I recently picked up a new bookmark from my local public library because those things get ruined faster than a good haircut. Rather than just have a pretty picture or some inspiring-yet-meaningless quotation, this one has a suggested summer reading list to get kids started. Lets look at some of their choices, shall we?
Call of the Wild, Jack Londo.
Grapes of Wrath, John Stienbeck.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens.
As well as the poetry of Wadsworth, Emily Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe
Is it just me or are all of these authors a.) dead, and b.) pretty boring to read? I mean, you can argue about the significance of Call of the Wild or the message of Fahrenheit 451, but neither are what I'd pick up when I want to read for pleasure. Where are authors like Naomi Novik, Terry Pratchett, or Neal Stephenson? Heck, if they have to be dead, why not go for folks like Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, or Larry Niven? All of these stories are important but none of them are really fun. I mean, if a ten year old kid came up to me and wanted to get started reading for pleasure, I wouldn't hand them Dickens; can you imagine a way to turn someone off reading faster than to hand them an eighteenth century political polemic?
I've seen my fair share of "summer reading lists" before, and they all seem to be composed of the same dead, important, boring authors. Why are people so afraid to turn to living, exciting authors? Are these lists just made up by frustrated English majors eager to inflict their degrees on the rest of us?