Mark Twain called a classic "a book which people praise and don't read," but that certainly isn't the case with many contemporary classics. They are well-written, in modern English and are approachable for today's high school students. Great Books for High School Kids: A Teacher's Guide to Books That Can Change Teens' Lives provides a wonderful introduction to what makes a book a classic, and while subjective by any measure, the list of over 400 fiction, non-fiction and poetry titles is a wonderful place to start.
In the meantime, check out some of our favorite contemporary classics, featured on the list below. New copies of each book are located in the Classics Room, and many of them are also available in large print and audiobook, as well as part of our Books in a Bag program for reading groups.
With the recent success of Emma Donoghue's Room, a novel told entirely from the point of view of a five-year-old, some other works come to mind that successfully employ young, precocious narrators. Here is a small sample of stories that offer a fresh perspective using a young voice:
Because while there are what are considered “big” books (Grisham, Cornwell, Shreve) coming out there are also some that may be off your radar but shouldn’t be. So the first three titles may be some things that you may not be aware of. The last two titles are “big” books that are coming your way this month. And really? What is more delicious than a big fat wonderful book on a cold day?
The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp is a third novel that has a lot of pre-pub buzz about it. Who is Little K? Prima Ballerina Mathilde Kschessinka who was the mistress to Czar Nicholas II. This book is fictionalized accounts of her life from young apprentice to mistress of the Czar to her turn as one the best dancers of the Imperial Ballet of Russia. The author is a former ballet dancer herself so it should be rich in all sorts of wonderful back stage factoids.
Barbara M. loved the Advance Reader copy of Stacy Schiff’s new biography of Cleopatra. Although Cleopatra lived only 40 years, she really knew how to pack in the action! Schiff delves into the reality of the woman not the myths that have been perpetuated over thousands of years.
The Desketeers are wild over Kate Morton and her stories. Last year’s Forgotten Garden was one of our favorites. The Distant Hours, is her latest and those of us who have read it can state that she has lost none of her gifts for writing a story that you don’t want to put down. When a letter posted in 1941 finally finds its intended receiver in 1992 50 years of secrets, lies and mystery come bubbling up to the surface.
Dennis Lehane returns to writing crime novels in his latest, Moonlight Mile. Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, who we last saw in Prayers for the Rain, are back and revisiting the case that bothered them the most -- the kidnapping of 4 year old Amanda and her eventual return to her less than caring mother. Well Amanda is missing, again. Will she be found? Or has the seamy underbelly of Boston claimed another victim?
Stephen King is revisiting one of the art forms that he loves the best and is truly wonderful at: the novella. In Full Dark, No Stars, there are four for your reading pleasure; each one darker and creepier than the last. King is such a great storyteller even if he is telling you things you’d rather not know.
Happily, I think that there is a little something for everyone on this list to help with the long dark nights ahead!
And yet again I am shaking my head in fascination. Because yet again it resembles nothing so much as what we used to call "dog's breakfast". Also known as a mess.
It seems to me that every year they hunt down the most unreadable fiction titles and then have them face off. Stuff that even Chilean Miners would throw back up the shaft. There of course have been a few times when I felt that they got it. Such as last year with Column McCann and Let the Great World Spin. It is wonderful and if you have missed reading it put yourself on hold immediately. But on the whole not so much. And the other fascination is do you notice who is missing? Yes, Jonathan Franzen! Hmmm. Not that I am feeling sad over it. It just, as I have said before, fascinates.
One of these titles, The Lord of Misuse is not even due to come out until next month and it has not been reviewed at all! And Peter Carey just lost out on the Booker Prize on Tuesday.
In a nice surprise the Patti Smith memoir, Just Kids was nominated for Non-fiction. I am sure that Claire from Children’s is THRILLED!
What would you pick if you were adding to this list? For myself, Lily King’s Father of the Rain was not only beautifully written but the story had me held captive. Literally. There was no laundry done, nor dinner cooked until I turned the last page. And I don't regret a bit of it!
Here is the real list:
Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (this is on order and will be in the catalog soon!)
Nicole Krauss, Great House
Lionel Shriver, So Much for That
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel (this is on order and will be in the catalog soon!)
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq (this is on order and will be in the catalog soon!)
Patti Smith, Just Kids
Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (this is on order and will be in the catalog soon!)
Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War (this is on order and will be in the catalog soon!)
Usually I take the train. I love the train because although it is still 45 minutes one way, there is a 10 minute walk on each end (free exercise!) and a 25 minute ride where I can read without interruption. But then Metro North changed the schedule. And the train became a not so great option.
So the last two months or so I have been a prisoner in my car, at the whim and mercy of Traffic Gods, silly, awful commercial radio and NPR pledge breaks.
But honestly, I am sorrowful no more. Because, finally, after many years of resistance, I have become a member of the BOCD cult.
Yes! BOCD! Books on CD. I had never really found the one that totally grabbed me in all the times I tried them, but then I picked up Sarah’s Key. And now I cannot wait for my commute. I swear the time goes twice as fast. Traffic report? I don’t bother anymore because I have something wonderful to listen to. After all these years of being convinced this was not a format for me, I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I can now be found prowling our selection looking for the next one. Will I be sorry in December when the train schedule changes back? Not really. But in the meantime I am saving my sanity by listening to some wonderful stories.
Please stop by the Welcome Desk and ask us not only what we are reading but what we are listening to. Pat T. especially has some wonderful suggestions.
Have a great weekend and a safe ride home.
But we aren’t done with our Adult Summer Reading!
With 686 adults participating it was a raging success, and lots of fun too.
And many of you wrote some really wonderful reviews about what you read. We have entered these into our website and you can find them by going to our catalog, typing in Adult Summer Reading 2010 in the search box, and select “Tags”.
Go ahead. Be nosy. Check out what your friends and neighbors had to say about what kept them occupied this summer.
In honor of American Library Associations's Banned Book Week, I have put together a list of Young Adult titles that have either been banned or challenged in their lifetime.
Take a look at some of the titles, many of them are life changing and fasicinating reads that should never be kept out of the hands of readers. The sad truth is, at some point someone somwhere took issue with them.
Carrie Bradshaw has nothing on us! Fashion Week came to a close on September 16th, but you can still strut your stuff on the catwalk with these ready-to-wear reads:
(Flickr photo by Danzden)
Health and wellness are some of the most important things in life. This list of books, featured in a book display this week, contains resources for maintaining healthy bodies, minds and lives, and for coping when illness strikes or life changes. In addition to our print and electronic health resources, this fall Darien Library will add A Picture of Health, an extensive series of lectures, expert panels, computer workshops, and films, to our scheduled events. We will be offering sessions on a variety of health issues, including nutrition, stress management, personal safety for children & teens, pain management, holistic medicine, sleep disorders, and medication management.
According to Deborah Tannen, "they can be the best of conversations, they can be the worst of conversations." She is referring of course to mother-daughter relationships. Whether it is a new mother and baby, hip mom and teenager, or aging mother and adult child, these stories travel the path of a shared lifetime.