Do you remember the magic of flipping through the pages of your first favorite book?
To mark the return of The Great American Read to PBS, we turn to a group of avid Bay Area teen readers who share their thoughts on the books that shook up their world.
And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a classic, written the by the queen of murder mystery herself. It's designed to take the reader on a vague, twisting journey of secrets, isolation, and a particular poem that holds many answers. The book not only teaches readers about 1930s English customs, but it shows you an insight into the human mind and its desperate attempts to justify every wrongdoing. This book influenced me not only in my taste of reading but also how I perceive people, cases, arguments, and human reasoning. People should read it for the delicious thrill it offers and its thought-provoking questions. You may find yourself more similar to a character than you realize, and the more you learn about them, the more this will terrify you. —Johanna Ziegler, 15, Minarets High School, O’Neals, California
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
I picked up The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime one morning and didn't put it down until I finished it later that day. To immerse yourself into the mind of a stranger with a thought process that works so differently than yours is an out-of-body experience. By reading this book, you get a more profound, yet personal and individual sense of someone with Asperger's syndrome. It's something new and so journal-like that you don't want to stop reading. It's a story and a stream of consciousness. Not only has it created a better understanding of others for me, but also it has blossomed my curiosity about how the mind works." —Zainab Khan, 17, Notre Dame High School, San Jose
Catcher in the Rye
A few months ago I read Catcher in the Rye for the third time because I love it that much. J. D. Salinger, the author, writes about a boy named Holden Caulfield, who is struggling with the social stereotypes and conformity of the 1960s. He talks about how different he looks, acts, and how much he hates the people who fake themselves to fit into the acceptable curve of society. In the book, Holden had symptoms of depression due to the loss of his brother to cancer. In that era, few people expected mental illness was something that was okay for people to live with. As someone who has always struggled with fitting into the stereotypes, I could relate myself sometimes to the way Holden felt. The things he would say would feel so powerful because it was something that was hidden from the world for so long and having a writer write about it, hit the world like a rock. It helped people finally realize that people were hiding their real selves because they were too afraid not to fit conformity. And it helped me to feel that sometimes it may be better to be myself, then fake who I was to the world. I recommend this book to anyone who struggled this way, or to anyone who wants to see the world through someone else's eyes. —Ella Nowinski, 15, Notre Dame High School, San Jose
Ready Player One
My favorite book of all time that has influenced me is Ready Player One. I enjoyed this book because it shaped my love for video games. I enjoyed how this book was about 1980s culture and video games that were more popular a long time ago. I learned a lot about games I had never played before, and it's the best book I have read so far. —Elliot Locker, 13, Kenilworth Junior High, Petaluma
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will hook you into the rest of the seven-book series. This book is one of the reasons that I am such an avid reader; J. K. Rowling sets up a fantastical and fascinating world of magic and adventure with three-dimensional characters that the reader quickly becomes attached to. The themes that are set up in sub-plots leave room for interpretation, discussion, and debate later in the series, which makes these books enjoyable for older audiences as well. In other words, this book is a gateway to not only the wizarding world but into the world of reading!—Kathryn Caceres, 15, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, San Francisco
I recommend Hatchet to anyone who loves adventure and fiction. This book influenced me to read more adventure books, and I'm happy it did because it is now my favorite genre. Anyone from the age of 6 to 100 can pick up this book because it is not too hard to understand, yet it is still a thrill to read for older audiences. If anyone hasn't read Hatchet yet, I strongly recommend it and will personally tell them to do so. Also, the author, Gary Paulsen, has lots of other wonderful adventure books. —Zachary Moreno, 13, Kenilworth Junior High School, Petaluma, California
The Hunger Games
I would recommend The Hunger Games series to anyone. Katniss is an inspiration as a strong female character and she shows that a simple action from one person can change a whole community. She never gives up, even when the capital brainwashes the boy she loves most. If you are ever looking for a good book series and you love the fantasy/Science Fiction genre, I would recommend it. —Grace Pytel, 13, Kenilworth Junior High, Petaluma, California