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Ten Books For Readers Who Like Dead Poets Society
First, a little background on DPS if you’re not familiar…
Todd Anderson and his friends at Welton Academy can hardly believe how different life is since their new English professor, the flamboyant John Keating, has challenged them to “make your lives extraordinary! ” Inspired by Keating, the boys resurrect the Dead Poets Society–a secret club where, free from the constraints and expectations of school and parents, they let their passions run wild. As Keating turns the boys on to the great words of Byron, Shelley, and Keats, they discover not only the beauty of language, but the importance of making each moment count.But the Dead Poets pledges soon realize that their newfound freedom can have tragic consequences. Can the club and the individuality it inspires survive the pressure from authorities determined to destroy their dreams?
When I think of Dead Poets Society, I think: coming of age, freedom, rebellion, societal constructs, literature, philosophy, introspection, growth, significance. That is how I have selected the following books.
Looking for Alaska
It’s more than just the blossoming romance that’s mostly Pudge-sided. Ignore that entirely. It bothers me that is what most of the synopsis is focused on. It makes me wonder if whoever wrote the synopsis read the entire book. There is SO. MUCH. MORE.
I’ve talked about this book several times.
Pudge and his new found band of misfits are in attendance and residence at Culver Creek Boarding School. They have nicknames and follow many of the typical traits of boarding school students, but they each have their own set of issues they bring from their backgrounds. Pudge is welcomed into this fold of friends that is comprised of Alaska, The Colonel (I love that they call him this!), Takumi and later Lara.
They are quite versed in literature and history, and several references pop up throughout the novel. In fact, a book is the central pivot point for the latter part of the novel.
They are not the hot snot Weekday Warriors who come from money. Instead, they sulk around the campus and get into all kinds of shenanigans. Overmore, there are several scenes where the students are in the classroom interacting in discussions. And then there are the pranks, and the one final prank that is “the Mona Lisa of high-school hilarity.”
The Keeper of Dawn
I was one of the first reviewers for J.B. Hickman’s debut novel back in 2013. (That long ago?!)
I said it as perfectly as I could in my review.
Rebellion at its finest. It rips away the prestige of privileged boys and exposes what lies behind them. The Raker Island lighthouse is both a symbol and a motif in this novel about four young boys sent to boarding school.
Wellington Academy is home to some very fascinating and privileged young men. Like all boarding schools, it has a heritage and a reputation to uphold. It is nothing for the likes of The Headliners, a band of young men who have taken exception to Wellington’s stodgy rules and refinery. Dubbed The Headliners for their morning ritual of poring over the newspaper headlines. There is also an influential teacher in their midst, and like in Looking for Alaska, a few pranks.
The Freedom Writers Diary
This one comes from the other side’s point of view, from the teacher.
As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust—only to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevoas their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels in these books to their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to the civil rights activists “The Freedom Riders.”
It’s summer in the small seaport town of Astoria and The Goonies are restless. Big developers threaten to take over the town. Then Mikey finds an old pirate map and the kids take off to find the loot that can save their neighborhood. But they never counted on skeletons with swords, a booby-trapped underground passage and the murderous ex-con, all of whom want the Goonies’ head. Take the oath. Join the adventure.
Mikey and the gang, self-proclaimed Goonies, are indeed the band of misfit underdogs. There is a lot at stake for their families and the town, and they go on a grand adventure together where they push their limits with one another, check each other into accountability and morality, and stick it to the man.
This one takes on more of the societal aspect, coming of age and rebellion than the literary side. Although, the book is Pony’s own writing for class…
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
The Chocolate War
Jerry Renault is a young man with some serious struggle after his mother’s death. His father is a complete zombie going about life. The revolving question Jerry keeps asking himself is Do I dare disturb the universe?
His universe is made up of Archie, the leader of the school’s secret society, The Virgils. Archie is a bully, and uses his power to bully an ambitious teacher into allowing the Virgils to control the annual school fundraiser. Jerry defies selling chocolates and is made out a hero until things come crashing down from the freedoms and misuse of power.
Jerry is a very introspective character who heavily weighs his actions like a guarded assistant or celebrity spokesperson. When push comes to shove, he stands for what he believes in and is heralded until peer pressure gives way to societal constructs that are still in existence today.