At this point in the selection of good children’s books, the target audience is teenagers. Children who are nearing adulthood and have the concentration and reading ability for longer, more complicated books. Children being given books like Pride & Prejudice or To Kill a Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies to study at school. And Shakespeare’s plays.
I’m in two minds about Part Three for Children’s Books. You see, after 12, when you should be reading to and for yourself, there’re many, many worlds out there, just waiting for you to pick up and read them. And not just the ones being marketed at teenagers – there’re all the classics too. And these days, following the phenomenon that was Harry Potter, the market for teenagers has expanded enormously.
So I’m not really going to write a list of Top Ten Books for Teenagers – to be honest, I was too busy reading mainly dead authors and not whatever it was my friends were reading, like Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. Didn’t really interest me. I preferred Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
After the age of 12, I think, really, you should be reading anything you can get your hands on – I know that’s what I was doing.
It was at this time, aged 13, that I finally read Nancy Mitford’s novels. Even better than the audio book I’d long since worn out. Oh, the days of cassette-tapes! I also began reading Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Among those books actually marketed towards my age-group, I was reading Celia Rees, EE Richardson, Cornelia Funke, JK Rowling, and Stuart Hill. (I’ve also just realised how female-heavy my reading was.) Then there were any number of myths and legends – Greek, Norse, Celtic. And Beowulf. These weren’t the only authors I read, but their books make up a large part of my collection.
One thing I wasn’t very interested in, though, was poetry, though I loved Beowulf and I read the libretto for Der Ring Des Nibelung. I got a funny look for that one, since I’d previously been attempting Mein Kampf. Didn’t get very far with that, though. The translation was a bit stodgy. Unless the original German is also stodgy (my German was never good enough for that). The only other major poem I read was Dante’s Divine Comedy.
What did you read as a teenager? What would you recommend to today’s teenagers?