Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Contemporary 101

Posted August 25, 2015 by Ely in Uncategorized / 28 Comments


In this weeks Top Ten Tuesday, we were asked what books we would choose for a introductory syllabus of our choice. At first I was stumped, how do we make this work? What subject would we choose? but as always Ely had the answer for me and we decided to go with what we know. So without further ado, we went with Top Ten books that we would be on our syllabus if we taught Contemporary 101. There are a lot of subjects that contemporary covers such as family, relationships, mental illness, prejudice, addictions and sexuality. It is important that there are good books out there to help people learn about these issues and I hope Ely and I can share with you some of our favourites.


onetrueOne true Thing by Nicole Hayes: If you didn’t catch my review for this book you can catch it here but basically it’s a really good book about family and friends and …politics? bare with me but the importance in this book lies in its representation of family/friends and is all blended together with Australian politics. I’d put it on my Syllabus because it’s Australian soooo relatable and pretty darn good.


Apple & Rain by Sarah Crossan: This book is another great one that deals with family relationships. I am a sucker for these types of books because there is an extreme lack of YA that shows strong/diverse family relationships. Apple’s mum walked out on her at Christmas when she was young leaving her with her Grandma. Years later her mum is back and everything changes. I especially like this book for how it deals with Sibling relationships. Learning that you aren’t alone in your mixed up family environment is extremely important and that is why I’d put it on my syllabus.

Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James: This book is a very underrated Australian YA that I am literally obsessed with and am trying to get everyone to read it. This book follows four characters in two different periods in time. It deals with suicide, friendship, drug and alcohol abuse and relatioships.  I’d pick this book because I feel a lot of Australian Teens can relate to it and it is a gripping book that I think can grab people and help them become readers.cooper

skyisThe Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson: This book is just so special, I cried my little heart out reading this book.  This follows how grief is dealt with in different ways. When Lennie’s sister Bailey dies Lennie’s world explodes, the book shows Lennie’s journey after she looses a part of herself and trying to put herself back together. This would be on my syllabus because it’s beautifully written and teaches that grief does not look like one thing.alex woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence: Alex Woods suffers from epilepsy which in  itself makes this an interesting and important read but the most endearing part of this book is Alex’s relationship with a widowed older man Mr. Peterson whom teaches him the value of life and together share a love of Kurt Vonnegut. This one is just something a little different in terms of a lot of contemporary out there so I feel it would be a good book to teach because it has a literary feel.



Adorakable by Sara Manning:
Adorkable is an interesting book. I think it’s a good introductory book to contemporary because it’s not a flowery, love is SAH great kind of book. It’s about a girl named Jeane who is this super popular blogger/social media person. She’s sassy, a super bitch and a very angsty—yes, you may want to punch her in the face. But I picked this out because it has a great love/hate relationship which is just as likely to happen in the real world as super sickly sweet love, right?

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta:
The most common criticism of this book is that it’s weird, and well, they aren’t wrong. I don’t even know how to put the plot into actual words that make sense. There are a lot of emotions and beautiful moments in this book, as well some pretty freaking awesome characters. Jonah Griggs is all I say. So there’s a bit of romance in this book, but really it’s about friends, and family and just so much more.

Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen:
This might be a weird one for me to include because I only gave it three stars, but I think it’s an incredibly important book. At my school, we were never taught about rape—we were never taught what the term meant, how to report it…we were never even told we were allowed to say ‘no’. So many people miss out on this education, and books like this need to be read so people can understand. (I’d also suggest Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Andersen, because eating disorders are important too).

Solitaire by Alice Oseman:
THIS BOOK. Both Michelle and I really love this book. It’s kind of like Adorkable in the sense that it is very angsty, but in a different way. If someone needed an introduction point into books with serious feels and pop culture references, this is it. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you pray to the goddess Alice for another book. Just do yourself a favour and read this.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:
I know pretty much the entire blogosphere has read this book, but I’d still totally put in on a syllabus. I think this is probably one of the best places to start in contemporary, especially for our generation. A lot of us grew up with Harry Potter, and can you honestly say you’ve never read fanfiction of something? Maybe even written some yourself? Yes, Cath is our spirit animal.


28 responses to “Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught Contemporary 101

  1. I loved The Sky is Everywhere and I keep hearing about Cooper Bartholomew is Dead, so that’s calling to me. I LOVE Jellicoe Road, so, so much. I didn’t think it was weird, I thought it was perfect. But I can see why some might think it, it’s a different (but brilliant!) way of storytelling and has confused the heck out of a lot of people. Will also check out Solitaire, it’s the second time I’ve crossed paths with it this week so I think that’s a sign!

    • Michelle

      Girl you need to get on the Solitaire train with us, Ely and I are like the totally unpaid spokes people for that book, also Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is so underrated but great definitely give it a shot if you get the opportunity. I am so intrigued by Jellicoe Road, I havent read it yet (Ely has) I want to read it very soon.

  2. Apple and Rain and Speak are books I want to read! On the Jellicoe Road is actually one of my favourite books and I would recommend it to a lot of people! I literally just bought The Sky is Everywhere and also Fangirl, so I should be trying those ones out soon.

    • Michelle

      Apple and Rain, The Sky is Everywhere and Fangirl are all books I can say are amazing. I would recommend all of them for sure.Also dang I need to read Jellicoe Road soon. thankyou for commenting 🙂

  3. Contemporary is one of my favorite genres and I still need to read a lot of these. I love Jellicoe Road, Speak, and Fangirl!

  4. It’s especially because we don’t talk enough about rape that Speak should definitely be on the syllabus sometime in high-school. I remember reading, for a class, an autobiography of a woman and how she ended up with HIV. I was 14, and this book was stuck in my mind for years. Those kinds of books really open your eyes, and I think, the sooner the better. Great list !

    • Ely

      We always read stupid books in high school that didn’t prepare us for anything in life. We always read biographies about Chinese children (despite living in Australia) which was fine, but really didn’t teach us anything about our own culture. There were people in my year that really needed that.

  5. Love your picks and some of the titles are so unique…”Adorkable” – would have bought it only because of it 😀

    • Michelle

      That is literally the whole reason I ever read this book, and it didn’t let either Ely or I down 🙂

  6. I haven’t read of any. Fangirl is on my TBR, waiting to buy a copy next time I visit a bookstore. I would love to attend your classes to know more on these pretty books.

    Happy Reading!
    Thank You for stopping by my blog.

    • Ely

      You definitely should pick it up and give it ago—it’s a really fun book. Let me know if you do end up picking it up, I’d love to know what you think 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to visit us back!

  7. I absolutely fail because I have not read any of these yet (and am notoriously bad at contemporary!) But The Sky is Everywhere, Apple & Rain and Fangirl are VERY high on my TBR, and I am super interested in Cooper Bartholomew, One True Thing, and The Universe vs Alex Woods. Guess my TBR has grown (again!) 😉 Fabulous list!!

    • Ely

      Sorry Shannon! Only not really 😉 I’m sure you’ll enjoy these books when you get to them, and then hopefully we can help grow your TBR again with even more recommendations 😛

  8. Ebony Ellis



    I like Cooper Bartholomew and Wintergirls too!