By Sonja

At least those that I read and were written at an accessible (read: high school) reading level

His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, last book published 2000,

It’s a trilogy, so I don’t count it as a series. Pullman, like most good sci-fi writers, pushes the boundaries. Instead of talking about space travel though, he talks about the end of religion and how we express our emotions and how much a family can hurt you. I’m surprised the fans of the Left Behind Series didn’t put more energy into banning this book.

Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins, 2001

I wish I would have read poetry like this when it came out my junior year in high school; maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to enjoy verse. His poems are written for older readers who get his views of death and solitude, but they’re still so read-able, that it makes enjoying a whole book of poetry plausible in a decade where far more people are writing poetry than reading poetry. He deserves the salary that Uncle Sam paid him for a year.

Breathing Underwater, Alex Flinn, 2002

When I first read this book, I thought it was a dated, feminized male character who becomes a case study for abusive relationships. Now I see those as good things. Flinn’s time in the justice system of Dade Co, Florida give this novel the backbone of authenticity to build into a clear snapshot of how slippery fairness and equality between an abused boy and an insecure girl can be. Now the fact that Nick pages Catlin simply tells of how timeless verbal abuse is, and how many ways it can be communicated.

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, 2003

Remember that song that came out right after September 11th from Allen Jackson and the chorus goes, “…I’m not sure I can tell you the difference between Iraq and Iran”? After Iran was listed as part of an “Axis of Evil,” Satrapi wrote this book to show the complexity of Iran as a country full of history, and yes, different from Iraq. She writes in comic book form (she doesn’t like the phrase “graphic novel”). This book did more for explaining Iran’s more recent history and current state to me than NPR did and certainly better than Toby Keith or Alan Jackson. Plus, I met her, and she’s hilarious.

Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller, 2003

Some question his theology, others question his appropriateness. I recommend it as a re-introduction to Christianity.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, 2003

The choices people on the spectrum of autism and aspergers make seem totally normal and logical in this book. The style lets you get to know the characters closely, if scientifically, even though the character in the book lets few other characters get to know him. Plus, the book successfully incorporates math.

I am the Messenger, Mark Zusak, 2005

Read this book. Stop whining. Go live the life you have, not the life you always wanted. Zusack also wrote The Book Thief, a novel about WWII Germany that’s narrated by Death (and you like him), which is notable in itself, but Messenger hits closer to home. After all, this is a book list about accessibility, and Death talking to you is less accessible than thinking your job sucks.

Freakenomics, Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner, 2005

Not teen angst, but written at practically at a high school reading level for the Americans that might like economics, except they still aren’t sure what happened with Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. A favorite chapter turned into the book Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh. (It’s not nearly as sensational as the title makes it out to be.)

Flight, Sherman Alexie, 2007

Most “best of” lists will include Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and justly so. But you start out feeling sorry for the character in that story. In Flight, Alexie doesn’t let you pity this kid because he’s too smart and too dangerous. Alexie uses great pop culture/youth culture references without sounding like product placement, and he has excellent historical references without sounding like either your history books or someone with a vendetta against history books. Where else can you find an author who references the Indian Child Welfare Act and the White Stripes?

My Life As a Rhombus, Varian Johnson, 2008

This book should not be notable, it should be average. Both Johnson and the main character are African American, and while the characters are not whitewashed, they aren’t “on the wrong side of the statistics.” The books isn’t about gangs, drugs, or how tough the ghetto is. We already have Sharon Drapper, Walter Dean Myers, and seemingly a quarter of the graduates from the Teach for American program telling us that story. I’m excited for his next release in 2010, Saving Maddie. Here’s hoping the next decade of publishing delivers.

5 Notable Series
An extra bonus

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Notable in the sheer volume of things that could happen to one sibling group, and the unapologeticly obvious vocabulary building, Snicket wrote this decade’s “Boxcar Children.”

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

This book went viral in the best way, with mostly girls passing it around and skipping important things to finish it. The first one is the best, and truthfully deals with weight, sex, part-time jobs, and family and with the delicacy and humor that Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul–Tough Stuff only wishes it could do.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

These books went viral in the worst way, with most girls passing them around and skipping important things like independence and interest in humans. Still, nobody gets this much press or this many hater websites without a real understanding of their audience and what they want to hear. See Also: Sarah Palin

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

If you didn’t read the books, you shouldn’t be reading this list, because apparently you won’t take anybody’s recommendations. Trust me, the movies will fail you if you expect to understand the next decade’s references back to these books. If you didn’t read the books, accio Remedial Reading.

The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Perfect people thinking they’re awesome, but they’re not. Walls giving you what you ask for. Current technology looking archaic. Microchips being implanted into a teenager’s impressionable brains. This has all the makings of a sci-fi thriller, and it delivers a perfect distopia.

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