Just discovered this list of suggested Pleasure Reading for High School Guys and Girls (separate lists), put together by Nancie Atwell. It speaks to the need for up-challenging readers. How many of these titles appear in HS classrooms? It stands as an antidote dumbing down for the sake of pleasing readers. A lot of what I read is not totally pleasurable. I have to work hard at it (Iron Council and Ray Bradbury, The Life of Fiction) or I cringe at the content (The Road, The Bite of the Mango, Little Bee) or I really am not interested but am reading with my husband (Old Masters). When the reading is done, however, I feel the pleasure of completing something hard. That's an incentive, which is more what we should be offering our students than pleasure.
There are some books on the list I would NOT give to most high school students, and many that I would add (mysteries and SF, global titles, Frank Norris and other American masters, for example), but this is a place to start.
Do you wonder why "after 8th grade-and without booktalks and classroom libraries-it can be hard to find books for pleasure reading." What about HS and public libraries? Teachers are becoming too insular. Student readers are too babied. Reading books used to be about the pleasure of sharing a good read - and that is part of the Atwell message. So let's get back to the idea of sharing freely, which means supporting the public and free collections of good reads that are in our schools and communities. The goal of developing reading as a life-pleasure should be also about learning how to find one's own books.