The gals over at the literary wonder blog, Broke & the Bookish have a weekly meme called Top 10 Tuesday. I’ve never really participated because, well, I’m always late to the game. Like, several weeks late. Way back at the beginning of the month (geez, February is just about over already) the Tuesday Top 10 was “Top 10 Books I’d Hand Someone Who Says They Don’t Like To Read”. I couldn’t help but get excited because my mother and I have been tossing around this exact same idea, only with teens. One of my (many) cousins just entered the sacred realm of teen-dom. Now, I have struggled to understand teens most of my own young life, even when I was one I struggled to relate to them (thankfully I found two amazing people who share my confusion), so I have a hard time finding topics to share with the younger crowd in my family. So, when my cousin showed me a book her teacher had recommended her to read, I jumped on the topic. I started asking her about what kinds of books she enjoys and she had to answer honestly, “I have no idea.” This answer prompted my mother and myself to start naming books that we remembered reading at her age; Little Women & Lord of the Rings, fairy tales & poetry books, not to mention anything that had to do with vampires or sci-fi. My cousin hadn’t heard of most of them, the others she had no idea if she would be interested in them. Through this process we realized that it was because she really hasn’t read anything as of yet. By the time my mother and I were her age we had devoured most of the books we could get our hands on. We knew what we liked and what we didn’t like. She, on the other hand, is a blank canvas. So, we came up with a list of books for kids/teens who have never read before and are looking to start (or if you just want to change their mind about reading).
1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is a good introduction to the fantasy genre without throwing something as in depth as Lord of the Rings at them. While I love Tolkien and LOTR, it’s just a bit daunting for someone who is taking their first steps into reading. Also, what I love about the Harry Potter series is that the first three books really can stand on their own. The story progresses, but none rely on the others in order to continue. In this way, kids can pick up the first one and get a feel for the series, if they don’t like it, they can stop there without feeling like their missing out on the greater story, if they do, then awesome.
2. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
The Goosebumps series is a great introduction into the horror genre. The really great thing is that each book is a different story, and since there are well over a hundred books in the series, kids can pick and choose which ones they want to read based on their interests. For instance, my cousin is really into drama at school (she’s taking Advanced Drama this year), so we lent her Phantom of the Auditorium. Trust me when I say, there’s a book for everyone.
3. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene/Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
Every library has at least a few volumes of the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. Though they are a bit dated, mysteries never go out of style. Plus, what book nerd chick isn’t madly in love with the classic Nancy Drew cover designs.
4. Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl has written such a treasure trove of zany, cooky books it’s hard to pick just one. We have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Twits, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, each slightly different from the last, but still just as fun as the first. The benefit to the Roald Dahl series is that pretty much every kid has seen at least one of the handful of Dahl film adaptations, so the curiosity of the book being better than the film is already potentially stewing.
5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Personally, I would have put A Series of Unfortunate Events a bit higher on the list, however, the series has had such a half-and-half response that I feel it should take its place directly at the middle of the list. This series is very much something you have to already have an interest in in order to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy dark humor or the Gothic/Victorian era style, you most likely won’t enjoy this series. The same goes for kids; if their not into it, they won’t enjoy it. But if you have a fledgling goth kid on your hands, definitely hand them this series.
6. The Modern Faerie Tale Series by Holly Black
A great place for kids curious about the paranormal genre that is exploding right now in the young adult age group to start. This series actually came out when I was in high school, which was when I started reading them. It’s a great series about a girl who discovers that she is not only a changeling, but also plays an important role in a battle in the faerie world. Definitely a great read and a great place to start if they’re curious about the genre, especially if they aren’t interested in the Twilight series.
7. Reader Beware… by R.L. Stine
The Reader Beware series is a Goosebumps version of the choose your own adventure books. They’re so much fun, which is the only reason they’re on here. Even kids who are the most firm in their disliking of books will enjoy these. In fact, when my brother and I were trying to choose a few to lend my cousin, we got sucked into reading them. We even had a bit of a competition going on; the first to die loses.
8. Shel Silverstein
We’ve all heard it; the kids (and sometimes adults) who whine about poetry and relate it to pulling teeth. Shel Silverstein is an awesome introduction to poetry. His poetry is fun and quirky, it doesn’t follow any of the standard rules, and his illustrations are amazingly nostalgic. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t at least enjoy Shel Silverstein.
9. Francesca Lia Block
I have to admit, the only Francesca Lia Block book I have read is The Rose and the Beast, however, the list of people who have been inspired by her (namely the Weetzie Bat series) is a million miles long. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Block, which is why she grabbed a spot on this list.
10. the Classics Illustrated comic books
The Classics Illustrated series is a series of comic books based on all the classics. If you have a kid that already enjoys comics and wants to take that step into reading, I would recommend finding some of these. It’s an introduction to the classics in a form that they’re already familiar with.