I like Jodi Picoult but...
High schoolers should read modern authors but...
You know what? Never mind. No “buts.” If students don’t read Picoult specifically, they should read someone like Picoult.
There are plenty of current authors who deserve study and discussion, and they would interest the students more than Crime and Punishment.
So while I might not include Picoult in my trio of books high schoolers should read before they graduate, I like the logic that lead you to include her.
My list offers no surprises:
1. Catcher in the Rye — I was not in the legion of students who considered Catcher their favorite book. (I think most of them like it because it’s the first book they’ll read with a specific curse in it.) I found Holden’s ranting tiresome instead of insightful, but I’d be foolish to deny the connection this book has with teenagers. I never related to Holden, but Catcher is still a rite of passage.
2. Macbeth — High school students should read Shakespeare before they graduate. The only problem is time has rendered Shakespearean prose ponderous. Fortunately, Macbeth has enough sex and violence to keep the groundlings engaged. It also helps that Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest play. It’s not Shakespeare’s best work (that’d probably be Hamlet) or even my favorite (either As You Like It or Taming of the Shrew;) but it is the play high schoolers are most likely to enjoy.
3. Pride and Prejudice — I wanted to include a translated title like One Hundred Years of Solitude or African staple Things Fall Apart. Y’know, something to let the kids know that non-English-speaking countries can write, also. I considered including a Thomas Hardy book just because he’s my favorite writer, but neither of those ideas work. I would have been bored by One Hundred Years of Solitude if I read it in high school, and Hardy’s themes are not universal enough to resonate with everyone. But Pride and Prejudice — it’s essentially the best book about dating ever. I don’t know if all the guys in the classroom would relate, but they should still have to read it.
On an unrelated note, Electric Literature is having a writing contest on its Twitter page. The best tweet with the #stuffmymusesays hashtag will win a Sony eReader. The contest lasts until Friday and will be judged by Colson Whitehead.
Some early entries —
@AndreaSeigel: Take off your pants. The ideas can’t get in.
@Vanessa_LW: It could be strep. It could also be leprosy. The internet makes self-diagnosis easy.
-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com