Top Ten Books I Wish Were Taught in School
Honestly, I find this subject kind of difficult. You wouldn't think that since I have very definite opinions about literature and whatnot, but as an English major, I'm glad for 90% of the books that I read. Those books are classic for a reason. So this will be...interesting. Some of these books probably already are taught in schools, but...whatever. This is the list I wish I had been able to read in high school and/or books I think would be paired well together.
1. Speechless by Hannah Harrington & Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. On the one hand, you have the physical assault of a gay boy who was publicly outed at a party and the decision of the girl who did said outing to stop talking as she attempts to gain control over her words. On the other, you have the sexual assault of a girl at a party and her decision to stop talking as she tries to deal with it. Similar premises, but very different stories. The compare/contrast essay writes itself!
2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This book. Oh, my goodness, I could have had a field day writing papers about this book. From the study of product placement and just ALL the pop culture references in our daily lives to the pressures to be a cookie-cutter stereotype to raw portrayal of sexuality and identity (sometimes one with the other, sometimes without), Beauty Queens is just a really good book. It's fun and funny, but it's also deep. It's a huge satire of our culture, and I love it.
3. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Spare me your groaning. I feel like Twilight has several uses in a classroom. 1. How a book can become astronomically popular. Have the students discuss what it is about a book that can draw millions of readers in in such a big way. 2. How a book can be so polarizing. There is no middle ground with Twilight. You are not allowed to be Team Edward and Team Jacob. This question was asked more than "boxers or briefs" in every single interview for about three years. You are not allowed to sorta like the books. You truly either love them or hate them. Have the students discuss the elements of the book that create such momentous division. Etc etc.
4. Matched by Ally Condie & The Giver by Lois Lowry. Dystopian was the big thing after vampires, but it's been done before. Out of all the new wave of those novels this century, the one that best matches with the tried-and-true Giver is Condie's Matched, with its government control of jobs, partners, children, recreation, etc. Again, the compare/contrast would be too easy. There are a lot of elements of this book that would lead to great learning.
5. The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. This one is a must-read for girls. It's absurdly empowering, and it's all about educating yourself for the sake of education and improving your life. Yes yes YES! Boys may feel like this is just a "girly" book, but it's important for boys to understand that it's okay for girls to be smart.
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I don't want this list to be full of books that preach and do the whole afternoon special thing, but kids truly need to be aware of consequences of certain actions. Thirteen Reasons Why gives a good lesson without being preachy and without being actually real. I mean, we've all seen the headlines. Those are horrifically real. Thirteen Reasons Why, while believable and amazing, is only fiction, but it's one of those that can hit too close to home.
7. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. This book is just a lot of fun. I think it would be a good read for a creative writing class because it's just different. Tell the students it's okay to mess with historical events some. Books don't have to be 100% words, either. Drawings can enhance the experience. It's okay to combine different genres to make your own story come to life. But it's also important to know the craft before you do that. You have to know the correct history in order to alter it. Like that line about knowing the rules so you can break them, not breaking before you know.
8. Just One Day by Gayle Forman. This book is one every high school senior and college freshman should read. It's a book that dares to finally show the ugly parts of that weird transitional year in your life.
And...that's kind of all I can think of. I mean, there are others, but they all fall under topics I've already said and would be fairly redundant. What books would you have wanted to read in school? Have a Top Ten? Share in the comments!