Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we were asked to list books that we think would make for good discussion in a book club. These are my picks:
10. Left Neglected – By Lisa Genova – Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most. While not a young adult read, this novel could still be a valuable read to anyone 13 and older. Much of the subject matter and themes would lend themselves to discussion, including what would you do if one half of your world just… disappeared? Also consider, Still Alice.
9. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – By Jonathan Safran Foer – Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. One can discuss family legacy, loss, interpersonal relationships and fulfilling expectations with this novel. Or it’s a good novel to use to reflect back on 9/11. In my opinion, it is appropriate for teens and is a must read. Note: There are some (innocent and brief) sexual thoughts of a much-too-mature nine year old boy described in this novel. It is still appropriate for 13 and up.
8. Before I Fall – By Lauren Oliver – What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing. Discussion: What would you do if you only had one day to live?
7. Gone – By Michael Grant – In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened. Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day. It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else… Discussion would be fairly similar to that of The Lord of the Flies. You could also discuss what kind of super powers you would want to have and if those powers would have the ability to corrupt you or those around you.
6. The Hunger Games – By Suzanne Collins – In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love. This is the current “hot pick” out there. Who doesn’t want to discuss it among the teen crowd?
5. Cinder – By Marissa Meyer – Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. I want to talk about this book, so why not in a book club? Topics such as class lines and the rising fear that is driven by the media could be discussed.
4. Flowers for Algernon – By Daniel Keyes – With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie? An American classic that inspired the award-winning movie Charly. I would focus discussion among teens on the way our society reacts to those who are mentally challenged. The “going from the cave into the sun” analogy also comes to mind when reading this book.
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – By Maya Angelou – Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned. Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a modern American classic that will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read. I read this book in school, and even into adulthood it has left an lasting impression on me. It opens itself up to all areas of discussion.
2. Ender’s Game – By Orson Scott Card – In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut–young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If the world survives, that is. The king of dystopian novels, Ender’s Game allows for discussion on war, the manners in which young people interact with each other in close quarters and the similarities between the community in the book and our current society.
1. The Fault in Our Stars – By John Green – Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind. This title may only be appropriate for very deep discussion. Warning: tissues are definitely in order for this Book Club meeting. Read our review here.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and features a new top ten list each week.
This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To Someone Who Doesn’t Read _______(choose any topic you like). I’ve chosen Young Adult (or Teen) Lit as my subject. These are the books that I think raise the bar for the genre and any child or adult alike should read them at least once. Who knows, any one of these titles may create new fans of YA lit!
The Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Young Adult (or Teen) Literature:
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. “Technically” this book has been classified as strictly “sci-fi” and not YA lit (look at me, I’m cheating already) BUT it is a story involving a 6 year old boy (at the start) who grows up to become a young adult as the book develops. It reads like sci-fi meets YA dystopian lit. So in my opinion, it counts. After reading this one, one could easily move on to The Hunger Games or any other contemporary dystopian and see the similarities. Ender’s Game remains as one of my top reads of all time.
- The Tiger’s Curse Series by Colleen Houck. I may be biased (hey, these are my opinions), but I believe that as far as adventure series go, the Tiger series tops the chart. You have many elements of fiction combined within these pages: adventure, exotic places, romance, fantastical creatures, romance, magic, history, and did I say romance? (With hot tiger princes, no less…) There’s something for everyone, both women and men alike. I say forget telling people about the Twilight series, introduce them to the Tiger series instead. Three out of five planned books in the series have been released to-date.
- Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. This book is a fantastic example of beautiful writing combined with a nice setting and well developed characters. Set in the dark and mystical city of Prague, the book starts off at a slow pace, but ramps up with every turn of the page. Fans of fantasy, the arts and romance would certainly find something to like about this one. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the first in a planned trilogy.
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Read from the point of view of a female assassin/killer, you still manage to fall in love with the lead character and want to root her on along the way. Beautifully written and set in a magically mesmerizing world, Graceling is recommended for all fans of fantasy or mystery. Also recommended is the companion book, Fire and the upcoming release, Bitterblue.
- Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown. I was lucky enough to just recently discover this book, thanks to NetGalley. You can read my review here and discover why I love it so much. It’s a great intro to YA paranormal romance (and MERMAID) books that have a MALE as the lead. And the character development in this one is top notch.
- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? These are the questions asked as you open the pages of the contemporary fiction novel, Before I Fall. But in this story, the lead character, Samantha, must live her “one day” over and over a’ la Groundhog Day. I recommend this read to anyone who has ever questioned the maturity level of YA reads. Lauren Oliver is also known for her other novels, Delirium, and the soon-to-be-released, Pandemonium.
- Shine by Lauren Myracle. This is another prime example of a YA novel that is mature enough to entice even the oldest of readers. I agree with the book blurb that says: “Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.”
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I have only just begun this one, but I can already tell that it will be groundbreaking in terms of being an influential YA read. This book with make you examine your life if you were dying, and think about those you would leave behind.
- The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. A child’s nightmare come to life. This book reads like a classic fairy tale, with all the horror, mystery and romance. I recommend this book to fans of witch stories, fairy tales or anyone who appreciates a well-developed romance.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. And when I say The Hunger Games, I mean book one. Not book two, not book three, NOT the series – just book one. For whatever reason the last two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, never held up to the standards of book one. Even with that being said, this one is outstanding enough to deserve to be read by bookies of all ages.