books for your precocious teenager

i’m having lunch tomorrow with a 14-year-old writer and i’ve been trying to think of what to say to her.  i decided to make a list of books for her to read and asked for some advice via facebook.  my friends are very smart and had really great ideas but i ultimately picked books that a) are entertaining and (mainly) fiction and b) that i have read and loved.  i tried to think of books that blew my mind when i was 14.  some books, like the virgin suicides which i did NOT put on the list, i am not sure of their age-appropriateness, even though i read non-age appropriate books when i was 14 or younger and put them on the list (roots, geek love).  anyway, as you can see i have spent many many hours on this, or at least 2.  now of course i am second guessing everything.  is it too obvious?  too old fashioned?  oh god, i have to go to sleep so here is my list, with notes:

Books for Peyton to Read Immediately:

Sherman Alexie The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Totally awesome short stories about life on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington.

Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Autobiography about growing up in the racist South—will probably blow your mind.

Margaret Atwood Handmaid’s Tale

Sci-fi story of a not-so-distant dystopian future.  Creepy.  Amazing.

Lynda Barry Cruddy

About the potential horror of being a 16-year-old girl.  Illustrated!  Disturbing!

Lynda Barry The Good Times are Killing Me

More disturbing coming-of-age genius from Lynda Barry.

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451

Another dystopian sci-fi book about the future—or kind of now.

Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre

Tragedy, drama, romance.  One of my favorite books for sob-inducing when I was 14.

Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights

The Brontës both were good with the drama and romance…and the making me cry.

Robin Cody Ricochet River

A book about high school in rural Oregon that was once banned!  So of course, it’s awesome.

Katherine Dunn Geek Love

One of my all-time favorite books.  VERY DISTURBING so read with caution.  About a family of circus freaks, obsession, love, religion, all the interesting things.

F Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

Oh god.  You will read this book in every English class until you get a PhD but you will read it for a reason—romantic and tragic, the most important things for a book to be!

Anne Frank The Diary of Anne Frank

Goes without saying, this book might be why 87% of all girls started writing.

William Golding Lord of the Flies

The terrifying answer to what would happen if we didn’t have parents?

Alex Haley Roots

My parents read this to me (highly censored by them) when I was very young but I reread it to myself when I was older and it’s one of those epic books that you never want to finish.

John Irving The Cider House Rules

Involved and long, like all John Irving books, and that’s partially why it’s so great.

Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

Another book you will read in school if you are lucky but still, read it now while you don’t have to.

Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye

More of what happens when you get what you wish for.

John Okada No-No Boy

An amazing and sad novel about the Japanese internment during World War II.  I read this in college but wish I’d read it sooner.

Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Another of my all-time favorites.  About how you grow-up, why you become a writer.

JD Salinger Catcher in The Rye

Classic.  Just read it, if you haven’t.

JD Salinger Nine Stories

One of the best short story collections I can think of.  Actually, you might just need to read all of JD Salinger’s books.

Kurt Vonnegut Cat’s Cradle

More sci-fi dystopia—but there are so MANY ways it could go wrong!

Alice Walker The Color Purple

Heartbreaking and amazing, be prepared to cry and also stay up all night reading this.