Set Texts – the good, the bad and the just plain creepy

Honor Cargill, co-author Waiting for Callback


I hate to break it to anyone still in serious denial but it’s basically September. And that means one thing:

Set texts.

Also, you know, terrible uniforms, early mornings and ‘fun quizzes’ but we’ll just gloss over those for a minute.

After months of warm(ish) evenings, long lies and, we hope, copious amounts of chick lit it’s a shock to suddenly have to read again. Especially when the books chosen by our wise elders are invariably long, dense and ‘improving’ classics.

Don’t get me wrong the classics can be great; Jane Eyre has a cracking story, Pride and Prejudice has THE HOTTEST love interest ever and both have weirdly relatable basically teenage protagonists. But if for some ~totally inexplicable~ reason the prospect of nine hundred and twenty eight pages of Dickens isn’t immediately filing you with glee all I can say is: I feel you girl and here are some ways to get through it.

  1. Audiobook it

I’m dyslexic and a super slow reader so this is something I use all the time. Audiobooks are great because you get all the author’s words (make sure it’s an unabridged version) delivered to you on a plate. Also you can multitask, double points if you pull off set text themed bakes.

  1. TV adaptations

OK, so you’re still going to have to read it in one form or another. But TV adaptations are great for getting to know the plot and the characters alongside men in breeches and usually some top rate ball gowns.


Suddenly feeling very passionate about the Edexcel 19th century novel syllabus…


  1. Bribe yourself


Gummi bear per paragraph??

Need I say more?


Sometimes your set texts can turn out to be unexpectedly fun. There are some books I only start to love when I’ve actually studied them in class. I will always have a special place in my heart for my main man (and GCSE set text) Silas Marner, despite what feels like twenty chapters in the middle which describe, no transcribe, lengthy pub conversations about the best means of cow rearing.

Screenshot 2016-08-29 13.10.30

Silas how are you so cow-ute??


Equally there will be some set texts you hate. Frankly I think a lot of classics needed a pretty cut-throat edit but although it seems annoying at the time that you can’t just put them down, I promise these are some of the most fun to study. Mansfield Park was my AS-set text and I HATED IT. The heroine is insanely annoying but she obviously should still have got with the hot, rich, ex-bad boy who was genuinely really into her rather than the smug, good vicar.


YES FANNY (that is legit her name) the hot one on the left ❤


Fanny! Girl are you blind?? He’s behind you!




Sorry, I just have a lot of feelings about this.

I got to spend an entire term ranting about this to my class and writing extremely critical (tbh pretty bitchy) essays and that was a very cathartic experience for me.

So even the ‘bad’ ones can be good ones.


p.s. don’t hate me for writing this, I’m staring at a pretty long reading list myself, pass the gummi bears…



One thought on “Set Texts – the good, the bad and the just plain creepy

  1. Ah ha ha! This made me HOOT! Son had to do of Mice and Men – so depressing. As if being a teenager and having exams isn’t enough!

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