References and Bibliography
These are some of the resources written to promote literature discussion groups, that I've referenced when running and creating materials for my own teen lit group. The authors' backgrounds include public schools, unschooling, adult education and book clubs, and the Great Books movement.
Literature for Today's Young Adults 8th edition, by A. Nilsen, K. Donelson (2009: by Pearson Education, Inc., Boston)
A good resource, though at 512 pages, it's a long read. Though the authors (heavily) promote the genre called "Young Adult" literature, their modernist and public school perspective never stands in the way of their obvious caring and love for teens. The publisher makes available the first part (the first 3 chapters or 110 pages) of the book. A portion of that is their "Honor List - The Best of the Best, 1980-2007." This list is valuable; just bear in mind that the authors, though they may not quite believe "The edgier the better," certainly do support "edgy" literature as a way to get teens' attention and engage them. Another resource is the list of titles referred to in their book. It's a good list to hunt through, finding and learning things.
500 Great Books for Teens by Anita Silvey (2006, Houghton Mifflin, New York) is useful and valuable. It's not her list that's so valuable; by itself it's just another list, including more darkness, violence, dysfunction and despair than I prefer. Also, her age ratings reflect her own experience with what real teens actually read, not what grownups might consider "appropriate for their age." So, Silvey marks Judy Blume's Forever, with its graphic, even clinical descriptions of teen sex, as "12-to-18." Judging by the fact that this is one of the most banned books in the USA, many people disagree. Does Silvey really recommend this book to a 12-year-old? Not necessarily. Simply, she has seen many 12-year-olds reading the book (with great interest, and often, giggling), so she records this fact, for you to interpret and do with as you may.
The greater value of Silvey's book comes from her clear, enjoyable mini-essays about each of her 500 recommendations (Here are two samples). I use these to identify good candidates for my Lit Group, without having to read all 500 books.
A Core Collection for Young Adults by Patrick Jones, Patricia Taylor, & Kirsten Edwards (2003: Neal-Schuman, New York)
is similar to Silvey's book. This book lists approximately 1,200 titles,
each with a nice, 1-paragraph description, and grade recommendations. It lists 60% fiction titles, 30% nonfiction 30%, and about 10% "graphic fiction."
Prices, ISBNs, and publishers are included; so are references to full-length book reviews. Some books come with keywords, and when the authors say "mature," they mean it!
This is an excellent book. It differs in "feel" from the Silvey book; either one will serve you well in picking literature for teens.
The authors kindly provide their book list in several formats. Here is their list, ordered in four different ways, in CSV format (suitable for importing into Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or other spreadsheets): By Title, By Author, By Publisher, By Author. When the authors say "Call Number," they're not referring to the Library of Congress Call Number, but rather, to their own internal numbering scheme, used in their book.
In Literature Circles that Engage
Middle and High School Students, by Moeller & Moeller (2007: Eye On Education, Inc., Larchmont, NY), the authors
provide readings, along with questions to stimulate discussion and thinking. The publisher
makes available the first chapter of the book.
Another valuable book along the same lines is Mini-lessons for Literature Circles by
(2004: Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire). Good ideas, but written for (public?) school teachers, so parts
of the book aren't needed by homeschoolers, and much of the rest required adaptation. The publisher
makes available some portions of this book.
Daniels' earlier work, Literature circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-Centered Classroom (1994: Stenhouse, York, Maine) is a standard work. Like "Mini-lessons," oriented toward the (public?) school classroom.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook, revised, expanded, international edition, by Grace
Llewellyn (1998: Lowry House, Eugene, Oregon). This book advocates unschooling and offers suggestions. It's a good book, though out of print. Ms. Llewellyn's list for unschooled teens (provided here with/by her permission) was good when published in 1998, though some of the titles that were "current" then are somewhat dated now.
What a Novel Idea!/Projects and activities for Young Adult Literature, by Katherine Wiesolek Kuta,
(1997: Teacher Ideas Press, Eugene, Oregon). This book contains 60 book-related activities, many quite good and many quite fun. A valuable resource but that's a lot of activities! If I used one of Kuta's activities every week (and we don't do these kinds of "drop-in" activities each week in my group) it'd take me 2 years to get through them all!
Kuta's work illustrates two things about studying literature with teens. Firstly, that some concepts, even when "dressed up silly," are really quite valuable. Secondly, that many of these same fundamental concepts run throughout literature study, wherever it may be carried out, from somebody's living room with a bunch of giggling kids, to the most serious studies of historic literature in upper-level university courses.
One example of this is Kuta's "Thematic Collage," activity number 22 in her book. This activity involves identifying themes of the book, then finding and cutting out pictures to represent those themes, and pasting them up into a collage. It sounds like something kindergardeners would do. But the concept behind it is the very same as Vinten-Johansen's "Thematic Clustering" which he uses in university-level history studies.
Young Adult Literature in the Classroom/Reading It, Teaching It, Loving It, by Joan B. Elliott & Mary M. Dupuis (2002: International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware). This is an all-around good book, valuable to anyone working with teens and with literature. It shows and tells how to study literature with, and teach it to, teens. Good ideas, good suggestions, good materials. The book does not contain one big list of recommended books, but instead, chapter-by-chapter shorter lists of books related to the chapter's topic. A favorite of mine is the "Annotated List of Books Considered Funny By Middle School Reviewers" (from Chapter 1), including such unfunny-sounding titles as The Divorce Express and Misery Guts.
This book is quite practical, but it doesn't contain ready-to-photocopy artifacts such as handouts. The core materials are explained and illustrations are included, but you will have to make your own handouts. The advantage? The materials that Elliott & Dupuis present are not tailored to the public school classroom, so their suggestions and illustrations are actually easier to customize.
Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed. by Holly Koelling (2007: American Library Association, Chicago). The ALA's annual "Best Books" lists, through the year 2007 (see here for more recent lists). The ALA's selection process (described in this book) yields approximately 90 "best" books each year. Unfortunately, not all of them are truly of the best quality. A second problem: the ALA's descriptions of these books are only one-liners.
The result is an overlong list with inadequate descriptions containing too many "not really best" books. Compared to the Silvey and Jones/Taylor works, the ALA lists don't give me the kind of information I need when choosing books, and contain too many rejects. So I used to completely discount the ALA lists. I changed my mind, though, to some extent. Though flawed, this book and the ALA lists themselves do include some very good book picks. You may be able to use the ALA resources as starting points, then supplement them with further research.
Best Books for Young Adults, 2nd ed. by Betty Carter (2000: ALA Editions/American Library Association, Chicago). The older version of the above book, still available used. You may find it cheaper and just as good to buy a copy of this older edition, then supplement it with the recent ALA lists.
Thematic Guide to Young Adult Literature, Alice Trupe (2006: Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut)
In this excellent book, Trupe lists 31 categories of books for young adults. Trupe includes only about 5 books in each category, so in her own good-sized book, she describes only about 150 books. That's a real contrast to some of the other references in this list, which list thousands or even tens of thousands. Those other references are "a mile wide and an inch deep" - Trupe's is just the opposite. Her synopses of the books are elegant, thought-provoking, sometimes moving. They're reasonably lengthy and they really do the books justice. If you want to know about a book, and you want to get a better idea than you'd get from Trupe's synopses, you'd just about need to skim the book itself, if not actually read it.
I highly recommend this book.
Teen Chick Lit/A Guide to Reading Interests, Christine Meloni (2010: Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California)
It's just what it sounds like, and it's a good, quick way to get a brief overview of a long list of books in this genre. Meloni lists gives 2-to-3 sentence descriptions of about 1,300 books, in 7 categories:
- Traditional Chick Lit
- Gossip Chick Lit
- International Relations
- Magical Maidens
- Spies and Mystery Solvers
- Lad Lit (short section)
- Lesbian and Gay Lit (short section)
In addition to her brief summaries, Meloni also sometimes points out a book-related resource that you might not have known about, and also "Keywords" which can give you a quick idea if there's something in the book that you do or do not want. Here are some of her keywords, in no particular order:
- sexual content
- first love
- first kiss
My own Lit Group is reasonably balanced in its male/female ratio, with boys/young men typically slightly outnumbering girls/young women. Mine is a "teen lit group," not a "chick lit group." Still, this fun book is a good resource for me. From time to time I'm looking to balance things out with a light, female-oriented title, since so much literature is male-authored, and often centered around male characters. This book can come in handy.
Teen Book Discussion Groups @ the Library by Constance B. Dickerson (2004: Neal-Schuman Publishers, New York) contains 50 mostly post-1995 books for teens that the author, a librarian, loves. She includes open ended discussion questions for each book, and a section about online reviews and other resources.
Like many other authors of recommended book lists, Dickerson contends that the best books are fraught with issues that can be debated. Still, her picks aren't for everyone. One mom who read this book found only around 5 of the 50 that she would actually want her own teens (ages 13 and 15) to read. And she agrees with the author's contention about debatable issues! Use your judgment.
A very interesting part of Dickerson's book concerned making book groups appealing to boys. Here's one of her noteworthy comments: "Except for a few flukes or unless there is a group of homeschoolers or you do book discussions at a school where students are chosen to participate, the numbers of boys who attend book discussions are slim." [emphasis added]
Isn't that interesting? I have plenty of boys in my homeschool teen lit group, and fairly often, have to specially recruit girls/young women to even out the balance. And this isn't because I'm a man leading the group; the leader before me was a woman, and during the 4 years she led the group, the gender balance often tilted toward boys/young men.
I am so blessed to be a homeschooler.
Best Books for High School Readers by John T. Gillespie and Catherine Barr
(2004: Libraries Unlimited, Westport, Connecticut) is an enormous book, over 1,200 pages long, with 1-sentence descriptions
and age recommendations for 13,457 books! No, that isn't a typographical error,
this book lists over thirteen thousand books. Yes, it's a mile wide and an
inch deep, but it'd be almost impossible to find a more thorough (or lengthier) list. You
want books about West Africa? 16 are listed. The armed forces? 13 of
'em. Biographies of Lorraine Hansberry? Got 4 of 'em. Insects &
Arachnids? 23 books listed.
Each book's cost, publisher, and ISBN are also listed, making it easy to locate/obtain the book. If you're looking for a teen-suitable book about a particular topic, this is the book to turn to first!
Outstanding Books for the College Bound/Choices for a Generation (1996: American Library Association, Chicago)
This the most serious of all these lists/recommendation books. The people (mostly Young Adult librarians) who made the selections really did have an eye to picking only outstanding books. They did so carefully, collaborating with colleagues and referring to book reviews and other resources. This is a different selection process than used by the ALA in publishing their annual "Best of the Year" selections; the most obvious reason being that the latter selections are made only from books published within the previous 12 months.
Close to 1,000 books are listed in this book, each with a brief 1-sentence description. What's particularly interesting about this book is that it draws from "Outstanding Books for Young Adults" lists that were drawn up roughly every 5 years from 1959 to 1994. A lot of thought went into these lists, and though you can detect some temporal bias (for example, the book shows that Kennedy's Profiles in Courage no longer makes the more recent lists), for the most part, a book really did need to be outstanding, to be listed.
Each book's listing shows how many times it appeared on an "Outstanding" list, and in what years. There's also a chart showing books that appeared most consistently on the "Outstanding" lists. So, at a glance, you can:
- get an idea of what books are considered classics by literate persons who care about young adults, and
- see historic trends.
You may look at this list, drawn from the book, to get book ideas and also to see if you're missing something. I refer to the list from time to time, just to make sure I'm not leaving holes in my own son's education, or in my Lit Group's.
This book was published in 1996, which is a long time ago as these books go. It's a good historical document, and valuable, but you might wonder, as I did, how the top winners from 1959 - 1996 fared more recently. I was astonished to find that none of the books scoring highest in the 50 years prior to 1996 is now considered outstanding by the ALA. The ALA has apparently adopted a distinctly "modernist" or "current affairs" perspective. You may see this for yourself by checking the most recent three ALA Outstanding lists.
I understand that times change, and so does people's opinion of what's outstanding. And personally, I agree with some of the drops. I always thought that The Catcher in the Rye was way overrated, and so do a lot of current-day teens. But, I still consider Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl outstanding, and so do a lot of current-day teens. So, I include this book in this reference section, and I refer to it myself, even though it was published "way back" in 1996.