Saturday, June 21, 2014

School Books

The idea of what children should have to read in school seems to have been popping up a lot lately.  There was the news out of the UK that many American classics were being removed from required reading lists.  The school year just ended here in the US and most high school students have a list of books they must read over the summer.    And over at Book Riot, they asked contributors to name modern books that they think should be required reading.  Their list included The Kite Runner, The Handmaid's Tale, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and An Artist of the Floating World.  This got me to thinking about what books I would want to see as required reading for High School.  Here are some of the ones I came up with:

  • A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor.  I think short stories are great for a society that is quickly losing its attention span.  A well crafted one can leave as big an impression as a 600 page novel.  And if there is a writer who knows how to leave an impression, it is Flannery O'Connor.  Her stories emphasize grace with a strong symbolism, and is also a wonderful commentary on the South of the 40s and 50s.
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves.  Historical writing does not have to be boring.  Just read Robert Graves' classic about the political turmoil of the Roman Empire.  It's Game of Thrones meets House of Cards!  Plus, it is a great example of the corruption of power and underestimating those with disabilities. 
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  If you want your students to see an example of writing that is poetic, beautiful, and calm then look no further.  Robinson's story of an Iowa pastor at the end of his life is touching and I think a wonderful way to teach kids that the best books aren't just a whirlwind of adventure and romance, but can also be quiet and reflective.
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  This book is great for young people as it addresses the problem of becoming your own person.  Like the characters, they are struggling to find their own identity amidst the expectations of their parents, their society, and their friends.  It also emphasizes understanding for the beliefs of others that you may not understand or agree with.

What about you?  What books do you think should be required reading for High School?  What aspects are important in deciding what young adults should read?  Should certain books be required at all?  Sound off!

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