BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

What book would you put on a school reading list?

booksE.A.M Harris blogs about reading and writing and her latest post has set me thinking. She is in the middle of a 30 day book challenge that forces participants to think about books in a new way by answering such questions as what book did you give up on? what book is your least favourite? (is that the same as hate? Difficult because both Dan Brown and Jefferey Archer have been pretty prolific), what book reminds you of home? You can read how she answered these questions HERE.
For today’s challenge she chose The Life of Pi by Yann Martel for the quality of the writing, the huge leap of imagination that the reader has to make and the way it provokes discussion about our relationship with animals.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s an excellent choice and I imagine that it is already on a lot of reading lists for those reasons.
But what would you choose?
Did you get turned off a set book at school because you were forced to read it only to re-discover it later?

George Bernard Shaw said that if he had the power he would ban all his plays and essays from school premises: he didn’t want generations to grow up disliking him.

English: George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate i...

George Bernard Shaw, Nobel laureate in Literature 1925 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My gut feeling when I considered the question was that I would make Terry Pratchett (the most shoplifted author in Britain) and Douglas Adams required reading in English, along with bound copies of Private Eye in politics/ history (with end of term papers featuring such questions as Who is Glenda Slagg).

But perhaps they should be banned instead, only available in plain covers and bought with a fake ID to prove you’re over 16.
Any suggestions?
And does putting a must-read on a school list inevitably turn it into What!? I have to read all of it? Where are the Brodie Notes?

Books picture source:photo credit: missha via photopin cc

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10 comments on “What book would you put on a school reading list?

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    May 30, 2013

    I have to agree with the Douglas Adams addition. You never get to read anything funny in school. Though, I also agree that putting a book on a reading list makes it lose some of its magic. It’s no longer a choice or a suggestion, but an order. We all know how teenagers love taking orders.

    • bridget whelan
      May 30, 2013

      And yet…would I have ever willingly taken up a book of poems by a puritan MP for Hull? But I fell in love with Andrew Marvell in 6th form and I still feel the same way. Of course, it’s no coincidence that we had an inspirational teacher

      • Charles Yallowitz
        May 30, 2013

        The teacher is certainly key. I was told to read Romeo & Juliet and I hated it. My class was made to ‘perform’ Julius Caeser and I loved it. It’s all about the delivery with required reading.

  2. Sheila McWattie
    May 30, 2013

    A great book I came across later in life while studying creative writing is A Crime in the Neighbourhood, by Suzanne Berne. Excellent story, written from child’s point of view. I’d have enjoyed it at school.

  3. bridget whelan
    May 30, 2013

    Thanks — must confess haven’t come across Suzanne Berne. I love getting recommendations like this – more please!

  4. E A M Harris
    May 30, 2013

    I think a lot of what goes onto a reading list is dependent on what the list is for – and I’m not convinced this has always been thought through. The list we had at school seemed to be one aiming to expose us to the classic novels (and Shakespeare) without worrying much whether we liked them – I suppose the compilers hoped some of us would. A list including Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams might be intended to encourage kids to enjoy reading so they’d have a hobby for life. An aim of producing good exam questions would produce a different list – and so on.

    • bridget whelan
      May 30, 2013

      Hmmmm…..I’m not sure what is on the reading list for GCSE English. Little research required…..

      • E A M Harris
        June 1, 2013

        I suspect it’s on the lines of something that allows good exam questions.

  5. Liz Parrott
    May 31, 2013

    I gave a young friend a copy of the first Jeanne Birdsall “Penderwick” book for Christmas one year. She’s a reluctant reader. She looked quizzical, so her older brother identified it for her “it was on your vacation reading list.” My heart fell. I was sure she’d never read it. Her face confirmed my fear.

    That said, I’d put Neil Gaiman on a summer reading list of the kind designed to get kids interested in reading. And definitely Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Also perhaps Phillip Pulman.

  6. bridget whelan
    May 31, 2013

    Neil Gaiman yes! Haven’t found him in my minimal research but Adams, Pratchett and Pulman is there….see the next post

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