What you learn is a critical skill, the patience to read things you do not yet understand.
I loved so many of the novels and plays I read in high school — from “Song of Solomon” to “Hamlet” — but there was a noticeable lack of poetry in my curriculum, and so for years I found myself mystified and distrustful any time a stray poem popped up on a syllabus, thinking as I did back then that all poems must be old and confusing and boring.
More info → is more likely to show up on assigned reading lists.
On the other hand, consider yourself lucky if you never read Austen in high school.
If you never read it in high school, you know what to do.
If you were forced to read it back then, give it another try: you’ll enjoy it much more the second time around. In this slim novel, Woolf weaves together two seemingly unrelated storylines: one following Mrs Dalloway, an upper class woman preparing to host a dinner party, and the other her "double," a shell-shocked WWI vet contemplating suicide.
Grounded thoroughly in its California setting, interweaving the stories of two Salinas Valley families, Steinbeck's magnum opus feels tragic, yet hopeful.
More info → Dickens' thirteenth novel (and arguably his best) follows the early adventures and coming of age of the young orphan Pip.
("I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.") My high school English teacher assigned us instead, so I didn't read this until a few years ago.
The title references the fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent embattled relationship between brothers Cain and Abel.