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June 05, 2009

Summer Reading: High School

Summer Reading: High School

By Kathy Sweeney, now mother of two high school kids.  Yikes.


Blog mockingbird MLB This week, my son left the small enclave of his K-8 Catholic School.  Many rejoiced, including me (and several of his teachers, I'm sure.  Who knew these kids could get senioritis in 8th grade?).  Time to turn the page.  We just got his summer reading list, and it inspired me to ask all of you to help put together a good high school reading list for everyone.  In case you didn't know it, our kids do most of their reading on the Net. Their textbooks are on there, and so is their homework.  In my opinion, they don't spend enough time reading books.  

And no, Ty, I do not count Manga as books.  They were a godsend when we couldn't get you interested in reading anything, and they are very creative, what with the mixed media and so forth, but we are talking novels of the traditional, rather than graphic, kind.  Admittedly, Watchmen is a masterpiece, but you've already read that one, so give up the argument.

Here are the books incoming freshman in Ty's class need to read:

"To Kill a Mockinbird" by Harper Lee
and one of the following:
"Friday Night Lights" by H.G. Bissinger
"Sunrise Over Fallujah" by Walter Dean Myers
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie

Let me say that, other than Harper Lee's magnum opus, I have not read any of these books.  Hell, I haven't even seen the movie or the TV show.  If any of you have, please let us know what you think.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is perhaps my favorite book of all time.  The book is so rich, that one can teach an entire class just on the use of idiom (I know because I did, the year it was the "One Community, One Book" choice).  The lessons of humanity, justice, racism and courage are timeless.  I love this book.

Blog dorian-grayKate, who will be a (gulp) senior next year, will be reading the following:

"Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand
"The Bride Price" by Buchi Emecheta
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

Blog roxanne Now THERE is a hootenanny of a lineup, huh?  I for one will be watching Steve Martin's tour de force in Roxanne.  Oh Oscar, how you robbed him.

If I were a high school English teacher (God bless them - and a special shout out to Jack, Chris and the wonderful Mrs. Monroe) and I didn't end up in an asylum (kidding, in a way), I'd have a hard time choosing required summer reading.  I mean - you want the books to be good, without being an albatrossian burden that will turn the kids off completely.  

I could only come up with a few, and I'm looking to the rest of you to add to the list.  Since we have so many writers, readers and teachers here at TLC, I'm excited to see what pops up.

Blog good earth "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck - I chose this because it is one of the few books I remember reading in high school.  Which means it made an impact.  Plus, there is that whole 'giving birth in the rice fields' thing, 

"Romeo And Juliet" by William Shakespeare - because everyone should read Shakespeare and I think this one is the easiest.  But - the best way to learn Shakespeare is to see it in its natural habitat - on stage.  If you have a local company, take your kids.  If not, the best movie adaptation for high school kids is "Romeo + Juliet" - wherein DiCaprio, Danes, Leguizamo, Perrineau, Sorvino and Dennehy chew up the scenery old school iambic-pentameter style.

Blog bad songs "Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs"  That's right.  Because, as everyone knows, it's hard to write funny, and he is a master.  Plus - he was a newspaper writer - a dying art. But most importantly, I have never given anyone this book who didn't laugh out loud.  Kids need to know that words on a page have the same power as a goof on a stage.

Okay - I have left the field wide open for your suggestions.  Let's hear them!








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It's my belief that 8th grade boys view themselves as kings of the world, but I digress.

For the freshman class:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

and any good collection of poetry by Ogden Nash

For the senior class:
Emma by Jane Austen
Vanity Fair by Thackeray

Is Dickens still read in school? If not, then any or all of these:
A Christmas Carol
A Tale ofTwo Cities
The Pickwick Papers

Well, delving into some of the stuff I read in high school, here are some of my suggestions...

Hamlet
The Merchant Of Venice
King Lear
Great Expectations
A Tale Of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Dracula
Huckleberry Finn
The Yearling
Alice In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass
1984
The Grapes Of Wrath
Cannery Row
A Study In Scarlet
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
The War Of The Worlds
The Three Musketeers
Bullfinchs Mythology
Anything written by Robert Benchley, James Thurber or P.C. Wodehouse

Nowaday's, as a middle aged geek, I'd round out a young person's literary education with the addition of the following...

The Maltese Falcon
The Big Sleep
Tarzan of the Apes
A Princess Of Mars
A few pulp era reprints, especially the tales of The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spider and Fu Manchu
A selection of western novels by such folk as Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour and Luke Short
Any 10 Hugo award winners from the past 54 years
Some really good erotica
IT, 'Salems Lot and The Stand by Stephen King
Everything written by H.P. Lovecraft

Doc already listed most of my suggestions, but I'd like to add THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving, along with MEMOS FROM PURGATORY by Harlan Ellison.

The summer reading list made me nuts when my daughter was in high school. She loves to read, but the book choices they were given were so old and boring, she never read them.

She read To Kill A Mockingbird in school, and they also watched the movie, and she loved both.

I love the Wodehouse, Austen and Maltese Falcon suggestions. And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of my favorite books.

And, Kathy, I'll say again that I wish I had had a teacher like you. Anyone who assigned me Dave Barry would have had my everlasting gratitude.

I would add:
The Diary Of Ann Frank
The Great Gatsby
Murder On The Orient Express
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
something by Barbara Kingsolver
Touchstone by Laurie R. King

Wow!

We're off to a great start - can't wait to see what everyone else has to say.

Now I have to go look up the Hugo Award winners - thanks Doc!

I'll add:
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (good for the girls - and boys - who just don't like Jane Austen)
The Awakening
To Have and Have Not
The Great Gatsby
Mrs. Dalloway
1984


But I also have a vote for the worst summer reading book ever (which I actually did read, although it was terribly painful and took a very long time):
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
(!)

My thoughts and insights (and a few direct quotes) from years of doing high school book group and listening to complaints on this subject:

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs is a literary masterpiece. (That's just MHO, but wanted to slip it in first.)

Any teacher who assigns Lord of the Flies should be sent to an island with a bunch of middle school boys.

A Tale of Two Cities is still read, Mary. It's probably the most accessible Dickens for students who aren't shining great readers and/or aren't native English speakers. David Copperfield is also read, and usually grudgingly liked.

Boys don't get Wuthering Heights, and they will forever despise any person who forces them to read it. Girls will swoon over Heathcliff, even though it escapes me utterly why.

Jane Eyre is less offensive, because of the crazy lady and the fire.

Crime & Punishment is less boring than the Brother Karamazov. That Gulag book is sick. The Count of Monte Cristo--hell yeah, guy!

If Heart of Darkness was the basis for Apocalypse Now, why can't we just watch the movie?

The Color Purple is okay, especially the parts about her button. Their Eyes Were Watching God--no one knows what she is talking about.

The Invisible Man (Ellison) is hellacool.

East of Eden has some really interesting evil people in it. That girl Cathy is wicked bad.

There is a manga edition of Macbeth that is not bad.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a good book about the horrors of war and the guy sounds like a real guy, and it's also, like, really short.

The Red Badge of Courage is booooring. Ambrose Bierce is boooooring. Cold Mountain is booooring. The Civil War is boooooring.

The Picture of Dorian Gray--isn't Oscar Wilde supposed to be really funny? This book isn't funny. Why isn't this book funny?

If you have to read a Shakespeare, then all right, maybe Hamlet isn't terrible, but don't tell anyone, and what is up with his mom anyway, marrying his uncle? That was just not right. And Ophelia. Whoa.

Everybody in the Scarlett Letter was too uptight. His other books rock, but The Hobbit sucks. Those girls in The Crucible were such bitches! Why isn't Stephen King on this list? Edgar Allan Poe was messed up bad. Franz Kafka--dude, what have you been smoking? George Elliot is a woman? George Sand is a woman? Silas Marner needs a woman. If Frankenstein is the doctor, what's the monster's name?

Does this help? Sadly, I have more. Many more.

Ramona - it not only helps, but it's hilarious! More, please.

The Hugo Awards are for Science Fiction writing of all kinds. Worth checking out - my daughter loves Neil Gaiman. Thanks for the lead, Doc.

Katie - 1984 still gives me the creeps. I remember reading that one, but I think it was in college.

Mary - poetry! I'd add Robert Frost too. Love him.

Laura - my point exactly. So many of these books are slooooowww.

P.S. William?! No Bond?

Wow, great lists! I'm so impressed that despite all of us bitching about the classics in high school, we're still suggesting them.

I'd add something by Ray Bradbury. His books of novellas, The Illustrated Man is a terrific overview, then Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes is always a hit, especially with boys.

And what a pleasure to see plays on the lists! I love Cyrano--much more readable for kids, although it gets them ready for Shakespeare, who can be daunting. (But I always send kids to Much Ado and Twelfth Night--girls in particular. Boys go for MacBeth--it's short and grisly.)

And of course, Ramona is right---Heart of Darkness. It all goes back to Heart of Darkness.

Btw, I have not read the book "Friday Night Lights". I saw the movie, which I liked, and the tv series is perhaps one of my favorite of all time.

Not for school, Kathy. I did that in the third grade, got a note sent home. Got an "A" on the book report, though....:)

Oh! How could I forget! The ultimate literary compliment, after reading Watership Down:

"Bush should send Bigwig after Bin Laden. He could take him, and he's a bunny."

DUNE!
And a lesser-known sci fi book that my brother-in-law gave me when I was about 14, called RITE OF PASSAGE by Alexei Panshin, another Hugo award winner. I think sci fi is so cool because the kids, with their crazed hormones, feel like they're living on another planet anyway. Anyhow, those two books were life-changing for me, and last night a grownup quoted a line from DUNE and so obviously it had an impact on him.

CATCHER IN THE RYE is my all-time favorite classic, but Franny & Zooey is right up there too. I spent a lot of time reading Thomas Hardy, for fun, back then (why?) and must've read WUTHERING HEIGHTS 5 times, Ramona. Yeah, I was a laugh riot in high school.

I've always been an avid reader, but the few 'classics' we had to read in HS were so boring and difficult to get through, even for me. For my non-reading friends, I think they turned them off reading for pleasure forever. Even now, I can't pick up a classic without a feeling of dread.

So my advice to English teachers is to pick the very best books that the kids can RELATE to, preferably not in old English (except Shakespeare, everyone should read at least some Shakespeare). I can't give you any examples, because I hated all the ones we read in school.

The goal here should be to be exposed to great lit AND to foster a life-long love of reading - not just meeting requirements and learning symbolism. I think the wrong choices made by HS English teachers can cause real damage to students in the long run.

Me, bitter? You bet. This has always been a hot topic for me.

On a positive note, the books my daughter has had to read seem to be books teens can relate to, and so it seems there has been some improvement made in our district.

Oh, and I am saving some of your recommendations for us to read, so thank you for that!

I loved _Watership Down_, loved most books by Isaac Asimov, had great fun introducing students to Kurt Vonnegut, and found _To Kill a Mockingbird_ the best part of teaching freshmen. (_Of Mice and Men_ was my juniors' favorite, followed by _Pudd'nhead Wilson_).
Despite some stuck-up professor's statement that Shakespeare is best read silently, to "enjoy the superior theater in my mind" I think watching a performance is the best way to enjoy Shakespeare. In my classes we watched the best version I could find and then read it, with students taking all the parts -- and physically acted out favorite parts, like the death scenes.
I happened to drive by FHN when the students were leaving for the summer. They looked so happy (especially the seniors). I'd like to speak in favor of very short required reading lists, with more room for free choice reading. I think that freedom to read is essential to developing a love of reading. (One reason I'm enjoying retirement -- freedom to do leisure reading).

The chief complaint I hear from my boys (at least the two who are entering the same grades as your kids, Kathy) is that they are sick and tired of reading books that leave them feeling depressed. Would it be a crime to assign a book that leaves kids feeling uplifted and encouraged, that makes them think that this book-reading thing can indeed be a pleasure?

I don't have titles right now, and today is Massive SWAT Cleaning day, so I can't hunt things down. But that would be my criteria. Something that will give them joy.

Our book club just discussed _The Thirteenth Tale_ and decided that it would be a good book to re-read every few years for new insights. A friend of mine re-read _Catcher in the Rye_ every year on her birthday -- I confess I could barely make it through that book once (talk about depressing).
J.K. Rowling did a major service to reading, and now teens (even some boys) are getting into the _Twilight_ series.

I spent 15 years teaching high school English, sometimes there was required summer reading, sometimes not (you'd be amazed at the arguments parents make against it!). I love the idea of keeping kids reading, but I always leaned more towards teaching the classics during the school year (partly because the kids needed the guidance, partly because I wanted to teach them) and having the summer reading be a bit more free choice (we'd give a list of 5-10 to choose from) and have it be more contemporary--Stephen King, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, etc. I think especially for middle school (and even the first two years of high school), the trick is to get the kids reading, reading, reading. If you can hook them now, you'll have them for life. Contemporary romances can eventually lead to a love of Jane Austen. Horror and suspense can lead to 1984.

Okay, I'll get off my teacher soapbox now.

Youse guys are so well read. I'm not. I read several books a week, but I think I only counted three in all the books y'all have listed that I've read. Luckily, To Kill a Mockingbird was one of them. Loved it.

If you are going to assign poetry, I'm voting for Billy Collins.

Kathy, Sherman Alexie -- although I haven't read that one, is kick-ass good.

My daughter (also going to be a freshman) has to read REBECCA, THE ODYSSEY, and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. She'd love a little Dave Barry, but alas.

The Odyssey??? Heather, don't allow her any sharp objects!

I did read Friday Night Lights and liked it a lot, and I know and care almost nothing about football. Lots of good suggestions to which I have little to add, except that I think Shakespeare (or any play) is best read in the classroom with kids taking parts; and seeing a movie first isn't a bad idea.

Great suggestions.......Mystery Lovers is hosting the Dune writers for a signing on August 14, 2009. Harley, you may want to return!

Good suggestions from everyone. (And so early!)

I've read Friday Night Lights. It's okay if you like football, which I'm not ecstatic over. And the idea of a whole town being taken up by a high school team's wins or losses worried me.

Mark Twain has not been mentioned, but Innocents Abroad is my all-time favorite of his titles, and in my opinion should be required reading for every American.

John Irving's Ciderhouse Rules is better than The World According to Garp, IMO, and had the added virtue of NOT including a bear. (Irving's obsessed with them, it seems.)

Worthy contemporary fiction that would interest today's kids:

The Time Traveler's Wife (an amazing book)
Middlesex (ditto)
Water for Elephants
The Namesake
The Kite Runner
Love in the Time of Cholera

Also, there's a great book about a young boy in NYC and the aftermath of 9/11 on his family. I can't think of the name, and apparently it went in the Big Purge of 2007, when I donated 1,000 books to the local library. It was written by a man whose wife also wrote an almost equally popular book about an old man, also post 9/11. I'm drawing a complete blank on both of them. Jonathan something, but that's it.

--Hijack--

Last night my oldest daughter called, sobbing. Her best friend just found out she is full of cancer, including in both her ovaries. The blog topic yesterday was more timely than it seemed then for me. This young woman is only 36, and she has a three-year old, plus has been raising her husband's two elementary school aged kids.

Hi Kathy!

As you know, I just graduated, so I thought I might as well provide the books I've read during my high school career.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Fences by August Wilson
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
The Secret Life of Houdini : The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush, Larry Sloman, Adam Grupper
Multiple books about Nellie Bly, Pittsburgh-born reporter, for my Sophomore Research Paper (30 pgs long!)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Waiting by Ha Jin
Light in August by William Faulkner
The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
Multiple books on the history of Saturday Night Live (Yes, the TV show) for my Junior year History Research Paper on influences on American culture
Multiple books on Marilyn Monroe for another Junior year History Research Paper
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Why Americans Hate Politics by EJ Dionne
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Once and Future King by TH White
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Macbeth by Shakespeare
Hamlet by Shakespeare
King Lear by Shakespeare
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Numerous books on nuclear nonproliferation for my AP US Govt Research Paper

...And a slew of other books that I have knowingly blocked out of my memory... mostly books for my history classes and books that I absolutely hated... Ugh.

Sorry to bore you. I'll add more/ the rest when I think of them or find them.

Abby

My youngest read the Odyssey in grade school, voluntarily, The middle one read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, in fifth grade, and loved it.

You never know.

What about any of the books by Ernest Hemingway's, maybe Old Man and the Sea or A Farewell to Arms or John O'Hara's Ten North Frederick or John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley? I loved O'Hara and Steinbeck when I was in highschool. Read everything they wrote. OK, maybe I was a strange kid but I really did read those books on my own with no prodding from anyone.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because TLC is such a well-read and thoughtful community, but WOW!

I'm too far behind to address all of them but

Janet - that is exactly my worry, especially with my son.

Abby - thanks for the list - amazing when you start to list them, isn't it? Abby just graduated from high school and is headed for college this fall - congrats!

Karen - I am so sorry about your friend.

Not even reading everyone's lists. Just giving my ideas:

A Light in the Forest-Conrad Richter
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou
Go Tell It On the Mountain-James Baldwin
The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged-Ayn Rand
Catcher In The Rye-JD Salinger
Black Like Me-John Howard Griffin
Joy In the Morning-Betty Smith
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee-Dee Brown

Did we have diversity training in high school in the early 70s or what? lol!

Books I read as in Jr. High and High School that are still on my bookshelf:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
and the S. E. Hinton collection

I also bought myself a DVD copy of the movie Breaking Away because we saw it in my English/Man vs Society class and discussed it as if it were a book. It stuck with me.

I would recommend at least one Dave Berry or something else humorous.

What about including a free choice with the only direction of biography or autobiography.

I've collected many autobiographies of popular comedy folks (I blanked on how to spell comedien . . .). Sometimes funny with real life mixed in to balance.

Definitely Stephen King if there is an interest in that genre. (I wouldn't require it though, cause he could freak out anyone not liking that kind of thing. I like it and can still remember reading The Shining in Jr. High. I'd read a couple of chapters, go sit in the family room with the family, go read a few chapters and back to the family room. All through the book.)

I'll mention it, but not recommend as required - Gone With The Wind. I read it for mucho extra credit points in a class in High Schooland LOVED IT! The teacher didn't think anyone would actually do it, and it was her way of shutting up the incessant begging for extra points options.

Karen, Ciderhouse Rules? Although it was an epic tale and I still remember parts, I just found it so depressing that I wouldn't watch the movie.

Novels like that make me depressed on the meanness that exists in people. Which I don't understand because I can read murder mysteries and not come away depressed that evil exists. Maybe because good explicity triumphs over bad in mysteries, while there's too much grey in the other books?

Why don't mysteries ever make the 'literary' cut? You all started to discuss this a few months ago and I found it facinating, but I still don't understand why there is such an appeal there for me, but not the 'literary' world. Can someone please explain?

I think that if they want to include a Stephen King, they could use The Green Mile.

LOL, Nancy. Actually out of the three, I think she'll like THE ODYSSEY the best. She has a love of mythology. I'm guessing she'll hate REBECCA--not her type of book at all.

My daughter read Gone With The Wind for fun last year, and loved it.

I would also add
The Secret Life of Bees
The Thin Man

You asked a bunch of authors and readers to suggest books, look what you have done!

My additions:

"A Case of Need" by Michael Crichton.

Anything from the ALA Banned Book List:
http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm

"
30 Books Every Kid Should Read Before Graduating High School" http://theportmans.name/index.php/Alan/30-Books-Every-Kid-Should-Read-Before-Graduating-High-School.html

My other reading list:
http://www.librarything.com/catalog/aportman&tag=What%2BAlan%2BRecommends

It would be nice, and I may do it over the weekend, to compile all of these suggestions and present it as a more structured list.

Kathy, boy readers at the age of your son have the highest drop-off rate for reading. It starts around 5th or 6th grade, when you can see who will or will not become a lifelong reader. At that age, it is hard to keep kids, esp. boys, engaged and sitting still and paying attention, so look for books full of high adventure. The boys who remain avid readers seem to be the ones who've latched onto a genre (often fantasy or horror) or a favorite author.

One of my friends will usually have me check the reading lists for her three girls, to see if or what I may have in my vast and varied collection.

Last year, I was surprised the Stephenie Meyer's 'Eclipse' was on (and borrowed/read in good time), and yet no Jane Austen's.

I gave my niece her collection of Austen, and she read them as well. Chatted with the teacher about the list as well, considering that the year before there was some book on there with butterfly in the title and was about teenage suicide. Hello? Suicide as a summer read?

BTW...Eclipse did get her back into reading mode, and she has since read both the twilight series and all the Austens. *sigh*

More great ones - we are reading The Secret Life of Bees for our women lawyers' book group.

Alan - if you do, please let us know!

We need more humor, people!

And I love Ramona's suggestion about adventure. Got Ty the James Rollins' "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" when he was at Mystery Lovers last year. It's a novel based on the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson/screenplay by David Koepp. Not sure I've ever read that kind of adaptation before.

My senior summer reading was Dante's Inferno, which is was a tough sell then and probably even more so today. I still stand by The Catcher in the Rye which resonates today as much as it did when it was written or when I read it for 10th grade summer reading. Prior to Holden was The Once and Future King which remains to this day one of my favorite books of all time.

I usually only lurk on TLC (and love reading all the comments, btw!) but I had to step in on this one.

If I were handing out a summer reading list, I would assign Reading Lolita in Tehran, with the instruction to then read two of the classic works read in the book. I wasn't all that interested in reading the classics until I read Azar Nafisi's work.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not make ANY 9th or 10th graders read Romeo and Juliet. It is awful. It was the first Shakespeare I read and it turned me off of Shakespeare for 6 years. It took three classes on Shakespeare and finally a chance assignment to do a monologue from Two Gentleman of Verona for me to get why people like him so much. And I was trying!

Also, as regards to boys - Most new 9th grade boys only have girls on their minds in a very...ehem, physical way... and the bulk of R&J is all about romance and one true love. Two Gentlemen is, IMHO, the best for young boys because it has a lot of sexual innuendo and slapstick. What teenager doesn't like that combo, boy or girl? In one of the high school Shakespeare classes I took we weren't assigned any of the comedies, only tragedy and history. most. depressing. class. ever.

I agree with a previous commenter that inspiring a life-long love of reading should be the goal for a summer reading list, and that depressing works are not the way to go.

For my AP seniors, there are three summer readings: Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and Medea. I've found that the inclusion of really different works catches different students.

The final exam for my AP class asks students to discuss the most "effective" work they have read in the class (they have to define effective using certain criteria). The works most frequently chosen are Song of Solomon (Morrison, not the Bible), 100 Years of Solitude, All My Sons, and Wuthering Heights. The course is usually female dominated, so take that for what it's worth.

By the way, Kris, the College Board is trying to get AP teachers to include less depressing works in their curricula. I usually reserve the comedic plays for February, when we all need it.

I got my nephew reading by introducing him to Piers Anthony's Xanth series, Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter on Mars series, Frank Herbert's Dune series, and all of Stephan R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
Add to those the other books he found in my book cases and read,
The Jungle Books--Rudyard Kipling, The 30,000 Dollar Bequest, and The Complete Short Stories and Essays--Mark Twain.

Then he found my Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe, The Odyssey, A ton of Ellery Queen books, Mary Stewart, and TH Elliot's The Once and Future King.
He went from a non-reader to a reader.

The two that made the most impact on me in high school (as in, I kept the books and still have them today, 21 years after graduating) were The Invisible Man by Harlan Ellison and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. On the latter, we also watched Apocalypse Now at the same time, which I found almost as compelling as the book. I'd probably re-read the book as opposed to re-watching the movie. I think it's the setting of the book I prefer. Vietnam of that era seems a little too real.

Thanks, Kathy. I appreciate it.

Laura, I was about to add The Secret Life of Bees. Her second book, The Mermaid Chair, isn't nearly as good.

Mysteries: Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon. Definitely.

Life of Pi is also a good contemporary work.

AMC, I just bought Dante's Inferno a couple of days ago, to add to my collection of the classics. It's one I have not yet read, although I have read Jodi Picoult's amazing The Tenth Circle, which is based on The Inferno. And it would be a fabulous addition to any high school reading list. It contains a book within a book, which happens to be a graphic novel. Truly unique.

Thanks, Heather, for reminding me how much I love Rebecca ("Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly..."), and just about anything by Daphne du Maurier - her short story collections are the best!

For non-depressing reads, anything by Patrick Dennis: The Joyous Season, Genius, Auntie Mame, Travels With Auntie mame, How Firm A Foundation, 3-D, Paradise, Tony, Little Me, Love and Mrs. Sargeant.

I'm too tired to really think, and most of the books I would have stuck on the list have already been mentioned, but Kathy I must ask WHY you would inflict The Good Earth upon anyone? I had to read it in high school and I HATED it. It was boring as hell, didn't like the writing and wanted to repeatedly slap many of the characters (which I now acknowledge was based on cultural differences and my objections to the way several of the characters were treated). I recall having to force my way through that book — it took me a month, and I'm usually a very fast reader — and then the paper I had to write after. I still shudder at the thought of the experience. I know there are lots of people that loved it, but The Good Earth (along with Grapes of Wrath) was always one of those books where I wondered how in God's name it ended up a classic.
Off my soapbox now, I would add The Pigman, The Outsiders (although I think I read both of those in junior high), The Pearl (one of my favorite Steinbeck), has anyone mentioned Frankenstein? Pretty much any Ray Bradbury, although I love The Martian Chronicles, C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, Sherlock Holmes (again, think I actually read those in junior high) I know there's more, but lack of sleep is making coherent, intelligent thought very hard ...

Oh! Wicked I think would be a good one for a more contemporary tale that has a lot of great discussions related to it, and Jane Yolen's Briar Rose

I have to admit that I didn't even realize Friday Night Lights had been (or is also) a book, and I think the movie and television show are two different stories, but I do rank the current TV version among my favorites (and I don't have many favorites currently). The scripts have a great deal to say about a lot more than football, and I think the show is distinctive in that each week there are as many as five or six distinct plotlines that speak to as many themes. Larry Judge

Larry, the show is better than the book, in my opinion.

Oh -- and I read DRACULA in high school and loved it. Acceptably racy stuff.

Uncle Larry! So cool to see you here, and if anyone would know the resonance of Friday Night Lights, it would be you! (He was the Sports Information Director at IUP for ages.)

Football is king in Western PA, so at least for our family, this book should be a good choice.

We (Me, Tom, Mom and Ty - maybe Kate) are going to read it and have a book group in SHNJ this month, then watch the movie. Want us to conference you in?

May I just recommend that your son pick THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN as his elective book? It was an *excellent* read!

I have two boys, and while I want them to be well rounded, Love in the Time of Cholera and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are two books that tortured them. Jane Austin is not for boys in high school either. I think the books need to be more gender friendly to both sexes. This was not the case for my boys as Seniors here in Annpolis. Who picks these books anyway for the kids. I remember being tortured by having to read The Red Pony my freshman year. What a terrible book!!!

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