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Tag: George Orwell

The Best Books for Non-Readers


October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Lana Gorlinski.

As hard as it is for a bookworm like myself to fathom, many teenagers simply don’t like to read. I know many of the type, and they have a variety of reasons for not enjoying books–they’d rather watch the movie, they find it tedious and can’t sit still for that long, they’d simply rather do other things with their time. Yet I’ve found that most people who “don’t like reading” actually just don’t like the books they’ve read. Indeed, if all I had read growing up were the asinine required reading pieces I was presented with, I too may have learned to loathe the activity. But I’m of the opinion that one can’t hate the act of reading itself, because it’s not a hobby so much as it is a medium for absorbing information of all kinds; saying one hates reading as a whole is just as ludicrous as saying one hates all of music, television, or the internet. Because just as there’s a music or movie genre for every taste, so too exists a near-infinite number of book genres to suit even the most finicky of readers. Below, I’ve listed a variety of books that even the most adamant non-readers should enjoy:

ender's game orson scott card coverIf you can’t put down the video games: Try an action-packed science fiction novel, like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card! Set in a distant-future Earth, young Ender Wiggins finds himself selected for training in zero gravity to learn how to fight against the alien Buggers that are attacking the earth. Besides the usual awesomeness that comes with aliens and outer space, this quick-paced read is also chock full of action and interesting military strategy at every turn of the page.
What next: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Required Reading: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

required_readingA few weeks ago, The Hub posted a poll asking for your favorite assigned summer reading in high school. With 49% of the 134 votes, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the top selection. This got me thinking about how required reading has impacted us as YA readers.

It’s a safe assumption that we’re all readers over here on The Hub. The results of the poll show that there were some fantastic experiences, but does it mean that all of our past reading experiences were great? I turned to some of our bloggers to get the scoop on required reading: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Read on to hear how assigned readings have made our bloggers stronger feminists, wish fatal illnesses on heroines, and really, really love bacon.

The Good

Jessica Lind: “When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had an English teacher who really challenged us with reading. During her class, I fell in love with Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, and 1984. I was transitioning out of the books of my childhood and these classics helped to keep me reading.”

The JungleGretchen Kolderup: “My 10th grade US History class was combined into a two-period class with our English class. We learned history and we learned English, but it was all through the lens of social movements in America. The books that we were assigned were really thoughtful choices that illuminated social issues and that weren’t what you’d typically have as required reading — Power by Linda Hogan, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller are the ones I remember. I loved that what we were reading was actually put into context so I could understand it — I would have missed so much of the meaning in the books if I hadn’t known what was happening in the world at the time they were published.”

Carla Land: “When I was in tenth grade I was in an honor’s English class and one of our required readings was The Great Gatsby. I absolutely hated it! My teacher was obsessed with the “eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg” and spent weeks talking about how important they were. I swore off of F. Scott Fitzgerald forever after that class. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college when I took a Modern Literature course- taught by a professor who was a Hemingway and Fitzgerald scholar. He’d spent his whole career studying them and their words. When we got to The Great Gatsby I held my breath and waited for the inevitable week long lesson on T.J. Eckleberg and his eyes. My professor commented on them once and they weren’t even on the test. After listening to him talk about the book and the author I had to take his Hemmingway and Fitzgerald course the next semester. It’s now one of my favorite books!”

The Books We’ll Never Forget

September 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day, and since an elephant never forgets, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share those books we’ll never forget.

Everyone has at least one. They aren’t necessarily the best books ever written. They aren’t necessarily the deepest or the most popular. But they’re books that made an indelible mark on us in some way, the ones that we thought about for days after we finished reading them- ones that we’ve read more than once- the ones that we recommend because they are dear to our hearts and we want them to be near and dear to someone else’s heart, too. So here’s my list, and I hope in the comments you’ll add a few of yours.

the_secret_gardenThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – Kid’s stuff, I hear you say, but the relationships in this book are complex, and it was only after rereading it as a young adult that I truly understood the depth of Mr. Craven’s heartache and the loneliness of his son, Colin. The wisdom of Ben Weatherstaff was  lost on me as a kid, as it was often lost on Mary, but as a young adult I saw it in a whole new light. Dickon’s gentleness and love of all creatures is just as enchanting as it ever was. I still have my first copy of this on my book shelf at home- the front cover is torn and the spine is almost illegible due to the creases left from  my repeated re-readings. This one’s a classic for a reason!

Teen Perspective: Cory’s Blogger Profile and Ridiculous Taste in Books

teen blogger coryHey, my name is Cory (as in the girl name, not the identically-spelled boy name), and books are my friends. And by friends, I mean the kind of friends that aren’t invited to a party, but you smuggle them in anyway by hiding them in your bag. Good friends, friends I try to force my mother to like by placing them ever-so-subtly on her pillow. But she doesn’t read everything I throw at her because she has preferences. I have preferences, too, actually, if you’ll believe it. Everyone has things they look for in a good book, right? While I’m not claiming these things will ultimately decide whether I’ll pick up a book, let alone if I’ll like it (I absolutely love humor in literature, for instance, but does that mean I’m never going to love anything serious?), but there are certain things a book can do to make itself more memorable for me. Okay, a lot of things. I’ve tried to narrow them down a bit:

Unique Style

Short Form Summer Reading Summaries

by flickr user sara. nel
Whether you’re a librarian, a parent, or procrastinator not too proud to admit it, you’re probably familiar with the question that comes up around this time of year regarding assigned summer reading. Not just panicked students requesting the books they need, but the slightly desperate plea, “What is this book about?” We put the question to the collective mind of our Hub bloggers, with the added challenge to summarize familiar summer reading classics in the shortest form possible. Here is a round-up of the quirky, clever, and funny responses we got:

From Sarah Debraski with an assist from Paul, some great haiku

The only thing you
need to know is Big Brother
is always watching
(1984 by George Orwell)

Roots of Dystopia (Another Hunger Games Post)

For those of us old enough to remember the year 1984, we can recall the discussions and hand-wringing as we compared our world with the future that had been prophesied by George Orwell in his novel 1984, written in 1948. I recall earnest discussions about the topic from casual conversations in public to stories on news programs. It was a time of anxiety in an era of anxiety. The threat of mutually assured destruction loomed as the US and the USSR maneuvered to wind down the Cold War. The new threat of terrorism and hijacking from rogue states in the Middle East and elsewhere had people on edge. Industrial pollution and environmental disasters had people wondering if their communities might be next. Amidst the anxiety and rumination, Neil Postman began writing his now classic critique of television and public discourse, Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the foreword, Postman contrasts the dystopian futures presented by George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. In the first, society is ruled over by the totalitarian big brother that always watches citizens and rules through a combination of propaganda and fear. In Huxley’s version the world is controlled not through brutality and coercion but through pleasure. Postman asserts that in the debate between Orwell and Huxley that Huxley got it right. In Postman’s estimation we have created a society that doesn’t need a dictator to control us or deprive us of our freedoms, because we will happily forfeit our freedoms to have them replaced by pleasure and trivial nonsense.

1984 and Brave New World stand as the most essential modern dystopian novels. Yes, there were dystopian visions before them like We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, but 1984 and Brave New World are the two models for the modern dystopian novel. There is a continuum for dystopias when using these two as models. On the one end, we have a future where we are controlled by that which we hate (as in 1984) and on the other end we have a future where we are controlled by what we love (as in Brave New World).

Where would The Hunger Games fall on this continuum?

Dystopian vs. Post-apocalyptic Teen Books

The Hunger Games series has spawned a slew of new dystopian and post-apocalyptic teen books. I can’t always distinguish between the two types of books because sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. I looked up their definitions and found a great blog post on Bibliotropic on July 5 that really has a great explanation of the differences between the two.

The blog states that “Dystopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian.” Of course! Lois Lowry’s The Giver or Feed by  M. T. Anderson. (Not to mention Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World but I’m only going to focus on current or soon to be published YA books).

Post-apocalyptic is defined as “set in a world or civilization after a disaster such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, impact event, etc.”  These types of books are the ones where the characters are struggling to survive against some kind of cataclysmic event – man vs. nature. These are the types of books that I love reading because they make me feel that as bad as my life might be at times, it’s not nearly as bad as it is in these  novels.

Another clue is that many of the new post-apocalyptic novels seem to have the word “Ash” or “Ashes” in the title. Ilsa Bick’s Ashes (due out in Sept.) is an exciting story of how a teen with a fatal disease & and troubled young army veteran struggle to survive after a massive electromagnetic pulse destroys all electronic devices, kills billions of people, and in the process, creates zombie -like creatures.