19 July 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should Be Required Reading For Teens

So, required reading for teens... Okay, I've been a teen, I've been through school. I was forced to read trash before. TRASH. I wanted to throw books across the room before, really. Not classics, not great works of literature, but that contemporary shit about stupid ass kids that were our age, who we were supposed to relate to, being idiots. TRASH.

Okay, so, if I could rule the world, I would so remove the trash. Mhmm, I would. And here's what I'd have instead...

1. The Great Gatsby - A true classic. How did it take me years to read this? I finally read this in college, but I wish I'd been asked to read it much earlier. It's a gorgeous piece of literature.

2. Shakespeare - All of it, aside from Romeo and Juliet. Reading Billy Shake really helps students to slow down and read carefully, pick up on a lot more, and learn to understand language in a way trash doesn't. Mhmm, I said trash again.

3. The Kite Runner - I never expected to like this book, but I did one better, I fell in love with it. Enough of today's teens reading stories about silly girls in high-school whining about not fitting in. Deal with this, read this, face this, and then tell me that it's not powerful.

4. The Sunflower - Okay, this book is one that not many know of. It's a wonderful gem. I read this in a Literature of the Holocaust class, but it could easily translate into any class, any age group. It's a testament of forgiveness and human suffering and emotion that should be on every teens shelf!

4. Fahrenheit 451 - I am half way through this, but I can safely say that teens should get their hands on this one. With everything a short classic should have in it, it will at first surprise and then help students relate to themselves and the world around them.

5. Ragtime - There was no way this was not making it onto my list. I read this twice in a school setting, once in high-school and once in college. I loved how the characters were written, how the plot developed, and how teachable it was. I couldn't imagine my education without it.

6. A Doll's House - If you want to give your students a play that was was a leap forward in a time when most plays, most characters, most social norms were the same or suppressive, this is the play for you. Just brilliant.

7. The Lord of the Flies - Okay, this is a personal classic of mine and a book I read in high school. I could go on about how it shows human nature in an entirely new way, but I'll just say I can't imagine going through school without it.

8. Robert's Ridge - Why do we assume teens are so innocent we need to shield them from emotional reality? Robert's Ridge is a powerful novel that I think at least history students should read. I don't understand why it wouldn't be included.

9. 1984 - I know a lot of schools already have this for their students to read, but my school never did. Sort of annoyed me, especially after reading it and enjoying it so very much.

10. Pride and Prejudice - Guilty pleasure, amazing English literature, beautifully written, need I say more?

Wow, I haven't made a Top Ten list so easily. Usually it takes me a while, but this one went so well.  I think that's because I read a lot of classic works that I wish I'd read in school, and I read  lot of books in school I wish I'd never even had to lay eyes on.

But, and this goes without saying, I feel like I missed a few...



  1. A great list filled with interesting, quality works!I loved studying Shakespeare at school, but no one else seemed too! The worst of it was that for the assessment we actually had to compare two film adaptations so if you didn't want to you didn't actually have to read the play. How insane is that! Needless to say, I read the play and tonnes more and encouraged all my friend's to as well.

  2. Some good ones here , I went with more Contemporary Edgier Teen Novels :)
    New Follower

  3. Fantastic list I agree with every one of your choices. So hard to only have ten on this list.

  4. I know exactly where you're coming from with your "trash" talk! Great list!

  5. Thanks everyone! I'm glad my mostly-classics list didn't scare anyone away!

  6. +JMJ+

    ROFL @ the TRASH! ;-)

    I actually assigned Nineteen Eighty-Four to my students (high school seniors) because I thought there was so much they could relate to--not because the book reflected their personal crises, but because it reflected a lot of what is going on in the world today. Sadly, many of them really didn't care for it. =(

    I really wish I had read The Lord of the Flies in high school. I also thought about assigning it (either that or The Chocolate War), but I was worried that the all-girls student body would have trouble relating to the boy characters. (Was this a totally ridiculous concern?)

  7. I took an advanced English class when I tackled The Lord of the Flies and, no offense to the gents, it was mostly girls. I don't think any of us reallyhad to point out they were all boys, because, well... the book really doesn't allow the reader to focus on the genders. The characters were stripped down to being human, not rich boys, not school boys, not smart boys, or English boys, or athletic boys. They were just people, and I doubt that, even if they were a group of prim-n-proper gals, they'd be any different from the boys.

  8. Good list. I think it's interesting that you say except for Romeo and Juliet in your Shakespeare section. Honestly, I think that if taught right, R & J is the perfect play for 14 year olds. Unfortunately, I think it is often taught like it is Twilight set in Verona.

    Come visit me at The Scarlet Letter.

  9. I can't stand Twilight, so if it's even remotely taught like it, I think that teacher should be burned alive...

    On another note, possibly the way R&J was taught to me was what really turned me off about it.

  10. I also have the Lord of the Flies on my list. So many people hate it but it's one of my favorites.
    Here's my Top Ten


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