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I read a lot of books for my high school English and history classes, and enjoyed almost all of them. I still like checking out the “Required Reading” table at Barnes and Noble, so I can see what teens at the local high schools are reading for their classes.
This week, the Top 10 Tuesday challenge is to list 10 books that you believe should be required reading for teens. In order to keep things more interesting, I’ll only be listing books that were not on my high school reading list, and that I’ve never seen on anyone else’s.
**Please note that I am in no way saying that any of the books to which I compare those on the list should be removed from high schools. They are all worthy of their required reading status.**
1. The Help – Although I love To Kill a Mockingbird, it can sometimes be difficult for teens to relate to a time and situation which at least feels far removed from the present day. Stockett’s novel covers many of the same themes, including racism and the need to stand up for what you know is right. The protagonist is older, and deals with more of the same difficulties with which modern teens are dealing.
2. Lucy – Another modern version of a classic novel — in this case, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Author Laurence Gonzales gives us a more contemporary and horrifying story, this time told from the perspective of the “monster.” But instead of being a patchwork of re-animated flesh, Lucy is the product of genetic engineering — the world’s first human-ape hybrid. And what happens to her is, to me anyway, far more horrifying than what happens to the monster of Shelley’s creation.
3. The Eyre Affair – I can just imagine a class reading this and playing games of “Spot the Allusion to a Great Work of Literature.” It’s a great story in itself, and may also convince some of them to read the original works mentioned in its pages.
4. Hogfather – The 20th novel in the Discworld series (by Terry Pratchett) revolves around a Santa Clause-esque figure known as the Hogfather. When someone takes it upon themselves to see to it that the Hogfather is destroyed, it is up to Susan (Death’s granddaughter) to save the day — and possibly the world. There are so many great themes in this book, including the idea that “You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?” (The 2006 film adaption is marvelous as well).
5. Forever… – I really that I’d read this as a teen. Author Judy Blume gives the reader an amazingly accurate portrayal of first love and first sexual experiences. I’ve always been a serial monogamist, so my young adult self found it strange to be reading a book that says, “It’s okay to not be 100% sure of yourself, and 100% sure that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with a person before you sleep with them.” I’m not advocating the opposite, of course, but I think teens these days get a lot of mixed messages about the value and importance of sex — it was nice to read a book where it was considered important and meaningful, but not the be all and end all of life.
6. Human Sexuality textbook – Along the same lines, every teen should have a comprehensive education on the nuts and bolts of sexuality. Not just the “Insert Tab A into Slot B” speech, but an overall education, including information about STI transmission, birth control options (abstinence included), and a certain amount of learning about fetishes (how everyone’s got at least one, and that it’s normal), the ethics of sexuality, etc.
7. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – I know, scary as shit. But the scary stuff should be learned too. They say that the 1960s ended with these murders, and I’m tempted to agree. Besides it being a huge moment in American history, there’s a lot that a student can learn from Charles Mansons’ mistakes and stunning psychosis. If high school freshman have to read The Hot Zone and watch “Outbreak,” a little Helter Skelter probably won’t do them any harm.
8. Save the Assistants – I use this book as an example of the kind of non-fiction high school students should be reading. I made it all the way through high school without any knowledge of how to write a resume, how to search for and interview for a job, how to get along with difficult people in a work environment, or any of the basic life skills that everyone needs once they hit the job market. Those who are lucky enough to go to college may get some of this education there, but I didn’t read a practical guide on living on my own until I was on my own. And that’s way too late.
Okay, that’s my list. Now your turn: What books do you think should be required reading for teens?
8 thoughts on “Top 10 Tuesday: Required Teen Reading”
I think it’s great that you included The Eyre Affair. I actually had it on my list, but removed it at the last minute when I started thinking of the prerequisites. Teens should also be required to give Terry Pratchett a try! I haven’t got to Hogfather yet, but I can’t wait!
Okay, I’ll give you that. You pretty much need to have read Jane Eyre before you can really appreciate the awesome insanity that is The Eyre Affair. So maybe those two would go hand-in-hand in a classroom setting. The rest of the books, however, aren’t focused on just one novel, so there’s a lot more sprinkling of different allusions and puns, etc. Or it could be that I think everyone should read Fforde. 🙂
I actually had never read any Terry Pratchett until I found a copy of Good Omens, which was written by him and Neil Gaiman. I had no idea that those two were giants in the fantasty/sci-fi field, and my Best Friend was good enough to point me toward more of Pratchett’s books. I just finished the first two books in The Wee Free Men series, and it had me giggling on nearly every page.
I haven’t actually read Hogfather, but I’ve seen a film adaption of it, and it’s fantastic. I love the character of Death, and the amazing themes that run throughout the story. I need to get my hands on a copy.
I just added Lucy to my wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation.
Come visit me at The Scarlet Letter.
I hope you like it. It gets kind of gruesome occasionally, but it’s wonderfully well-written and spooky, and hits pretty close to home.
I applaud your practical suggestions and the stance you took in offering non-traditional suggestions to complement the current canon. Hogfather just went into my Netflix queue and Lucy onto my library hold list: thanks!
p.s. To your earlier comment: Teens I know just adore Good Omens… Irreverent, witty, mythic. I’m hoping that Hogfather will offer some of the same as I read Gaiman pretty regularly but have not been able to embrace Pratchett’s work quite as often.
Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. I really enjoyed both “Hogfather” and Lucy. I’m subscribed to your blog, and I eagerly await your reviews. 🙂
Good Omens is one of my favorite “accidental finds.” I believe I’d heard vaguely of Gaiman and Pratchett before reading the book, but I had no idea that they were both so amazing. The book has so much of just the kind of humor I enjoy, with some amazing themes and moments that really did keep me up at night the first time I read it. I haven’t read any Gaiman since, but I’ve read several Pratchett books, and they just keep getting better. Humor and intelligence, the best combination.
I love your inclusion of both The Eyre Affair and Hogfather. Thief of TIme is my favourite Discworld for the metaphysics, but you can’t beat Hogfather for the mythic and systems of belief. And the Oh God of Hangovers (do I have the right one?)
Good Omens is one of my favourite books, hands down.
I’m already up to my ears in books, and I just can’t stand the idea of embarking on reading the Discworld series — it’s just too much awesome. Once I get started I know I’ll have to read them all, so it’s better not to start just yet. 🙂
I didn’t really know what to expect from Good Omens. Fortunately I was with my Best Friend when I discovered it, and he encouraged me to read it, saying that Pratchett is hysterical, and both authors are giants in the fantasy genre. As ever, I’m glad to have listened to his advice.