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Old 04-27-2004, 10:39 PM
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Recommend books for 10th grade boys who don't like to read

Mrs. Blue Sky will be teaching a literature class in the fall. The class will be made up of 15-16-yr-old boys who aren't exactly keen on the idea of reading, but have to take the class.

Long drawn novels are out. It'll be a chore to get them to read anything and a 300+ page doorstop will not help.

Something fairly modern would be good. It can't be too controversial (it's a church based private school).

A lot to ask, I know, but I know the Dopers will come through.

Many thanks from the missus and me.
Old 04-27-2004, 10:58 PM
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Mark Harris's BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY is a pretty painless, pretty short book (narrate by a semi-literate baseball player.) It's a good, funny, moral, accessible novel.
Old 04-27-2004, 11:02 PM
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David Copperfield isn't bad. Neither is War and Peace.

Old 04-27-2004, 11:37 PM
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Cyrano de Bergerac.

I'm serious. I'm currently reading that in my 9th grade English class, and Cyrano's inability to get a girl because of his unattractive phyisical features is very relevent in my life.

Plus, since it's a play you can have people act it out. And I've always thought that stories are more interesting and easier to understand if they're in the form of a play or movie.

Also, it's short. 150 or so pages.
Old 04-27-2004, 11:52 PM
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I don't suppose Catcher in the Rye (she'll want to tell them what it's about) or The Count of Monte Cristo (same) would be possible? Similarly, book 4 of Virgil's Aeneid might be verboten? Lord of the Flies might also be interesting. Something from Arthurian legend might captivate them, depending on how much of the rescuing of damsels in distress they're allowed to read (and how much of tthose damsels' gratitude).
Old 04-28-2004, 12:12 AM
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John Steinbeck's The Pearl? It's been ages since I've read that book, but I remember reading it one summer vacation when I was probably of similar age as these boys. I couldn't put it down. (Of course, I love to read, but if it weren't very interesting, I wouldn't have read the whole thing all in one sitting. And that's what I did with The Pearl.)

It is, IIRC, a relatively short book as well.
Old 04-28-2004, 12:27 AM
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I've mentioned this book in another thread, but Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord is fantastic. It's set in modern day Venice and is about a bunch of homeless kids lead by a boy with a's exciting and my fifth graders get mad everytime I stop reading...(I don't want to think that they're mad because they know that math comes after the story). Anyway, you can tie in all sorts of values like friendship and whether it's ok to lie sometimes, etc. Plus, you can have them look up the places mentioned on the Internet...the book mentions places that really exist.
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Old 04-28-2004, 01:57 AM
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Posts: 13,728 have to first find out what the kids' interests are. I hate to say it, but the Harry Potter books have turned a whole new generation of non-reading kids into readers...and you can probably get the first book in paperback for a fairly decent price by now.

Plus, after they have read the book, you can THEN show them the movie and watch how they notice every single detail that is in, or not in, the film. It is a good way of showing them that reading gives them a different viewpoint and idea than the film...characters sometimes are different in their mind than on the screen, some scenes are funnier/scarier/more interesting in the book than on film, etc. etc.

It is a life lesson in the value of reading and though some might question the literary value of the Harry Potter series, it is a step in getting kids - both girls and boys, to enjoy reading for pleasure.

I remember meeting a guy about 25 years old who never understood why someone should read the book if there is already a film. He should have had your wife teach him when he was younger!
Old 04-28-2004, 02:15 AM
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If The Right Stuff doesn't hold their attention, nothing will. There is a little off-color language and a short episode where the extramarital antics of the astronauts are hinted at, but certainly nothing a bunch of 10th grade boys haven't heard before.
Old 04-28-2004, 05:49 AM
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Find one with lots of pictures in it..worked for me
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Old 04-28-2004, 05:57 AM
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Michael Crichton?

He's not a bad author, and his novels are always pretty rip-roaring page turners. You can't put down Eaters of the Dead.

After that...maybe some Phillip Jose Farmer, or Poul Anderson? (Riverworld and Brain Wave are always fun.) Maybe even Ray Bradbury?

Or, if you want to do the classics...Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus? Nice 'n' gory.

Or you might try some of these.
Old 04-28-2004, 06:28 AM
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Gillian Rubinstein's trilogy Galax Arena, Terra Farma and the yet to be published Universicus, My 10yr old is an advanced reader and he loved the first two more than any book in a long time
Galax Arena
Also her computer game trilogy, Space Demons, Skymaze and Shinkei might appeal to 15 yr old boys who aren't keen readers
Old 04-28-2004, 06:43 AM
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Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow are GREAT easy to read novels.
If they liked Ender's game they can follow his exploits into Speaker for the dead.
If not just for entertainment these books IMHO contain some pretty deep undertones.

I can't remember the individual names -- but the tripod series(probably below 10th grade reading level, but they were quite entertaining).

if I may put out an idea -- I think it's a good idea to use books that are in series. If they like one, then they're more likely to read the sequels.
Old 04-28-2004, 07:33 AM
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I'd vote for just about any of the Chris Crutcher novels. They are all about high school age boys who don't quite fit in for some reason but who are involved with athletics. As a young woman who doesn't like sports I still found them enjoyable. However, some of them do deal with controversial issues, sometimes several in the same book.
Old 04-28-2004, 07:49 AM
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Gary Paulsen's books might be worth checking out. (Hatchet, The River, Monument, and a whole bunch of other titles.) I think my classes read almost every single one when I was teaching in a resource room. The reading levels might be a little less challenging than some books, but the concepts are appropriate to the age we're talking about.
I did A Day No Pigs Would Die with my students, too, but since it was fairly advanced for their reading skills, I ran off a chapter at a time for them to work on. Along about chapter 8 or so, I overheard some of the boys having a eureka moment, when one of them suddenly realized aloud, "Wait. A. MINUTE. She's tricked us into reading a BOOK!" They couldn't believe I'd done such a dastardly deed.
If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger. ~M. Rukeyser
Old 04-28-2004, 08:06 AM
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Harry Potter might be a little young, but Phillip Pullman's "His dark Materials" trilogy could be good...although on reflection, probably too controversial for church school.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon is a great novel, it's writen from the perspective of a teenage boy with autism, and is very absorbing, as well as not being pitched to highly, or having naughtiness and bad language.

Of Mice and Men is another short and sweet number.

The Art of War?

The Hobbit?

I give up. I never read age appropriate books, so I can't think of any really good, short books that don't have sex/violence/swearing aplenty.
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Old 04-28-2004, 08:51 AM
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1984 is short, interesting, modern, and definitely part of the English canon. And unlike most of the above suggestions, it's probably slightly above a middle school reading level, and it's real, honest-to-God literature to boot. Not one of my favorite books, but it's gripping enough and most people I know just love it.

Slaughterhouse Five is excellent (would that be too controversial?) Certainly a high school level book, although I couldn't say for sure exactly what grade level it is. Once again, modern and worthwhile. Catch-22 is another interesting, funny book - and even if it's a little longer than the other two I mentioned, it's easy reading.

Let's see . . . The Great Gatsby is kinda traditional for around that age, no? Also easy and generally well-liked . . .
Old 04-28-2004, 08:51 AM
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A collection of short stories would be perfect. You can finish it in one sitting. There will be completely new material to discuss each week.

My uncle gave my cousin pornography to get him to read. It worked, and my cousin has not turned into Mr. Creepy on the street corner wearing a trenchcoat and little else.
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Old 04-28-2004, 08:56 AM
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I second iamphuna idea about stories on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Your wife could even tie the Grail story in with some Religious Studies classes and at the end she can introduce them to Monty Python
Old 04-28-2004, 09:02 AM
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I also enjoyed Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 at that age.
Old 04-28-2004, 09:35 AM
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It might be a bit below their reading level, but Summer of the Monkeys is a good one for people who hate reading. It's by Wilson Rawls, the guy who wrote the gut-wrencher about the coonhounds, um, Where the Red Fern Grows (depressing book, horribly depressing). It's hilarious, and touching, and it deals with family dynamics, responsibility, and self-reliance. Wonderful book, and totally appropriate for your school. Turns my mother's class of hate-to-read 12-13 yo boys into snivelling piles of jello by the end every single time. (She usually forbids them to read past the chapter before the deal with the pony, so they can read it together as a class. I've read the book a dozen times, and that scene still makes me cry.)

After The Rain is a good one, too. It's about a teenage girl dealing with the impending death of her grandfather, as well as all the stresses and confusion about boys and all. Usually very relevant, as most kids that age have lost at least one grandparent, or have one in failing health. It's very family-value oriented, and the only thing remotely objectionable I can think of is one scene where she tells a boy to make his own damn sandwich. That's a Norma Fox Mazer, I believe.

Jack London is usually pretty interesting, but might be below their reading level. O. Henry stories tend to be good ones. Flowers for Algernon is usually good high-school fare, but the bits dealing with sexuality might be objectionable to the administration or parents. For poetry, she might try Shel Silverstein. There's nothing objectionable in it, and it's certainly more accessible and engaging to the non-reader than, say, Longfellow. Janice Holt Giles wrote some pretty cool historical novels set in Kentucky. My favorite is The Believers, but you might have better luck getting non-readers interested in Hannah Fowler. She's got some really good short stories, too. I can't remember the name, but the one about the guineas is hilarious.
Old 04-28-2004, 10:48 AM
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I'm thinking Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and possibly its companion novel Ender's Shadow which is essentially the same story told from a different character's perspective. (an interesting excersise for both readers and writers).

Not only is Ender's Game an excellent book with relatively intense moral themes*, it is readable for any age level. I read it in the 5th grade, yet I have a couple friends who read it for the first time at age 25 and enjoyed it greatly. Plus a large section of the book is dedicated to describing a complex wargame. Boys like that stuff.

*Such as:
-Is it right to use and manipulate someone for a greater good?
-If you do something bad without knowing (at the time) you were doing it, how should you feel when you find out?
-What is leadership? What makes a great leader?
-Are human children naturally moral or immoral?
Old 04-28-2004, 01:42 PM
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What about some of Kafka's short stories? Like "In the Penal Colony," "The Hunger Artist," or "The Metamorphoses"? They are short, great literature, and just bizarre enough to hold the attention of teenage boys. Ditto for the short stories of Borges.

I'd also suggest The Great Gatsby .

And what about Don Quixote? It's actually an amazingly funny and entertaining book, and there's an english translation out by Burton Raffel that is in nice, modern English and is very easy to read.
Old 04-28-2004, 01:46 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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And Vonnegut! How could I forget? Teenage boys love him! I'd suggest either Deadeye Dick or Galapagos rather than Slaughterhouse Five, though.
Old 04-28-2004, 03:00 PM
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It's not ever going to be called great liturature, but Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guild to the Galaxy" is a fun read, not an intimidating size, and fast moving enough to keep the attention of a non-reader.
2 + 2 = 5, for very large values of 2
Old 04-28-2004, 03:03 PM
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Hmmm...howabout The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler. Sort of Lord of the Flies light - easier to read and a more readily identifiable milieu for most American kids at least. Teens seize control of a summer camp under the leadership of an intensely charismatic, intelligent, but somewhat disturbed teen demagogue, as told by the younger geeky kid that gradually rises to become the leader's trusted, but highly conflicted, right-hand.

- Tamerlane
Old 04-28-2004, 04:54 PM
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Another vote for Ender's Game (Hello Again beat me to it!)

My 10th grade students are reading it in their English class. They can't seem to put it down, especially when they're supposed to be learning about the wonderful world of biology from me!
Old 04-28-2004, 05:01 PM
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It can't be too controversial (it's a church based private school).
This is completely blocking me. My kids go to the same kind of school and you wouldn't believe how uptight the administration is about these things. I have to corrupt my kids at home!
Old 04-28-2004, 05:04 PM
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I fourth Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. They're both easily read and relatively short.

Just stay away from the novels after each. I liked them but I doubt someone who doesn't like to read would.

Old 04-28-2004, 05:11 PM
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I'd suggest Orwell's Animal Farm. Very short and easy, has a lot of meanings, and is definetly classic literature. I read it in 8th grade and loved it.
Old 04-28-2004, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by The Man With The Golden Gun
I'd suggest Orwell's Animal Farm. Very short and easy, has a lot of meanings, and is definetly classic literature. I read it in 8th grade and loved it.
Dang it, I was going to suggest Animal Farm. How about: Lord of the Rings (long, of course), The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell To Arms or Night (these two might not be age-appropriate), The Golden Goblet (one of my favorite books when I was younger), To Kill A Mockingbird, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (maybe not appropriate either), or anything by Jules Verne.
Old 04-28-2004, 06:11 PM
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Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner ?
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Old 04-28-2004, 06:13 PM
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the, not a . Dumb dumb dumb. Anyway, it's by Alan Sillitoe.
This is a time in my life when everything is falling apart, and at the same time, it's all coming together -- Grade
Old 04-28-2004, 06:24 PM
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I can't believe that after 32 posts no one has mentioned Robert A. Heinlein's series of juvenile novels.
Rocket ship Galileo
Starman Jones
The Red Planet
The Rolling Stones (trouble for Tribbles anyone?)
Have Spacesuit will travel
Tunnel in the Sky

Plus a few others I have probably forgotten All of these are easy to read, plus they are fun to read.
Old 04-28-2004, 06:24 PM
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Another vote for Harry Potter.

And a suggestion, try audio books.
Old 04-28-2004, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by yosemite
John Steinbeck's The Pearl
I loved Of Mice and Men, but The Pearl was pure torture, despite being short.

Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio is an excellent short story cycle centering loosely on a young male character in a small town. Hemmingway's In Our Time may also interest them, being about boxers and soldiers and such.
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Old 04-28-2004, 07:52 PM
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Two words: Kurt Vonnegut. I read Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five in my 10th grade English class, and then went on a Vonnegut kick that lasted for several years.

I don't know if this would fly in a church school, but it's also the perfect age to read Sartre's No Exit. "Hell is other people": teenagers know this better than anyone else.
Old 04-28-2004, 08:20 PM
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My brother was a 10th grade boy who doesn't like to read last year.

Books that he ended up reading, and liking:

Ender's Game, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Old 04-28-2004, 08:25 PM
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1632 by Eric Flint.

Very engaging.

It's about a town from West Virginia that gets transported to the 30 years war in Germany in 1632.

It's got lots of action, crazy stuff going on, and unpredictable events.

A big plus is that it is a page turner with some history thrown in.

And you can download it for free -
I don't live in the middle of nowhere, but I can see it from here.
Old 04-28-2004, 08:53 PM
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I am actually kinda stunned - Winesburg, Ohio? Slaughterhouse 5? Really?!?! Don't get me wrong, these are great books, but not for non-book-reading 15-year-olds....

I agree with those that recommend Ender's Game - great book.

I would also recommend other sci-fi, like I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy by Asimov - simple, accessible, compelling.

The key here is - what's more important, getting the kids to read or getting them to read "important" books? For my money, getting them to read, period, wins every time - once they're hooked, switch to the important stuff.

They maybe too old, but what about Piers Anthony's first Xanth books? A Spell for Chameleon is pulp trash, but addictive.

Dune is the ultimate, but is a little long - although if they get hooked (like many do) it is all over.

Think about the movies they might be watching - there are lots of books that are like those....
Old 04-28-2004, 09:12 PM
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Another vote for Harry Potter, unless this school is deeeply consrevative and won't like it.

Anything ever by Asimov. He wrote a few dozen short stories centering an a guy named George with a demon Azazel whom he asks to perform tasks for his own (George's) benefit, but it never works out. The stories are told from the point of view of a friend of George who is constantly lending him money and never repaid or named in the story. If you can get enough copies, I highly recommend it.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is incredibly awesome. There are three or four different settings, with 4-12 main characters in each,and every book is set in one of these, and around 40 or so books. They're around 300 pages each, but the pages are fairly small, and there isn't a great deal of text on each page.
There are some really complex jokes and character struggles, and some simple ones. The plots are also really good, and ideal for pretty much anyone. Some really good ones: Jingo, Small Gods, Guards, Guards (not a typo), Soul Music, Sourcery, The Truth, Mort, Lords and Ladies, Feet of Clay, The Light Fantastic, The Color of Magic, Night Watch, just off the top of my head as some of my favorites. (I've read Small Gods around 15 times, and the time is ripe to reread it.)
Don't you wish we had these hamsters instead? "Ah Turgekenistan, one of the more easygoing of the imaginary East European nations." BOFH Everyone involved with religion or politics should read this comic; actually, everyone period.
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Old 04-28-2004, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by WordMan
I am actually kinda stunned - Winesburg, Ohio? Slaughterhouse 5? Really?!?! Don't get me wrong, these are great books, but not for non-book-reading 15-year-olds....
I dunno about S5 (especially for a church group), but as for W,O, yeah. I dug it, anyway. But then, I just found it as a ratty old paperback and started reading it. I thought the stories were funny and weird. Didn't know until years later that it was actually "literature".
Old 04-28-2004, 09:24 PM
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War and Peace? Ha! That's funny, but seriously.....

Interesting choices so far. Animal Farm & 1984 have been done this year and, given the choice, the classes that read them would have rather had their upper intestines ripped out of their asses than to get near those books again.

I read Animal Farm in high school and I still hate it.

I would love to see them read Ender's Game before it's turned into a sucky movie.

Some ideas I've suggested to the wife:

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
The Harvest - Robert Charles Wilson
The Dead Zone - Stephen King
Skeleton Crew - Stephen King (some of the stories)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

Thanks for the ideas, so far. Keep 'em coming.
Old 04-28-2004, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Rick
I can't believe that after 32 posts no one has mentioned Robert A. Heinlein's series of juvenile novels.
That's the first suggestion that came to my mind when I saw the thread title. The Heinlein juveniles are _exactly_ what the OP is looking for. They're fairly easy, mostly uncontroversial (as far as I remember), and very, very fun to read.
Old 04-28-2004, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bodypoet
Gary Paulsen's books might be worth checking out. (Hatchet, The River, Monument, and a whole bunch of other titles.) I think my classes read almost every single one when I was teaching in a resource room. The reading levels might be a little less challenging than some books, but the concepts are appropriate to the age we're talking about.
I'll second Paulsen's books. Hatchet has always been a favorite of mine. It's a man/boy against nature thing surviving in the wilderness type of book.

Old 04-28-2004, 10:24 PM
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I love how well read you all are, but these are boys who DONT LIKE TO READ.

Stephen King's The Gunslinger is short, and captures the interest immediately. Also about a young man coming of age, and they may actually pick up the remainder of the series after they read the first one.

Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat is wonderful and funny. Only a little over a hundred pages.

A third for the Heinlein juvenile novels. And Ender's Game. Wonderful stuff.
Old 04-28-2004, 10:26 PM
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OH! Forgot.... enipla, I've been trying to find that book for my 13yo to read, but couldn't remember the name. Thanks.
Old 04-28-2004, 11:40 PM
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Good gravy, don't force Steinbeck down their throats or you'll lose them for life!
Same goes for George Orwell. This is NOT reading for kids that don't like to read. Personally, I think it's punishment for kids that *do* like to read, let alone kids who aren't fond of the experience.

Of Mice & Men is one of only two books that has ever annoyed me to the extent that it got thrown across the room. For the record, Titus Groan (by Mervyn Peake) was the other. Titus Groan is, in my opinion, the most frellingly awful book ever written.

I've never read Ender's Game but I've heard good things about it from people who's opinions I respect, so it sounds like a good choice.
Old 04-28-2004, 11:45 PM
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Oh, Maureen, Harry Harrison's Stainless Steet Rat (and sequels) would be brilliant! What a great suggestion!

My husband introduced me to the Stainless Steel Rat when I was in my twenties, after saying how much he'd loved it in high school, and how was the book that got him interested in reading for fun (as opposed to 'because I have to').

The 'Rat' series is funny, clever and not written in a way that scares off people with limited reading experience. Good stuff.
Old 04-29-2004, 12:15 AM
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Every young person loves The Perks of Being a Wallflower.


Also, if non-fiction is invited, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is easy and short and informative and has definite teenage-boy-who-likes-gross-stuff appeal.

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