Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Think Should Be Read and Discussed in EVERY High School

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week a new Top Ten list topic is posted and book bloggers fill in their own choices.  I'm a list girl (as in, I don't function without them), so I thought this would be a good choice for me!  This week is a freebie week where we can make any top ten list we want.  Considering the fact that I offer up grade level recommendations in all my reviews and am VERY open about the fact that I think a large percentage of HS Lit teachers are TOTALLY out of touch with what is important and relevant to teens.  I think it is extremely important for books to be as entertaining as they are educational, otherwise, they aren't being absorbed.  What's the point of reading something if it's not going to have an effect on you in some small way?  I thought I would make my list reflective of these things...

Top Ten Books I Think Should Be Read and Discussed In EVERY High School
*In no particular order.*

1.  Animal Farm by George Orwell~ A lot of schools do have this book as part of their curriculum at some point during the four years of high school, but I believe ALL students should read this.  Is there a book out there that breaks down the concept (and dangers) of Communism to a more basic level?  I did not read this in HS, but I wish I had; I would have understood Communism a whole lot better.  I think the books students are forced to read in HS should be entertaining AS WELL as educational, and this one definitely is.  Students will definitely see certain parallels to the world we live in today, especially when the society narrows its initial seven commandments down to one, "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others". 

2.  The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins~ Okay, so technically this is three books, but since you really NEED to read all three, I'm counting it as one.  These books are so exciting, but they are so much more.  There is great social commentary in these books and it is so subtle; no teen likes to be preached at (God knows there's enough of that from parents!), so I think it's great when they can find a message in a book they will enjoy.  Yes, I know most will have read it, but will they have really dug into it?  These books are GREAT discussion books!

3.  Hiroshima by John Hersey~ I read this in 6th grade Honors English and it has stayed with me.  I had no grip on what an atomic bomb could do until I read this, and it made me understand so much more about war and about WWII in particular.  It also made me grateful for all that I had and it made me see that although people may be your enemies during war, they are still people- mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, husbands...  I will say that this book was much too graphic for most 6th graders; several of my classmates had nightmares after reading it and there were a few who had to have a study hall while we covered it, which is why I say this is a book to be read in HS.

4.  Shine by Lauren Myracle~ This book is so very relevant to teens today.  When I was in HS (Class of '94), most gay teens weren't out; they were there, but they weren't open about it.  Over the past 15 years, a lot has changed in that respect, but a lot of people's attitudes haven't, which to me is sad.  This book is very eye-opening and I think it could spark serious conversation about tolerance and acceptance of both self and others.  Read my review HERE if you would like to know more about my feelings on this book.

5.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding~ This book is amazing and I doubt most teens would ever read it if they were not made to by a teacher.  Like The Hunger Games, highly entertaining, with subtle social commentary.  This is a book that I have found that kids WANT to discuss, and frankly, how could you not?

6.  Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones~ This book is a must-read for everyone- parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, and most of all, students.  This book is a compilation of 70 letters/stories, written by well-known MG and YA authors, to their bullies.  It offers up an amazing opportunity for students to openly discuss this very important, and not often enough discussed topic.  Read my review HERE if you want to know more.

7.  Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (or ANY other book of Ellen's)~ Ellen Hopkins is by far and away the go-to author if you are looking for honest, discussion-worthy fiction that speaks to the issues that face today's teens.  Perfect would be my first choice because I think ANY teen can relate to it on some level, but really, any of her books would be great for classroom discussion.  Unfortunately, there will always be at least one parent who will complain about the raw, graphic nature of Ellen's books, so sadly, I doubt we'll see much of her in the classroom...  For more on Perfect, read my full review HERE.

8.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell~ I think there is something to be said for telling both sides of a story, and in school we get the story of how the North was right and the South was wrong, and that the Civil War was all about slavery and nothing else (the Civil War was mainly about State's Rights).  While I'm not condoning slavery of any kind, I do think that this book portrays the Confederacy's side of the story very well.  I think it would be a great, entertaining jumping off point. Also, it's my all-time favorite book, so I think EVERYONE should read it.

9.  Unwind by Neal Shusterman~ If you've read this book, you understand why I have it on this list.  Abortion is a hot-button issue that was a non-issue when most of the books currently covered in HS classrooms were written.  Not only is the story plausible, it is relevant, and it would really require students to dig deep and develop their own opinions on this issue instead of basing their feelings on what their parents think, either in agreement or rebellion.  Read my review and commentary on its banning HERE.

10.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee~ I read this in the same 6th Grade Honors English class where I read Hiroshima, and I think it was the perfect age, but as the parent of a 5th grader, and in talking to the parents of her friends, most would not want their 6th grader reading it, so I've put it on this list instead.  I think this book needs to be discussed, so a classroom setting for reading it is perfect.  Yes, there are some very disturbing themes in this book, but it is one of the most important works of fiction ever written.

11.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie~ Yes, I'm well aware that this makes number eleven, but I wanted it here, so it is...  Most people in the United States have no understanding whatsoever of how Native Americans live on their reservations.  Most Americans, if they've even stepped foot on one, have done so to go to the casinos or buy tax-free cigarettes, without a thought of the people who live there or how they got there.  I grew up less than 10 miles from one and had no idea what kind of poverty existed there.  This book gives a very eye-opening, honest account, and it's one I think should be a part of any study involving Native Americans.

Obviously, I could list 50, even 100 books that I think should be read and discussed by teens, but these are the first ten that come to mind.  What do you think?  Did I exclude a book important to you?


  1. Lauren Myracle came to my school last year so we actually read Shine in English class. Really great book. :) We also read To Kill A Mockingbird last year. Awesome list! ;)


  2. They just put The Hunger Games into the curriculum at a bunch of schools around where I live! New follower and this is mine! :)

  3. I don't think it's that HS teachers are out of the loop - It has more to do with the school district and what they can get away with teaching. All it takes is for one or two parents objecting for something to get yanked from the cirriculum. At my kids schools they have workshops at the start of every year that teach 'tolerance' and 'acceptance' of students who are different (gay, handicapped, whatever). They don't do it by reading any of the great books you have listed. That may change in time.

  4. The Hunger Games trilogy is now in the school district's curriculum that my library serves, so yay! :) You listed a lot of other great books that students NEED to read, like Shine, Dear Bully, and of course To Kill a Mockingbird. Great list this week!

  5. I love the mix of books on this list. Some of them were required reading for me when I was in high school and some were not. I did enjoy when I got to read a book for a non-english/literature class and got to discuss how the book is related to the class's main areas on interest.

  6. Wonderful list! I'd love to teach Waiting for Godot, Huck Finn, and Persepolis.

  7. Great list! I actually did read Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm in school, but I still need to read To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind.

    My Top Ten Places NOT to Read a Book

  8. Love this idea for a list! I would add A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - it teaches about loss and dealing with feelings of guilt.

  9. What a great list!

    I'm thoroughly intrigued by the idea of everyone having to read Gone with the Wind. I think it's a fantastic book, and it certainly tells another side of the story.

    Laura @ The Traveling Owl

  10. WOW that is an awesome list. I need to read Shine & Part Time Indian. Epic fail on my part. Loved Gone With the Wind Junior year ;D

    Amy @ bookgoonie

  11. I teach high school English and I definitely agree with your list, but please know that not all of us are out of the loop! :) We've been trying to add more modern YA to our curriculum, but our budgets are definitely smaller now than they used to be (and our cycle comes around every 7 years). As a department, we try to stock our shelves and the media center's with good YA, but it all depends on money, sadly (and meeting our state standards for literature).

    Right now from your list, we have TKAM, Absolutely True Diary, and Animal Farm. Most of the kids love The Hunger Games and I starting pushing Shine on them as soon as I finished it last year. I teach in a small town that scarily isn't too different from the one in Shine, so I think it's really important that the kids realize these are critical issues that we need to talk about.

    Our HS girls' health class reads Speak; I wish that could turn into an English 9 class novel.

  12. As a teacher, I whole-heartedly agree on all of your choices. You have a great justification for each. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an excellent choices, especially because it has had so much book-banning buzz this year.

    I told myself Unwind was required reading for January, so I'll be reading and reviewing it soon. I can't wait!

  13. I actually had to read To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm in high school. And I totally agree with Unwind, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and The Hunger Games. I can't say I've read the rest though. Great list!

    Thanks for visiting my Top Ten.

  14. I love it when I come across a book that grabs my interest and I just HAVE to read it. I will be reading Unwind as soon I can get my hands on a copy. Thank you!!

  15. Great list! I totally agree with Animal Farm, Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird, and would add Speak. :)

  16. I actually read quite a few of these in high school (or middle school)! Good choices.

  17. Excellent idea for a list! The Hunger Games would make great discussion fodder. I read To Kill a Mockingbird in middle school and honestly now I wish I would have read it later...I'm sure I would have gotten more out of it that way.

  18. I agree with you, although (sad to say) I haven't read all the books in your list. Great Top Ten!

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  19. What a great list!! I love Hunger Games and think that all kids should read it both for entertainment and educational purposes.


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