13 Books We’d Include if We Shook up the High School Reading List!

By February 7, 2020 Discussion and Recommendations

Do any parents out there feel like their kids are reading the same books in school that they read, ad finitum? There are so many fantastic books, with important lessons released each year, but the school reading lists never change!

For instance, while we understand the lessons of regular high school reads like To Kill a Mockingbird, today’s kids don’t have a lot in common with Scout, and there are many contemporary books that teach a similar lesson, and modern books allow those lessons to be learned in a more obvious, contemporary setting. Not to mention that today’s kids face challenges that classic authors can’t even imagine, none of which are being addressed by the current school reading lists. Add to that, not all classics make the school reading lists, even when many deserve to be there.

We’re not saying the books your kids are reading are wrong, but if you want to ensure they’re getting a full and modern picture of the challenges, rights, and wrongs of life, here are some books they could add to their reading list this year! This list is made up of contemporary books, and some classics that probably deserve to be studied at school.

Welcome to Braggsville – T. Geronimo Johnson

If you want your children to learn the lessons you learned from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a contemporary setting, then we recommend this! Welcome to Braggsville is a literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation, written with tremendous social insight and a unique, generous heart, Welcome to Braggsville reminds us of the promise and perils of youthful exuberance, while painting an indelible portrait of contemporary America.

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Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

It’s hard to find LGBT heroes in classic literature, and when you do they are often mired with pain and destined to fail, so Juliet Takes a Breath is representation for the modern age. In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out–to the world, to her family, to herself.

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On Such a Full Sea – Chang-Rae Lee

Speculative fiction is such an important subject in school, and the Handmaid’s Tale is probably the most studied speculative fiction novel of all time. But in On Such a Full See we look at a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.

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Go Tell It On The Mountain –  James Baldwin

Although first published in 1953, Go Tell it on the Mountain is a novel that took a while to established itself as an American classic, and maybe that’s why it doesn’t hit the reading lists. Written during segregation, white people didn’t want to read authors of colour, but we’re putting it firmly back in there because Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.

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I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

Education isn’t to be taken for granted, but someone without a big world view might not realise that, which is why we’re recommending I Am Malala. Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.

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The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros

The world would have us believe we all have the same chances and opportunities, but it’s not as simple as that, and failures that make us feel inadequate often are down to our situation and lack of privilege. The House on Mango Street, centers on a young Latina teen named Esperanza, who dreams of living somewhere other than Chicago’s Mango Street, even though it is the only place her family has remained for long. But as Esperanza explores her time and place in a series of poignant vignettes, readers learn that getting out isn’t as easy as willing it to happen.

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Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi-Coates

This is a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history, written as a letter from one man to his adolescent son. Toni Morrison called it ‘required reading’ and we agree.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

While we’re calling for this to be added to reading lists, it’s actually one of the most popular for school bannings. Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

Terrorism, fear, life, destabilised regimes. The problems we face each day can be hard to understand, and even hard to explain to young people. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a beautiful book, guaranteed not only to expand the reader’s world view, but also guaranteed to give the reader a lesson in descriptive writing.

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Eileen -Ottessa Moshfegh

And speaking of literary styles, you probably read some noir fiction at school, something like Raymond Chandler’s Big Sleep, for the literary style and experimental, ambitious writing. Trouble is, most of them are full of sexist tripe! Enter, Eileen, the antithesis of everything wrong with crime noir.

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Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

Told in two parts that are united in this volume, Marjane Satrapi’s powerful graphic memoir traces her life from her childhood during the Iranian Revolution, to an adolescence spent in France, to her return home after college. It’s a must for widening your perspective!

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The Secret Side of Empty – Maria E. Andreu

As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as American as apple-pie. But M.T. hides a fact to the contrary: her status as an undocumented immigrant. An interesting insight to the struggles humans face when they become illegal.

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The Circle – Dave Eggers

If 1984 doesn’t quite translate to the media age of social media and snapchat, then The Circle will certainly get you thinking about your online life! A must read for all kids.

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We hope you find some good suggestions there and we’ll be back with more recommendations lists soon. If you want to ensure you never miss any of these, subscribe now.



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