This week, we came across this list of ‘books you really should have read in high school’ over at MSNBC’s Today Books. While their picks are definitely classics, most of which we did in fact have to read in high school, we think today’s youth (and any adults playing catch-up, which let’s be real, is almost everybody to some extent) would be better served by a few alternate choices. The classics are wonderful, but the canon should be fluid, allowing some experimental choices as well as the tried-and-true. Of course, kids today should read hundreds of books, if possible, so this is by necessity a finite, imperfect list reflecting, as it must, our own proclivities. Let us know your own choices for essential alternative high school reading in the comments!
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
It’s no secret that we love us some DFW, and though we’re tempted to suggest his work as a salve for almost any problem, this book is especially pertinent here. High schoolers especially are in need of reading like this: structure that they can’t quite parse, insane length, hypnotic language and loose ends will do them well in a sea of formulaic novels that ‘lend themselves’ to being taught in time-sensitive classes. Moreover, the novel is in some ways a brutal foil for the teenage experience – Blake Butler recently mused that the book “seems like it was written by an extremely intelligent alien; someone trying so intricately and direly to figure out humans and so utterly, utterly failing.” We don’t know about you, but we remember this feeling. Pair that with a much-needed warning against over-entertainment, and there’s something every high schooler should take a look at.