Monday, July 12, 2010

Best Books: Young Adult

I read. A lot. And not just because I am an getting a PhD in English. Reading is like breathing for me - completely necessary. I would like to share some of my favorites with you. These won't be the obvious choices, although I love the canonical works - Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc. Instead, I would like to include some works that maybe you haven't heard of, or the more obscure works by well-known authors. At any rate, these are some real gems. I'm starting with the best YA, a category that I still read and love. Here we go:

A House Like a Lotus1) A House Like a Lotus, Madeleine L'Engle: Although L'Engle is best known for her science-fiction series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time, her realist teen fiction is just as good. A House Like a Lotus centers on Polly, takes place in Greece, and deals with a variety of heavy issues in a smart and insightful way. It is beautiful, and the type of book that makes me want to be a better person.

The Blue Castle (Voyageur Classics)2) The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery: Again, Montgomery is better known for a beloved series (the Anne of Green Gables books), but this single novel is one of my favorites. It is a grown up book about a young woman who gives up trying to please her family and bow to convention and begins doing exactly what she wants. It is more sophisticated than Montgomery's other novels, but still has a satisfying romantic plot.

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1)3) The Chronicles of Prydain, Lloyd Alexander: This fantasy series based on Welsh mythology is fun, and like an easy version of The Lord of the Rings. I am re-reading them now with a little guy that I tutor and he loves them. See, not everything I read is girly!

Little Town on the Prairie (Little House)4) Little Town on the Prairie; These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder: Although the Little House books are well-loved, most people seem to stop with Little House on the Prairie. The later installments are also good, these two in particular.

Jacob Have I Loved5) Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson: Angsty, full of sibling rivalry (the title refers to Jacob and Esau from the Bible, not a romantic plot), this book also provides a look at a coastal fishing town.

Eight Cousins, Or, the Aunt-Hill6) Eight Cousins; Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott: Little Women is good, but I also enjoy this duo from the author, which includes Alcott's special blend of didacticism and romance.

This will no doubt be continued in other posts - the list goes on. I also want to point to another aspect of YA books that I love - the covers. I remember all the book covers from my youth, on editions that came out in the 70s and 80s, and I have to say, the more current editions just don't live up. I especially like the work of Jody A. Lee, who did covers for the Dell/Yearling editions of fantasy novels. I have been collecting these versions from used books stores and have almost complete series of the L'Engle books and the Alexander books. The book pictured above is one of her covers.

Anyway, what young adult novels get you all nostalgic? And which ones are you still reading today?

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