Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is
Top Ten Books I Wish Were Taught in School
In some school, somewhere, many of the titles I list here probably are taught. Nonetheless, these are the books I wish would be taught more widely.
1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy classic, and Tolkien was a serious writer who thought carefully about everything from the vocabulary he chose to his books’ major themes. It’s time schools started taking fantasy more seriously as a genre. (Of course, some colleges offer courses on Tolkien, but I would love to see Tolkien treated seriously in the overall school system and not just by isolated professors.)
2. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: In my experience, many schools and teachers shy away from assigned reading they deem too “girly.” Anne is a classic children’s story to which students should be introduced. (You can clump any number of other classics into this entry, too: Little Women, The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, etc.) Review.
3. Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong: This is the epic of China, comparable to the King Arthur legend for England, yet I had never even heard of it in school, where students focus mostly on the Western canon. I am reading a translation now, and freely admit that though the narration is rather dry (it reads like a historical chronicle and not an epic), I think students could plow their way through an excerpt of the story in school.
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Part of encouraging students to read is convincing them that reading can be fun—and part of that is demonstrating that not every “good” book was written at least fifty years ago. While I believe schools should focus on the classics, I also think they should encourage students to pick up new releases. The Fault in Our Stars is an entertaining and quirky book with some serious themes, and would make a great addition to a high school classroom.
5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Crane: I was on the fence about how enlightening and well-written I found this book, but the overall concept is brilliant. In school, I was one of those kids teachers thought needed to “break out of my shell” and others students sometimes thought was too quiet. If this book can help students—and teachers—understand introverts, it would be worth it as required reading (there is even a great section at the end suggesting that educators accept introversion as a “learning type”). It is also a great platform for launching a discussion on all the differences people have, not just introversion vs. extroversion. Review.
6. Corduroy by Don Freeman: Anyone wishing to study children’s literature in any seriousness has to go to college (and hope their college offers a class on it—mine didn’t). Introducing the picture book as a valid art form earlier in school could help spark the interest of students who might wish to write picture books, edit them, or just have a greater understanding of what they’re reading their future kids.
7. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer: Although Foer specifies his book is not a self-help book, he inevitably throws out a few tips about how people can improve their memories while he is in the process of discussing memory in general. Unfortunately, I found that, after school, I don’t have much need for memorizing large amounts of information like dates or foreign language vocabulary. This book will be most useful to students. Review.
8. The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy: An adult book told entirely and seriously from the perspective of elephants, this novel is just so different. It could inspire discussion about the nature of animals (whom scientists are discovering are more complex and more “like humans” every day) and about creative writing in general.
9. Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings by Katherine S. Newman: Hands-down, this would be a controversial book to teach anywhere but college, where I read it. However, its subject is undoubtedly timely. If more people—educations, administrators, and students—understood what drives kids to initiate mass shootings on school campuses, it might be possible to prevent some.
10. The Chosen by Chaim Potok: A modern classic, this book has to be being taught somewhere, but no one I know has read it in school.