I have a major problem. I can't really decide what I should do.

In school, I'm in an english performance class. We're going to read some books, and already are reading "To Kill A Mockingbird", but I'm not really interested in them. I know that it would be a nice challenge to read them, not just to meet and greet new words, also, to be better at grammar things. Still, I think the books are boring, really boring. Until now, I just read summaries of books we read. I just read these to keep pace with my class, so I can still participate in class. I recently asked my teacher about it, and she was surprisingly shocked that I'm not reading. "If you don't do it, you won't be able to pass your A levels since you won't have learned to use grammar properly!", she said.

Is she right that I miss some important things, if I won't read books like "Othello", "Lord Of The Flies", or "To Kill A Mockingbird"?

  • This is opinion-based, read the information in the help section – fluffy Dec 16 '14 at 22:01
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    Maybe you are right if you don't like the books you read in school. Schools have a special talent to choose books. Try to read the books you like. Have a try with Harry Potter or if that is too difficult try simpler things. Sometimes it can take some time till somebody finds out what he likes. But I would agree that Othello, Lord of the Flies, and even To kill a Mockingbird may not be the right books for you. Shakespeare is poetic language of around 1600, Lord of the Flies has its special language, and the third book isn't thrilling enough as it is a novel that wants to convey a message. – rogermue Dec 16 '14 at 22:58

I am somewhat surprised that you can keep up with your classwork by just reading the "Cliff's Notes" or "Sparks" summaries of your texts. Yes, these summaries are usually very good -- but English teachers in America usually ask questions that require knowledge of things that are not in the "Cliff's Notes".

If you want to improve your English vocabulary and grammar, I would suggest reading books that you enjoy. Try to find a mix of books that you want to read silently, and books that you want to read out loud. Also, you might want to take a speed reading course.

Many people avoid reading because it is hard (for them). A speed reading course can make reading easier. One major speed reading technique is to visually perceive the meaning of written words, without "subvocalizing" the words. This is why I suggested reading some books silently -- so you do not need to "say the words" to yourself "inside your head".

You might want to consider some of the following:

  • Comic books (aka "Graphic Novels"). These do not have many words, but lots of people like them.
  • Children's poetry books. For example, Shel Silverstein books. (I recommend skipping The Giving Tree, though.) These are great for reading aloud. The grammar in children's poetry is usually easy-to-understand. (The grammar in adult poetry can be very twisted, in order to satisfy arbitrary rhythm, meter, and rhyme rules. You might have noticed this problem in Othello.)
  • Good English translations of books that you already enjoy and are familiar with. For example, if you are Christian, you could read an English translation of the Bible that is approved by your denomination. If you are French, I recommend the Philips Bradley edition of Democracy in America.
  • Books that teach you something useful. For example, How to Lie with Statistics, or How to Win Friends and Influence People. (The pre-1955 editions of How to Win Friends and Influence People have lots of great examples.)
  • Choose fiction books that you like. Read the back cover blurb, and a random page. If you don't like it, skip it! There are lots of other good books to choose from.

    -- Consider Golden Age Science Fiction, such as short stories by Asimov, Niven, or Heinlein.

    -- Consider mysteries. After reading a few stories in a mystery series, you will notice that all the stories in the series seem similar. So move on to a different series. Some popular mystery series are: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and Larry Block's The Burglar… series. The earliest books in each mystery series tend to be the best.

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