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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Surprise Aside: The Oddly Genre-Heavy Alachua County School Reading List

While I was at Barnes & Noble yesterday, I noticed that there was a table for the reading list for Alachua county's public schools.  I'm usually quite curious about what teenagers and kids are reading in school, largely because I think schools should spend more time fostering a love of reading than forcing students to learn about books they'll never read again and that will likely ruin them as readers.  I'll be honest in saying that I expected the table to contain no genre titles except those that have been on reading lists for decades (1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley).  Boy was I surprised.  Yes, a number of staples appear on the list of forty-eight books, but also a whole lot of newer titles.  Of those forty-eight, nine are either science fiction, fantasy, or related in some way to either genre.  Those titles are:
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Most of the books on the list are older books, and a good number are considered by many in the SF/F world to be classics, but the inclusion of World War Z, The Lovely Bones, and The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao is really interesting.  All are books released in the last ten years and each has either been released as a film or pegged for a film release (other titles on the list have also been turned into movies, obviously).  Set alongside older "classics," they suggest that, perhaps, the schools in this county are acknowledging the cultural importance of genre titles.  Let's face it, at least half of the nine books listed above are obviously genre books.  Unlike with 1984 or Brave New World, nobody with any sense can argue that World War Z or Ender's Game are not science fiction, or that Alice in Wonderland is not a fantasy.  And if you look at The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao, you're hit in the face with explicit science fiction and fantasy references.

I don't know if it's fair to read anything into it.  I haven't been to high school or middle school in almost a decade now, so it's entirely possible that I'm simply out of touch.  Still, that's pretty cool that they get to read those books, don't you think?  We never got to read anything quite so exciting when I was in school...

(Note:  There were also a lot of newer non-genre titles on the list, but I didn't write them down due to a lack of time.)

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  1. Ah, I was hoping that you had followed up with an interview with the school's English teacher, reporter-style.

    I could tell you about my reading list, but I think my reading list is atypical? Either way, I don't get to read recent genre publications.

  2. Carr: Actually, I'd be very interested in your school reading list if you have the time to post it.

  3. You know what this means? Instead of being geeks for reading sf, horror or fantasy in school, we were Ahead Of The Curve.

  4. writtenwyrdd: That's one way of looking at it :P

  5. I can only hope that my girls get a reading list that is this freaking awesome.

    I'm so jealous.

  6. Loopdilou: Honestly, your kids have nothing to worry about. You and I both know that they read pretty much everything anyway...