Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What every child should read

Some of Britain's top writers were asked to choose 10 books every child should read before leaving secondary school.
One of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby, felt unable to contribute to this list and I, to some extent, sympathize with his reasoning. He said: "I used to teach in a comprehensive school, and I know from experience that many children are not capable of reading the books that I wanted them to read. If I choose 10 books that I think would be possible for all, it wouldn't actually be a list that I would want to endorse. I think any kind of prescription of this kind is extremely problematic."
Although I can see where he's coming from, I think he chose the easy way out. What makes this exercise both possible and so interesting is the pre-acknowledgement that there's a vast universe of literary masterpieces that are accessible to most teens if they are given proper support and encouragement. The difficulty is choosing just 10 books, those that best synthesize the very best in literature and which should be on the lists of parents and teachers of any common schoolchild.
Here's some of the lists of other famous writers:
JK Rowling
Author of the Harry Potter series

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Philip Pullman
Author of the His Dark Materials trilogy

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens (or other good anonymous ballads)
First Book of Samuel, Chapter 17 (the story of David and Goliath)
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A good collection of myths and legends
A good collection of fairytales

Andrew Motion
Poet laureate

The Odyssey by Homer
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Lyrical Ballads by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Waste Land by TS Eliot

Chosen among my own "important"childhood readings, the list of books I would like my children to read before they leave secondary school contains at least the following titles:

A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Julius Caesar, MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
The Odissey and The Illiad - Homer
The Greek Myths - Robert Graves
Mithology - Edith Hamilton
The Republic and Dialogues - Plato
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Night - Elie Weisel
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Of Mice and Man and The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinback
The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Great Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe
The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hathorne
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgeral
Gulliver's Travels - Jonhathan Swift
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Selected Sonnets - Luis Vaz de Camões
Message - Fernando Pessoa
Short Stories - Eça de Queiroz
Clarissa - Erico Veríssimo
O Guarani and Iracema - José de Alencar
Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Captain's Daughter - Alexander Pushkin
The Mother - Maxim Gorki
Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyitch - Leo Tolstoi

And also these, chosen among more recent readings:

Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
His Dark Materials Trilogy - Phillip Pullman

8 comments:

BBB said...

Can´t think of a better list of books myself. I would just add Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and there are several which make very good reading...
Without a doubt the two that made the most impression on me, maybe because I read them when I was 12, where Wuthering Heights (me and romance) and Of Mice and Men.
hope you can get them to read at least half!!
Love

Claudia said...

You are absolutely right. I've already added Gabriel Garcial Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera" to my book list (even though it wasn't childhood reading for me). Thanks. Love U.

Anonymous said...

I pitty children who would have to read (all) those books before leaving school. Some of them even now I think I would not have the patience to read. Those lists are one more futile exercise where grown up people try toshow to other grown up people how cultivated they are and how this comes back to their childhood (not you but certainly the respondant to thr questionnaires). Have you ever noticed that the answer to some other questionnaires about "10 books to a desert island" always produce some titles you never heard of? Let they (the children) choose their own books and they will end up likinh litterature and not hating it! Do you rerally think that "The catcher in the rye" or some other illustrious books in the lists are to be read and understood by children?
The firs "serious" book I have read I choosed it because I was able to read in the first page "fecha a torneira monte de merda" (A ponte, Manfred Gregor, If I remember well). This got my attention! And from this on I went all the way to the "top". But I choose my way and it did certainly not include, at early stages, "O Monte dos vendavais". If visiting the Convento de Crisato is for adults (and I agree) such readings as the ones in the list of the well known authors in your post are also not for children (with a few exceptions)

Anonymous said...

I would challenge you on each of these books. To look at them as interesting reading you would need to have an historical and cultrual comprehension that is far from being there at young ages:


Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens (or other good anonymous ballads)
First Book of Samuel, Chapter 17 (the story of David and Goliath)

The Odyssey by Homer
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Lyrical Ballads by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Waste Land by TS Eliot

Julius Caesar, MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
The Odissey and The Illiad - Homer
The Greek Myths - Robert Graves
Mithology - Edith Hamilton
The Republic and Dialogues - Plato
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Night - Elie Weisel
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Of Mice and Man and The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinback
The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
Great Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe
The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hathorne
A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
Gulliver's Travels - Jonhathan Swift
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Selected Sonnets - Luis Vaz de Camões
Message - Fernando Pessoa
Short Stories - Eça de Queiroz
Clarissa - Erico Veríssimo
O Guarani and Iracema - José de Alencar
Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Captain's Daughter - Alexander Pushkin
The Mother - Maxim Gorki
Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyitch - Leo Tolstoi

His Dark Materials Trilogy - Phillip Pullman

ULYSSES!!!!!!!!!By jove!

Claudia said...

Dear anonymous,

Congratulations on your achievement: working yourself to the "top" with such a starting point is remarkable. However I entirely disagree with you (as usual). Why not, then, let children take their education into their own hands ? I'm sure they'd love it !

Claudia said...

Dear anonymous,

You say:"To look at them as interesting reading you would need to have an historical and cultural comprehension that is far from being there at young ages".

Really? And where do you get it?

BBB said...

Secondary school. Isn´t that like 12th grade? Aren´t "kids" 17 by then?
Some of the books are certanly not to be read at 10,11 or 12, but by the time your 17 or 18?
I read Wuthering Heights I was still in the States so I was surely under 14. And Of mice and Men also. And Jane Eyre, And the catcher in the rye. Maybe I didn´t get "all" out of it but I loved them enough to read them again latter on, and maybe see them in "a different light". Liking these books doesn´t mean that is ALL you read. I also liked Rumble Fish and the Outsiders by SE Hinton, all the "Famous Five" books by Enid Blyton, etc., and I STILL like Harry Potter books!
And I add that I was never forced to read most of these books (except those that were mandatory in the states like romeo and juliet in the 9th grade and catcher in the rye maybe) just the fact of having them in the house and seeing my older sister, or parents, read them made me CHOOSE to read them.
It was a choice.My choise. But if they weren´t around, if I didn´t see/know they existed, how could I ever choose to read them? Get it?
just a thought

Claudia said...

Hear, hear, sis !

PS - I forgot to include in my list Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", the book that helped trigger a war to abolish slavery and which was my "wake up call" to civil rights and the plight of ethnic minorities. I'm not going to change my original entry, as it's already been commented on.