23 August 2011


Beyond Book Blogging

For those of my readers who don't already follow The Broke and the Bookish, despite my best efforts to be a gateway drug to the book blogosphere, the last Top Ten Tuesday Tenner was all about Books Teenagers Should Learn "to Speak". After linking up, I went through all the other participants' posts to see which ten texts would be voted onto the syllabus of a high school run by dedicated book bloggers. They were a mixed, if mostly Anglo-American bag . . .

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (54 mentions)
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (51 mentions)
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (37 mentions)
The Works of William Shakespeare (33 mentions)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (33 mentions)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (23 mentions)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (20 mentions)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (19 mentions)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (18 mentions)
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (13 mentions)

It's edifying to see some classics there (although the definition of "classic" now seems to be "any book old enough for my parents to have read at my age"). That they are outnumbered by hard-hitting, controversial "message" novels reflects another modern trend of calling books "great" primarily because they address immediate issues. Yes, some of these may end up "passing the test of time," as we say--but I'll wager another giveaway that they didn't make so many lists because of that classic quality. Heck, there are a couple of "classics" that I'll wager made the list for the exact same reason.

There are also a couple of those "books that get teens reading"--because these days, "great" is often used interchangeably with "cool." (I should know: I do it myself!) I just wish teenagers did more reading on the side so that such books could be supplements to classroom reading rather than the main texts . . . but apparently, we don't live in that ideal literate world.

What I find most interesting, though, is the inclusion of three different Dystopian novels. (Five, if you remember that The Hunger Games is a trilogy.) I'm all about dystopia and even assigned one of these texts during my last year of full-time teaching. But I'll have to analyse this in another post.

This post is all about one topic I likely won't be tabulating data for . . .

A Tenner
Books I Love Too Much to Review "Properly"

Christine by Stephen King
Surprisingly, didn't want it to end.

The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
Made me hear trumpets . . . at midnight!

Johnny Tinoso and the Proud Beauty by Nick Joaquin
Girl meets Boy. Beauty becomes Beast.

Knight with Armour by Alfred Duggan
Should be required reading for soldiers.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Finished in one night; remembered forever.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
One trilogy to trump them all!

The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Just like lembas for the soul.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
An unbeliever writes about faith--beautifully.

Time and Again by Jack Finney
Best Time Travel novel EVER written.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Done with Austen? Advance to Thackeray!

As you can see, I still haven't reviewed them, although some of these "six-word memoirs" can pass for descriptions and/or recommendations. Sometimes I love a book so much that I can only review it improperly.

There are other titles that deserve honourable mentions, like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (The secret template of my life) and So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (Eat your heart out, Harry Potter)--but I've managed to write some "proper" posts about them, which disqualifies them from certified status.

Image Sources: a) Christine by Stephen King, b) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien


Sullivan McPig said...

Can't say I think The Hunger Games and Fahrenheit 451 are on the same level.
Fahrenheit 451 is a small masterpiece, while the Hunger Games is a pale (although entertaining) shadow of Battle Royale at best and the two books after that are awful imo.

Shannon Young said...

I love the 6 word memoirs about each book!

I am surprised to see The Hunger Games on this list too. I enjoyed the books, but I don't necessarily see the benefit of including them in a high school curriculum. I think the books that stand the test of time are the ones that raise far reaching questions about the human condition and really challenge readers to think in a way that they would not do otherwise. Ideally, I suppose kids would read the good stories (i.e. popular page-turners) in their own time and the challenging stories in class.

Syrin said...

Christine is actually one of the few Stephen King books I haven't read. Sounds like I need to change that. I also really need to read The Last Unicorn novel, as much as I love the film.

This is a really fun idea. I may have to see if I can compile a top ten of my own.

Lesa said...

Love Love Love: One trilogy to trump them all!

Wasn't someone on bookblogs trying a 6 word review meme? You are so good at the 6 word thing that you should join if it is still going.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully -- I haven't read The Hunger Games yet, so I can't say anything about its quality . . . or lack thereof. (LOL!) But I do think it's interesting that Dystopian fiction is so prominently represented (if not also well represented).

On the other hand, perhaps The Hunger Games made it in not because people think Dystopian Fiction is important, but because they know that it's popular and think that "books that get teens reading" should be a bigger part of any high school Lit syllabus.

Shannon -- Thanks! =) I did bring up that issue on another blog, and was told that a great many young people will read nothing except what they're assigned in the classroom, which is why Harry Potter and The Hunger Games still merit being on these lists. (I can't verify anything about teenagers' reading, though.)

Having said that, I wholeheartedly agree about books that "stand the test of time" and "raise far reaching questions." Dead writers for the win! ;-)

Syrin -- I have lots of catching up to do when it comes to King. I'm lucky that I pushed myself to read Christine for a reading challenge last year. (I think I'll try It for this year's challenge.)

The Last Unicorn was so heartbreakingly beautiful that I encourage anyone who likes Fantasy novels to read it at least once. It changed my imagination forever--and for the better.

Lesa -- I believe that was KW! =)

Jenny said...

Oh, Phew! Jane Eyre only made honorable mention. ;) I'm shocked at how many times The Hunger Games and Harry Potter were listed. Sure they might get kids to read but...really?

Shaz said...

Love the idea of a 6 word reveiw. It's odd, but the more passionate I feel about a book, the harder it is for me to write a review of it.

Risa said...

Oooo! I love your six words recommendation review! I've never read Stephen King, and most of what you've mentioned. The 6 words tempt me, though. I had no idea Thomas Hardy was an unbeliever!...was he? You can't really tell from his novels. And Thackeray is in my 'to-read' list.

As regards dystopian novels...I'm not a fan of this genre. I find it rather depressing. I guess, it;s the reason why I'm putting off reading 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale. :-/

Enbrethiliel said...


Jenny -- You think that's bad? There was one point during data collection at which I was sure Twilight was going to make it. =P Basically, the argument boils down to: these books are what teens like to read, so they are what teens should get to read. (I'm personally not impressed.)

Shaz -- I feel exactly the same way! =)

(Oh, look! Six words! LOL!)

Risa -- The fascinating thing about Hardy is that he had no personal faith of his own and yet deeply mourned the death of the "Age of Faith" in Europe. I think he wanted faith. He certainly found it achingly beautiful.

Thackeray is a huge challenge--and one I'm probably never going to repeat--but totally worth it! =)

Hilde said...

The Last Unicorn ♥

Enbrethiliel said...


It truly deserves a heart! Thanks for stopping by, Hilde. =)

Kate said...

Oh my goodness, you took one for the team here...collecting a tally on the top ten Tuesday? I shudder to think how much time that probably took you.

I do wonder one thing...a lot of the top ten lists that I see (I lurk relatively actively but only post when I'm moved to do so) have a definite YA focus. I don't know enough about all of the 100+ blogs who participate, or the Broke and the Bookish for that matter, but I wonder if a majority of those blogs *are* YA-centric reviewers (or readers) which would then skew the tally towards YA novels? (I mean, there are plenty of top tens that I just completely skim over since I don't read practically any YA so I don't know what anyone's talking about!)

That said...

Christine is a surprisingly fun read, but I can't get through any Thomas Hardy :(

Enbrethiliel said...


It's my third Top Ten Tuesday tally. LOL! I really like doing this when there's a good chance that a lot of lists will have titles in common. That's why I didn't do it for this topic, although I'm sure it will have its own trends.

You're right that there is a definite YA focus here, though I don't know whether it's because the participating bloggers prefer YA or whether the topic of "Required Reading for Teens" just made a bunch of people think of YA. (Most likely the former . . . but I'm not going to underestimate the power of marketing in changing the way we think about books!)

That's too bad about Hardy. =( Tess of the d'Urbervilles is the only novel of his that I've read, and it was slow going, so I kind of get what you mean. Furthermore, a few years ago, I tried reading Under the Greenwood tree and then had to count it as one of my first DNFs ever. Not good for my Lit major's ego. =/

Kate said...

Sometimes it's just not the time or the place to read something! I fully accept that there are books which I am not yet ready to read. I've been telling myself that about The Last of the Mohicans for years! But seriously, I truly think that there are moments when a book doesn't sync with what the brain is prepared for, and there's nothing wrong with setting it down and saying, "Not yet."

As for Hardy I've tried (and not finished) both Tess and Jude the Obscure. Both depressed me too much. I never went back for more.