Classic books are cool; much like bow ties


I like to visit the blogs of the people who comment here; that’s part of the community spirit of wordpress, right? I love some stuff, ignore some stuff, and occasionally want to comment on it.

Guess which one I’m doing right now. 🙂

On the one hand, I loved this one article, as it’s useful to me as a writer.

On the other hand, I had both happy and negative thoughts reading another article. Having a mix of feelings makes me want to explain why I felt that way.

I always admire educators, whose job it is to pry open little minds and force some light in. But as a reader and a parent, I want those minds to be opened to wide, new vistas, not just the safe, comfortable ones. I also know that what I consider essential literature isn’t always the same as what an educator would agree with, which why I’m super glad I’m not a teacher! I’m also, obviously, not a part of a super conservative family, so that also affects my point of view.

Basically, I’m just a random blogger with too much time on my hands and thoughts I’m willing to overshare. And by ‘willing to overshare’, I mean go through the list, book by book, with commentary and/or an alternative. Because I like to talk shit wax philosophical about stuff.

Also, if folks want to add their recommendations in the comments, please do! I may find more reading material, and that’s always a good thing.

16 Books Every Teenager Should Read in 2016

  1. Gone with the Wind. Beautifully written, but also has lots of racism. If I gave this to my kids, and they’d be ‘OMG, Racism!!! Why did you give me this horror to read?’ I’ve heard it argued that this is a portrayal of a strong woman, but I was kinda conflicted about her character. OTOH, I think that was actually part of the writer’s intent, so you should probably just read this and see what you think.
  2. Kate Remembered. I’ve watched about 17 of her movies, I really think she was an amazing actress. I haven’t read this, but it sounds fabulous, so I’ve added it to my own reading list. As in, I went to my library website and put it on hold, lol.
  3. The Book Thief. Another book I haven’t read, so I can’t really offer an opinion. Guess it’s going on my non-teen 2016 reading list as well.
  4. The Horse and His Boy. Hahaha, how apropos! Ahem. Anyway, lovely book, lovely story that *doesn’t* focus on the regular characters/story line of the Chronicles of Narnia, I obviously love it, so yes, I’d recommend this too.
  5. Atonement. Meh. Two historical war novels? I’d prefer a bit more variety, but that’s me. My alternative: Animal Farm.
  6. The Help. OMG no! Clearly we’re going to have to disagree on this one, but if you’re wondering, this is why. I have little patience for White Savior stories, and I’d rather have my kids read stuff written by POC people about their realities. I could only see the point of reading this if afterward the teacher planned to point out all the things wrong with it. My choices: The Color Purple or Push, or hell, if the author has to be white, The Secret Life of Bees.
  7. The Hobbit. Nice book. I’m on the side that prefers The Simarillion, so I’d say if you can’t get into The Hobbit, try that.
  8. Rebecca. Good book. Fabulous descriptive scenes, great gothic suspense, and lots of twists. Thumbs up!
  9. The Historian. Another book I haven’t read. Going to add it to my list.
  10. The Trial. Ah, existentialism. I never liked the style (or philosophy for that matter), but I’m still haunted by the stuff I read in college, so why not? Though if you’re even remotely depressed, avoid existentialist books. Please. Totally non depressing alternative: Anne of Green Gables.
  11. Sense and Sensibility. Meh. Not my favourite. Do yourself a favour and read Pride and Prejudice first; not only will a whole bunch of movies suddenly make more sense, but you’ll get extra joy out of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies when the movie comes out next month. Next month, already? Read fast!
  12. Death of a Salesman. Oh goody, another depressing one. Well written, but boy, is it dark. My alternative: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Still dark, but also funny.
  13. The Call of the Wild. Good book, loved it as a teen. Thumbs up!
  14. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Not even remotely my cup of tea, so I can’t give a review of it. Here’s my alternative: I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond.
  15. Jane Eyre. Okay, yes, read it. But afterwards read this: Wide Sargasso Sea.
  16. The Lady Elizabeth. Another genre I don’t really have any interest in, so if you’ve never tried historical fiction, I’d definitely recommend reading it; you might find a new favourite!




13 thoughts on “Classic books are cool; much like bow ties

  1. Love this. I’ve only read about a third (actually, more like a quarter) of those recommended books. Among other things, this list is heavily US-centric – a lot of them are *American* classics. Haven’t taken American lit, not really interested in it. And doubly not if someone says I “have” to read them. Pfffft.
    Completely agree on Horse & His Boy.
    However, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies?!? Yrrrch!! Them’s fightin’ words [rolls up sleeves; cue face-scratching-hair-pulling argument about the abomination of misusing Austen].
    But then, suggesting Anne of Green Gables instead of The Trial?!? Brilliant. Utterly, fantastically brilliant. You’ve just made my day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know a lot of teens, most of who are depressed or anxious. The idea of handing over something like The Trial seems awfully cruel.

      And I am totally looking forward to P & P & Z!!!! Thhbbt! (that’s me sticking my tongue out).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Speaking as a depressed person, I actually kinda like some existentialist works? (The Plague was one that helped me formulate a strategy for surviving episodes. Best when read back to back with Mann.)

    But yes, yes, yes to Anne (with an E)

    And also? As a former teacher, I wish we would do a better job of introducing (and not undercutting) that lovely art form, the short story. All too often, in this data-obsessed school culture that we seem to have grown in a Petrie dish, we measure merit by the numbers: length and reading level. I wish we would include more seductive little short stories. Who does not want to learn more on hearing the assertion “ONE dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies.”? Where did the money come from? Where was it going? And how could anyone get much of anything for a dollar eighty seven? (O Henry, Gift of the Magi)

    Or Saki’s The Storyteller, which has been a favorite of mine since childhood. I am no more immune to the joy of hearing someone described as “horribly good” than the children in the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was thinking more about how this kind of ideology can affect a depressed teen. Of the books about about the ‘realization of the pointlessness and ugliness of life’. For depressed teens, the lack of a sympathetic character or outlook is probably not going to help them a lot. Something that points out the bleakness of life isn’t going to keep them away from the edge.


      • I was a depressed (even suicidal) teen, and that’s when I read the Plague. I was already over the edge (and though I didn’t recognize what I was doing at the time, I was clinging to that edge with a will to survive that I didn’t then understand, but now recognize that the body possesses, even when one’s mind has an unfortunate flaw that causes it to lie to itself.)

        At the time, a book like Anne of Green Gables made no sense and I could not muster the will to read even old favorites such as that volume. But, I had to read The Stranger for school (and in the muddled sort of thinking one has as a suicidal teen, I had decided that I would die with perfect grades because that would Show Them All. You have no idea how badly I want to go back in time and give my younger self a good shake.)

        That? That made sense to me. The thought patterns were… Familiar? Everything a grey fog and stuff just happens for no discernible reason. But I will be forever grateful to Albert Camus, because that book was one I could comprehend even when nothing else made sense. So I went to the Herculean effort of going to the public library and borrowed The Plague, hoping for more of this voice that made sense. Instead, I got a philosophy that has helped me through the fog since. The voice here is one ground down by the effort of resisting the tide of the illness, but he keeps going, keeps trying, keeps fighting, without hope even, until there’s light again. It taught me that you don’t have to feel hope to resist. You just have to resist – and that’s a powerful realization when you have a disease that messes with how your brain experiences emotion.


        • I also think that the pointlessness bit is an oversimplification, especially in the case of The Plague. I think that the pointlessness and the ugliness there are very firmly attached to the bubonic plague that is killing people meaning that DEATH is ugly and pointless. (And I recognize that The Stranger is written about a period in which the main character is grieving his father’s death – again, that pointlessness revolves around death, but even as a prisoner, the main character rather than focusing on the death sentence ahead, is focusing on the life that he has.)

          Camus himself believed that life is good in se, even without the idea that there is a Greater Purpose (trumpet fanfare here). I actually don’t think that The Stranger is the best book for a depressed teen – though I think it far better than the ones which actively glorify death. (Or perhaps I should take the advice of the man himself and stop classifying Camus with the existentialists.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • I formed my feelings about existentialism after having to read Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Hemmingway, Melville, and Conrad; the stories were so dark and grim! We were told to avoid Camus, as being too complicated for first year college, lol, so I never did get around to reading him.

            I think I probably would have enjoyed those novels a hell of a lot more than the stuff I did have to read.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ha! While I had to read him in high school! (Mumbles to self about the college authorities not wanting to expose students to the revolutionary strength of Camus.) I’ve read the others. Dostoyevsky in particular has a tendency to wallow in misery. Camus grimly waded through it, determined to reach the next patch of sunlight.

              How about Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning? Again, the determination to survive horror, but less grimly than Camus.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Oxford Tutoring says:

    Good literature inspires discussion, and we appreciate your opinion. We hope that our students form their own opinions too, thinking for themselves and taking their education into their own hands. Happy reading!

    Liked by 2 people

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