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Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading

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Some people are baffled by re-reading. What's the point? There's so much else to read. With these essays, Lizzie Skurnick has answered those questions. It's as if a kindly psychiatrist suddenly appeared with a sheaf of missing brain scans. Does the mere mention of a mink-trimmed coat make you secretly swoon, even though you are rabidly anti-fur? You have 'A Little Princess Some people are baffled by re-reading. What's the point? There's so much else to read. With these essays, Lizzie Skurnick has answered those questions. It's as if a kindly psychiatrist suddenly appeared with a sheaf of missing brain scans. Does the mere mention of a mink-trimmed coat make you secretly swoon, even though you are rabidly anti-fur? You have 'A Little Princess' complex. Do you long to cover your enemies with leeches? You're having a 'Little House' flashback... So stretch out on Dr. Lizzie's couch and find out why you think it would be kind of cozy to be locked up in an attic with your brother. Or learn to dissect the subtle class consciousness of Judy Blume's New Jersey. Ponder the way that Lois Duncan's characters come into unexpected powers, natural and supernatural alike, as they enter adolesence. And most of all, enjoy.


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Some people are baffled by re-reading. What's the point? There's so much else to read. With these essays, Lizzie Skurnick has answered those questions. It's as if a kindly psychiatrist suddenly appeared with a sheaf of missing brain scans. Does the mere mention of a mink-trimmed coat make you secretly swoon, even though you are rabidly anti-fur? You have 'A Little Princess Some people are baffled by re-reading. What's the point? There's so much else to read. With these essays, Lizzie Skurnick has answered those questions. It's as if a kindly psychiatrist suddenly appeared with a sheaf of missing brain scans. Does the mere mention of a mink-trimmed coat make you secretly swoon, even though you are rabidly anti-fur? You have 'A Little Princess' complex. Do you long to cover your enemies with leeches? You're having a 'Little House' flashback... So stretch out on Dr. Lizzie's couch and find out why you think it would be kind of cozy to be locked up in an attic with your brother. Or learn to dissect the subtle class consciousness of Judy Blume's New Jersey. Ponder the way that Lois Duncan's characters come into unexpected powers, natural and supernatural alike, as they enter adolesence. And most of all, enjoy.

30 review for Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tressa

    Ladies, who among you remember: 1) “We must, we must, we must increase our busts!” 2) spending the night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 3) a young spy’s penchant for her notebooks and tomato sandwiches 4) Tony wearing his raincoat to the blackboard 4) taming a wild island dog and naming him Rontu 5) and gazing at your first real love over a pot of boiling fondue cheese? If you remember that these are from the teen books 1) Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 2) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Ladies, who among you remember: 1) “We must, we must, we must increase our busts!” 2) spending the night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 3) a young spy’s penchant for her notebooks and tomato sandwiches 4) Tony wearing his raincoat to the blackboard 4) taming a wild island dog and naming him Rontu 5) and gazing at your first real love over a pot of boiling fondue cheese? If you remember that these are from the teen books 1) Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret 2) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 3) Harriet the Spy 4) Then Again, Maybe I Won’t 5) Island of the Blue Dolphins and 5) Forever, then you are among the legions of women readers who never forgot the teen books that saw them through school bullies, puberty, heartbreak, body angst, and soured friendships. Blogger and teen book author Lizzie Skurnick, along with guest essayists Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Jennifer Weiner, write about their favorite books with some humor, a little snark, and a lot of earnestness in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. If it seems like this book leaves out the guys, well, it kind of does. Out of 72 essays, only 7 are what can be considered books for boys: Farmer Boy; Danny, the Champion of the World; The Great Brain; I Am the Cheese; Then Again, Maybe I Won’t; The Pigman; and A Day No Pigs Would Die. Keep in mind that all of the contributions to Shelf Discovery are women, most of whom make a living writing chick lit. I’d like to add a personal note that my favorite teen book of all time—A Summer To Die—is not included in the book. But since Lizzie Skurnick so eloquently blogs about it here, then I’ll forgive this oversight. Now I'm wondering why One Fat Summer (the male Blubber), A Separate Peace (I had the biggest crush on Finny), and The Chocolate War (one of my first life lessons about the good guy not always coming out on top) didn’t make the cut? This book is like People Magazine’s Most Beautiful issue. In the following issue there are always angry letters-to-the-editor from fans whose idols didn’t make the cut. Like People always tells them, there are only so many pages to devote to all the beautiful people in Hollywood. And there is only so much room in Shelf Discovery to talk about the hundreds of beloved teen books out there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I picked this up just meaning to dip into it before returning to my other reading, but then found myself gorging on the whole thing -- it felt like eating a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting. The online origins of this book show through in the superabundance of exclamation points and bold face type, and in a certain slapdash style, but I shouldn't complain too much as I did enjoy it immensely. I didn't entirely relate to the subtitle of the book ("the Teen Classics We Never Stop I picked this up just meaning to dip into it before returning to my other reading, but then found myself gorging on the whole thing -- it felt like eating a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies in one sitting. The online origins of this book show through in the superabundance of exclamation points and bold face type, and in a certain slapdash style, but I shouldn't complain too much as I did enjoy it immensely. I didn't entirely relate to the subtitle of the book ("the Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading"). Judy Blume is over-represented in my opinion, and I have always been able to stop reading her books with no difficulty at all. But I loved reading Skurnick's thoughts on many of my old favorites; it was like having a conversation with a like-minded friend, which is really what I want from this kind of book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I'll admit, when I first heard about this book I avoided it out of bitterness. Writing essays about re-reading my favorite books of adolescence as an adult was my idea! How dare Skurnick beat me to the punch? But I got over it, and when I flipped through the table of contents while randomly picking it off the library shelf one day, I knew that I had to read it. Skurnick is about a decade older than I am, I think, but her reading list as a teenager was very similar to mine. There must be a book lis I'll admit, when I first heard about this book I avoided it out of bitterness. Writing essays about re-reading my favorite books of adolescence as an adult was my idea! How dare Skurnick beat me to the punch? But I got over it, and when I flipped through the table of contents while randomly picking it off the library shelf one day, I knew that I had to read it. Skurnick is about a decade older than I am, I think, but her reading list as a teenager was very similar to mine. There must be a book list teachers are given for smart and sensitive young girls. "Harriet the Spy," "Jacob Have I Loved," "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret," and lots of Madeline L'Engle are some of the books covered here. Like the idea of "Shelf Discovery," I thought I was the only person on Earth to love these books. I don't remember ever talking about them with classmates. Instead of being bitter over having to share, though, it was delightful to know that someone else was affected by these books, too. The one drawback of "Shelf Discovery" is actually good news for me, because while the nostalgia was fun, it felt like most of the mini-essays were more summary than literary criticism. I might still have the opportunity to write that book, yet. It did make me wonder, though, if smart and sensitive girls are still being given these novels, and what new ones have been added to the list since then.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brandy

    I'm about halfway through this (it's a hard book to read cover-to-cover, straight through) and frankly I'm a little disappointed in it. I don't know what I was looking for, exactly--insightful essays about the cultural significance of each title, maybe?--but this isn't it. Mostly each entry reads as a lengthy plot synopsis, though written with snark and affection in roughly equal measures. When they entries are on books you also know and love, you don't really notice the detailed plot so much (i I'm about halfway through this (it's a hard book to read cover-to-cover, straight through) and frankly I'm a little disappointed in it. I don't know what I was looking for, exactly--insightful essays about the cultural significance of each title, maybe?--but this isn't it. Mostly each entry reads as a lengthy plot synopsis, though written with snark and affection in roughly equal measures. When they entries are on books you also know and love, you don't really notice the detailed plot so much (it's almost like talking to a friend about books you both loved), but the straight synopsis becomes really obvious when you hit a string of books you've never read. It may pick up. It's fun enough, but it's not going to stick with me. It's nice to know that other people loved these books, too (even the dumb ones) (uh, the dumb books, that is, not that dumb people loved these, though maybe they did), but there's not a whole lot here. **Now that I'm finished: I think what's not really doing it for me is that this book is subtitled "A reading memoir," and yet doesn't have all that much content I'd consider memoir-ish. So it's not really what I was expecting--the personal content to it is mostly "man, I loved this book" without a whole lot of information beyond that. Overall: it's okay, and worth a skim from pretty much any readers who are around my age (there are definitely some titles here you'll recognize, and agree with any snarking comments Skurnick makes), but it's not something I'd catapult to the top of your to-read list.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    Other reviews detail the typos, homophones, and flat out errors sprinkled liberally throughout this book. I won't dwell on them here other than to say that they really detracted from the reading experience. I never know if the author or the editor should be held accountable, but either way it's inexcusable- especially in a book about books the author ostensibly loves and reveres. I read the majority of these books as a kid (with the exception of the scary ones, and the dreck like V.C. Andrews) an Other reviews detail the typos, homophones, and flat out errors sprinkled liberally throughout this book. I won't dwell on them here other than to say that they really detracted from the reading experience. I never know if the author or the editor should be held accountable, but either way it's inexcusable- especially in a book about books the author ostensibly loves and reveres. I read the majority of these books as a kid (with the exception of the scary ones, and the dreck like V.C. Andrews) and remember them fondly. It was interesting to read another perspective on them, even when I didn't agree. I never found Frank Gilbreth abusive, for instance, rather a man of difficult genius. The book suffered, in my opinion, from what I think of as "Cosmo syndrome" wherein MANY words are CAPITALIZED or italicized for emphasis and Other. Annoying. Punctuation. Devices are used. Gah! OMG ZACHARY GRAY! Interesting as a trip down memory lane, for sure.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Were you an avid girl reader in the 80s? This book is a much appreciated expansion of the author's Fine Lines column found on Jezebel. Brief essays (a bit of a stretch: maybe meditations?) on the era of YA novels from the 70s to late 80's. It is divided into sections/themes: girlpower, tearjerkers, the supernatural, after school special/issues, the lovelorn, old fashioned girls, and "Oprah books" from before we knew what that meant. Some of my favorite titles featured: The Grounding of Group 6: Ju Were you an avid girl reader in the 80s? This book is a much appreciated expansion of the author's Fine Lines column found on Jezebel. Brief essays (a bit of a stretch: maybe meditations?) on the era of YA novels from the 70s to late 80's. It is divided into sections/themes: girlpower, tearjerkers, the supernatural, after school special/issues, the lovelorn, old fashioned girls, and "Oprah books" from before we knew what that meant. Some of my favorite titles featured: The Grounding of Group 6: Julian F. Thompson Tiger Eyes: Judy Bloom And You Give Me a Pain, Elaine: Stella Pevsner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: E.L.Konisburg Stranger With My Face: Lois Duncan The Endless Steppe: Esther Hautzig Summer of My German Soldier Bette Greene Jacob Have I Loved: Katherine Paterson Summer of Fear Lois Duncan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mickey

    This book is a fun and irreverent view of the teen books that were around in the 1980's. Arranged as a series of book reports, the authors revisit each of these books in an intelligent and entertaining manner. One of my favorite entries was the report on Judy Blume's Blubber, which was titled "Ethnic Flensing". In this short essay, the author discusses how overweight people are portrayed, the differences in our definition of overweight from the time of publication to present time, realistic port This book is a fun and irreverent view of the teen books that were around in the 1980's. Arranged as a series of book reports, the authors revisit each of these books in an intelligent and entertaining manner. One of my favorite entries was the report on Judy Blume's Blubber, which was titled "Ethnic Flensing". In this short essay, the author discusses how overweight people are portrayed, the differences in our definition of overweight from the time of publication to present time, realistic portrayals of childhood bullying, and the effect of perspective on the themes of the book. She also throws in some interview material from Blume for good measure. In a condensed form, it sounds like weighty stuff, but it is told in a breezy and conversational manner that makes reading it seem more fun than informative. What makes this book work is that although Skurnick and company look back at the books with an adult's understanding, there is no hint of that condescending adult impulse to view or evaluate teen books as simply a vehicle to instruct. If anything, there are light and playful jabs at attempts within the books to the sort of morals that many think should be the prime focus of young adult literature. They also remember their impressions of the first reading, which spotlight the differences between adult understanding and kid understanding. For the record, I should admit that I did not read every report. I have never been comfortable in reading reviews for books I have not read. However, I have read about one-half to three-quarters of this book, so I feel pretty comfortable giving a review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    CLM

    Here is the PW review: http://www.publishersweekly.com/artic... Launched from her regular feature column “Fines Lines” for Jezebel.com, this spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies. This was the era, notes the bibliomaniacal Skurnick in her brief introduction, when books for young girls moved from being “wholesome and entertaining” (e.g. Here is the PW review: http://www.publishersweekly.com/artic... Launched from her regular feature column “Fines Lines” for Jezebel.com, this spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies. This was the era, notes the bibliomaniacal Skurnick in her brief introduction, when books for young girls moved from being “wholesome and entertaining” (e.g., The Secret Garden and the Nancy Drew series) to dealing with real-life, painful issues affecting adolescence as depicted by Beverly Cleary, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Norma Klein. Skurnick groups her eruptive essays around themes, for example, books that feature a particularly memorable, fun or challenging narrator (e.g., Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy); girls “on the verge,” such as Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret or “danger girls” such as Duncan's Daughters of Eve; novels that deal with dying protagonists and other tragedies like child abuse (Willo Davis Roberts's Don't Hurt Laurie!); and, unavoidably, heroines gifted with a paranormal penchant, among other categories. Skurnick is particularly effective at spotlighting an undervalued classic (e.g., Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) and offers titles featuring troubled boys as well. Her suggestions will prove superhelpful (not to mention wildly entertaining) for educators, librarians and parents. (Aug.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    the blog ("fine lines" on jezebel) is vastly superior to the book, which seemed to be culled almost entirely from the blog with only minor edits, plus some solicitations from name YA authors in an effort to attract...current YA readers? i really can't imagine that current YA readers would give a flying fuck what lizzie skurnick thinks of the westing game, so this makes little sense to me. i mean, i LOVE my YA snarks & was a religious followed to the "fine lines" blog before lizzie went on extend the blog ("fine lines" on jezebel) is vastly superior to the book, which seemed to be culled almost entirely from the blog with only minor edits, plus some solicitations from name YA authors in an effort to attract...current YA readers? i really can't imagine that current YA readers would give a flying fuck what lizzie skurnick thinks of the westing game, so this makes little sense to me. i mean, i LOVE my YA snarks & was a religious followed to the "fine lines" blog before lizzie went on extended hiatus to put this book together. & this is actually the first book i have paid money for (as opposed to putting it on hold at the library) in months. now i feel like i made the wrong choice. i doubt i will ever read this book again, & the only people i'd feel comfortable recommending it to are maybe grad students working on theses about contemporary responses to canonical YA literature or something. it's not a terrible book...i just didn't get very much out of it. the writing was great for a blog & not so great for a book, it clocked in at over 400 pages long, & in book form, the synopses read like amateur book reports more than anything else. really disappointing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Relyn

    I really enjoyed this book. Not so much for the content, though that was good, but because it showed me that there are so many other readers like me. Grown women who somehow still enjoy the books of their youth. Isn't it nice not to feel alone?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anna Bowling

    When a reader isn't sure what they want to read, what could be better than a book about books? This nonfiction collection of essays, on beloved YA favorites, is a lovely sampler of some old-school YA classics, and the impact they had, and still have, on the kids who read them, and the adults those kids became. Three and a half stars for this, very easy to sample, though I will admit to skimming some entirs on books that didn't quite do it for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    I LOVED this book, but I don't feel like I can give it five stars because it is for such a randomly specific group of people - women who were born between about 1972 and 1982 and read a lot as kids. That's it. I'm in that group, and it is perfection for me. I get to read a whole bunch of essays about YA books from when I was a kid, 80% of which I have already read approximately 36 times each. It was like getting together with a group of my friends and waxing nostalgic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    In my experience there a couple different types of people. Those who grow up to be jaded and can no longer find lasting value in anything they deem as 'childish' or too young - and those who return to the comfort and value that they found in those childish things, reveling in reliving it. Books are not to be excluded from this very un-academic theory of someone with no real data to back it up. I am the type of person who still reads 'children's' books and loves them, many a time far better than In my experience there a couple different types of people. Those who grow up to be jaded and can no longer find lasting value in anything they deem as 'childish' or too young - and those who return to the comfort and value that they found in those childish things, reveling in reliving it. Books are not to be excluded from this very un-academic theory of someone with no real data to back it up. I am the type of person who still reads 'children's' books and loves them, many a time far better than the ones written for so called adults! I spend most of my summer re-reading Tuck Everlasting, Bridge to Terabithia, A Wrinkle In Time, and Anne of Green Gables on a blanket in the park. These are the books that have stuck with me my entire life. I have been reading and re-reading Anne of Green Gables consistently since I was 8 years old. That is almost sixteen years of my life! So I definitely find value in these books. They taught me things as a child and they also can have such a great beauty to them as well, with a depth of writing that might surprise and astonish many nay-saying, snobbish adults who find themselves too 'mature' for them. So when I found out about Lizzie Skurnick's book of essays about her childhood reads, I knew it was right up my alley. However, I am also the girl who read Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism by Michael Cart FOR FUN!!! This is an analytical book one of my friend's had to read in classes for her Masters Degree in Library Science! I am not your average animal my friends. I enjoyed myself immensely! I really liked reading Skurnick's reviews about the books that I had read as a child, young teen and adult. I also garnered some titles to check out from the library and read for myself (that I somehow missed while I was devouring my school and public libraries as a child - I was and am a book zombie. Books instead of brains!) that I have never read before. It was extremely interesting to see Lizzie's insights into some of her childhood favorites, now that she's an adult. I especially enjoyed the sometimes snarky nature of the book reports. Nothing is favored by me more in reviews than honesty and a good sense of humor! Sometimes the book did have a feeling of being disjointed, probably due to it's initial incarnation as a column on the website Jezebel. I did like the fact that all the essays were indexed by theme and sectioned off. I could easily flip to whichever essay I preferred to read. Skurnick covers such classics as Jacob Have I Loved, Blubber, A Wrinkle In Time, Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Stranger With My Face, Go Ask Alice, and many more! If you enjoy this sort of book and want a walk down memory lane, I highly recommend reading it! :) It was a nice change of pace, although I would have liked more in-depth analysis to go with the plot summaries. I leave you only with my happy nostalgia fuzz and this quote from a constant re-read of my own: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.” - Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting VERDICT: 4/5 Stars **No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maria Elmvang

    An incredibly charming book! Not having grown up in an English speaking country, I'd read depressingly few of the books mentioned (only 18 in total, actually), but I have my own list of Teen Classics I've Never Stopped Reading, so though I might not recognize the exact books Lizzie Skurnick referenced, I could at the very least recognize the sentiments behind them. This is the kind of book I wish I had thought of to write myself - full of book reports, it's the perfect kind of reading and writing An incredibly charming book! Not having grown up in an English speaking country, I'd read depressingly few of the books mentioned (only 18 in total, actually), but I have my own list of Teen Classics I've Never Stopped Reading, so though I might not recognize the exact books Lizzie Skurnick referenced, I could at the very least recognize the sentiments behind them. This is the kind of book I wish I had thought of to write myself - full of book reports, it's the perfect kind of reading and writing for a nostalgic re-reader like myself. The only problem is that it made me want to read a huge number of the books mentioned, and unfortunately many of them are either out of print entirely, or utterly impossible to find in Denmark. I'd probably have rated it 5 stars if I'd known a larger number of the books. (For people interested, a full list of the books mentioned can be found here).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Estepp

    two and a half, probably. ultimately more enjoyable than not, but still a bit of a letdown. in the sense that it's better in theory (or, in the jezebel columns from which many of the essays had their birth) than in reality. reading it in small doses certainly helps, as is being in the right mood, because coming at it in the wrong frame of mind and you will just find lizzie and her penchant for letting-the-typography-do-the-talking and the given snark simply annoying. and also you'll feel nitpick two and a half, probably. ultimately more enjoyable than not, but still a bit of a letdown. in the sense that it's better in theory (or, in the jezebel columns from which many of the essays had their birth) than in reality. reading it in small doses certainly helps, as is being in the right mood, because coming at it in the wrong frame of mind and you will just find lizzie and her penchant for letting-the-typography-do-the-talking and the given snark simply annoying. and also you'll feel nitpicky and want to rant about the fact that many of these books are not "young adult" or "teen" novels, but maybe you're just jealous, because you could totally have written this book and you're mad at yourself for not thinking of/doing it first. but. it did remind me of some great books and want me to take another look at them. and made me think about why i loved them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I preordered this as soon as I heard about it (probably from a blog) and so very glad I did. I picked it up on Tuesday and had trouble putting it down for two days. Although the reviews/essays aren't very long and (thankfully) are free of critical-discourse-overload, I felt like Skurnick and her contributing authors took me back through all the books I loved as a tween/teen. I'd read most of the books covered in Shelf Discovery but I was intoduced to a few that slipped past my greedy library car I preordered this as soon as I heard about it (probably from a blog) and so very glad I did. I picked it up on Tuesday and had trouble putting it down for two days. Although the reviews/essays aren't very long and (thankfully) are free of critical-discourse-overload, I felt like Skurnick and her contributing authors took me back through all the books I loved as a tween/teen. I'd read most of the books covered in Shelf Discovery but I was intoduced to a few that slipped past my greedy library card. I've already made notes of which books to re-read (did someone say Madeleine L'Engle??); I had so many "omg, I LOVED that book!!" moments that I should give all those books some love again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Despite the horrible and nearly unforgivable error of omitting Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series, I ADORED this book. I wish I had written it. I revisited some old favorites, and found a few new books to add to my "to-read" list, and about every fifth pages I found myself nodding my head in recognition (the lightning bolt underpants in THE GROUNDING OF GROUP SIX, the Chinese restaurant in FIFTEEN, and I can go on and on....). If you were as book crazy as I was as I young girl growing up i Despite the horrible and nearly unforgivable error of omitting Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series, I ADORED this book. I wish I had written it. I revisited some old favorites, and found a few new books to add to my "to-read" list, and about every fifth pages I found myself nodding my head in recognition (the lightning bolt underpants in THE GROUNDING OF GROUP SIX, the Chinese restaurant in FIFTEEN, and I can go on and on....). If you were as book crazy as I was as I young girl growing up in the 1960s, 70s or 80s, you MUST read this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    This is going to be a festival of Right? And, Oh, I 'd forgotten that. And, How did I miss that? *** I shelve fiction alphabetically by author. During this year's Halloween Bingo I had thought of a book, warmly remembered from childhood, that would be a nostalgic short read. Only I didn't find it in time, because I rarely learned the names of the authors who put out all those Weekly Reader bookclub and Scholastic book orders. Just now, looking at title lists from authors I know I read something by This is going to be a festival of Right? And, Oh, I 'd forgotten that. And, How did I miss that? *** I shelve fiction alphabetically by author. During this year's Halloween Bingo I had thought of a book, warmly remembered from childhood, that would be a nostalgic short read. Only I didn't find it in time, because I rarely learned the names of the authors who put out all those Weekly Reader bookclub and Scholastic book orders. Just now, looking at title lists from authors I know I read something by, (Paul Zindel, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, for instance) it was striking that I had only ever read that one. When I was young we moved a lot, or lived in the back of beyond, so except for school libraries, there is maybe one other memory of a public library. Maybe. There may have been a bookstore visit, but I can't recall any until I was old enough to hang out at the mall. Sure, now I will go on a tear and read everything I can find a copy of by some new-to-me writer. Never before had I noticed: my book choices for the first 20 years were almost entirely random. My senior year in high school is the first time I ever went on a thematic bender (dystopias of course). Then it was my third year as a college freshie before I read an author's entire backlist (Dick Francis, Reflex was the gateway title). Since then it's been binge, binge, binge but until then the chaos of a random universe. James Herriot and Agatha Christie I had read a few titles from, but not by plan. For 30 years now I have carefully maintained lists of books to read and read, otherwise I stand in a store or library unable to name a single author I ever liked. Kind of makes sense now. *** That disquisition is what makes this book such a delight: the way it sends one down rabbit holes of memory and speculation and re-interpretation. Gonna be a hella long review-adjacent meander before it's over. *** Okay, so that didn't happen, at least in part because a lot of these were books I had never read. I particularly liked Laura Lippman's pieces (yeah, no surprise). And even where I don't know the specific books under discussion, I fully understood the reason why they were read, what they meant to the girls reading them; that stuff is pretty universal. Library copy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Revisiting the teen classics I grew up with was a fun walk down memory lane.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joanie

    Ok, I haven't finished this book yet. It contains reviews of 73 books of juvenile and young adult fiction. And I am reading and re-reading books as I go along. But so far I'm not impressed. We begin with a tried and true classic: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle. I loved this book, the first time I read it and the third time through. And I went eagerly to Lizzie Skurnick's essay about it immediately upon finishing. My hopes for Deep Insights were dashed: Not only was the essay shallow and f Ok, I haven't finished this book yet. It contains reviews of 73 books of juvenile and young adult fiction. And I am reading and re-reading books as I go along. But so far I'm not impressed. We begin with a tried and true classic: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle. I loved this book, the first time I read it and the third time through. And I went eagerly to Lizzie Skurnick's essay about it immediately upon finishing. My hopes for Deep Insights were dashed: Not only was the essay shallow and fluffy, she got her facts wrong! Meg wasn't a hero because she was the only one who could stand up to IT. Meg was a hero because she figured out the secret of the universe: love. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. Didn't like the book; didn't care about the review. Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, by Judy Blume. Loved the book. I'd forgotten what a very good writer Judy Blume is. I fell into the story and was sorry when it ended. The essay? At least the facts were right this time. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. It seems that everybody I know read and loved Harriet when they were young. But I didn't love her! I like the premise - girl with notebook tries to figure out the world. But I found Harriet's lack of basic compassion for her subjects off-putting. And all of the characters, with the possible exception of Harriet, read as caricatures: Harriet's wealthy parents, too busy dressing up and going out to bother with her; Janie the brainiac scientist; the neighbors who do nothing but sit and wait for the arrival of new objects with which to impress their acquaintances; the ineffectual teacher, the bossy classmate, the eccentric dance teacher - not a developed character in the bunch. I liked Ole Golly (who doesn't?), but even she wasn't genuinely fleshed out. So Harriet the Spy was a bust for me. And the essay? The author compared Harriet to Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird! Sacrilege!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    Someone in the What's the Name of That Book? group here on Goodreads helped me remember that Secret Lives was the book I had read ages and ages ago and forgotten the name of. I did a little poking around and realize that that book had been recently mentioned by the author of this book in an NPR interview. The premise sounded interesting, so I snagged this at the library. So, there's a kernel of usefulness here. I enjoyed the refresher of the books I'd read in the past, and discovered a few that I Someone in the What's the Name of That Book? group here on Goodreads helped me remember that Secret Lives was the book I had read ages and ages ago and forgotten the name of. I did a little poking around and realize that that book had been recently mentioned by the author of this book in an NPR interview. The premise sounded interesting, so I snagged this at the library. So, there's a kernel of usefulness here. I enjoyed the refresher of the books I'd read in the past, and discovered a few that I think are worth trying - but there's something very adult gaze about this book. Sometimes it captures the pleasure of the child's enjoyment of the books of childhood that helped us grow. But more often there's something disturbingly salacious about the author's retroactive regard. It did make me wonder if it wouldn't be better to read books of fiction like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and The Long Secret* to introduce young girls to the idea of puberty, versus the non-fiction ones. Or at least ... they should be mixed together. *I haven't actually read this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Inge

    I was very excited to read this book. It's fantastic premise: revisiting the books you loved (or loved to hate) as a child or teen. I read the uncorrected proof, so I am going to give this book the benefit of the doubt and assume that the finished copy wasn't such a hot mess. (I have read many ARCs, and not once have I seen one with so many typos and garbled sentences. It's kind of hard to read a book that calls Cecily Von Ziegesar's books "Gossip Girls", especially since she is a contributor to I was very excited to read this book. It's fantastic premise: revisiting the books you loved (or loved to hate) as a child or teen. I read the uncorrected proof, so I am going to give this book the benefit of the doubt and assume that the finished copy wasn't such a hot mess. (I have read many ARCs, and not once have I seen one with so many typos and garbled sentences. It's kind of hard to read a book that calls Cecily Von Ziegesar's books "Gossip Girls", especially since she is a contributor to this anthology). Skurnick calls Shelf Discovery a "reading memoir", and the book was at its best when she stuck to that premise. More often though, the book presented a series of synopses, and, in some cases, that proved to be very tiresome. On the upside, Shelf Discovery serves as a little refresher course in "classic" young adult literature, which could be useful for librarians, educators, etc. But was *two* entries on Clan of the Cave Bear really necessary? I enjoyed Shelf Discovery most when Skurnick spoke so passionately about a novel that I couldn't help but want to discover or revisit it myself. Sadly, many of the titles featured in this book are no longer in print and/or difficult to find at the public library. Hopefully Shelf Discovery will help renew interest in these great, if sometimes forgotten, works.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lori W

    I really liked this book. I loved reminiscing about old favorites (hello Judy Blume, Cynthia Voigt, and that old favorite, Summer of My German Soldier!), remembering books I wanted to read but never got around to (if only Goodreads existed when I was a pre-teen!), and books I have never heard of, but now want to read. The summaries and analysis are insightful and entertaining, although sometimes I wish they were a bit longer. My quibbles are all in the details. Skurnick has a great conversational I really liked this book. I loved reminiscing about old favorites (hello Judy Blume, Cynthia Voigt, and that old favorite, Summer of My German Soldier!), remembering books I wanted to read but never got around to (if only Goodreads existed when I was a pre-teen!), and books I have never heard of, but now want to read. The summaries and analysis are insightful and entertaining, although sometimes I wish they were a bit longer. My quibbles are all in the details. Skurnick has a great conversational style, but sometimes, it detracts from the book. ALL OF HER CAPITAL LETTERS, very long sentences and insidery YA references can get distracting (especially if you read this book out of order and haven't read earlier recaps). But, my biggest pet peeve is (in honor of Harriet and Skurnick) WHO IS THE EDITOR OF THIS BOOK?! There were SO many typos in this book, it made it very difficult to read sometimes. There were also times when the wrong word was used or a comma was missing that made sentences completely unintelligible. Argh. But despite these terrible crimes against copy-editing, it's a charming, fun book that I would definitely recommend. Just maybe pick up a different edition. Or a red pen.

  24. 4 out of 5

    MsAprilVincent

    Remember the books you read in middle school? The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Blubber, A Wrinkle in Time? Well, it turns out that pretty much every woman you know has read them too, and loved them just as much as you did. Here, Lizzie Skurnick discusses some of the best-known selections from your 7th grade bookshelf. I definitely remember reading most of these books. Re-reading them. And then reading them again. I'm sure I'll read them in the future. Books like Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret. Or Ha Remember the books you read in middle school? The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Blubber, A Wrinkle in Time? Well, it turns out that pretty much every woman you know has read them too, and loved them just as much as you did. Here, Lizzie Skurnick discusses some of the best-known selections from your 7th grade bookshelf. I definitely remember reading most of these books. Re-reading them. And then reading them again. I'm sure I'll read them in the future. Books like Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret. Or Harriet the Spy. Fifteen. And Skurnick doesn't just go with the wholesome stuff, either; there's a whole chapter about the books you had to sneak-read at school: Flowers in the Attic, Forever, Clan of the Cave Bear. You know ... the Sex Books. Even better, she writes about books I'd read but forgotten I'd read, or whose titles I could't remember. The Girl with the Silver Eyes. Don't Hurt Laurie. Jane-Emily. Pretty much, if you have nostalgic feelings about your school library, you've probably read most of the books discussed here. And if you haven't, well ... you've got a lot of catching up to do. I've already started my Amazon searches myself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was an interesting book, and I definitely enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed it most as a gateway to rediscovering books I loved when I was 10, but hadn't read in nearly two decades, or to finding books I had somehow never heard of nor read. Outside of its use as a gateway, Shelf Discovery was a bit problematic. The essays about books I hadn't read were often too short to really give me any sort of feel for the book. Also, I know this came from an internet column, but I think it really could This was an interesting book, and I definitely enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed it most as a gateway to rediscovering books I loved when I was 10, but hadn't read in nearly two decades, or to finding books I had somehow never heard of nor read. Outside of its use as a gateway, Shelf Discovery was a bit problematic. The essays about books I hadn't read were often too short to really give me any sort of feel for the book. Also, I know this came from an internet column, but I think it really could have used some cleaning up before publication. Also, why on earth were there two different reviews for The Clan of the Cave Bear? There were so many books that didn't make it on this list that could have been talked about; there was no reason for two different essays on this book. Last but not least, I have to say that a lot of the books were not exactly what I'd call teen books. Many of them were children's or tween, and even a few that were adult. Yes, these many have been the books Ms. Skurnick read as a teen, but I think it is a misnomer to call them teen classics.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I was a fan of Lizzie Skurnick's Fine Lines column on Jezebel, and I was SO EXCITED when I found out there was going to be a book! I read a good portion of the books written about in Shelf Discovery, and I remember seeing a lot of the ones I didn't at the library. My favorite thing about reading this was the relief I felt learning that I wasn't alone in drooling over the food descriptions in Wilder's Little House books or wishing I had a cormorant feather skirt like the one described in Island of I was a fan of Lizzie Skurnick's Fine Lines column on Jezebel, and I was SO EXCITED when I found out there was going to be a book! I read a good portion of the books written about in Shelf Discovery, and I remember seeing a lot of the ones I didn't at the library. My favorite thing about reading this was the relief I felt learning that I wasn't alone in drooling over the food descriptions in Wilder's Little House books or wishing I had a cormorant feather skirt like the one described in Island of the Blue Dolphins. On the downside, there are some truly cringe-inducing homophone errors here, like the previously mentioned "first site of the island" and "cinnamon roles" (that one REALLY grates on me). A lot of these essays are great, but they are uneven. I'd rather that some essays be left out than be given only a page or page and a half of material. And were 2 pieces on Clan of the Cave Bear really necessary? Problems aside, this was a great nostalgia trip. It makes me want to go back and reread a bunch of stuff, too.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Such a great idea--such a disappointment. While hearing Lizzie Skurnkick discuss her book on a radio program I was thrilled to hear a pretty hard hitting feminist talke about loving some of the same books I did. I had hope that moms and girls might find some great recommendations in this work. While some of the book discussed are girlhood classics others are not worth reading. Skurnick's language is off putting reminding me of Erasmus' comment that "words can . . . disfigure thought," and are wh Such a great idea--such a disappointment. While hearing Lizzie Skurnkick discuss her book on a radio program I was thrilled to hear a pretty hard hitting feminist talke about loving some of the same books I did. I had hope that moms and girls might find some great recommendations in this work. While some of the book discussed are girlhood classics others are not worth reading. Skurnick's language is off putting reminding me of Erasmus' comment that "words can . . . disfigure thought," and are what makes feminism ugly not empowering. Then there are the sections preoccupied with sex. So unless you want to know which books will introduce your child to sex-- with or without values that may reflect or challenge your own --skip many sections of this one if you bother to read it at all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex Templeton

    This book was awesome. It's a collection of short essays on books that, if you were a female child or adolescent reader in the '70s or '80s, you knew and loved. There were books discussed that I haven't thought of or read in years, and so many of them sounded so good I've decided that I have to give up adult literature for awhile in order to reread a stack of awesome books from my childhood. Well, I probably won't quite do that, but I will say a trip to the Strand is in order. But really, if you This book was awesome. It's a collection of short essays on books that, if you were a female child or adolescent reader in the '70s or '80s, you knew and loved. There were books discussed that I haven't thought of or read in years, and so many of them sounded so good I've decided that I have to give up adult literature for awhile in order to reread a stack of awesome books from my childhood. Well, I probably won't quite do that, but I will say a trip to the Strand is in order. But really, if you were like me and a huge book dork from the time you were born in 1982 (or a few years before), you will delight from the nostalgia brought about by this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I liked reading this book. Much of it resonated with my experiences as a child and young adult. It also made me want to revisit some books I've neglected, and to pick up a few that I've never read. But I also found quite a few errors in the book, some of which made me exclaim out loud. For instance, in discussing Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl, Skurnick says that Polly burned her bangs off. Um, no. That's one of the most well-known scenes from Little Women, and unless Skurnick has som I liked reading this book. Much of it resonated with my experiences as a child and young adult. It also made me want to revisit some books I've neglected, and to pick up a few that I've never read. But I also found quite a few errors in the book, some of which made me exclaim out loud. For instance, in discussing Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl, Skurnick says that Polly burned her bangs off. Um, no. That's one of the most well-known scenes from Little Women, and unless Skurnick has some long-lost edition that I don't have, it never happened to Polly.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    I started out enjoying this book, but then lost interest. Lots of memories and some interesting insights, but probably would have found the reviews more interesting as the separate pieces they were originally.

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