Saturday, February 14, 2015

High School Book List

My 1977 collection of Trixie Belden.  These books helped define my childhood.

This week I reached out through social media asking for books that my friend, family, and online followers remember reading in high school and would recommend to someone in high school now.  I am always disappointed by the book lists I see on the websites of schools and at the library. In my opinion they are too heavily weighted with dystopian books, or contain books that are frankly, too mature for high school students and really would be better suited for a college class (like 1984).  

The highlight of this year has been reading books with my sister-in-law Kris.  We try to pace ourselves so we finish the book around the same time.  She talks with the girls about characters and the plot and their opinions and then we gather on a weekend to have dinner and watch the movie.  Those books are not just part of us, they are part of our family experience.  Passpartout and Alice and The White Witch have all been featured in conversation and many, many connections have been made to these reads.  This week we read The Snow Queen and realized that C.S. Lewis must have drawn inspiration for the White Witch from The Snow Queen.  They are very similar in description and action.  

It does not matter what you label language arts as on a transcript.  English 101, 201, 301.  What matters is that you read books that allow you to participate in a conversation where you are able to discuss authors and plots and make inferences and substantiate opinions.  I want my girls to know the literary classics, as well as have familiarity with contemporary classics such as The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.  

So much of our learning occurs through our reading.  Recently, the girls opted for a fun audiobook and we have been reading Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry.  The girls were not familiar with the Shakers until we read this book.  In this living books, we have learned so much about the religion and beliefs, ways of life, inventions and communal living.  We have researched Shaker communities in Connecticut and sadly the only one that was here is not a museum, but has been sold off and is in the hands of private owners.  We will take a ride to Enfield and walk around and perhaps take some pictures of the buildings, homes and grounds.  Even though Grace mentioned that this book is a bit "young",  it will go on her cumulative 9th grade book list.  Lois Lowry is a revered author and the content contained in this book warrants it.  

Here is the compiled list.  Many people participated in the creation of this list.  Some of these may not be appropriate for our family, but these are the books that people remember and feel should be passed on to the next generation of readers.

Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Ann Frank
Book Thief
The Hunger Games
The kite Runner
Pride and Prejudice 
Heaven is for Real. 
Rush revere and the American Revolution
To Kill a Mockingbird
Freak the Mighty 
1984 ( when older) 
Of Mice and Men
The Pearl
Fahrenheit 451
Tale of Two Cities
The Outsiders
Animal Farm
To Kill A Mockingbird
While Still We Live
The Lost World
Great Expectations
The Old Man and the Sea
Les Miserables
The Scarlett Letter
Wuthering Heights
Sign of the Beaver
Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Candymakers
The Master Puppeteer
I Rode of Horse Of Milk White Jade
The Hiding Place
Number the Starts
The Hobbit
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Taming of the Shrew
Breaking Stalin's Nose
Mission to Cathay
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
Johnny Tremain
Little Women
Romeo & Juliet
Othello, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream
Great Expectations, Dombey & Son, David Copperfield
Sense and Sensibility
Lord of the Rings
Jane Eyre
A Clockwork Orange
Call of the Wild
Silas Marner
The Grapes of Wrath
The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn
Ender's Game
Where the Red Fern Grows
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Kite Runner
Charlotte's Web
The Alchemist
The Life of Pi
Cutting for Stone
The Secret Garden
The Help
The Secret Life of Bees


dstb said...

This is an interesting list. We have read quite a few of these (and I have read a few on my own). Where the Red Fern Grows may be one of my all time favorite books!

Definitely preview the Kite Runner. I think you may find some of the subject matter too much for your girls. It was a great book, you just might want to wait.

If you decide to read Boy with the Striped Pajamas you will have to tell us what you think. Age-wise it is probably appropriate for your girls, but I was not happy with it. I don't want to offend whoever suggested it, but it just wasn't realistic and in some ways offensive. For that same era, I highly recommend other books on your list The Hiding Place, The Book Thief, and Night. You might also be interested in the book Bread, Butter, and Sugar by Martin Schiller. He was a child survivor of the Holocaust. We read his book a few years ago and then went to a talk he gave. He lives in Fairfield, CT.

Other books we have enjoyed (sorry, I just can't help myself when people are talking books):
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (okay, I read this one, not the boys)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (may be some stuff near the end you want to preview, but an amazing story - TED talk, too)
The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig
North to Freedom (retitled to I am David which is movie title) by Anne Holme
Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of "The Iliad" by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of the Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff
Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle (Prohibition era)
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (similar to the Endless Steppe)
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
The Time Machine; The Invisible Man; War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Journey to the Center of the Earth; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Cricket In Times Square by George Selden
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
Call of the Wild; White Fang by Jack London
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Hobbit and LOTR by J.R.R. Tolkien
Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
With Pipe, Paddle, and Song by Elizabeth Yates

If you are interested in a Shaker museum, I can recommend the one in Hancock, MA. We went a few years ago and my kids still talk about it - okay they talk about this huge pig that scared the living daylights out of them, but... They don't open until spring, though.

I'll be interested to see what books you read and what you think of them.

Jessica said...

We have read several on your list and loved them!

I agree with your assessment of The Kite Runner. Personally I disliked the book. I much preferred A Fine Balance or The Namesake. In fact, I put The Kite Runner down and never finished it, but these were the recommendations from a wide range of readers and we each have different genre preferences. I loved Night too, but I read it as an adult and I know it would be too graphic for my girls, which is why they have opted not to read The Hunger Games and most popular dystopian books that have been popular over the past few years. What I love the most is that I could sit with the friend who recommended the books I disliked and have a discussion about what we liked/disliked/admired and have a thoughtful debate. I know my girls personally did not like Alice in Wonderland (nor did I), but we had a lively discussion as to why we did not like it. We loved Around the World in 80 Days and while parts of this were not accurate, this was a lesson in itself.

I just love book talk. I have always wanted to be in a book club and the book club I started for the girls has been one of my all time favorite activities. We read Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, a slightly younger read but a very rich read.......This list could go on and on and on......

dstb said...

My boys were in a book club a couple of years ago. I don't think they got as much out of it as your girls.

I have never been in a book club, but I started what I call Not a Book Club with my friends. We get together every couple of months to gab and talk about books we have read and would recommend (or ones we disliked and warn others away). One of my friends and I seem to have similar tastes, but so far the books suggested by another friend have not appealed to me. To each his own!


Caitlyn said...

My daughter is in college now but I had her read many of these books. She particularly enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Catcher in the Rye, Memories of a Geisha, Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations.

Susan said...

Oh my goodness, Trixie Belden. I loved her growing up and your the first to share that you read her. I am in the process of trying to obtain all her books. I keep a list of what I need and make sure I check the books at resales, antiques, garage sales, etc.... I'm slowly getting them.

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