Top Ten Tuesday-Books All Teens Should Read

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I am so excited to be participating in Top Ten Tuesday for the first time all summer.  Somehow I thought I would have more time for blogging on my summer break, but the truth is that I honestly don't remember what day it is most of the time.  I call it summer brain.  As a result, I usually remember Top Ten Tuesday on about Friday.  Anywoot, here's my picks for the ten books every teen should read.

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee-I realize that this is still on the high school reading lists in most places, so most teens are reading this book.  While I am a proponent of enriching the high school English curriculum with more contemporary works, this is one that should stay on the list forever and ever!

2.  The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood-I didn't read this until college, and it literally changed my life.  And I don't just think that female teens should read this.  Atwood's horrifying vision of what theocracy could look like is still timely for everyone.

3.  The Book Thief, Markus Zusak-OK, I admit I haven't read this myself, but everyone I know who has-youth or adult-has impressed upon me how amazing it is, and it is on my TBR list.  And on a related note...

4.  The Diary of Anne Frank-There is so much in this slim volume that speaks to young people.  And given the increasing polarization of our society over issues of class and immigration, there are plenty of lessons to be learned here about our shared humanity.

5.  Luna, Julie Anne Peters or Almost Perfect, Brian Katcher-Both of these titles are about transgendered youth, and they both give good insight into the struggles that transgendered people have living true to themselves and gaining acceptance from their families, peers, and society.  Given the recent spate of anti-gay bullying, I think that we need to be encouraging more teens to read books with GLBT themes.

6.  Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson-I think that this novel about a young girl finding her voice again after a sexual assault speaks to many young people who feel like they are powerless, even if they have not had a similar experience as the reason.

7.  Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut-Again, I am making a recommendation that I have not in fact read myself, but it is a gaping hole in my reading past that I plan to fill this summer.  And really, I am down with any anti-war book that we can get into the hands of young people.  I am eternally hopeful that maybe the next generation can find less-violent solutions than the previous generations.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky-Like Speak, only without the sexual assault and with a male protagonist. 

9.  A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini-I never really understood much about Afghan culture until I read this and The Kite Runner.  Given the continuing war there, I think people should understand more rather than less about what the stakes are, and I don't mean for the US, but for the Afghan people, if the Taliban are allowed to reassert themselves.

10.  Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews-Because really, you can only get away with it in high school...if you're going to read trashy novels about incest, do yourself a favor and only do it early enough to be able to claim youthful stupidity when you admit it later.


  1. I have been wanting to read The Handmaid Tale for a long time. I think I need to move it up my To-Be-Read list!


  2. Oddly, I didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird until I was in seminary, and my then-high-school-aged daughter had to read it. We all listened to the audio version (with Sissy Spacek as the reader - perfect voice for Scout). I haven't read Book Thief or the books featuring transgender teens, but I trust you on those.

    I agree with your other recommendations (except V.C. Andrews), though I have to note that a few of them are frequently challenged in local schools and libraries. Wallflower was recently challenged in a nearby school district - it was on an advanced English class reading list; and Speak has been challenged in several places around the country.

    (And my 3 adult children can all attest that I never told them they *couldn't* read a book - though I might have had opinions of my own about it.)

  3. When I was teaching, Speak was mandatory reading for my ninth graders. They liked it for the most part. Great list.

  4. Sadly, I seem to also be suffering from summer brain!

    Brilliant list!

  5. +JMJ+

    LOL @ the justification for including Flowers in the Attic!!!

  6. +JMJ+

    PS -- But perhaps it could be read with a classic as well, such as Oedipus Rex? =P (Trashy, pulp incest meet tragic, classical incest!)

  7. As usual, I love and echo Enbrethiliel's comments!


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