitalism is the highest ideal, since she argues that greed is the only thing that motivates individuals to action.
Drawn to a further conclusion, our society exists because of the selfish achievers, and she argues that allowing this to exist unfettered is in our best interest as a society.
Again, this topic gets very complex very quickly, which is why many schools shy away from it, but it is still an important book for our high schoolers to be reading!