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List: Revolution for Kids!

Cory Doctorow recommends three political books for young adults

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Cory Doctorow is a one-man miniature media empire. He is co-editor of Boing Boing, one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, and he has also written Essential Blogging (2002). He has also written several science fiction books, most famously Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), a novel about a post-scarcity society run by informal, voluntary "adhocracies." In his spare time, he's an activist for copyright reform.

His latest book, Little Brother (Tor), is a dystopian young adult novel set in a near-future security state put into place after terrorists attack San Francisco's Bay Bridge. We asked Doctorow, a devout civil libertarian, to recommend three political books for young adults:

1 Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater: "One of my all-time favorite books, period. A subversive novel about a kid who moves from a funky urbanized inner city neighborhood to a place where he attends Heinrich Himmler junior high and is lost among very plastinated people. He and a friend discover an occult book shop in the funky neighborhood and go spelunking."

2 Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld: "Well paced, and wildly popular. It's about the pressures on young people to conform, specifically to physically conform and to switch off their minds while they're conforming. All Westerfeld's books are good revolutionary texts."

3 Animal Farm, by George Orwell: "It's probably the most perfect bit of political exposition disguised as fairy tale of all time."

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  1. It’s not often you see someone recommend Alan Mendelsohn. Apropos, I just saw Clarence Yojimbo the other day eating some Green Death Chili while I was in state 26.

  2. Ah thanks Cory I now know what books to avoid! Why are people still listening to this guy?

  3. Not familiar with the first two. Animal Farm should be in everybody’s cannon.

  4. The Giver by Lois Lowry

    My 11-year old son recommended it to me, and now I to you.

  5. My son read The Giver yesterday (I guess it is a pretty quick read) and loved it. Also the Among the Hidden series is good.

    I was thinking of getting Anthem by Ayn Rand for my son. It is a short book and doesn’t have any of Rand’s bizarre views on sexuality.

  6. It’s not often you see someone recommend Alan Mendelsohn.

    Well, today you can see it happen twice. I love that book. The only Pinkwater novel I’ve read that might be better is Lizard Music.

  7. I was thinking of getting Anthem by Ayn Rand for my son.

    What a coincidence! I’m pivking up Anthem later today from the library. I’ve already read Atlas Shrugged and had heard Anthem was worth a read. I’m also picking up a copy of The Dispossessed by Le Guin.

  8. My son read The Giver yesterday (I guess it is a pretty quick read) and loved it. Also the Among the Hidden series is good.

    All good. I really like the Tomorrow series, as well, and have always found that the Harry Potter series had a very anti-government tone.

    – R

  9. Animal Farm should be in everybody’s cannon.

    Even if you could find a person who owned a cannon, it’d be unwise to shoot “Animal Farm” out of it. The cannon would only destroy it.
    It’s better to keep it in your canon.

  10. Think of as ammunition for your rhetorical cannon. I’ll still call everyone pigs.

  11. Well, today you can see it happen twice. I love that book. The only Pinkwater novel I’ve read that might be better is Lizard Music.

    Ditto, though I would put Alan over Lizard. Have you read William Sleator?

  12. “canon” not “cannon”

  13. Ah thanks Cory I now know what books to avoid! Why are people still listening to this guy?

    Because only Cory knows that DRM can’t possibly help any company’s bottom line, which is why those college educated morons who run such companies employ it. Revealed market preference, anyone?!?

  14. “moon is a harsh mistress” was a turning point in my young life. for tweens to early teens, “red planet.”

  15. Ditto, though I would put Alan over Lizard.

    Let’s just say they’re neck and neck. His books for little kids are fun, too; I’ve been reading a bunch of them to my daughter.

    Have you read William Sleator?

    I don’t think so. Is he Pinkwaterish?

  16. Ah thanks Cory I now know what books to avoid! Why are people still listening to this guy?

    Ahem…I like Boing-Boing, and I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Haven’t read his latest yet. What’s your problem with him?

  17. Of course Little Brother is available from Laissez Faire Books. Other titles for kids we recommend include: The Shadow Children series, The Girl Who Owned a City, The Pushcart War, The Lost Village of Central Park, V for Vendetta and Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose. All of them are in stock and can be ordered toll free at 1 800 326 0996.

  18. Ahem…I like Boing-Boing, and I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Haven’t read his latest yet. What’s your problem with him?

    There’s enough people who don’t like the writing style and personal aesthetics of BoingBoing’s editors to spark a backlash. See xenisucks.com. I’m not one of them, though: BoingBoing is on my RSS feed.

  19. I don’t think so. Is he Pinkwaterish?

    Not really, but his young adult books are pretty great. I would suggest House of Stairs for “disturbing government psych experiment on kids story” and Interstellar Pig for total awesomeness.

  20. Even if you could find a person who owned a cannon, it’d be unwise to shoot “Animal Farm” out of it. The cannon would only destroy it.
    It’s better to keep it in your canon.

    Pedant alert! 😉

  21. Fallen Angles, by Noven, Pournelle, and Flynn. Riotously subversively funny. Even better if you’re an old SF fan and get the inside jokes.

  22. I don’t recommend Orwell as “libertarian” reading. The man was a socialist to the end, and refused to recognize the problems in socialist philosophy that led to the effects he satirized in Animal Farm.

  23. If one wants to read “libertarian” literature, I would suggest Anthem (short, to the point, not so much given to preaching and repetition as Atlas Shrugged) or one of Robert A. Heinlein’s novels. Even Starship Troopers, which many critics have accused of being fascist, actually has many libertarian themes, while also pointing out at various points the folly of an unqualified faith in mass democracy.

  24. I read about 100 pages into Atlas Shrugged. I must say, Ayn Rand is a horrible stylist.

    I second everybody who said “The Giver.” It’s a wonderful critique of laws that ban color vision.

    and have always found that the Harry Potter series had a very anti-government tone.

    I only remember it being blatant once in the Half-Blood Price where Harry and Dumbledore talk about silly protection regulations. And there are undertones in The Prisoner of Azkaban, I guess.

  25. As to political fiction for “young adults”, I would have to consider Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy essential.

    And it’s about time for them to get into William Burroughs’, too.

  26. “South of the Navel” -by Simi Horowitz. An autobiographical account of one undergraduate’s journey through the early days of PC lunacy in a big university in NYC…

    Great book.

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