They don’t write ’em like this anymore

I like to flip through reading memoirs, but I don’t really sink my teeth into them. Rather than read about what someone else has been reading, I’d rather be reading something new to me.

Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick is the author’s memoir of the books that teenage girls were truly reading and talking about in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s based on the Fine Lines column from and it references all the authors of the books girls were swapping and whispering about  in English classes, bathrooms, lockerrooms, and study hall.shelf_discovery

I have found an entire shelf of tween-favorites in this book. After I spent a weekend strolling the bookshelves of my mind (and placing reserves on all these life-shaping books that I neglected to keep), I began to think about talking about these books with other readers.

Skurnick is not only paying tribute to these great, classic novels of teengirldom, but she’s also thoughtfully looking for the messages, ideas, and crafted writing that we missed as kids. These are the subjects I believe will make great discussion topics in a book group.

The entry on Daughters of Eve, a creepy Lois Duncan novel that I must have read 23 times, garners thoughtful commentary on feminism and taking responsibility for decisions and actions. There’s hardly a woman alive who hasn’t eavesdropped on Margaret’s conversations with God or sympathized with her bra-fitting woes. But there’s more to this tweenage classic than secret crushes and clubs.  Skurnick points out the subtle issues of spiritual crisis and coming of age. 

These are issues that are frequently debated in book discussion groups. Why not gather some readers and talk about the qualities of these books that make them readable favorites (or not) so many years ago? At the very least, ask participants how this book shaped their reading life.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

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  1. I’ve made a little list | Lizzie Skurnick | August 12, 2009

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