As a young teen, I was into authors like Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, and the Babysitter’s Club Series by Ann M. Martin, not to mention the Sweet Valley High series. I’ve always been a big reader, but it was during English classes and book reports in my late teens that I really learned the value of a good book. For the record, I’m only not including Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews because I’m totally ashamed of myself -- but otherwise, here you go!
1 The Catcher in the Rye
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J.D. Salinger’s tour de force is pretty much a must-read for the majority of teenagers, I think. I read it because it was the cool thing to do but fell in love with Holden Caufield because, at the time, he was like my ideal guy. He reminded me of my best friend Aaron and caused me to go through ninth and part of tenth grade pointing out all the phonies in my school. Good times, good times.
2 The Rapture of Canaan
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I’m not sure how many people will know this book, and if you don’t, you should find it. I had a fabulous English teacher my junior year and got this book out of her classroom library. I haven’t read it for years but I need to find it again. Rife with religious undertones, it’s a surprising take on miracles. Think The Village, except it doesn‘t suck. (It’s by Sheri Reynolds.)
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Personally, I am a fan of every book Toni Morrison has ever written, but Beloved is one of my favorites -- also thanks to my eleventh grade English teacher. The movie leaves out so much. The book is just haunting -- and Beloved is not the only ghost.
4 The Color Purple
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Yet more props go to the junior year English teacher. I was actually going to take a pass on this book and she encouraged me to read it. I’ve been an enormous Alice Walker fan ever since. I love the Temple of My Familiar, which is tied to The Color Purple, just as much, and Possessing the Secret of Joy, also related, is beautiful as well.
5 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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I thought I was going to hate this book. I most definitely did not. Stephen Dedalus is a haunting young man, and as the fictional alter ego of James Joyce, it really is a portrait for the artist. The language is just as beautiful as the story, which is a primary reason the book has stuck with me.
6 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
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I think Carson McCullers was a genius. I chose this book for a book report with some trepidation, and as I recall, it took me a few chapters to get into it -- but that was all. After that, it went by in a flash. This book is proof that you can make a fantastic novel out of small town intrigues.
7 Things Fall Apart
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Chinua Achebe inspired my first anthropological inclinations. Actually, my tenth grade English teacher is responsible too. Okonkow’s story ultimately led me to taking several anthropology classes in college, just because reading this book opened up a new view and allowed me to see worlds beyond my small Virginia hometown.
8 Lord of the Flies
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This one goes all the way back to ninth grade. At the time, I hated it. I know, it’s sort of blasphemous to hate anything from William Golding, especially this, but I was fourteen. Rereading it proved the point that Ted Brautigan and Stephen King were right: an intriguing story with wonderful writing.
I think everybody has at least one book that sticks with them a long time. Heck, there are still Little Golden Books I remember with love. What books have gotten over with you?
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