A bestselling author goes back to high school to find out whether books can still shape lives.

Can today’s screen-obsessed teenagers be turned on to serious reading? To find out, David Denby sat in on a tenth-grade English class in a demanding New York public school for an entire year and made frequent visits to a troubled inner-city school in New Haven and to a respected public school in Westchester County. Lit Up is a dramatic narrative that traces awkward and baffled beginnings but also exciting breakthroughs and the emergence of pleasure in reading. In a sea of bad news about education and the fate of the book, Denby reaffirms the power of great teachers and the importance and inspiration of great literature.


“In this nuanced and vivid account of great books taught in three very different schools, Denby has proven what teachers have always known: that taught with passion and commitment, literature old and new can inspire any and every student. This is a necessary bulwark against knee-jerk cynicism about the decline of reading among young people.”
author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, co-founder, 826 National and former editor, The Best American Nonrequired Reading

“Definitely a worthy successor to Great Books. The fight against the dumbing down of this country continues with this highly readable book. David Denby really cares about whether American literature has a future. You probably should too.”

“James Baldwin claimed that, ‘Art would not be important if life were not important. And Life is important.’ And this is why we need to read David Denby's Lit Up. Avoiding generalizations and preconceived notions, this book is an investigation of the essential role of ideas and imagination in our system of education, offering valuable insights into actual classrooms and the dynamic relation between great teachers and their students.”
author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

Lit Up reminds us that the study of literature can be life-changing, especially for adolescents, who are deciding who they are and who they hope to be. David Denby rises above the stale debates about education of our time to show the power of great teaching and great books.”
author of Reign of Error and The Life and Death of the Great American School System

“A beautifully written meditation on why we need books, dedicated teachers, and the power of classroom conversation, the kind where passion ignites and community thrives. If you care about reading, and you need to care about reading, read this book!”
author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT

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