I was heartened but not at all suprised on reading the report in The Bookseller which found that children and young people still enjoy reading print books – http://www.thebookseller.com/news/children-still-prefer-reading-physical-books-finds-scholastic.html. The report by Scholastic found that although e-books are on the rise amongst 6-17 year-olds in the USA, the attachment to hard copy remains.

As a school librarian I carried out my own survey a few years ago and there was a distinct lack of interest in e-books amongst my students, much to my surprise at the time. What, you don’t want gadgets?! Well, no, the students didn’t. They wanted more books. I think the report is right in identifying sharing as an important factor, but with young adults there is also that ever-so-important factor of demonstrating who you are to your peers by showing what you’re reading. Lugging about War and Peace or a dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey makes a certain social statement! And this is an important part of asserting your belonging to a group – or your rejection of one. (I see a similar behaviour amongst my fellow passengers on the commuter train every day.) An e-reader is also a statement, but a rather bland one, really.

What you read is who you are.

Interestingly the comments on this Bookseller post have raised the argument that reading is a predominantly female activity. The young adult novelist David Almond has risen to the bait to refute this and I totally agree with him; there were always far more boys in my library than girls, and more boys asked me to buy particular books for them; they also talked more about what they read.

One of my favourite moments as a librarian was when I was visiting another college to “booktalk” to fourteen-year-olds. I read extracts from some of my favourite books, and the sessions had gone very well. But as I was leaving, crossing the playground I saw two big boys beating up a smaller one. They saw me and stopped.

“Hey, miss, you’re that library lady. What was that book you were on about? The one with all the swearing and fighting?”

Me: “Oh, er, it was (un)arranged marriage by Bali Rai.”

“Cool, let’s get to the library and get a copy before they’re all gone!” And off they ran, to the relief of their victim (and me, as they were much bigger than me too!).

See, reading is good for you.

Just before I left that job, I asked my students to write me a list of the books they thought everyone should read. We had a long debate about what to call this list and came up with:


And here it is.

  1. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist (series) by Hiromu Arakawa
  3. Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  6. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. Thomas the Tank Engine by W. Awdry
  9. The Culture (series) by Iain M. Banks
  10. The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
  11. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  12. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  13. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
  14. Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
  15. Inception by Dan Brown
  16. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
  17. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  18. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  19. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
  20. Anything by Jasper Fforde
  21. QI: The Book of General Ignorance by Stephen Fry, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
  22. Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman
  23. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  24. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  25. Dune by Frank Herbert
  26. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  27. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  28. Anything by Stephen King
  29. Kick-Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr
  30. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  31. How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
  32. Scott Pilgrim (series) by Brian Lee O’Malley
  33. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  34. Discworld (series) by Terry Pratchett
  35. His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
  36. (un)arranged Marriage by Bali Rai
  37. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
  38. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  39. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  40. Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. Edge Chronicles (series) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
  42. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  43. A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
  44. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  45. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  46. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  47. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  48. Lemming the Lemming and the Tube of Doom (unpublished) by Max
  49. The Bible
  50. A Dictionary in every language