I have come to the conclusion, as a result of having spent many years in public schools, that one of the main reasons that kids of my generation don’t read is because they are only introduced to crappy books/literature by school teachers throughout their lives.

As a result, by the time you reach high school, the average reading level is probably somewhere around 5th or 6th grade (at least in most schools). Of course, if I’m remembering correctly, newspapers are written at a 4th grade reading level. Hmm.

I remember in my 11th grade Honors English class, we had kids in there who could barely sound out 2 syllable words- let alone try to understand “The Crucible.” Don’t even get me started on “The Great Gatsby.” Gag me with a stick. I mean, really. If I wanted to read about nothing, I’d read my textbook. *rolls eyes*

Of course, that was then and this is now. I actually read my textbooks now.

The other issue then was when we actually read something worthwhile, we’d take so much bloody time going about it that I’d read it and then get it done so early that I’d forget all the details and do shitty on the quizzes.

I’m in a stats class right now. Plus, since I got my undergrad in music education, I’ve had a number of edu classes. I know that teachers are supposed to teach to the bell curve–the mass in the middle and the outliers be damned. Well, I’m not that much of an outlier; not when you compare me with the brighter members of the world’s population. However, compared to those that I went to school with, I was a veritable genius — at least in some areas. No, see what made me a “nerd” wasn’t that I understood what was going on, but rather that I was interested in trying to understand what was going on.

BTW, for your information, I don’t classify myself as a nerd. I’m a geek. There is a difference.

The bell curve is the majority — also known as the “average.” I am very rarely average. Sometimes I am above average. Sometimes I am below average. But right in the middle? Not so much. It’s even harder when the average is sub-normal. *rolls eyes*

So what I thought I’d do here is to suggest some books that are good to read; not because they are “classics” (whatever the hell that means), but because they are easy to digest — at least initially. Going on with the digestive metaphor, the books that I’m suggesting here are listed because they have taste. I mean, who cares what rich people did back in the early 20th century? Who gives a damn about wolf pee? I really don’t give two shits about the Puritans, to tell you the truth. I know who they are. It’s been pounded into my head year after blessed year. I don’t want to have to read a novel about them; especially if it was written in their style of language!

Probably the best book we ever read was “The Grapes of Wrath,” and really, on the evolutionary scale, that only rates about 4.5 as far as interesting reads go when you’re a teenager/youth-type. And besides, we didn’t read it until the 11th grade, in my AP US History class. That’s a very narrow chasm of folks, you know.

Just because everyone else has to read that crap doesn’t mean that they should force every generation afterwards to read it too. That’s just like I was telling people on the comments board in relation to Alex Barton; just because you were treated like crap doesn’t mean that other people deserve the same treatment.

Okay now, in no particular order:

  • Way Past Cool.” It’s probably on some school’s banned list. Screw ’em. Of course, what some people don’t know is that actual legit “classics” find their way onto banned book lists as well. *coughsToKillAMockingbirdcoughs*
  • Ender’s Shadow” – by Orson Scott Card – Bean is Ender’s Shadow. He is like the quintessential aspie. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.
  • The Power of One” – by Bryce Courtenay – one of my top 10 favorite books since I was was 16.
  • “Whale Talk” – by Chris Crutcher (another banned author) – One of my top three rotating favorites.
  • “Leaping to the Stars” – Book 3 in the series by David Gerrold
  • “A Wizard Alone” – Book 6 in the “So You Want To Be A Wizard” series by Diane Duane. BTW, one of the main characters in this book has autism.
  • “The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm” – by Nancy Farmer – a favorite since I was 11. I’ve actually had to repurchase this book, because the original fell apart.
  • “It” by Stephen King. I used to not want to read Stephen King because he was a “popular” writer. Unlike some “popular” writers, however, he is actually original and innovative every time he writes something. Woah.
  • “Orbital Resonance” by John Barnes
  • “Mother of Storms” by John Barnes
  • “My Teacher Flunked the Planet” by Bruce Coville.
  • “The Night of the Twisters” – Ivy Ruckman
  • “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli
  • “The Swiftly Tilting Planet” – Madeline L’Engle
  • “We All Fall Down” – Robert Cormier
  • “Starship Troopers” – Robert Heinlein
  • “Return to Camerein” by Rick Shelley

So I got a little lazy and stopped linking to their synopses.  Oops.  Oh well.


~ by lastcrazyhorn on June 15, 2008.

37 Responses to “Reading”

  1. Ohhh i think ive read every one of those books (well except for it..)

    What you didnt like the puritin books, bet you loved scarlet letter (giggles madly to self) Im kidding, from my perspective it was, why are we studying US history and not canadian history. I know more about amarican history (i like history dont get me wrong) but i went to school in Cananda and know very little about my own darn history. I can wax lyrical on us and european history but canada… oy youd think our country just came into exsistance 30 or 40 years ago.

    I totaly agree with you on the books. When I volenteer in teaching reading the first thing I do is find out what the kids are interested in and find them books they would find interesting and challenge them by giving them higher level books within their interest level. Its amaising how quickly these “slow learners” become great readers. Honestly I think im with the wrong age group. I should be teaching schoolage not daycare.


  2. Goden compas series was good. Also Harry Potter. I LOVE Michael Crichton’s books. As a teen i loved the author of A stranger with my face and I know what you did last summer.


  3. Oh now look what you did 😀 , I want to go curl up with a good book 🙂 You is awsomness 🙂

  4. I have to disagree with you Lastcrazyhorn. Interesting and easy to digest for you does not necessarily mean interesting and easy to digest for everyone else.

    Rather than a list of specific books it should be a more fundamental goal of teaching kids to read by having the over arching goal be: finding something the kid WANTS to read. Because only though the discovery that books contain wonderful and useful and interesting information will any child pursue with full focus the skills and abilities to read and understand the written word.

  5. None of my so-called NT girls ever liked to read. I mean, if it wasn’t for the Animorphs, K wouldn’t have seen the inside of a book at all, and the others had Fear Street crap. But these special-bus riders I have now read EVERYTHING from books to cereal boxes to yogurt labels to magazines to…you name it. So I’ll keep taking the weekly library trip and getting magazine subscriptions every birthday. They love getting their own mail and they read cover to cover. (And you only hit 3 books that I’d read– although I’ve read several of those authors’ other works!)

  6. Chey – Muahahahhaa. You mean Canada didn’t just pop up half a century ago? *blinks innocently*

    Izaak – Okay, point taken. But my view about teaching to the average still applies.

    Awalkabout – I had a strong obsession with the Goosebumps series myself back around the 6th or 7th grade, actually. Do you get them “Highlights for Children”? I own about 30 of those still, dating back to April 1990.

  7. That is interesting – I read the Ender’s Game series years ago before I even knew what Asperger’s was. Now I want to go back and read it again. 🙂

  8. oh shoot, we did just pop up a century ago. actualy we have been a colony of Britain till recent (i think after i was born) oy. *giggle* maby thats why we have so little history… we havnt been around long enough lol!

  9. Stephanie – I have Ender’s Shadow here at school with me if you want to borrow it.

    Chey – I’m sure I remember something mentioned about the French in regards to the Revolutionary War . . . *thinks* lol

  10. I have come to the conclusion, as a result of having spent many years in public schools, that one of the main reasons that kids of my generation don’t read is because they are only introduced to crappy books/literature by school teachers throughout their lives.

    AMEN SISTER!!! I’m getting one of my Master’s in reading, and I am so horrified at the prepackaged reading programs that are out there. Hello??? Does anyone remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? Sigh…

  11. Izaak does have a valid point about reading. The big thing about getting kids to read is finding their “hook”- what are their interests and what motivates them. Then, you can find things along those topics to help the kids to read. I started with comic books with my twin boys, and they loved it. Now I can’t get them out of the Michigan Chillers and American Chillers series, and they’re going into 2nd grade!

    I like your list because it really does show where your “hook” is, so to speak. Many other kids will share your “hook”, too. I think the key to getting kids to read is to helping them find what they like, then matching books/genres to what they like, then broadening their horizons from there. 🙂

  12. One more comment.. LOL Is the same “Ender’s Shadow” part of a series? I remember a book titled “Ender’s Game”. Is that it or am I losing my memory due to twinsanity? (having twins)

  13. Yes. It is.

    Ender’s Shadow is written from the perspective of Bean, one of the significant latecomers into Ender’s Game.

    BTW, what’s my hook?

  14. I haven’t read a lot of those books on the list, but a few. And I struggle to admit to you that I tend NOT to like Sci Fi much. But I grew up devouring anything by L’Engle and C.S. Lewis (somehow I don’t consider them sci fi, but if pressed, I’d say I didn’t like “fantasy” either, yet here I love those two authors and was like a little kid waiting for the Narnia movies to come out). Highlights was my favorite (and now is C’s). I like nothing better than to curl up with a book, and I’m glad C has a bit of that in him too. I am doing my best to make sure that continues and blossoms even further.

    Thanks for the smile at thinking about my favorite books!

  15. I’ve 2,000 books here, tho would never be inclined to touch the set books again that we had here in the UK – secondary school circa 1971. ‘Of Mice and Men’ was bad enough tho why fourteen year old average ability kids had to endure Alan Patons ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ I cannot understand. Utter torture. You put your point well. sheilas friend (UK)

  16. I agree with books like Potter, Narnia or Lost years of Merlin for elementary and middle schoolers. Fast moving biographies written for kids are great, too, as some kids just don’t do si-fi/fantacy or even fiction.
    However, highschool reading should be on that level where people can say they read Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen. I think some of the “standard” literature books…Call of the Wild, Oliver Twist, Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, Silas Marner, House of Seven Gables and Merchant of Venice speak to social issues that are still around today.
    Call of the Wild is about the darwinian struggle we all face…and the right to eliminate deviants from the planet…something that the autism/asperger community should be all about recognizing.
    Oliver Twist could so easily be adapted to fit any street kid in the US foster care system…without any happy ending.
    Scarlet Letter…while adultery isn’t a societal sin anymore autism and anyone on the spectrum sure carry an invisible scarlet letter.
    Pride and prejudice displays romance and cunning/emotionally abusive women and men who hold their standards above humanity.
    Silas Marner shows the love that can be found in a non-traditional family…something which society is all about now adays.
    House of Seven Gables is just a cool mystery set in the 1900’s.
    Merchant of Venice could be re-written to describe the current crisis of Mexican-Americans and how we expect them to give up their identity/religion to become “American.”
    Teachers aren’t good at teaching these books many times. I’m self taught and I gobbled up these “classics” I hated “Last of the Mohecians” and some of the other books I read…but so many “Classics” are that becuase of their great historical value and social significance. They were the first to “go” a certain place or reach a certain audience. Its not to say that it wasn’t done better later but these books hold enormous value.

    Also worth a note, Kady-Did, Cattie Woodlawn, My Friend Flicia, The Dog who Refused to Die, The OZ chronicles (including the REAL Wizard of Oz), Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Uglies series, King of the Wind, Wishbone books, the Boxcar Children, the American Girl series…and so many more

  17. Your hook= Definitely realistic fiction, and a huge influence from sci-fi. 🙂 Anything based in fact and that can be proven, or could be given the right tools.

  18. Course, these were only my top favorites. Of course there are many more. I’ve read all the Narnia books, HP books, several of the Boxcar children books, most of the Oz books (Ozma of Oz is probably my favorite), Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Goosebumps, Berenstein Bears, The Five Little Peppers, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Roald Dahl, Peter David, David Gerrold, Konigsberg, Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Faulkner (bleah), Stephen King (I collect them as I find them in used bookstores), Diane Duane, Bruce Coville . . . I could go on.

    But I’m not gonna.

  19. omg…this post had me laughing so hard!! This is sooo true. I was in Honors English too. I totally understand what you mean. Finally, my senior year I just said screw it and took a fun English class. We did the Lord of the Rings trilogy all year long. It was amazing 🙂

  20. Oh! Lord of the Rings! I knew that I had forgotten one of them!

  21. I could go on and on with books. I love them. Then again it’s the English major in me. 🙂

  22. Did you even read my post above?

  23. Yes? Why are you asking? You mentioned HG2G and Boxcar children and Oz and I responded in turn.

  24. so you read the last paragraph…no wonder the books you list appeal to you.

  25. Hear this, hear this. I think I’ve been insulted on my own blog!

    As it happens, I read the entire thing, but as my mother always taught me, if you know what you have to say won’t be appreciated, then don’t bother saying it, because it’s unlikely that the person listening will hear.

    As for your earlier post statements – I think standard literature sucks. It’s like telling someone that they should try to read academic research journals for “fun.” They have a good message, but I certainly don’t want to sit around in my free time being forced to read them by a teacher who has no interest in MY interests.

    It’s a pain in the ass trying to get through the jargon, misspellings, old-school outdated concepts when I can read a modern book that gives the same message, but is instead in a form that I can [dear god what an idea] relate to in some fashion, age, social status, country and/or general emotional value.

    “Leaping to the Stars,” albeit scifi, covers many of the concepts that you just mentioned, but since it’s “scifi” you don’t even take a second glance at it. Its pages are concerned with what it means to belong, to make something worthwhile, sexuality, music, soul, memes (bad and good) of society, political science, friendship, the creation of society, loss, death, religious extremists, extreme poverty, social values, integrity, the meaning of humanity . . . I could keep going all night. And all from the viewpoint of a 14 year old boy.

    It takes the viewpoint that age is just a number. Nearly everyone can be a teacher of something worthwhile, age be damned.

    I’ve read Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens. And yes, they are big names that a chunk of people appreciate. I appreciate their contributions, but don’t make me read them. I have insomnia sometimes. I can guarantee that I’ll be asleep 10 minutes after reading them. Who gives a crap if they’re the big names? If I can’t stay awake while reading them, it doesn’t matter.

    Now, I liked Romeo and Juliet, I do have to give the man that. For a project in the 9th grade, I even rewrote the entire play into a version set in Oz – “Nomeo and Dorothiet.”

    I’m not stupid. I can get through the stuff if I have to, but don’t try and tell me that it’s fun or enjoyable. For you, yes, it’s enjoyable.

    For me, it’s more like you’re trying to pull nails out through my eyeballs.

    And of course, all of this was made much worse by the fact that not only did I have to read this crap in high school, but a majority of the time we had to read it out loud. So I couldn’t just read it and process in my own time. I had to sit through other people’s badly pronounced dronings.

    I liked Oliver Twist.

    As for Autism, the books that relate to that subject include Way Past Cool (member of the fringes of society); Ender’s Shadow (main character seems very autistic in some qualities); The Power of One (you want a book on outcasts?) – set in Africa in the 1940s; Whale Talk (swim team of outcasts/misfits); Leaping to the Stars (in reference to the concept of belonging); A Wizard Alone (the main character is autistic); The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm (each of the characters mentioned are bizarre and outside of society in some way); It (all of the kids are outcasts in various ways); Orbital Resonance (bizarre thought patterns, isolation, society maturation); Mother of Storms (global unity); My Teacher Flunked the Planet (don’t be put off by the name. This is no mere children’s crapshoot book. Once again, we see global society, universal conscienceness, extreme poverty, warfare, hope in hopeless situations, learning to look at sentient beings as valid regardless of their outer appearances and nuances); Night of the Twisters (quality of being alone and fending for yourself); Maniac Magee (literally walks the line between black and white societies and the meaning of humanity); Swiftly Tilting Planet (works towards trying to find a way to keep the world from nuclear holocaust by looking for the small deeds of goodness in past events); We All Fall Down (a daily state of being overwhelmed — among many many other things); Starship Troopers (individual courage, societal constructs, conscientiousness towards detail . . .); Return to Camerein (individual resourcefulness, varied mental states, desperation) . . . should I go on? Naw.

  26. “Now, I liked Romeo and Juliet, I do have to give the man that. For a project in the 9th grade, I even rewrote the entire play into a version set in Oz – “Nomeo and Dorothiet.”

    Haha–this reminds me…as juniors a bunch of girlfriends and I rewrote “Hamlet” as “Hamnet,” a Dragnet derivative. Joe Friday was investigating the death of Hamlet’s father….Hamlet was gay and Ophelia talked like a chipmunk. It was Hi-larious….

    Just goes to show everyone responds to different material differently. Doesn’t make it wrong. 🙂

  27. Nice. 🙂

  28. And while the old loves mostly remain so, I am surprised at how much my tastes have changed as my life changed. I GOBBLED up Nancy Drew books as a young girl; kept them and re-read them a few years ago and couldn’t believe how dated they were. I actually gave them all away (hardbacks, too). But Anne of Avonlea, I didn’t like as a child, but LOVE them now. And I recently enjoyed a re-read of the Chronicles of Narnia (I can’t believe how long it is before the next movie comes out…).

    I used to wait impatiently for the next Stephen King – now he scares the crap out of me and I can no longer read his books.

    Yet the biggest change came when I had C. Because he was so sick at birth and it sent me reeling, my tastes changed permanently. For the most part, I no longer watch heavy drama on tv (used to love ER and Law & Order). Life is already scary enough to me now! I’ve taken a similar trend with books. No more really scary murder mysteries where there’s some psycho serial killer. Just the good ones where the detective characters are the well-developed center of the story. Lots more non-fiction now. Books about wonderful things wonderful people do.

    I guess ultimately I’m just happy when people READ. Frankly, I don’t care what it is, as long as they read something.

    This has been fun! Thanks!

  29. Welcome!

    See now, the formulaic outlay of things like Law and Order and CSI are comforting to me. So even though there’s that death thing happening (death thing?), I still really enjoy it.

  30. I love reading. I always have. As a little girl I could always be found curled up in a corner somewhere reading a book. I was unuaual in that respect. I have 4 sisters and I am the only one of us who really enjoys reading. The others just don’t seem to get how wonderful books are!

  31. Books are fantastic, I’ll read anything. I do, though, totally agree with the idea that forcing you to read something is a definite route to making you hate it, and everything in the same category. I personally love the ‘classics’ and read Jane Austen with just as much pleasure as a work of modern fiction, often more, but I wouldn’t touch James Joyce, for example, because my degree forced me to read it, even though I hated it.

    I think it would be helpful if schools were allowed a little leeway in choosing books they think would be good for their class to read, rather than just force feeding them the same books as everyone else. I agree with the earlier poster – you have to find the ‘hook’ for a lot of people.

    Like you Razzler, I was the only reader among my siblings when I was younger, though now one of my brothers has found his ‘hook’ (Pratchetts and Sci Fi) and reads almost as avidly as me.

  32. I’ll tell you though, what I was really stuck on back in the day was those Laura Ingalls Wilder books. My mother read them to me at night for years . . . and years . . . lol. I think my father’s only contribution to my having been read to was “The Secret Garden.” And then when that movie came out, I think I killed the tape from watching it so much. *snorts*

  33. Woohoo, reading! I love to read! Then again, I too like some others on here was an English major in college. 🙂 Thanks for providing such an expansive list of books, I’ve read some of them but not all, and I’m always looking for new suggestions. My favorite all-time book is one that most people have never even heard of. It’s called Eureka Street, by Robert McLiam Wilson. Just another one for you (or any other avid readers) on here to possibly check out if you’re interested. The writing style is incredible, in my opinion.

    Just came across your blog today, and I’m looking forward to reading future posts! 🙂

  34. I remember actually liking The Great Gatsby…how’s that for geeky???

  35. Eep!


    That’s okay. I kind of liked All Quiet on the Western Front as well. 🙂

  36. […] Reading …that one of the main reasons that kids of my generation don’t read is … "Leaping to the Stars" – Book 3 in the series by David Gerrold […]

  37. I remember ignoring 4th Grade by reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “Earthlight”.

    Fortunately, Mrs. Cooper, the teacher, was a fellow soprano in our church choir, and knew me out of school. She didn’t care what I did as long as I got A grades.

    That space battle with the reactionless drives was really cool; had me on the edge of my seat! Not to mention the cool names for the space warships, like “Lethe” and “Eridanus”.

    The British know how to name warships; I mind HMS Warspite, and HMS Devastation, and HMS Vindictive, etc.

    The USN sucks at this, lately. We seem to name our most important ships after dead politicians, and some who are still alive, like Jimmih (spit!) Cahtuh.

    Carriers used to be named for battles and famous previous ships, dammit!

    I just hope that there is no Ensign Pinkerton serving aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, but if there is, and she visits Japan, I really don’t think he should be allowed to go ashore

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