Thursday, December 26, 2019

Nonfiction Review: Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books that can change lives by David Denby

Title: Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books that can change lives.
Author: David Denby
Year Published: 2016


Genre: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 257 (including notes and index)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (NY, CT)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): It’s no secret that millions of American teenagers, caught up in social media, television, movies, and games, don’t read seriously---they associate sustained reading with duty or work, not with pleasure. Seeing this indifference as a grievous loss, bestselling author and distinguished critic David Denby goes back to high school to answer two questions: Can teenagers be turned on to serious reading? What kind of teachers can do it, and with what books? Denby sat in on a tenth-grade English class in a demanding New York public school for an entire academic year and made frequent visits to a troubled inner-city public school in New Haven and to a respected public school in Westchester County. He read all the stories, poems, plays, and novels that the kids were reading, and here creates an impassioned portrait of charismatic teachers at work, classroom dramas large and small, and fresh and inspiring encounters with the books themselves.

Lit Up is a dramatic narrative that traces awkward and baffled beginnings but also exciting breakthroughs and the emergence of pleasure in reading. In a sea of bad news about education and the fate of the book, Denby reaffirms the power of great teachers and the importance and inspiration of great books.

Review: I have had this on my TBR list for so long and my parents gave it to me for Christmas. I was all excited to read about the author's experience of talking to teenagers about the books that have really mattered to them and changed their live.

I thought there would be a list.

No list. Instead, it's the story of the author's experience sitting in 10th grade English classes and his thoughts about the books that the teachers assigned (many of which are the old school canons/classics) mixed in with books the students chose (with teacher help) for "free reading."

I'll be honest. I found the author a bit condescending at times, about the kids, the teachers, and the curriculum. Maybe I am overly sensitive because I am a teacher. Maybe not. He also saw progress on the students' road to become readers and admits that good teachers sometimes matter more than the curriculum. Hey, I'm an avid reader, but wasn't in high school or even college. I resented teachers assigning "old" books and not getting to read anything that I chose or books that were current. Or, books by women, let's be honest.

If we want teens to become readers, we have to engage them and that means letting them read something to which they can relate. The schools in my town are doing a pretty good job of that.


Challenges for which this counts: 

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