Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How about Good as Gold, Frankenstein, and House of Mirth?

By Kevin Guilfoile

We had my whole family in for Thanksgiving, twenty of us, ten adults and ten kids, crammed into my house. It was a terrific weekend of football in the park and basketball at the gym and air mattresses on the floor and turkey on the table and presents under the tree.

Yes, presents. Because we won't be together for Christmas we exchanged gifts on Friday. One of my nephews, who is in high school, asked for books and so a few weeks ago I was in the bookstore, browsing the shelves, trying to remember a handful of novels I had read at that same age, books I loved then and still love to this day.

I chose three--A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and The Stand by Stephen King. I can still remember reading those books, still remember carrying them with me trying to cram a few moments of reading between school and work and baseball practice and much too little sleep. I remember how eager I was to get back to them and how reluctantly I put each of them down. I also liked that they were different genres--one howlingly funny and one epically scary and one whatever Irving is--some combination of quirkiness and poignancy and sentimentality and effortless prose that I am just a sucker for.

Last week, Sean urged everyone to give books for the holidays, but let's start to get specific. If you were buying three books for a high school senior, books you hope he or she will still remember reading twenty years from now, what books would you get and why?

28 comments:

Corey Wilde said...

I remember in 1970 reading Crichton's The Andromeda Strain and being instantly hooked. The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry was another one that I've never forgotten and is all the more interesting today in light of terrorist activities in our global society. And it's a great story even if the reader misses the messages. And I think I would also give Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde because it combines fast action with an SF-type premise and a little sex-tease. Perfect for a teenage boy.

FIONA said...

I would start with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It is my favorite book. I could go on forever about the things I like in this book.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE...might be a tough read for a boy. I like it better than 1984, F 451, or any other dystopian futuristic book. Hopefully it will get him thinking.

Last is Maus. I was so impressed by the way a graphic novel could move me.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

Those are all great suggestions (although I haven't read THE BLONDE). Fiona, Mockingbird would have been at the top of my list as well if I hadn't been sure that he had already read it in English class.

Kevin Smith said...

My three would be "Homicide" by David Simon. It did as much in preparing me to be a Chicago Police office as the Police Academy itself.

Number two would be "Mystic River" by Dennie Lehane, which does a wonderful job of showing the evolving human psyche and illustrating how terrible things can be done for reasons that are ration for one painful instant, and never again.

My number three book, mildly obscure, is John Sandford's "Silent Prey." I thought he did a terrific job of balancing several different plot lines, plot lines I was barely aware of on my first reading. To me, the ending almost had a "The Sixth Sense" vibe to it, as I went back and realized what had been right there in front of me.

Anonymous said...

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It's a book for people who love books.

I'd probably give It (the other really long, really scary Stephen King book, although I love The Stand, too) because it's so insanely creepy and good.

I don't know of a third right off the top of my head. I'd second the To Kill a Mockingbird, but I guess not if he's already read it.

I think I'd be better with girls. Dorothy Parker, Time Traveler's Wife and To Kill a Mockingbird. :)


Kelly

jnantz said...

My first would be THE GUNSLINGER, because it was the first book I ever read in one sitting, and it was my introduction to Stephen King. I still have that copy.

Second would be ENDER'S GAME, because I would want different genres and I think Ender Wiggins is an outsider that a lot of young boys can identify with the way a ton of young girls identify with Bella Swan today.

There are a ton I would if not for school (Mockingbird, 1984, R&G are Dead), but I suppose the last would be a thriller (my own genre...selfish, I know, but still...). I'd have to make sure mom&dad were okay with language/situations, but if so maybe THE BLACK ECHO, or THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT, or maybe RAIN FALL.

Aimless Writer said...

Lord Vishnu's Love Handles.
Anything by Stephen King.
Maybe Chuck Palanuk? (did I spell that right?)

Barbara D'Amato said...

If the high school senior hasn't read them yet, Poe's stories, all of Poe's stories.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick (the inspiration for Bladerunner). Now more than ever, it's good to be reminded that it's important to cherish and repect the life of all humans and living creatures, especially as science pushes out the boundaries of what is considered "human" and alive.

Katie Bell Moore said...

"All Over But the Shoutin" by Rick Bragg. Rick's amazing story of overcoming his sad country-song youth to eventually become a Pulitzer Prize winning writer is funny, harrowing, and touching--perfect inspiration for a young person heading out into the cold cruel world : )

Maryann Mercer said...

I would choose:
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith-it's a great coming of age story and the time period really doesn't matter. Family, hardship, love and all the important things in life.
Illusions by Richard Bach-a fable of sorts, about a reluctant messiah. I take it with me when I fly.
And as trite as it may sound, I think my third choice would be the Bible (for a high school senior perhaps the most current translation)-Life, death, history, murder, sin, actions and consequences, and love all rolled into one book.
An alternative to the third choice...just in case :o)
The complete Sherlock Holmes (kind of for the same reasons)

Wow...who knew choosing just three would be so hard ?

Kevin Smith said...

I just realized that I forgot, in an unforgivable lapse, a book that seems to be to be the father of so much in modern literature and even in pop culture. That book is "Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris. It was a penetrating picture of homicidal madness growing from child to adult, it gave us one of the most facinating characters in all fiction in Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and with its material on profiling and crime scene analysis it arguably opened the door for the CSI franchise as well as other movies and television shows.

Not sure I would give it to a high schooler, but when the high schooler hit college, I would surely recommend it

Sean Chercover said...

Definitely Mockingbird, if the kid hadn't read it. But I suspect most do by the senior year of high school.

And I second your motion of CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. One of my favorite books, and great for a H.S. senior.

Others I would consider (depending on the kid):

1984, by George Orwell
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, by John Irving
EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, by Lawrence Block
TO THE POWER OF THREE, by Laura Lippman
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, by Kurt Vonnegut
A RAGE IN HARLEM, by Chester Himes

...and so on.

Michael Dymmoch said...

COURTROOM 302 by Steve Bogira

CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller

STICK, FIST, KNIFE, GUN by Geoffrey Canada

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