Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Should We Read in High School?

We'll get to the subject of this post in a sec. First, we've got a second entry in our caption contest (scroll down to see the caption, read the comments, and then post your entry!). Our last contest winner, Serena, thinks that Anna's got a great caption. And she does. Let's see how many more we can get. The deadline will be Sept 5th at 5p.m. Which is the night before our Open House. At the Open House, whoever wins the contest gets a free book. Feel free to pass this blog post to your friends.

This past Sunday, local English teacher Nancy Schnog published a terrific article in the Washington Post about how we teach literature to high school students--or, better, how we fail to get them motivated to read. If you haven't already read it, you should. You'll remember, as I did, all those books you were made to read in high school that you didn't want to read. What she advocates in the article is the common sense way of getting students to read.

Often, it's all too easy to lament that no one reads books anymore. This article may help you understand why. Her essay made me wonder: What contemporary books would I want to read if I were a 17-year-old senior? Books that would make me read more. Gateway books, we'll call them:

The list:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon (Youthful narrator with quirky appeal and, at the heart, its a family story with a mystery involved. At 17 I am all about quirky.)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. (Another quirky youthful narrator, this time set against the events of 9/11. This is sure to appeal to those who've come after.) Once you get this one in your system, you'll no doubt go back and read Everything is illuminated. Before you know it, you're sneaking around a fat paperback copy of The Stories of John Cheever!

The Namesake, Jumpa Lahari. (Hard not to love this one. After this, you might be inclined to go search out her other books, do an end around to Zadie Smith, back to Michael Ondaatjie, Philip Roth...)

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi. (Get yourself started with graphic novels, as the librarian in Bob Thompson's excellent Post essay, right here, suggested, and you won't be able to quench your thirst for more.)

B, Jonathan Baumbach. (I'm going out on a limb with this one. Baumbach's older than these other writers. Mostly off whatever radar gets people reading books. He's truly someone to read, though, and B is a great place to start. Funny and smart. Narrator reflects on his life, and what a life! Told in a cool, ironic way that appeals to this 17-year old.)

(WILDCARD; or, the best book too few people have heard of)

The Wonder Book of The Air, Cynthia Shearer. I wish I had read this when I was 17.

Now let me ask you: What books do you think would be good reads for high schoolers?

1 comment:

shelby said...

A fab addition to the 17yr olds reading curriculum would be Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit." I'd like to think the anthropomorphic, telepathic and liberal gorilla would for sure be a crowd pleaser, and what's more, an eye-opener.