In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Grown-up reading

Dear Annie,

Whatever New York City is paying you, it isn't enough.  I am so consistently impressed by your teaching.  You put so much thought and preparation into it, and you care so deeply about what your students will get out of it.  One of your points which particularly struck me was reading a book as a community experience.  It's not the teenager and the book alone: it's a group of people who have read the book by themselves processing it together.

At the store, we've been working on an expansion.  New shelves for the book section will be arriving in about a week and a half.   I'll have about 100 feet of new shelves -- very exciting.  A lot of it will help relieve pressure on already overloaded sections, but we'll be adding new books in several categories.  I bring this up now because one of the sections that's expanding is our Teen/Adult area.  When I read your post, it flashed through my mind that I should bring in a copy or two of Rule of the Bone.  And then I thought no, the reason it works for high school freshman is that you're shaping the entire discussion.  This is not a book one wants to hand to a kid and walk away.

I'm in the middle of reading an adult book right now:
The Glass Castle
, by Jeannette Walls. It's a memoir of growing up in a highly dysfunctional and eccentric family.  Somehow I wasn't aware of it when it made a big splash on publication in 2005.  A customer recommended it to me: it had been assigned to her son when he was a junior in high school.  Makes one think a lot about the parent-child relationship.  It will probably end up in our expanded Teen/Adult section.  I'm casting about for more contemporary books that will appeal to high schoolers and parents.  I've done pretty well expanding our fantasy reading up to adult levels.  And in more traditional literature, we have a range of 19th and 20th century adult books.  Many of them pop up on summer reading lists; some are there because staff members feel a special connection.  Austen, Brontes, Dickens, Doyle, Dumas, Golding, Huxley, Lessing, Orwell, Rushdie, Salinger, Steinbeck, Twain, Vonnegut (am reeling off this list from memory -- would have more if I were looking at the shelves). Lots of them are wonderful, but I want to carry some more surprising and current ones too.  Ones that high schoolers can connect with, without necessarily having a community to discuss them with.




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