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Books to inspire a 17 year old
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marigoldsmarigolds · 19/06/2020 09:50

Morning. This may not be the best place to post, but I wondered if I could ask for ideas of books to inspire my 17 year old English A level student daughter. She is really good at English, wants to continue as combined honours, but is not an avid reader. She will read the books set in her course, and writes well about them, but doesn't love reading.
She has acknowledged that she needs to read more to get a wider perspective on her studies, to make her writing more creative, but struggles with the books that are recommended on some reading lists, which all tend to go down the same road of Austen, Bronte, Hardy.
I'm going to suggest Atonement and Gatsby (shorter, interesting books) and wondered if anyone has ideas on contemporary classics. I've always taken the view that as long as she reads it doesn't matter what she reads - she loves the Lisa Jewell books and read lots of young adult books - but seems to have stalled now she's past those. Any ideas gratefully received.

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marigoldsmarigolds · 19/06/2020 09:52

I should say that I posted here because I kind of wanted to know who inspired you to write!

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Zilla1 · 19/06/2020 10:25

A partial bump and a suggestion. If she likes the classics, Jane Eyre seemed short and inspiring to me. She might want to think how far she should push her English studies if she doesn't love books after your efforts. Sone undergraduate studies require a set text to be read and an essay written repeatedly to a tight schedule and many/most fall out of love with reading after completing their studies. Up to her but it might not work if she isn't passionate before starting.

Good luck and hopefully you'll get better suggestions.

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Zilla1 · 19/06/2020 10:26

In terms of inspiration, I tended towards more genre fiction. I'd read a book a day in my preferred genres.

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MilkshakeandFries · 19/06/2020 10:33

Jean Rhys
Shirley Jackson
Daphne duMaurier
Virginia Woolf

Are all great!

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fruitpastille · 19/06/2020 10:47

I also like reading Lisa Jewell and young adult books. Things I've enjoyed recently although maybe not necessarily literary - Circe by Madeleine Miller, All the light we cannot see, Normal People, The Handmaid's tale, The Power. At 17 I enjoyed classic dystopia- John Wyndham, Orwell etc.

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MilkshakeandFries · 19/06/2020 10:52

@fruitpastille Madeleine Miller is amazing - Song of Achilles is also brilliant.

Also worth checking out the women's prize website. They have the winners of the last 25 years as well as the short lists. Some really good books on there.

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Narrows · 19/06/2020 10:58

I agree with @Zilla1 your daughter should reconsider her choice of degree if she doesn't love reading and do it for pure pleasure. An English degree will involve far more and more challenging reading than her A-level from a wider variety of periods and genres, done to a far more demanding schedule, and involving much more independent work if she's only reading YA for pleasure and doesn't enjoy 'simple' classics like Austen, the Brontes or Hardy, I think she'll really struggle.

I teach both Eng Lit and creative writing at a university, and I recognise a type of student who comes in having read only their school set texts and YA. They're the ones dropping out or changing degree mid-year.

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Zilla1 · 19/06/2020 11:04

How are you coping with COVID, Narrows? Did your students adapt to the change and is everything in place for September?

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NewNewYorker · 19/06/2020 11:05

Obviously you've got contemporary classics like 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'Catch 22' etc, but many of these are male-centric and given that she's a 17 year old young woman I wonder if some of the more female centred contemporary classics might be a good way to get her more into reading?

The excellent ones below are unputdownable and have all been discussed in seminars at the university I teach at this year.

Contemporary writers / novels considered contemporary classics:

Sally Rooney:
'Conversations with Friends'
'Normal People'

'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith

'Oranges are Not the Only Fruit' by Jeanette Winterson


By contrast, as a way into Hemingway (who can be offputtingly misogynistic), 'The Old Man and the Sea' is a very good short book (readable in an afternoon) and is a good intro if she's not read anything by him before.

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Narrows · 19/06/2020 11:29

I've been on sabbatical, @Zilla1, so haven't been teaching or supervising this semester, but there is a lot of work to do before the autumn...

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marigoldsmarigolds · 19/06/2020 11:38

Thank you all so much. That's really helpful. I completely agree re choice of subject. And yes - god I wish I could change places with her and study English Literature! Without passion it's pointless, so we may well get to that point. Perhaps I can ignite the fire! Many many thanks and huge respect to all of you writers.

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Zilla1 · 19/06/2020 14:40

Good luck, OP. She's lucky to have you looking out for her. I love The Leopard and I think it's a modern (or modernist, brighter minds than me will know?) classic. It's not action packed but atmospheric and set within the Risorgimento (the Italian 'sort of' Civil War or revolution).

Let's hope you help your DD light her fire as you say.

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