I first came across On the Road by Jack Kerouac at the tender age of sixteen. Revisiting it recently, it felt like a somewhat different novel, my teen reading self dazzled by impressions and emotion, the older me searching for nuance and (sadly?) with a good deal more cynicism.
It occurred to us that it would be a very interesting experiment to tackle key influential novels as a team: adult reader and keen teen. What difference would there be in your final analyses? If your teen finds you jaded and you think them naive, what fiery debate may ensue!
Here’s a handful of challenging Bookstoker favourites to get you started and throughout 2020, we’ll add more titles for your family’s stimulation and delectation.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. A book that wraps you with the howling wind and the desolation of the Yorkshire moors. The definitive love story or abusive revenge tale?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger. Chronicling a mad and sad few days in NYC, this insightful 1951 classic brilliantly captures the adolescent outsider, but is Holden Caulfield actually a repetitive bore?
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. ‘The sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them.’ The world’s most widely read African novel is an arresting portrayal of the destruction of an indigenous community.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac. This hedonistic road trip novel came to define a generation. A book rich with the possibilities of being young and alive but could it also be described as self-indulgent hippie tripe?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. ‘A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.’ Atwood’s classic dystopian futuristic story about a totalitarian regime.
1984 by George Orwell. Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece and essential reading in our crazy times. A brutal taste of life in a totalitarian state.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (or Grapes of Wrath or Cannery Row). Steinbeck’s deep dive into themes such as loneliness, dreams and loyalty while portraying the nomadic lives of ranch hands in America during the Great Depression. Wonderful!
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Travelling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning transformed into a giant insect. Metamorphosis is a seminal work about shame, the plight of being a burden and the limits of sympathy. Truly original and an absolute thrill to read.