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Looking For Recommendations > What You Wish You Read in High School

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message 1: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Seegmiller (tashaseegmiller) Okay, I'm coming out of the woodwork based on the thread somewhere. I teach high school - Juniors (16-17 year olds) and I'm in the process of completely revamping the way I've been teaching. Because the budgets for education are currently much lower than they have been in years past (we got $0 for books last year) I can't order books and can't really do a teaching of them except to put together a "points to consider" guide to help them as they are reading - not with questions to "prove" that they have read as much as making sure they are picking up on the little elements that they may have missed.

The way this is going to work is that eachs student is assigned a certain number of pages to read per week - average is 50 (decent, right?) with accomodations for those who have difficulties reading or higher for those who are AP English bound (in that class they have to read 100 a week). My only stipulation is they cannot read the same genre two times in a row. My goal is two fold - get them reading (most important) but make sure they branch out of the same genre and have a little literary exposure.

So, with the lengthy introduction over,:) here is my question. If you could select books you wished kids got the opportunity to read in high school - what would you select?

message 3: by Debra (new)

Debra The Education of Little Tree
Alicia Memoirs of a Survivor
The Education of Little Tree because it was such a wonderful book, but more than that, the history of the author who you would think was a nice guy wasn't such a nice guy (interesting to have them check out the author).
And Alicia because when my younger sister was in high school she was taught the holocaust never really happened. This tells you it did happen.
Good luck and God bless teachers who want to do a good job!!!

message 4: by Dan (new)

Dan (theancientreader) Dracula and The Hobbit - to tie in with the general teen interest in Twilight and Harry Potter.

The Drifters by James Michner and River Teeth by David James Duncan - because everyone is searching for self and for meaning in life.

message 5: by Felina (new)

Felina I remember in highschool we read A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Letter, Les Miserables and My Antonia. I loved My Antonia but hated the other three. I wish we had read more political books like Animal Farm or Fahrenheit 451. I just remember in college those books were more often relevant in my later studies than those aforementioned classics.

message 6: by Felina (new)

Felina Also I really liked Flowers for Algernon. Talk about a book on how to treat people. I think that would be really relevant for Teenagers especially since they are barely starting to get out of their selfish phase and morph into adults.

message 7: by Allison (new)

Allison (inconceivably) I personally think The Book Thief is a wonderful alternative to The Diary of Anne Frank.

message 8: by Heather (new)

Heather Tasha, I do a similar style of teaching with novels. My students are allowed to read anything they want. They always have a choice in the types of written assignments they do to prove that they've read along with keeping a reading log.

One word of advice, I learned this the hard way, require 10 pages a day (with an average of 50 pages per week). I give my students about 10 minutes of class time to read and I found some students would read 50 pages a day and then would not read for the rest of the week. This works great with kids of all reading levels - they can handle ten pages a day but my lower level kids' eyes would glaze over at the idea of 50 pages a week.

I'll be glad to email you my handouts if you want them.

message 9: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Seegmiller (tashaseegmiller) Heather - I would LOVE your handouts!!! When you get a minute, I'm at tasha dot seegmiller at ironmail dot org

Thank you for the offer...not sure how this will work out but swore I would never teach a Huck Finn as a class novel again and the idea branched out from there...with some inspiration from Nancie Atwell as well :)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 636 comments I second The Book Thief!

Abigail (42stitches) | 360 comments I wish I would have read more "foreign" books as opposed to the usual American and British lit that American schools focus on. Not that we didn't read some really great books but I have become big fan of enculturation since college and I think it should start before undergraduate studies. I have a special fondness for Indian authors now Salmon Rushdie and Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri (who has the least objectionable material of the group) maybe.

Also I have recently discovered Danial Halpern's The Art of the Tale and The Art of the Story. They are short story collections with a large number of international authors.

America's Best Non-required Reading series is really good too. Those only started a few years ago.

message 12: by El (new)

El I disagree that The Book Thief should be an alternative to Anne Frank, solely on the grounds that the former is a novel and the latter is a true diary. It's like apples and oranges.

Petra: all work & no play makes you poor.On hiatus (petra-x) I think kids of that age need a political education but who likes learning about politics? However, reading Animal Farm, 1984 and/or Brave New World, and
Lord of the Flies would pretty much illustrate dictatorships, Big Brother/the Nanny State and anarchy and could lead to some very good discussions.

message 14: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Jun 15, 2009 05:40PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10125 comments Mod
There are so many great ones from back in my school days that I would continue to push....

Catcher in the Rye
Lord of the Flies
Of Mice and Men
The Old Man and the Sea

I think Fahrenheit 451, Clockwork Orange and One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest should be added.

The Road should be one. Or Earth Abides, or Sheep Look Up, as they all deal with apocalyptical futures that could very well happen to us.

Something by Nabokov, Saramago, Verne.... if for no other reason than to discuss their use of language, sentence structures, and choice of topic.

Something with a messed up main character, like Pleasure of My Own Company, The Ha-Ha, This Book Will Save Your Life, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Oscar Wao, Extremely CLose and Incredibly Loud... to study the interactions and nuiances of people with mental disturbances.

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 636 comments Ooh Lori good point with Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud..i definitely agree! I urged my Issues in Contemporary Lit teacher to use that book in college!

message 16: by Misty (new)

Misty | 15 comments I think for me, I wish there were more non-canonical books in general. There are great classics, I know (and I love them), and children should be exposed to them. But when you go off the beaten path a little bit, you can find some really great stuff, and I think it tends to be more relatable, too.
I agree with Jamie -- the first two books I thought of were The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Curious Incidents... is another great one, and would expose the kids to a new style.

Also, I don't think enough works from other countries are read or pushed here. Any translated works we read in schools tend to be ancient, which I think leads you to believe for the longest time that nothing notewrothy is being written in other countries/cultures currently.

message 17: by El (new)

El I did have to read City Boy by Herman Wouk my junior year in high school, and it's one that actually changed my life. It's not one I stumble upon often in stores, and I don't hear people talking about it much. I think I was just lucky to be in the right class at the right time. Now I try to push it on people as much as possible.

message 18: by GracieKat (new)

GracieKat | 864 comments The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson- Just because it is a great book and you could talk in class about the ambiguity of it. Whether the haunting was real or all in her mind.

Geisha by Liza Crihfield Dalby. Just because it is a fascinating book.

message 19: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Seegmiller (tashaseegmiller) Lovely readers -

YOU GUYS ROCK!!! Keep them coming - I love the reasoning and eventhough I'm spending a summer reading my brains out, I just can't get everything in. I love that as you are making suggesitions, you are validating why. Very, very helpful.

message 20: by Jamie (new)

Jamie I wish I'd read Pride and Prejudice when I was in high school. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and felt like I had seriously missed out. I know I would've loved it then, but I never picked up classics just for fun.

The books I enjoyed most that were required for school were A Tale of Two Cities, The Crucible, and Our Town.

message 21: by Dan (new)

Dan (theancientreader) Tasha,

High school for me was almost forty years ago and I remember very few of my teachers. I do however remember Miss Sandry - my 10th grade English teacher - because when we read Romeo and Juliet, Great Expectations, The Odyssey, and Poe she found ways to make them live and to infuse us with the joy of reading. If you do that for your students, regardless of what they read, you will have done them the greatest service possible.

message 22: by Heather (new)

Heather Tasha,
I sent you a test email - let me know if you didn't receive it

message 23: by Bonnie (last edited Jun 17, 2009 08:57PM) (new)

Bonnie | 271 comments I agree with Misty that you should have good translated works. My problem is, I can't think of any I wish I'd read in high school. I've read very few if any translated works I really loved, and I was a French minor in college (I took the classes because I love French, not the many French books we had to read). Ditto with "global literature" (i.e., non-Anglo-Saxon) books. I HATED every one we read in high school(Bless Me Ultima, Nectar in a Sieve, The House on Mango Street, etc.). Though I have found a few I like nowadays (Life of Pi, Balazac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, etc.). I listed Life of Pi below, but felt the Chinese Seamstress probably has too much sex to qualify for hs.

My favorite books I read and loved in high school or wish I had read in high school:

Classics: Watership Down(my FAVORITE book for a long time), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Catch-22, Animal Farm, The Catcher in the Rye, Wuthering Heights (mentioned in the Twilight series, so maybe kids will take an interest), Pride and Prejudice or Emma (my two fave Austen books, and if they can choose which books to read, they should definitely have the option to read Austen), A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (probably the easiest Dickens), To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby (read it this year, wish I had read it in hs), A Tale of Two Cities (though I did HATE the first 1/3 and my eventual love of the book was not the popular opinion of the class, I'm still super glad I read it in hs).
Sci-fi and Fantasy: Ender's Game(esp. good for boys, both my brother's love it, a modern classic of sci-fi), Good Omens The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (Gaiman is a well-known and respected author in this genre and this book was listed on BBC Big Reads), Dune (another sci-fi classic), The Lord of the Rings (THE fantasy classic)
Modern Fiction: Flowers for Algernon, Beloved (though an easier to digest and just as good Toni Morrison is Song of Solomon), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Life of Pi
Historical Fiction: Year of Wonders (a very good look into life during a plague)
Plays: The Crucible (loved it in hs), The Importance of Being Earnest (Wilde is always funny) [I'd recommend my fave Shakespeare, like Macbeth and Hamlet, but if there's no class discussion, there's really no point...Shakespeare is really, really hard to read by yourself without a teacher to help you analyze/explain. I know because I'm trying to do just that this year and it's slow going.:]

Also, are you more interested in just getting the kids reading or in making sure that they get exposed to various important literary movements/authors? The sci-fi/fantasy books I listed are excellent, but not as pertinent to a literary education as the classics.

message 24: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Seegmiller (tashaseegmiller) My first priority is to get the kids reading. I love the classics and would love to have all the kids love classics, but that just isn't the case anymore. If I can get them to love reading, eventually they may find the classics. And if they don't, really, wanting to read throughout their life is more important than killing them with classics that just make them hate reading more. I do have students every year who will go into the classics because that is who they are - but I probably had 20+ students last year who did not read a single book. I just don't think that can possibly lead to success, so I'm giving a different approach a shot.

message 25: by Andreea (last edited Jun 18, 2009 07:24AM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 117 comments Well, at my school teachers never bought the books we had to read, it was just assumed that if you want to pass the course you'll pass by the library and get hold of a copy. x_x

Anyway, I personally think kids shouldn't be forced to read Victorian novels because they're -in all honesty- just boring and long and old fashioned and by today's standards full of cliche and over-idealized characters and they push kids away from reading. If you have absolute liberty in choosing the books to teach then threat your class like a book club and pick books that are fun, debatable, relatively short and most important that appeal to the students. A 16 year old boy does not want to read about Mr Darcy.

I think you could start with plays and short stories because they read really fast and students would have surely finish them in a week and you could discuss and debate them right away. Also try to go for relatively unknown European books from different eras. You could read Sophocles' Theban plays, some of The Deccameron and cantos from Dante's Inferno, some of don Quixote and Gargantua and Pantagruel, or you could read modern short stories and plays Kafka, Borges, Ionesco, Sartre, Thomas Mann, etc.

I'm a senior in high school so I can't reply to your question, but I can tell you that for the past two years I wished I would've been taught interesting books and expected to come up with interesting ideas on them. In 10th grade when had a psychology teacher who told us about Freud and recommended (not forced us to read) us a book on his work. In two weeks ten people in class had bought and started reading it, simply because when you're 16 Freud sounds interesting, engaging, debatable.

message 26: by Mary (new)

Mary | 203 comments Tasha,

HS was a long time ago for me, however Rumer Godden's Episode of Sparrows was, and still is, one of my favorite books.

My daughter, now a rising sophomore in college, really enjoyed:

The Great Gatsby
Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
Kite Runner
Slave by Mende Nazer
The Power of One
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Katherine by Anya Seton
A Prayer for Owen Meaney
The Phantom Tollbooth
also for 11th grade history: The Known World and Triangle by David von Drehle

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1736 comments To Kill a Mockingbird - We did read this one in high school, and I think most of us loved it.
The Great Gatsby - Read this one in high school, too, and I, at least, loved it.
Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl
The Westing Game
The Pastures of Heaven
Cold Sassy Tree
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Cannery Row

Agatha Christie might be good, too.

But whatever you do, please don't make them diagram sentences from Silas Marner! (True story. And I'm still terrified of George Eliot!)

message 28: by Manday (new)

Manday | 212 comments A Separate Peace (I read it during high school but not for credit)

Walden Two
Slaughterhouse Five
Brothers Karamazov
Brave New World

message 29: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cindyreece) I was probably one of the glazed over kids in your class when it came to reading. Now at 50+ I don't miss that I didn't read the "classics" and if I do, I pick it up now.

There are so many wonderful YA novels in the library that any kid can find one they like (I'm with you, once they start to read, they'll find it's a joy not a job).

Since your are requireing them to read at least two different genres they will find something they enjoy. I'm sure you know, you can't get teenagers to stop talking...they will share their favorite books with each other and you will no longer have to be the one who says "READ".

message 30: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Tasha, are you going to have to get parental signatures on anything? Here if the teachers are going to have the kids read anything that might be a problem for some parents, all of the parents have to sign a that says they are ok with their child reading the book. For example, A Clockwork Orange was mentioned. I let my son read that last year as a junior but I know a lot of parents would have a problem with that if the school made it available to the kids.

message 31: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Seegmiller (tashaseegmiller) Excellent point Lisa. This was something that I really struggled with when I first thought of revamping my curriculum.

The way I'm structuring the classroom is that most of the out of class reading is going to be based on suggestion alone - I wanted to do it a different way, but I live in a VERY conservative location and assigning books with strong language, sex, etc. would have my principals phone ringing off the hook. What I am doing instead is recommending books based on themes that we may be reading short stories or poems of in class. That way, what the student chooses to read within a certain theme is up to them - they can have it as clean or objectionable as their families values dictate, but we can still discuss the genre, writing styles, etc. of the works in general in the class. There are going to be some books that they can select from that I already have at the school, but for the most part these would have been taught many times before and the principal will go to bat for me over any of those.

message 32: by Marianna (new)

Marianna Books I loved from my high school days, both required and not:

Catcher in the Rye (still my favorite book)
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Brave New World
Pride and Prejudice (anything Austen really)
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (we were told to skip the chapter with the rape if we felt uncomfortable)
A Separate Peace
Of Mice and Men
Lord of the Flies
Confederacy of Dunces
Fahrenheit 451

Books I've read recently that I think would go over well with the high school crowd:

Slam by Nick Hornby
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (already mentioned here and fabulous)
Twilight Saga
Hunger Games (sci-fi YA that I imagine boys would enjoy)
Water for Elephants
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (very funny)
The Outsiders (I know this is standard high school reading but I only recently read it)
The Invisible Man
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Secret Life of Bees

message 33: by Kathy (last edited Jul 07, 2009 05:04PM) (new)

Kathy  (hnybee411) Personally, I wish I'd been introduced to the classics earlier in highschool, but make sure they have plenty of options. The first classic I read was Wurthring Heights and I HATED it. Turned me off the classics for a long time.

And I'm not talking just Austen and Bronte here. Don't forget about Verne, Wells, Shelly. It seems the early scifi/horror tends to get overlooked sometimes and I loved them when I read them in high school.

But honestly, I think anything you can get a teen to read is great. Maybe ask them for suggestions even at the beginning of the year and add them to the ones you've come up with on your own?

message 34: by Carrie (new)

Carrie (missfryer) | 453 comments HEATHER!! I would love your handouts, too! I teach 10th.

message 35: by Taejas (new)

Taejas Kudva (kudvat) | 77 comments Someone mentioned Slam by Nick Hornby. I agree; I wish my students were a bit older so I could have it in my classroom. I'd agree with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian except I don't how high school kids deal with reading down (protagonists younger than them). If they're fine with it, I'd suggest Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider books (teen spy stuff; book 1 is Stormbreaker) for your lower ability male students if they like the James Bond type stuff.

I really liked Angry Young Spaceman, at least until the last few chapters, which I thought were strange strange strange. It's your "kid goes to Japan to teach English and learns about himself" story, except in this case he goes to another planet and teaches aliens.... It also has some cool ideas about the corporate packaging of (air quote) culture (air quote) to kids (Hot Topic, anyone?), which I thought was fascinating at the time. But I don't remember the language content, and I'd definitely give it a looksee first as it's been a while since I read it.

I think someone mentioned Persepolis. If you're going to do graphic novels, there's also Art Spieglman's Maus, which would make a great themed unit if you combined it with The Book Thief and Anne Frank.

message 36: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cindyreece) There was a website posted on another thread that may be of value for teachers. It says the guides are free, but it seemed some money needed to change hands.

message 37: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 11 comments I loveMister Pipwhich refers to Great Expectations Sort of a two for one!

message 38: by Dree (new)

Dree My high school favorites:
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Big Sky by AB Guthrie Jr
McTeague by Frank Norris
Giants in the Earth by OE Rolvaag
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

And least favorites:
Dune by Frank Herbert
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (I also read this in college and liked it better...a little)

I agree that The Book Thief is great. I also read the "standard" high school stuff: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Julius Ceasar, etc etc--and honestly I only remember the movies, because we watched the movie after reading the book. I especially remember the flying styrofoam rocks in Lord of the Flies, and how we laughed an laughed. And you can imagine the reaction the name "Olivia Hussey" got in a high school class.

message 39: by Justine (new)

Justine (paperbackheart) My favorite required reading:
The Things They Carried
The Grapes of Wrath

I know at some point we were supposed to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I didn't. I read it last month and really wish I HAD read it back in ninth grade - I would have loved it instead of just liked it.

message 40: by C. (last edited Jul 10, 2009 03:05PM) (new)

C. (ispeaktroll) My favorites required/independent study reading:
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Least favorites:
Huck Finn
Lord of the Flies
Slaughterhouse Five
Romeo and Juliet

I would definitely suggest The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and I've actually heard that some schools are teaching Looking for Alaska by John Green which is completely fantastic. Shakespeare is also a classic option as well as Animal Farm by George Orwell (1984 didn't leave enough of an impression on me) and To Kill a Mockingbird. I would've liked to have read Crime and Punishment or Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra.

message 41: by Abbie K. (new)

Abbie K. (brigidshawk) | 108 comments Believe it or not, but back when I taught in a Catholic high school, I taught Stephen King's The Stand as a classic piece of literature with the concept of good vs. evil. I told parents there were passages that were shocking and contained some sexual reference, but would you believe it...NO ONE objected! The kids loved it.

message 42: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 21, 2009 08:01PM) (new)

The Outsiders was one I read back in year 8 which I really loved. We also did Romeo and Juliet and Strictly Ballroon for plays.

For my HSC (yrs 11 and 12) part of what we had to do is find books that we could use to help explain the theme - along with using the prescribed texts. I read the following...

C. S. Lewis
- The Magicians Nephew
- The Lion The Witch and the Woredrobe
- The Horse and his Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Tredder
- The Silver Chair

Matthew Reilly's books
- Contest
- Ice Station
- Area 7
- Temple
- Scarecrow
- Seven Ancient Wonders
- Hell Island

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned - Alan Alda
Tom Sawyer
Peter Pan

Some people in my year read Jodie Picoult.

Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) I can tell you what I wish my son, who is was a college freshman this year read in high school. All they read was modern books, and I was really disappointed that they didn't read any classics. My faves were Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, The Raven, An America Tragedy (dating myself aren't I)

My least favorites were Lord of the Flies, the Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick and Metamorphisis.

message 44: by Anna (last edited Jul 30, 2009 12:39AM) (new)

Anna (gqannanguyen) This is really a book suggestion because I myself have only finish one year of high school this year, and the people on this thread have, I'm sure, given wonderful and thoughtful books.

But my teacher did something this year that worked really well with us. Before we read romeo and Juliet she had us have a debate as a class about the morals questions of R&J. Like "is it ok to kill someone if they killed someone you cared about?", or "is there such thing as true love?", even "Should you listen to everything your parents say." It got us really thinking about the materials that we will read and I don't know about other students but my class just LOVES debating. Anyway just an idea.

message 45: by Julie (new)

Julie | 54 comments I'm 17 and just finished my junior year in high school,these are books not only myself but others enjoyed,
Ethan Frome
The Great Gatsby
anything from Stephen King
Lord of the Flies
To Kill a Moking Bird
Catcher in the Rye
anything by Jane Austin
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and through the looking Glass
The Secret Life of Bees
The Hunger Games (not usual school reading but an amazing book)

Books we disliked or just not good in the classroom are:
The Canterbury Tales
Huck Finn
Farhenhight 451
The Scarlet Letter
The Outsiders (We read this is 7th grade) the languae is easy for high school juniors and it may bore them)
The Twilight Saga (everyone has read it anyway or they have no desire to read it)
A Seperate Peace

I wouldnt add to many novels from before the 20th century, most kids don't understand them and it just ends up confusing and boring them

Also the debating is a GREAT idea kids love going back and forth with their ideas, and it gives a better understanding of the novels they read

message 46: by Bucket (new)

Bucket | 44 comments When I was in high school, I read plenty of classics, but I felt like good modern literature was missing from the curriculum. I read more modern things on my own, but plenty of it was garbage, simply because I didn't know what to look for!

As far as modern literature, I would definitely suggest: Song of Solomon, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, Caucasia A Novel, White Noise, and Breath, Eyes, Memory.

message 47: by Bucket (new)

Bucket | 44 comments One more suggestion: Henry Fielding is surprisingly hilarious! I would have loved him in high school had I known about him. Joseph Andrews is probably a good choice as it isn't excessively long and it's 18th Century hysterical.

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