Personally, when I was in high school, I was sick of reading books such as 1984, Of Mice and Men, and their ilk since it was more or less overdone- but I digress.
You know, there isn't enough fantasy in high school these days. Having a good fantasy book - Sabriel, for example- would really get kids involved in reading, I think. Having to trudge through older classics books with no real basis in today's society doesn't make it easily for kids to relate- it certainly didn't for my classmates and I.
As for non-fiction, there's always Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them- politics and humor all wrapped up into one!
I hate to go to the classics because so many of today's youth would both not be intrigued by them or in some cases understand them, but I'd have to say Dante Aligheri's Divine Comedy (yes all of it, not just The Inferno), poetical form, theology, philosophy, good discussion topics, plus enough torture during The Inferno to keep most interested at least for a bit, lol. Oh, and in my parts To Kill a Mockingbird was required reading and i think that ruined it for me...
I would have to say 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams, as it would inject some well needed humour into the education system! Saying that, perhaps even 'The Hobbit' by Mr Tolkien (hey, tis a classic!)
I accept that a lot of the books I read probably wouldn't make a good choice for a syllabus - the Discworld books are better reading now than when they were started (in my opinion), but equally perhaps rely on what has gone before to set the scene completely; the Death Gate Cycle are seven books telling one story, and so too long; and so on.
I would pick a Robert Rankin book - he tends to play with words a lot, and a lot of his writing is in the form of puns, so would be a good choice for an English language/literature class. My favourite of his is "Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse", though the content of that might mean it would never get picked by a school. So how about 'The Antipope' instead?
Also, I'd choose 'Random Acts of Senseless Violence' by Jack Womack - it's been a few years since I read it, but my memory of it is of how society is breaking down, and the main character (told entirely from her point of view in diary form) becoming disassociated from the consequences of her actions. A good discussion point for a class?
As far as books I think everyone should read, all the obvious stuff has been said - To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men...
I wish we'd gotten to read 1984 in high school, that book is easily one of my favorites of all time...
I'm not going to say any Shakespearean stuff - it's well written, but it's a pain to have to read if you don't enjoy prose. I do on occasion, so I was able to survive Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and the likes.
If memory serves, my senior year english class readings were "Death of a Salesman" and "Streetcar Named Desire" - both decent, got to watch the Dustin Hoffman version of Salesman and the Simpsons "Streetcar Named Marge" in-class.
I hope you realise that To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Death of a Salesman, and Streetcar are all written in prose.
Also, Shakespeare should be required reading. At the very least, Hamlet, Henry V, and Midsummer. Just to give a comedy, tragedy and history, but there are more that should be required. R&J, Lear, the Tempest. Shakespeare's as important as the bible.
i think it's good that shakespeare is required reading because alot of movies and tv shows do reamkes of it. most shakespeare stories are timeless and with a few minor changes they can be adapted to any time period.
i'm not disagreeing with any point you made. i just saying that because of remakes and adaptions of shakespeare that it makes an impact on modern society thus giving another reason to read shakespeare. unfortunately, people don't care about books thinking they aren't any good unless a movie is made.
In our culture there are also many references to Shakespeare in just in movies and TV, but other books, magazines, radio, and advertisements. So like you said because "his skill has rarely been matched" he has become an important part of our culture, which was beasically the point i was wanting to add
I agree, more shakespeare (or billy shakes as i like to call him), should be required. I know where i went we had to do romeo and juliet as freshman and then Hamlet and Macbeth as seniors. I found it quite sad how little of our class was able to pick up on the language of shakespeare though, escpecially because he does in fact use a bit of very naughty humor that i know most of them would have appreciated (oh how i love the gatekeeper in Macbeth's lamentations over having whiskey dick). I also have one more thing to add though, and this is just a personal opinion so i hope as to not get flamed, but i dont agree with a streetcar named desire as being such a great work. i've read it and seen it performed a couple times and IMO the end was very sloppily written and the rape almost seems to be cut and pasted into the story for shock effect rather than as an actual thing the characters would do...
Catcher in the Rye. Hands down my favorite book of all time. It's got a lot of teenage angst but is a lot deeper. Actually any Salinger novel should be added but they tend to be controversial even today
I agree that Catcher in the Rye should be mandatory but it seems to be pretty common in a high school education. I do wish some other books would be picked to get people more interested in reading even if they don't have as much literary merit and substance. A book like Ender's Game is quite enjoyable and I would think a good addition to a classroom even if there isn't as much to analyze in it.
I actually haven't heard of catcher in the rye being used much because of the language. I did a huge paper last year about how it fit into the hero cycle in an unorthodox way and caught a lot of shit for it because people didn't get the symbolism in it.
Now i've never read this trilogy. Nor have I even heard of it. But i'm going to just throw out a guess, based on your grammar and spelling abilities, that should this set of books ever become required reading, it will be a clear sign of the fall of our society.