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Close to Home: Give teens better books than 'Catcher in the Rye'

Judging from his Feb. 18 Close to Home column ("Reading: An eye on the world") Rohnert Park's Tim Nonn is an excellent writer and father. But his son has much better taste in books.

"Catcher in the Rye" is awful, Holden Caulfield is a shallow jerk no one should care about, and J.D. Salinger can't write. I have no idea why English teachers keep forcing kids to read it. Sure, maybe it was daring in 1951 to have a rich white snotty prep-school dropout on a bender as your protagonist, but now they're all over the place in real life. Doing much worse stuff.

With apologies to Mr. Potchatek, Mr. Haenal, Mrs. Perkins and everyone else who attempted to teach the class of 1980 at Montgomery High School, "Catcher in the Rye" is "The Emperor's New Clothes" of American literature. In the parlance of today's youth, it (rhymes with bucks). "Moby Dick" may be 300 pages too long, but at least you care if the narrator lives or dies.

I've been a book nerd since I learned to read. I still buy real, paper books because I love to keep them and re-read them and pack them in boxes and throw my back out carrying them when I move. I'm proud of raising two now-twentysomething adults who love to read books and buy them. With their own money.

And I agree with Tim Nonn: It is very scary that after high school — when no one has to read books any more — most Americans don't. Ever again.

Why don't Americans read books anymore? I think it's because they were forced to read crap like "Catcher" in high school and told that if only they were smart enough they'd see it was great literature.

Do we want teens to keep reading books as adults, when no one forces them to? Then let's give them "The Hunger Games" and "The Book Thief" and "The Chocolate War" and "Carrie" and "1984."

Let's give them "The Crucible" and "Cold Mountain" and "A Rose for Emily" and "As I Lay Dying." Let's give them "Tortilla Flat" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Native Son" and "Like Water for Chocolate."

Assign them "Catcher in the Rye?" They'll probably never voluntarily read a book again.

So, to sum up: Teenagers, unite and rebel! Read an entire book and then tell your parents and your English teachers exactly why it's way better than "Catcher." It will really annoy them.

Teresa Mariani of Windsor is a freelance web content creator.


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