These books have stayed with me since reading them. They not only offer lessons and inspiration, but would offer new perspectives and views of the world and history. It’s been awhile since I was in high school, so maybe some of these are taught in school now – I certainly hope so.
1. I am Malala
As side from it being written by a teenager, what struck me so much while reading this was her interaction with her friends, her time in her room trying different hair styles, fighting with parents and siblings. It was an incredible light on how teenagers are actually so similar regardless of cultural and lifestyle differences. Add on to it, that she stood up to incredible challenges and threats, determined to gain access to education. Standing up for access to something so basic, that girls in much of the world not only have access to, but are required to be in attendance. However, the biggest lesson this book has for young people is the ability of one person – their age – to make an impact on her school and her community. Her determination to see change, and looking beyond just herself is inspiring.
2. The Book Thief
A story of Nazi Germany from such a different perspective – I found the telling through the eyes of child (if you ignore the fact that Death is in fact the narrator), is a unique view. Not understanding the war, or being forced to participate in the Hitler Youth, Liesel’s childhood is centered around a world at war, the world against her country. As she grows up she is able to understand the great risks and sacrifices her family is making, as they take stands again the totalitarian government and inhumanity they are living everyday. While a novel, this would make an interesting pairing to a history lesson for middle school children. The bigger lesson of overcoming obstacles, is just as powerful.
3. Three Cups of Tea
Clearly I have a desire to see young people exposed to the wider world, and different perspectives, experiences and people. I feel like this is often lumped in with Reading Lolita In Tehran, which should also be taught in school – for many similar reasons. But I think Three Cups of Tea is special, much in the way I Am Malala is, in demonstrating how one person can have an impact on another person, a community, a country. I’d like to think any of these books so far on the list would encourage young people to realize the power of education to grow out poverty and change lives.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
If ever there is a book to be taught in high schools, this is it. This came out my senior year of high school, and to this day I am the only of one of my friends who has read it. The ability to be yourself in high school is a rare event, and can cost friendships. Think about that. That is crazy. But isn’t that the point of life at any point? At some age we become self-conscience, at some point we just want to blend in, and be liked, and we want to hang on to those friendships that got us through those times. When do we get to be ourselves again? Maybe this be taught freshman year of college. (I still haven’t seen the movie, I’m just so afraid it will ruin my memory of the book.)
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran
This book was incredibly eye-opening. There is so little Americans learn about the Middle East, and even less about Iran. As I read this book I looked up the history of Iran, and read about the country over the time this book looks at. The life of these women, their experiences and how their lives changed during and after the revolution is amazing, heart breaking, and inspiring. Like with I Am Malala, you see the struggle and incredible world they live in, and yet are so like any other women, concerned about raising kids, getting married, resisting the expectations of their parents, interested in the latest fashion. This is a must read for woman of any age, but also a fascinating way to connect literature and history, like she does in the book, and connect students with a part of the world they learn so little about.
I managed to put a huge emphasis on education in this list. It was accidental. What do you think? What would you put on the list? Drop your suggestions in the comments.