Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Ten: Teenage Required Reading

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "ten books you believe should be required reading for teens." While trying to come up with the books for this post I realized that the books tackling the "important topics" weren't always the ones that were the best or that I thought people would like most. I've focused instead on, instead of books that kids usually read in school, ones that I either think are super-important must-reads or (usually) books that I feel fit with the time of adolescence or that teenagers especially will connect with. Because of this there's a lot of YA on here. And, as always, the list is in no particular order.

1. To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Okay, this is probably going to end up on every single must-read list I ever make. It's the Great American Novel defined. Great characters, incredible setting, everything about this book is just so perfect. I absolutely love it and am not sure I've ever encountered someone who read the book and didn't like it. As much as it is an American novel, I think it would be great no matter what country you're reading from; so many of the themes are universal.

2. The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
Yes, it pays tribute to To Kill A Mockingbird, but it's definitely not the same book. The Mockingbirds brings up the same important themes of right vs. wrong and justice but puts a very modern spin on it. I think the topic of date-rape is a very important one and not just for teenagers. This seems like the ideal book, with its straightforward writing mixed with the very serious subject matter, for high school students to read.

3. The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This is kind of the perfect book to read in that time between childhood and being a grown up... in that it reminds you to never really be a grown-up. 

4. Bloomability
Sharon Creech
This book, about the possibility that exists in each of us, is one of the best books I've ever read. Without a doubt. It's middle grade so the characters are young, but I think it's a book that would really be great for anyone to read. Especially teenagers as there's just so much adventure and possibility and incredible themes explored. Just writing this is making me want to reread it.

5. The Disreputable HIstory of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart
Such a great book about growing up and being totally awesome. I was going to say it's especially good for girls, but I don't want to make it sound like it's not a great book for guys to read as well. I think the more people read this book, the better. It's great and thoughtful.

6. Sweethearts
Sara Zarr
My love for this book knows no bounds. I think it's amazing, incredible, beautifully written, and something that pretty much everything should read. And I think teen years in particular are a time of change and maybe you're not so close to the people who were your childhood friends... I think there's a lot of not-often-talked-about emotion that comes with this and the theme of a very specific, hard-to-define love is at the heart of this book. Wonderful.

7. If I Stay
Gayle Forman
Aside from being beautiful, this is just such an interesting book. It attacks a very difficult and dark situation in a really great way. I just think it should be read. By you and you and you and you.

Strangely I don't want to add any more books to this list. There are so many that I think teens (and everyone) should read, but reading tastes are so subjective and for "required reading" I just don't feel like adding books just because I personally love them. What about you -- do you agree with my list? Disagree? What books did you have to read as a teen?


  1. I like how you mixed classics with contemporary titles. Yes and yes to the books by E. Lockhart and Sara Zarr. Such great reads!

  2. Love the addition of The Little Prince. Some of your contemps are ones I need to read myself. Great list!

  3. Nice list, glad to see To Kill a Mockingbird is on there

  4. I have never read Sweethearts- I am going to have to check it out. Great list!

  5. Michelle
    Thanks! I'm not typically big on classics but there are a select few that I absolutely love and some of those are ones I think everyone else should love as well. Haha.

    Jan von Harz
    Thanks! I'm surprised I haven't seen The Little Prince on more lists actually. It's such an incredible (and important, in my opinion) book.


    OMG YES!! Definitely give Sweethearts a try.

  6. I think The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks might be one of my top 5 books of all time. I actually used the book for two papers I wrote for my cataloging class last semester.

    I've read everything except Bloomability and The Little Prince. You've got some good picks here.

    Also, I agree about struggling to come up with books that everyone SHOULD read. I think the word "should" is really problematic in general, and especially when applying it to individual tastes and preferences. There is not a universal book that every single person will love, but selecting books that speak to a broad range of experiences or that many readers will identify with is as close as we can come to that. Or something.

  7. Great call on Mockingbird and The Little Prince: If there must be must-reads, one couldn't do better than those two.
    And I'm off to put Bloomability on my TBR; I loved Creech's Walk Two Moons.
    Now I need to go read The Mockingbirds.

  8. How did I forget about The Little Prince? Yikes! Also, I nearly put The Mockingbirds on my list, but I already had two very similar books. I did compose my list as something more personal since there's no way that I think every single teen will read and enjoy the same books.

  9. I have The Mockingbirds on my TBR-Summer pile. You have a fun, up-to-date list.

  10. This is a great list! There are a few I haven't read but will definitely be adding them to my TBR pile.

  11. NatalieSap
    Yep, The Little Prince is the rare book that I honesty think should be required reading FOR. EVERYBODY. Absolutely love it.

    Anne Bennett
    Thank you! And I hope you enjoy The Mockingbirds; I know I think it's great and definitely one of those books that sparks good discussions. I even had my dad read it. :)


  12. +JMJ+

    The Little Prince is a good one! =) Deceptively simple and childlike, but very wise!

    I'm afraid it's the only book on your list that I've read, though. =(

    Now, I agree with you about tastes being subjective and "required reading" being controversial (even in mild ways). I started planning my own list several weeks in advance and didn't finish it until tonight because it just felt so subjective. It's really my dream list, which I'd never inflict on anyone else in real life (LOL!), but I stand by it, anyway. And if I ever met anyone who had a working knowledge of all the texts I've named, I'd be so thrilled!

  13. I've got "To Kill A Mockingbird" on my list too. Have never read "The Little Prince but it sounds like I should keep an eye open for it!

    My Top Ten

  14. Oops, looks like I missed replying to some people last time...

    I completely agree. I've looked at a lot of these lists and quite a few of the books listed are ones I wouldn't read for various reasons. Others are ones I've read but hardly remember and made no impact. It's so difficult to find things that will just fit with everyone's maturity level, not to mention books that would have an impact on them.


    Haha yes I looove The Little Prince. So wise.

    Definitely read it.

  15. The Little Prince almost made my list. It is such a sweet book.

    Come visit me at The Scarlet Letter.

  16. I appreciate that you saved some space for personal tastes. I often wonder if part of the reason high schoolers say they "hate" reading is that they are forced to read certain books without a lot of room for personal choice. One of the reasons I love to read is that I get to explore hobbies, interests, whims, and the book that just grabbed my attention at the book store.

    Shanan (new follower)

  17. Hi, Jordyn. Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday! I love your YA choices on this list. I just read the Mockingbirds, and my review will post to my blog on Monday, so I'm especially excited to see that one. I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel!

  18. I'm so excited to see To Kill a Mockingbird on so many lists! I imagine it was high school required reading for most people, and it's nice to know that schools are getting at least one thing right!