What will teens in your family be reading this summer?


shermanalexieSure, we may still see some frosty nights, but the days have lengthened and the end of the school season is within sight.

When I was growing up–regardless of where I spent the summer months–reading was a big part of my vacation. I remember devouring every book written by specific authors like Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Chekhov, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Tolstoy, Robert Louis Stevenson…plus one offs that were must reads, like “Wuthering Heights” and “The Three Musketeers.” My reading was all over the map–sometimes guided by my mother, sometimes random and serendipitous. I was voracious.

There really wasn’t any official “young adult” literature. I seem to recall going from children’s books like “Winnie the Pooh” and then  “Anne of Green Gables,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Robinson Crusoe,” to the stage where I read everything I could get my hands on by “adult” literature authors.

Today, of course, there’s a robust world of young adult literature–much of which works well for grown up readers, too. After all, good writing is good writing.

Last summer, NPR put together a list of the top 100 books for teens recommended by staff and listeners. Many titles are familiar to me from my youth, “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Catcher in the Rye.” Some are familiar to me from more recently, “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games,” or “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.” But many are by writers whose books I haven’t tried but who are hitting home runs with contemporary teens.

fahrenheitCheck out the list and let me know if there are favorites in your home that didn’t make it to the list. I’ll add your picks to our summer reading list–a list for all ages–which we’ll be putting together during a two-hour call in show on Tuesday, July 9. As always, John Ernst and Chris Robinson will co-host with me…and you. Feel free to add your suggestions here or by emailing me at ellen@ncpr.org and after the call in, we’ll consolidate all of your summer reading picks.



  1. Stacey B. says:

    Well, my teen has already read (and is re-reading) “The Beat on Ruby’s Street by author Jenna Zark (http://www.jennazark.com/). I am happy to say that I had a chance to read this great book too! The book is narrated by a precocious eleven-year-old girl Ruby. This coming-of-age tale, set in a world of rebels, rule-breakers and dream makers, is engaging and full of heart! The book takes place in 1958, in Greenwich Village (NYC). Ruby is being raised in the “Beat Generation” or more commonly known as “beatnicks.” She is soon forced into a children’s home after a social worker deems her living situation unsuitable. As an aspiring poet Ruby uses her poetry throughout the book to help her deal with her situation and give her hope. It’s a book that introduces you to a new culture and a character that you root for every step of the way. I recommend it to teens and their parents too!

  2. My 19 year old daughter likes the classics (Pride &, Emma, etc.) so I was a bit disgusted over the twilight series but at least there is a little balance. She may go through the service manual of my 1940 car as she says she wants to get it on the road- great.

    My 15 year old, I hope he reads something…but at least he likes the comic page. He has done the Potter series.

    One of my favorites over 40 years ago was A Year in a Yawl, wouldn’t make the top 100 book list as the pictures are b/w and the book is 102 years old. Written as a true adventure of a late teenage boy and 3 buddies who complete the first boy’s 30′ two masted sailboat and circumnavigate the eastern US from Michigan to the Gulf, around Florida and up the Hudson to the Erie Canal and across the Great Lakes home.

    I’d recommend Dr. Ben Carson’s first book about himself, I believe it was Gifted Hands. A strong willed mom, helpful grandparents for a time and his mom insisted on them reading so much a week and he and his brother had to write a summary too. His mom was a poor reader. The key for him seemed to be a book, about rocks that caught his interest and led to an improvement in esteem. Determination and support, were big keys and not making excuses or blaming others. Not a long book.

  3. Ellen B says:

    Sherman Alexie, yes; Ray Bradbury, no! Fahrenheit 451 is such an overrated book – can’t we update the high school reading list and get rid of some of the old clunkers?

    Here’s another plug for Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. I’ve given these books to several teens and adults, and never had a bad report back. One note: the author is a bit of a jerk, but his books are intriguing.

    • Ellen B says:

      From the comments on the NPR site it looks like Ender’s Game was culled because of “violence.” Hmmm. A book aimed at young readers that examines the nature of warfare and how it shapes individuals and groups, and NPR doesn’t see the value? Oh well, we all know that banning books is one of the best ways to get them to a wider audience.