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Contemporary literature to study in high school

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Anyone want to help collect a list of contemporary literature that is appropriate for high school students?


"Appropriate" meaning

  • of good quality that merits inclusion in a high schol curriculum
  • of interest to a teenage student (maybe a middle age existential crisis is not so riveting to a 16yo)
  • not incredibly graphic in terms of sex and violence

Most reading lists seem to either focus on classics that peter out around 1950 or on contemporary young adult literature. I'm not opposed to some young adult titles -- there are some great ones out there -- but I know there's a huge body of contemporary literature that I'm not very familiar with.


Here are some lists to get started:


Man Booker Prize -- when this topic has come up before, folks have suggested Man Booker Prize nominees. Find reader guides for titles back to 2010 here. Complete list of shortlisted titles back to 1969 here.


Modern Classics from Today.com -- "11 21st Century Novels that belong in the classroom"


26 contemporary books that should be taught in high school-- Okay, this is from buzzfeed and includes titles like Harry Potter and Tina Fey's memoir, which isn't quite what I'm going for. But some of them might be good ones.


Please add your suggestions. Or ones you DON'T recommend. Or if you know of a good thread where this was discussed before, please mention it or link it here. (It's hard to search for.)

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Looking at my bookshelf, here are some ideas (and wow, I'm shocked at how many of my books are pre-1950!)


The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Shampoo Planet - Douglas Copeland (been a while since I read this one)

The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

The Chosen - Chaim Potok

Starship Troopers - Robert A Heinlein

The Book Thief - Zusak (loved the use of figurative language in this book)

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Help, I need contemporary world lit ideas
Worthwhile contemporary literature
Best books of 21st century so far
Which late 20th/early 21st century literary works will be considered classics someday
DS would like to do a unit on postmodern literature
Contemporary British lit for high school?
Greeat contemporary/modern books for high school for boy who doesn't like to read?

A few contemporary titles I've enjoyed in the past few years, but I don't know as though teens/high school students would find them as interesting or "click" with them:

2006 = Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro) -- relationships/purpose in life; main characters are clones who will slowly be parted out
2007 = The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfeld) -- like a modern-day Bronte novel
2008 = The Name of the Wind; The Wise Man's Fears (Rothfuss) -- no deep themes, but lovely writing and terrific world-building
2008 = Yiddish Policeman's Union (Chabon) -- alternative history; complex: weaves a LOT of diverse topics together
2012 = Embassytown (Mieville) -- far future; linguistics, alien culture and lack of understanding; some adult topics touched on, but done without gratuitousness; well-written and visualized, but very complex
2012 = Night Circus (Morgenstern) -- lovely imagery, and very creative; a romance; reminds me of a cross between the book Something Wicked This Way Comes and the film The Illusionist
2014 = Invention of Wings (Kidd) -- very well-written; set in mid 1800s; follows an early white feminist/abolitionist and a black slave girl of the same age

Edited by Lori D.
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Awesome, thank you! I will come back tonight and try to create a master list from all those threads and links.


Just going to throw in there that you might just want to leave the book lists and links "as is" for people to read through, and let people search on their own… For example, I had never heard of 99% of the books on first 2 lists you linked; that doesn't mean there may not be worthwhile books on those lists, but I've not seen those titles popping up on high school reading lists, and it makes me wonder is it because books are on topics not as likely to connect with high school students? Or not that well-written? Or too graphic? So I'd be hesitant to put those books on a compilation list.


What about just tagging this thread with a "contemporary lit" tag, to make it easier for people to find again, and save yourself the effort of having to sift through the links and lists and a lot of time trying to preview or read reviews to decide if all of the books meet your criteria -- and let families research individual titles themselves. :) And, that allows other people to add to this thread as they want to recommend titles… Just a thought! :)


And thanks for starting this thread! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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