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Monday, June 21, 2010

Books to Spring into Adulthood

Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune ran this interesting article entitled "Freshmen to Be: Time to Hit the Books."

For the article, William Hageman asked a range of people from Jerry Springer to a Nobel Prize winner what books they would suggest as summer reading to a student making the leap from grade school to Freshman year of high school. The range of books offered is wide- from Cabeza de Vaca  to The Power of Now with a few To Kill a Mockingbirds thrown in for good measure- but it is the explanations, the "whys" these well known people gave that is worth while here.

Since I normally don't post about books for readers under 16, you may be asking why I am directing you to read this article for yourself. The answer is simple. This is a good list of books that successful people found inspiring. It is a great list for readers of any age who are looking for an interesting thought-provoking book.

So check the list out for yourself and let me know what books you would suggest to this proposed person on the cusp of adulthood. Remember, the book has to be at the reading level of an average 14 year old, so please no Moby Dick or James Joyce here.

I will start the conversation with my own suggestion. I would suggest A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Written by Bryson after he returned back to American after many years abroad, the out of shape and out of sorts travel author, decided to reconnect with his home country by attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. This is an inspiring story about our country's natural history, forgotten, out of the way places, and those who have and continue to work to conserve our natural resources. But this is also the story of an outsider, someone who feels he doesn't fit in, who is also not necessarily cut out for the task at hand (he is not in good enough shape for this endeavor, nor does he have any hiking OR camping experience), who nonetheless sets out on a new adventure to better himself.  All of this sets a great example for incoming Freshman, and one with themes and feelings they can relate to. And best of all, he does not actually succeed in his literal goal, yet he still accomplishes a great deal. (This theme of success found in failure is an important life lesson that is often lost in our public education system). This book is a mix of history and adventure, which, I would hope, upon reading would inspire these young adults to strive for a mix of education and adventure in their own lives.

So, what would you suggest and why? Just give me a sentence or two if you want.


Verna, BPL Reference Staff said...

Becky, I love the idea of the "third reader" and can't wait to we can incorporate it at the BPL! The books I would suggest for freshmen are: (you know I couldn't pick just one!)

1. The Perks of Being a Wall Flower by Steve Chbosky
(Charlie is a sensitive and funny freshman who is wise beyond his years. Through his letters and the mix tapes he makes, he watch him grow through his painful first year of high school)

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
(Melinda chooses to be silent rather than to think about or give voice to the trauma she has experienced)

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
(A story told from several differenct women's points of view, learn about the culture of Afghanistan under Soviet and later Taliban rule)

4.To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(One of the all time classics, read about Scout and Jem and their brave father~ and you won't soon forget them.)

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
(I can't say enough wonderful things about this book- Katniss volunteers to take her little sisters place in a cruel fight to the death that is televised live to all the citizens of Panem, a version of a future America. I promise readers they won't be able to put the book down as they read how Katniss outwits, outsmarts and outlasts her fellow "tributes." Similiar to The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

John, BPL RA Staff said...

I would strongly suggest Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton. A thousand times more powerful than The Outsiders, it is the best S.E. Hinton novel. I first read this book when I was 13. I hated school and did not like to read but I was unable to put this book down until I had finished it. The ending, in particular, will remain lasered into my mind forever. It shows in a heavy yet understandable way how an individual can be unforgettable and truly mythic without being very old or important. More significantly, it reveals how adolescents are the architects of their own identities. I've probably read hundreds of books in my life. I read for a living. Rumble Fish was the only book that had ever made me cry.

Tammy Clausen said...

I would suggest The Tortilla Curtain, To Kill a Mockingbird, and, for a reluctant reader, Seedfolks

Jackie, BPL Youth Services said...

Becky, I originally had 7 books to share, but only two would fit :-(. These two books I would highly recommend.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Quite an unforgettable story about the power of words, the insatiable appetite for books, and a horrific time of suffering and death. In The Book Thief, Death is our narrator, and he expertly tells the story of a young girl, Liesel Meminger, who has already lost a mother and brother. She finds herself living outside of Munich with her foster father and mother, Hans (Papa) and Rosa (Mama). Papa is her savior, her strength, her unconditional love. Mama is strict yet fair and these two weary souls never question taking in Max, a young Jewish man to hide-out in their basement during Hitler's insanity. Liesel learns to read with Papa, learns to loves words and books with Max, and learns to steal books with her best friend, Rudy. The hopelessness and sorrow are brightened somewhat by the words...the words that save Liesel's life. Small, seemingly insignificant events color her world...when Hans slips a piece of bread to a Jewish man walking to Dachau, or when she finds a way to steal the words and books from the mayor's wife, or when she wakes one night with the urge to visit the basement and try to remember Max's presence through his writings.

A unimaginable existence is portrayed in these chapters...one which is almost too much to bear for the reader, let alone the participants. Liesel finds joy where she can, although it doesn't happen very often. However, one night when the bombs fall on her street, she alone understands the pull of words and books and is left to carry on when all others have left this world in the arms of the narrator.

2.Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo Sandoval, 17, exhibits symptoms of Asperger's syndrome...yet, as he struggles to overcome the difficulties it presents when dealing with interpersonal relationships, his outlook on life is refreshing, honest, and brutally realistic. His fascination with all religions and a relationship with God brings him to consult with Rabbi Heschel, a wise, comforting presence in a crazy, confusing world. Marcelo loves the little world he is accustomed to as his special needs school, Paterson, allows him to work with the therapy horses he so dearly loves. As he is about to begin his senior year at Paterson, he father Arturo, a Harvard trained, highly successful attorney comes to him with a proposition. Arturo wants him to work at his firm in the mail room over the summer, so he will be able to deal with 'the real world'. His condition is that Marcelo must successfully complete jobs and duties and then, and only then, he will be able to decide if he is going to go back to Paterson in the fall or to Oak Ridge, the public school his father wants him to mainstream into.

At the firm, Marcelo stumbles upon some damaging information that will hurt his father's practice, yet he is torn between doing what he knows is right and helping his father when he knows in his heart it is wrong. Jasmine, a young woman only a year or two older than Marcelo befriends him, Rabbi Heschel counsels him, and his heart guides him to look beyond family ties and come to the aid of a little girl he has never met.

Marcelo in the Real World will remind all of us what doing the right thing can mean to our life and others, when we may have forgotten what this life on earth really is all about. With Marcelo's childlike belief in justice and goodness, we all step inside another's shoes and feel what it would mean to have someone come to another human being's aid. In the tense, emotional decision making process, we see a young man become a champion and have faith in the power of reaching out.

Kathy, BPL RA Staff said...

Three suggestions, one fiction, one non-fiction, and one YA fiction.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I choose them all for similar reasons - they are all books that give your average 14 year old a glimpse of a life that is pretty different from their own (in most cases)and I don't think these are books that would turn a kid off from reading. Plus all the main characters are around that age and they all had to overcome some big obstacles and really, who doesn't love an underdog story?

Betty said...

Betty, RA BPL
The book that comes to mind is "Hatchet," by Gary Paulsen. The story of a boy who is the only survivor of a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness is told with an economy of words that makes the story especially gripping. This is a great red for anyone who is afraid of "thick books."