Between the Lines: YA readers choose their favorite books of all time

Some say the ideal novel for the burgeoning young-adult readership segment would be a coming-of-age tale with paranormal overtones, set in a dystopian society and featuring lead characters of diverse ethnicity and sexuality who escape danger and survive close calls through nimble thinking, martial skill and luck. That way, many of the major elements of the YA genre would be in one place at one time.

One of the factors that drives the YA market is crossover, in which titles aimed at adolescents and young adults are read by older adults. Hey, if you enjoy it, why not?

Two recent surveys throw some literary light on preferences among YA readers.

In one, Entertainment Weekly magazine asked its readers to name the best young-adult novel of all time. Among the nominations were “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, the “Divergent” trilogy by Veronica Roth, the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, the “Maze Runner” series by James Dashner, and “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

The winner was the “Harry Potter” saga by J.K. Rowling, which the editors credit with “introducing an entire generation to the wonders of reading (and) single-handedly creating a boom in children’s and young adult publishing.”

The editors further noted, “Why did we pit series against standalone books? Simple: Otherwise, the list would have been too cluttered with ‘multiple titles from YA’s most outstanding series.’”

Taking another step, the EW staff offered its own choices for best YA novel of all time, which turned out to be three classics: “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, and “Holes” by Louis Sachar.

In a second survey, contracted by the Guardian newspaper, 62 percent of 1,420 YA readers questioned “choose traditional books over ebooks,” even though the 12-to-24 demographic is known as the “super-connected generation.”

Among the YAs’ reasons: “I like to hold the product” (51 percent), “I am not restricted to a particular device” (20 percent), “I can easily share it” (10 percent), “I like the packaging” (9 percent) and “I can sell it when used” (6 percent).

White House history

One impressive title that didn’t make it into last week’s sampling of coffee-table books is “Inside the White House” by Noel Grove (National Geographic, $40, 352 pages). It’s filled with fascinating photographs, and delves into such themes as architecture, staff members, security, entertainment and celebrities who have dropped in.

We learn that the first state dinner was in 1874, when Ulysses S. Grant hosted King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands. “The 36 guests were served more than 20 courses of French cuisine, washed down with champagne, claret and sherry,” says the text. Interestingly, the king would eat nothing that wasn’t tasted by his royal cupbearer.

Year’s best books

Add to the reading-informed players offering their end-of-year choices for the best books of 2013. The site, a “monthly book review publication (that) serves as a broad-based selection guide to the best new books published every month,” has posted a list of 50 fiction and nonfiction titles, a guidepost for those who might have missed a winner or two.

The top 10:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

“Tenth of December” by George Saunders

“The Men We Reaped” by Jesmyn Ward

“The Son” by Philipp Meyer

“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler (who has appeared for The Bee Book Club)

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri

“The Love Song of Jonny Valentine” by Teddy Wayne

“Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson

Fitzgerald’s must reads

While F. Scott Fitzgerald was recovering from a nervous breakdown in 1936 in a hotel in Asheville, N.C., he became friendly with his nurse, Dorothy Richardson, whose main duty was to keep him company. Under the circumstances, there wasn’t much of value the novelist could offer his caretaker in gratitude for her patience. But he gave what he could “in an attempt to educate her” – a list of books he considered to be required reading. That list, written in Richardson’s hand, was recently discovered:

“Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser

“The Life of Jesus” by Ernest Renan

“A Doll’s House,” by Henrik Ibsen

“Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson

“The Old Wives’ Tale” by Arnold Bennett

“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiel Hammett

“The Red and the Black” by Stendahl

“The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant,” translated by Michael Monahan

“An Outline of Abnormal Psychology,” edited by Gardner Murphy

“The Stories of Anton Chekhov,” edited by Robert N. Linscott

“The Best American Humorous Short Stories,” edited by Alexander Jessup

“Victory” by Joseph Conrad

“The Revolt of the Angels” by Anatole France

“The Plays of Oscar Wilde”

“Sanctuary” by William Faulkner

“Within a Budding Grove,” “The Guermantes Way” and “Swann’s Way” by Marcel Proust

“South Wind” by Norman Douglas

“The Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield

“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy

“John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works”

Library benefit

The Friends of the Sacramento Public Library will host a sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Book Den Warehouse, at 8250 Belvedere Ave., Sacramento. Choose from among 70,000 gently used books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and more. Proceeds go to support materials and programs at the Sacramento Public Library. Information: (916) 731-8493.

Upcoming author appearance

Award-winning Sacramento author Sue Owens Wright for her “Beanie and Cruiser” mystery series, 6 p.m. Saturday at Adamson Gallery, 1021 R St., Sacramento; (916) 492-2207.


If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks@sacbee.comat least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to Questions? Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.