Monday, January 7, 2013

Required Reading

Some books ride the Zeitgeist sufficiently to appeal to people of different ages; others are definitely period pieces.  Having to read a period piece is uphill all the way.

In choosing "required reading," the choosers (teachers, librarians, school boards, etc.) grew up in an earlier time than did their intended audience.  And they sometimes are put off by books that seem to draw the attention of young people.  By limiting their choices thusly, they sometimes lose opportunities for connection.

I realize I'm going into dangerous waters here; perhaps goring some sacred cows, but here goes:

The Hunger Games is one that engages the youthful readers.  It is set is a dystopian world that appeals more than Lord of the Flies.  This book accomplished the motivational aspect of getting youths and teens to read, and enjoy doing so.

Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) is a perennial classic, as is Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee).  These are books that seem to have an enduring, intergenerational appeal.

Some books absolutely creak.  Seventeen (Booth Tarkington) is one of those.  The characters are overblown, unconvincing, and crass.  Plus it has an uncomfortable amount of racial stereotypes as part of the baggage.  Little Lord Fauntleroy is extremely Victorian and goody-goody.   But what seems to be overrated is The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger).  Maybe I'm unfair; but this book seems to cater to the introspective angst of self-centered males, typically 16-year-old boys who can't get girlfriends and young male English professors.  (But I may be redundant).

There needs to be more girl-friendly books on the lists. Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice are good choices, Jane Eyre is not.  I got more out of Sweet Valley High

I'll go out on a limb and say that A Confederacy of Dunces is one of those books that are good both for teens and the adults who teach them.  But its adoption as required reading might cause a stink in the Bible Belt or the North!  Lord of the Rings is also a winner.  A surprising book that might appeal to teens, but not to school boards is The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh.  That chick had a dark sense of humor!

Note to Holden Caufield:  "Girl up!"

My 400th post!


Hell Hound said...

A Farewell to Arms was a total downer.

Svejk said...

A Confederacy of Dunces was weird but interesting.

Bilbo said...

I think that "The Hunger Games" would be better suited to today's students than "Lord of the Flies." "The Lord of the Rings" is wonderful, but may be a bit too stylistically challenging for readers used to modern literary pablum. I might also vote for Willa Cather's "Death Comes for the Archbishop." This is a subject that needs more thought ...

Bilbo said...

I forgot to congratulate you on your 400th post!! Good job!