So it’s that time of year again when we leave our lazy summers behind and prepare fro another year of school, so for this week’s top 5 I’ve decided to compile a list of the books I think should be ‘required reading’ at school.
- The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
I’ve chosen TAOBN for this list because at the moment most of the books we read in school aren’t particularly diverse, to say the least. I think if we taught books like TAOBN (which is a fab narrative of being a transgender teenager in a time where it’s still acknowledged, but not widely accepted) in schools, books with LGBT characters etc. there would be a greater understanding of the LGBT community and I think that’s very important for creating a more tolerant society.
2) Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
I would love for Only Ever Yours to be studied at school, partly because I am a MASSIVE fan of this book and partly because we never really study books that have undertones of feminism (the closest we have is the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – which is great, but some schools don’t even study that, and it’s only really studied at A-Level in most cases) and that’s a real shame. OEY is a fantastic look of the way girls are treated in society today and would prompt some serious feminist discussion on schools.
3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Everyone will have studied WW2 at some point in their lives, and what we learn (especially if you’re British) is a glorification of the Western forces and the Germans are portrayed as these evil people – which isn’t entirely true (If you study History GCSE then you’ll look into the Western bias and German indoctrination). The Book Thief provides a narrative told from a German perspective of the Nazi regime and the persecution of the Jews. It’s heartbreaking – but a necessary read, and so I think it should be studied in schools.
4) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Unlike the other books on this list, Eleanor and Park is set during the 1980s but many issues it highlights are still relevant now. It writes about social outcasts, domestic abuse, interracial relationships and also has *small* glimmers of feminism in it. It’s sometimes difficult to read but is very rewarding. Like the other books on this list, I think it would prompt serious discussion and encourage certain topics to become less ‘taboo’ in schools.
5) Looking for Alaska by John Green
To me, Looking for Alaska was kind of a breakthrough. It was the first book when characters’ flaws were highlighted, It talked about mental health (Alaska was a manic depressive) and was a very real exploration of grief, particularly when already going through adolescence and it was very raw. It didn’t have any taboos and maintained tones of humour and sadness all the way through. The fact that the characters are deeply flawed is an important reason to read this book in school, because in the books I’ve had to read for school have a ‘good guy’ and an ‘evil’ – whether that’s another character or society itself and they’re very one-sided.
Note – As you will have noticed, all the books I’ve selected have all been published after the year 2000 because while I love classics – they’re not the only important books out there. These books have made me think more than any novel I’ve had to read for an exam and explore their respective themes brilliantly.
What books would you put on the school syllabus?