It’s officially back-to-school season — I guess it’s been back-to-school-season, but I’m riding this wave as long as I can because this has always been my favorite unofficial season. I was the dork that always loved school, and I guess I still am. I decided to make a list of books I would require if I were to teach any of the following subjects. Let’s get started!
1. English — 1984 by George Orwell
To kick of this list, I had to go with a classic. 1984 takes place in a dystopian world where people are constantly being watched by Big Brother, war is a constant, and to think independently of the state means torture. The novel follows a man, Winston, who doesn’t believe in the Party — he questions who they are actually at war with, he believes in love between two individuals, and he dreams about a day he can rebel against Big Brother. In this classic work, Orwell tackles ideas of nationalism, censorship, and individuality. It’s an unsettling book, but it’s definitely a required read if you’re taking my english class.
2. Science — War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
I was first exposed to War of the Worlds when I read the radio broadcast script from 1938 in my seventh grade english class. I instantly fell in love with Wells’s writing style, but reading the book was an entirely different experience. This science-fiction classic features a war between man and extraterrestrial beings. When aliens invade Earth and subsequently take the power away from humans, what does that look like? War of the Worlds explores important concepts like natural selection, imperialism, and religion, and it’s a must in my science class.
3. History — The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is a powerful story that takes place in Nazi Germany. Liesel is sent to live with new foster parents, and as the war begins to rear its ugly head, Liesel’s foster parents decide to hide a Jewish man in their home to protect him from German punishment. While Liesel is growing up much too fast due to her circumstances, she finds a love in the written word. She begins stealing books the Germans want destroyed, and she reads them to learn as much as possible. She also discovers that she loves writing as much as she loves reading. The Book Thief, though a YA book would be a requirement in my history class because of what it teaches readers about mortality, the power of the written word, and unconditional love.
4. Math — Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
Moneyball features the Oakland A’s, a poor, failing MLB team that finds success through the use of analytical, evidence-based metrics. It’s a story about what can happen when you look at something from a different perspective as well as persevering through all the hard times to reach success. This isn’t a book specifically about math, but Billy Beane, the general manager of the A’s, utilizes statistics and numbers to build one of the best teams the league has ever seen, and that’s why it would be required for my students if I were to teach math.
5. Psychology — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
This book had been on my list for ages, and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it because it’s probably one of my favorites. It takes place in a psychiatric hospital, and features a slew of characters ranging from the “deaf and mute” Chief Bromden to the not actually clinically insane Randle Patrick McMurphy to Nurse Ratched, the cruel head nurse. McMurphy is in the hospital as an alternative to serving out a legal punishment in prison. He causes bountiful mayhem, and teachers the patients a thing or two about life while he’s at it. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest explores themes of madness, freedom, and the dynamics of power. A fantastic book that is required for anyone in my psychology class.
So there you have it, the five books I would recommend if I were to teach any of these subjects. What would be your number one required reading if you were a teacher? Let me know in the comments below.