Friday, March 1, 2013

Reader Friday: Under Appreciated Books?


Recently, Publishers Weekly put put out a list of books you read in high school that you should read again. One of them was The Great Gatsby, which I did re-read recently. While I admire the writing, the book itself just doesn't grab me. I would replace this book in the American canon with an under appreciated classic, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.



Today's question: What under appreciated book would you like to see high schoolers reading today? 

23 comments:

  1. The Practice Effect by David Brin (1984)
    and
    Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell (1999)

    Both are, in my own opinion, two of the greatest works of the 20th century. The first because of the purely imaginative power of the writing, and the latter because of the power of putting to logical thought the speculative possibilities connected to real realities that seem as real as reality may well have really been realised in reality, for real.

    But still, yes on both.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Hmm....in 75 years, will this be required reading in some with it classrooms? Who knows!

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  2. The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I read it when I was in 8th or 9th grade. It changed my outlook. And it's an easy read.

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  3. I would agree with Ron, and additionally recommend THE MOON IS DOWN by Mr. Steinbeck. I didn't read it in high school; I found it on my own after reading THE PEARL for a high school English Lit class. One could easily spend a semester studying it.

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  4. The Color of Water is a good one.

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  5. "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes. There is both a short story and a novel- length version.
    It is typically listed as Sci-fi but it is mainstream brilliant in all respects. It is an amazing reflection of humanity within a gripping read. A tale both spell-binding and edifying imo. I do not believe one can read this story without being impacted.

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    1. I re-watched Charly (the movie from the story) a couple of months ago. It's dated, but Cliff Robertson was deserving of his Oscar.

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    2. I did read Flowers for Algernon in high school. I didn't even know the movie existed for years.

      Terri

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  6. I remember reading Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean. I was really captivated by its descriptions and suspense. To this day, oh my, 20 plus years later, I can still picture the scenes.

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  7. I don't think it's on most schools' reading lists as great literature, but Daphne du Maurier's REBECCA made a profound impact on me in the 7th grade. It was the first adult thriller (or perhaps it should be called a gothic romance/murder mystery hybrid) I'd ever read. Few books since have cast such a lingering spell of romantic tension and psychological intrigue. Decades later, I even named my daughter Rebecca; only later did I realize that I'd inadvertently named her after one of the great villains in fiction!

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  8. An old-time favorite of mine is Tarzan. I think it would be great for modern-day teens to read. Just enough cheese and adventure to keep them reading, yet a creative literary breakthrough in it's own right. It could also open a great discussion among young people about equality and how perceptions have changed (some of the descriptions of an African-American character are cringe inducing), man's relationship with nature, and honor/loyalty. Pull them in with adventure and then, when they're not looking, make them think!

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  9. I hated Gatsby. Read it my junior year.

    Anything by Raymond Chandler would be better.

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  10. "Flowers for Algernon" was story that made me want to be a reader. But, it was Falkner's "As I Lay Dying" that made me want to write.

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    1. Oops. looks like the U fell out when I typed Faulkner. :)

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  11. I was one of those kids, who blew through the required reading so I could get to my own list. I started out reading a lot of Stephen King because there no way for me to get access to R-Rated horror material at the time. This is the pre-VCR world, but just barely. I actually think Carrie would make a good entry on a high school reading list, but it's hardly a forgotten title. I quickly exhausted his catalog and moved on to more challenging reads. Here's a few that I enjoyed and re-read as an adult:

    McTeauge - Frank Norris - Opened my eyes to the possibility that my dentist could be incompetent. That, and the harsh realities of human nature.

    An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser - My English teacher said she hated every word, so I dove right in, and loved it.

    Shibumi - Trevanian - My homeroom teacher and one other student were both Tevanian fans. I gave it a shot and found some of the parody elements that escaped them. I got into a heated argument with the two of them about the sex scene that was not described out of a respect for the reader's safety. But it just goes to show, this book is great even if you don't get the satire at all, and it's downright outstanding if you do.

    The Tales of Hoffman - E. T. A. Hoffmann - The best intro to psychology that was written before the invention of psychology as a science. Hard to pick up, but impossible to forget.

    The Ginger Man - J. P. Donleavy - It would be as controversial now for a completely different set of reasons than it was when it came out. Not the easiest read, but a great example of an anti-hero.

    Wilt - Tom Sharpe - Throwing something this ribald at high school students is a great idea, actually. For one thing, you have to wake the young up to falseness of the recuuring myth that their generation invented sex. But for another, it offers an all too serious glimpse into the future frustrations of the middle-aged, while being hilarious.

    A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick - Question reality? How about walking a mile in the shoes of a guy who was entirely detached from it, more or less against his will,. Anything by PKD is great, but his material about drugs is particularly honest and poignant. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich is even better, but a much harder read. It's not all lollipops and roses, kids. PKD warns by example, in his fiction. I'm not commenting on whether PKD was on drugs or not, and believe that most of his inspiration was based on observation of friends. Just saying, to circumvent any unintended controversy.

    --Bozo Buttons

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  12. Elizabeth GenoveseMarch 1, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    "The Picture of Dorian Gray", Oscar Wilde. Too bad it was his only novel. I wonder what the kids today would think of it.

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  13. Replies
    1. I had to read this in law school and still have a twitch. ;)

      Terri

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    2. Interesting mandatory read for law students. If pre-9/11/2001, I assume the consus was, "couldn't happen here." Post 9-11, I'm not sure

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  14. Tough one. Yes on Grapes of Wrath (although if you read the reviews, most high-schoolers hated it like fire)

    I was handed a copy of Gone With the Wind in 6th grade. I've read it at least a dozen times since then.

    My entries would be:

    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair for its harrowing storytelling ability and peek at early American robber-baronism.

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a profound little book. Just one day in the life of an inmate in a Russian work camp. A real kicker when he realizes he has more in common with the Estonian in the next bunk than he does with the family left behind.

    The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig. Same basic theory as Denisovich. A family is exiled and the little girl grows up knowing nothing but the wind and snow-swept steppes and how her values evolve.

    Kinflicks by Lisa Alther. This one would never make the high school censorship cut because of some graphic sexual scenes. However, what is of value is not the descriptions of the sex, but how damn awkward and inappropriate it is. The funniest book I have ever read, on a par with Catch-22. It is Catcher in the Rye for girls.

    Rich lush beautifully written novels that teach the art of storytelling? The Thornbirds, The Far Pavillions, Hawaii, The Godfather . . . that list goes around the block.

    Awesome topic! Terri

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