My teen has been putting his favorite books on my reading list the last few months and it got me thinking about what books I would put on his. He’s turning 18 this year and is heading into the realm of pre-adulthood; so I got to penning (with a pencil, not a pinterest) right-of-passage books as it were. Here are my Top 5 Books Every Young Adult Should Read, preferably before they know everything.
George Orwell’s 1984 novel is one of the top books that people love to say they’ve read but never have! So I’ve put it as #1 on my list in the hopes that they’d actually read it.
Although 1984 fits very well with today’s young adult novels that focus heavily on dystopian societies, there is a frightening realism behind it. Today’s generations are growing up in a world where they are monitored by the NSA and being (in many ways) emotionally influenced by the media. Our very PC culture is creating a sort of Newspeak where in turn we are programmed to DoubleThink our actions. Whosoever does not agree with the masses is typically hanged by social media, a sort of undercover Thought Police, and brought to social obedience.
It’s no wonder that sales of this novel have increased 7x since 2013.
Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s 1984, so to speak. Another dystopian novel that focuses on suppressing dissenting ideas, but this time through book burning. The unique thing about the future in Fahrenheit is that fire fighters actually start fires rather than put them out. Books are outlawed and the firemen are sent in to set fire to any books (and sometimes the homes that hold them) that are found. The story centers around a fireman named Guy Montag who begins to have free-thinking ideals and who one day happens to keep a book instead of burning it.
The true heart of Bradbury’s novel lies in his actual belief that television and radio were forms of media that were threatening to books and society. How surprised he would be today to see that it was and how little people read anymore. Hopefully this book shares how important it is to actually READ.
I actually wrote a full review of The Giver by Lois Lowry. I’m proud to say this was one of the novels my son chose to put in my library! I know there was a movie released late last year, but I refused to watch it. The previews had shown that it was way off from the story; so please don’t let the film keep you away from an incredible novel.
This story revolves around a world that appears Utopian, but people have cut themselves away from emotion. There is a Sameness, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no love or passion – just an almost united apathy or “contentment”. Then, you come to realize the truth about what life is like without color and memory.
This story gives true meaning behind the idea that our differences are what makes us beautiful and worthy.
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom is another story I have raved about in a review a few years ago. I continue to put it on my top of the top lists of must read books because nothing captures the importance of how we view time in our lives than this story.
The Time Keeper is the story about Father Time, but not as you would typically view him. He is (or was), in fact, the first person who created time and then had been cursed to listen to everyone lament about not having enough time for centuries. He eventually has a chance to redeem himself by helping one person not commit suicide and give up their time and the other person to not freeze themselves and live forever. At it’s heart it is a story about how precious our time really is and how important it is to use what time we have wisely.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is actually considered a short story, but it is one that will live with you forever. It is about a laboratory mouse named Algernon who undergoes surgery to increase his intelligence. Seemingly successful, it is followed up with Charlie Gorden, the first human test subject and told through his progress reports.
Charlie is a man with a low IQ who is selected to undergo the surgery and his IQ triples, but as he gets smarter he starts to realize things about his life before that he hadn’t been aware of. Shortly after his intelligence peaks, Algernon’s begins to decline and you follow Charlie’s decline as his falls.
This story was written as a means to raise awareness about mental illness and teaches us the difference between intellect and emotion and how our past influences our future.
There are so many other books I would choose, from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, Brave New World by Adlous Huxley to The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon. However, I chose these because they force them to think about what kind of world they want to live in, what type of person they want to be in that world and how to live within it. The choices they make as they grow older form the background for those of following generations, just as our choices had created theirs. These can be seen as frightening stories of caution, or stories that find hope in what we see as impossible circumstances.