Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by The Broke and the Bookish for list addicts. This week’s list is…
Top Ten Books You Wish Were Taught In Schools
I haven’t been a teenager for just over ten years and I don’t read that much YA so I’m a bit out of touch. The thing is that you don’t have to read a great literary text to pull themes out, analyse character constructions along with style, plot and setting, it just makes sense to do it with a ‘good’ book rather than a dodgy one. Sure there are classic books that I would love people to give a shot like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, Catcher in the Rye and Dracula but they are often already taught in schools.
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – this series has had a massive impact on popular culture and the way people view young adult novels. It did the impossible and got boys reading. The basic idea of an under-appreciated boy having adventures at a boarding school is nothing new but the way it is executed is fantastic.
2. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – this dystopian world could be used to introduce feminist theory, totalitarianism or even class structures. The violence makes it attractive to the blood-thirsty and the writing is fairly easy to understand.
3. Twilight by Stephanie Meyers – this book polarises people which makes it great for class discussions and as Meyers looked to Wuthering Heights for inspiration, you could compare the representations of the two Byronic heroes. Alternatively you could examine gang related violence, racism, relationships etc.
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon – this is told from the POV of an autistic boy trying to find out why his dog was killed. You could look at society’s attitudes towards those with neurodevelopmental disorders and compare with less favourable ones in movies etc. Depending on the approach, students might end up being more tolerant at the end.
5. Mao’s Last Dancer (Young Reader’s Edition) by Li Cunxin – there is a big push at the moment to get books into Australian classrooms that focus on Asian perspectives. I haven’t read the young reader’s edition but I sobbed my way through the adult one. Li’s autobiography of his journey from poverty to international ballet dancer is captivating.
6. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper – yes these books are really old now but they were my absolute favourite fantasy series when I was growing up. It’s a bit like the Narnia series and features Arthurian legends. Pure gold!
7. The Princess Bride by William Goldman – students will read this and they will enjoy it, or else! I don’t know how it would fit into the curriculum but I don’t really care.
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry – a great way to introduce teens to dystopian fiction. One man in the community holds all the memories and he decides to give them to Jonas (our protagonist) because he is one of a select few that can see colour.
9. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis – I’d be wary of giving this to younger readers given the not-so-subliminal messages but for slightly older ones you could analyse Lewis’ portrayal of women (Aravis) and racism towards Arabs (aka Calormenes). You could even get into the Christian undertones of the novel if that sort of thing was permitted at the school.
10. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horrowitz – a blatant appeal to young teen boys who want a spy thriller novel that is age appropriate. Fun, silly and good for universal themes of good versus evil and use of technology.
Honourable Mention: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – an evil genius who wants to steal gold from fairies. The overriding theme is taking care of the environment.
My list is deliberately pretty heavy on dystopian and fantasy as these are fairly popular genres. There’s plenty of time still for them when they hit senior to get seriously into Literature (please note the capital L).