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A bestselling author and distinguished critic goes back to high school to find out whether books can shape lives
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. This indifference has become a grievous loss to our standing as a great nation--and a personal loss, too, for millions of teenagers who may turn into adults with limited understanding of themselves and the world.
Can teenagers be turned on to serious reading? What kind of teachers can do it, and what books? To find out, 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 creates an impassioned portrait of charismatic teachers at work, classroom dramas large and small, and fresh and inspiring encounters with the books themselves, including The Scarlet Letter, Brave New World, 1984, Slaughterhouse-Five, Notes From Underground, Long Way Gone and many more. 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.
David Denby is the author of Great Books, American Sucker, Snark, and Do the Movies Have a Future? He is the film critic for the New Yorker and his reviews and essays have appeared in The New Republic, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books, among other places. He lives in New York City.
BEACON, SEPTEMBER: THE FIRST DAYS OF ENGLISH 10G 1
BEACON, OCTOBER: FAULKNER AND HAWTHORNE 12
BEACON, OCTOBER: SYLVIA PLATH AND CONFESSIONS 29
BEACON, NOVEMBER: NUTS MATTER, AND BOLTS, TOO 35
BEACON, NOVEMBER: HUXLEY 44
BEACON, DECEMBER AND JANUARY: ORWELL 63
MAMARONECK, ALL YEAR: PERSONAL CHOICE 78
BEACON, JANUARY: SATIRE 97
BEACON, FEBRUARY: COELHO AND HESSE 107
BEACON, FEBRUARY: VONNEGUT 120
BEACON, MARCH: VIKTOR E. FRANKL 131
HILLHOUSE: THE YEAR 144
MAMARONECK, SPRING: TENTH-GRADE ENGLISH 178
BEACON, APRIL AND MAY: DOSTOEVSKY 184
BEACON, MAY AND JUNE: SARTRE AND BECKETT 203
Appendix 1: Reading Lists 239
Appendix 2: Beacon Students’ College List 242
Index of Authors and Works 251