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Five books that have changed the lives of teens

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Reading books can improve our lives. The right titles contain ideas that can inspire us and provide ways for us to make progress.

The 50th anniversary of Unesco’s International Literacy Day is the right time to celebrate some of the titles that have positively impacted on the lives of young adults. From self-help titles to landmark novels, our list is packed with wisdom and life lessons.

The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together
Twyla Tharp, Jesse Kornbluth (Contributor), 2009

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Do you have someone in your life who never seems to have your best interests at heart? If so you may already have figured out that you can’t change them, you can only change yourself. This is when mastering the art of cooperation will benefit you. It’s an important skill to develop–especially as the best and most successful leaders are team-builders who can inspire brilliant group efforts. Tharp explains why teamwork is important and inevitable for almost all of us, both at school and work. She also takes readers through the most common types of collaboration, including with someone who outranks you, which is essential when you’re dealing with a tricky teacher or a first boss. It also teaches you how to deal with toxic collaborators, or those who would serve their own purposes ahead of the team

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley, 1932

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Brave New World is one of a number of novels written in the early 20th century to describe the horrors of a planned or totalitarian society. A few years later Hitler provided the proof but this novel retains its power to remind us that there are those who’d swap our freedom for something far darker. Set centuries in the future, the World Controllers have created a society shaped by genetic engineering. Government-sanctioned drugs and recreational sex ensure that everyone is an unquestioning consumer. Personal emotions have been suppressed and private relationships are taboo. Only Bernard Marx is discontented and curious. He unleashes a dramatic clash of cultures that will force him to consider whether freedom and individuality are worth suffering for. They are themes that remain as fresh and illuminating as ever.

ultimateyouth lifestyle book

‘It’s my experience that young people will go the extra mile to improve their own lives when they understand the importance of something.’ Since 1997 more than 250,000 teenagers have attended Kevin’s peak performance coaching courses and used his personal development resources. The Ultimate Youth Lifestyle is a shortcut to the skills any of us need to achieve an empowered and fulfilled life. By following the steps laid out in this compact title, the reader learns how to achieve their goals. The text is peppered with useful illustrations and charts for clarification and the entire book takes just an hour to read, making it an ideal schoolbag companion. Kevin explains, ‘Thankfully, we can all wake up to the fact that we’ve got room to grow and improve. When you have that epiphany you’ll discover the knowledge and support you need is all around you. It might be in unexpected places, but it’s there waiting for you.’

Walter Dean Myers, 1999

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“Monster” is what the prosecutor calls 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a Harlem shop owner. The book tells the character’s story in the first-person, through is juvenile detention and murder trial. Beneath the surface, Monster also looks at the ever-current complexities of race in society as well as the relationships between Harmon and those around him. This New York Times best selling novel is peppered with diary entries and shows in a very personal way how a single decision made by any of us can change our lives forever.

Laughing at My Nightmare
Shane Burcaw, 2009

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‘I’m Shane Burcaw. I’m 23 years old, and I have a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy that will eventually kill me. I have been in a wheelchair since I was two. I love to laugh and my life is pretty funny.’ With sharp wit and a comical voice, Burcaw’s Laughing at My Nightmare describes the physical and social challenges he faces every day. For anyone with physical challenges it is a book that gives visibility to the full experience of lives lived from another perspective. It is also a general life lesson for readers that encourages everyone to accept the ridiculous things we all do in advertently and how to laugh them off. Having realised how badly people need humor in their lives, Burcaw has set out with his cousin Sarah to create a company that combines his fresh perspective with a programme for people living with Muscular Dystrophy.

Use the comments section below to tell us which books have inspired you and changed your life?