It’s Tuesday, but since yesterday was a holiday (at least in the US) it’s basically a Monday. To combat the blues, we’re gonna get a little listy. The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have come up with a fantastic topic for today. We could take this two ways: pair contemporary books with classics OR list out 10 books that we think should be required reading in school. I’m going to take it half and half. Ready?
Classic and Contemporary: The Perfect Pairings
1. The Odyssey by Homer with The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. The Odyssey by Homer (or at the very least, excerpts of it) is required reading for tons of high school students. Everybody heard about Odysseus and his epic journey, but what about poor Penelope who is stuck on the homefront fighting off suitors? Margaret Atwood tackled the story from her perspective, and it’s very cool to see the retelling of a classic in such a way.
2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath with Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical novel about a young woman who despite her youth, talent, and beauty is suffering from a mental breakdown. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir of a woman who spent time in a mental institution following her own suicide attempt and crippling depression. Two tales of mental illness with a very personal bent, one classic, one more contemporary. Both powerful.
3. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson with World War Z by Max Brooks. You like monsters and end of the world scenarios? Try either of these! I am Legend deals with a vampire takeover, and World War Z is about the zombie apocalypse. Both are awesome and will probably give you nightmares (if you’re like me.)
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. This pairing is a lot of fun. Bridget Jones is a not so subtle homage to Jane Austen’s classic. It’s full of witty little asides and silly tributes. It’s also about finding love with people who initially annoy the crap out of you. Good times all around.
5. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The non-fiction classic account of a Jewish girl and her family living in hiding from the Nazis during World War II pairs well with Markus Zusak’s fictionalized version of life for dissenting German citizens under the Nazi regime. Both heart wrenching and fantastic.
Why Didnt’t They Assign Me This High School?
1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my all time favorite dystopias, and so enthralling I couldn’t put it down. It’s full of important lessons and stuff, I don’t see why spending a thousand pages on Moby Dick was so critical…
2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. They may teach this in school, but they didn’t teach it in my school. Actually, I’m lying a little bit. The scene with the Christmas tree was in several of my English textbooks, but never the whole thing. And the whole thing rules!
3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. This book was awesome, for starters. I think it would be good for kids to read for a couple of reasons. First, all the cranky for no good reason kids (like myself) might realize that their lives totally DON’T suck. Second, if the abuse that is presented in this book is discussed in the classroom, perhaps kids who are suffering would be encouraged to ask for help. At least, I’d hope for that.
4. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This is a great book, and it discusses the difficulties of people of Asian decent living in the US during World War II. It focused on the Japanese internment camps, but ALL people of Asian decent suffered as a result. The Japanese internment camps have been swept under the rug, and it’s an important lesson for kids to learn that their government sometimes does stupid things. Maybe they’ll pay more attention to what goes on around them?
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m of the opinion that if a kid ends up actually enjoying assigned reading, they might decide to read more in their spare time. What better way to get kids to dig a book than dishing up some teen angst? Teen angst that, while at this point in time is still out of touch, is more accessible than The Catcher in the Rye. Even better, read them both!