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What Would Katniss Read?

by Molly Wetta

*Originally appeared in the November/December issue of Kids & Books.*

While reading Catching Fire in anticipation of the release of the film, I was struck by one obvious resource lacking in the facility where tributes train prior to entering the Arena: a library! While stations where tributes can practice throwing knifes or painting camouflage are certainly practical, a selection of books might also help tributes gain the knowledge necessary to survive. Here, I imagine what sort of collection might exist in such a library. These nonfiction books are sure to be useful for tributes—or readers looking to gain any number of skills.


The Tribute Training Library

Using Genetic Technology by Andrew Solway
ISBN: 9781432918378
How did scientists create new life forms like the monkeys and birds found in the jungle of the clockwork arena of Catching Fire? This text explains how genetic manipulation might be used in the future (though we hope scientists use these for benevolent purposes, rather than to create birds that shriek in the voices of your loved ones).

Archery by Rick Sapp
ISBN: 9781607106371
Katniss might not need to check this book out, but the other tributes (or those who aspire to be like “the girl on fire”) might benefit from learning the history of the bow and arrow. Various guides on the fundamentals of archery would also be a great addition to the training room library’s shelves.

 Deadly Perils and How to Avoid Them by Tracey Turner, illustrated by Richard Horne and Ben Hasler
ISBN: 9780802787385
This guide, written for young adults, offers survival strategies for all kinds of strange and deadly situations including animal attacks, dangerous weather, and other challenges the gamemakers may introduce into the Arena. This book should top any tribute’s (or survivalist’s) reading list!

The Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity by David Bodanis
ISBN: 9781400045501
In Catching Fire, Beetee’s knowledge of circuits and electricity are key to the tributes’ survival and eventual escape from the Arena. Tributes (or any curious readers) could learn a lot in this accessible and entertaining guide to the history of electricity and its basic principles.

Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw
ISBN: 9781605293202
The food available in the Arena is vastly different from a buffet at a Capitol party, and tributes must source their own meals. This guide to wild foods of North America is popular with both outdoor enthusiasts and foodies alike and is guaranteed to help you secure your dinner, whether you’re camping or fighting for your life in the Arena.

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You Need to Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy by William Poundstone
ISBN: 9780316099974
Caesar Flickerman may not ask tributes questions as tricky as “How would you weigh your head?” in his interviews of tributes, but brushing up on these logic problems often asked of potential Google employees are sure to help you survive the Capitol’s deadly games, where smart thinking is as important as speed or strength. This book helps readers survive sticky situations inside the Arena -- or the competitive job market.

Of course, there are lots of books I’m sure that President Snow wouldn’t want tributes to have access to, such as books that might point out flaws in the social structure of Panem or stir up rebellion. These are precisely the type of books you might find in a collection circulated among those in the resistance.

The Resistance Reading Room

Reality Television, Reference Shelf, v.85, no.1
ISBN: 9780824212124
This opposing viewpoints series looks at the cultural effects of watching television, including reality TV. Surely the resistance to the Capitol would want to explore what 75 years of viewing The Hunger Games has had on the citizens of Panem, and today’s teens might be curious about the phenomenon as well.

Theseus by Geraldine McCaughrean
ISBN: 9780812627398
Suzanne Collins cites this Greek myth as an inspiration for Katniss’ story. Katniss struggles with trust and loyalty throughout Catching Fire, and if one of the mentors of the resistance were to hand her this volume, she might gain better understanding of her own journey and the parallels between her and this mythological hero. This accessible retelling of how Theseus came to defeat the Minotaur may fuel teens' interest in other tales from Greek mythology.

Why Do We Fight? By Niki Walker
ISBN: 9781926973869
 The Hunger Games trilogy was also inspired by news coverage of the Iraq War. When viewing such footage, it’s easy to ask “why must we fight?” Citizens of Panem when faced with the prospect of conflict might be hesitant to take up arms, knowing it will be a difficult fight. This volume could help those seeking to overthrow the capitol and young readers today about why conflicts occur, whether between individuals or on a global scale.

Propaganda and Persuasion by Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell
ISBN: 9781412977821
This text examines how various forms of propaganda are used to persuade people and how collective memory is shaped. This knowledge would serve the growing rebel movement as they seek to overthrow the Capitol, but also would help Katniss understand how her image is co-opted by the leaders. Understanding these messages is just as important for today’s teens.

Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by Marc Aronson
ISBN: 9780763650254
Katniss doesn’t know whom she can trust. Though this biography for young adults is ostensibly about J. Edgar Hoover’s life, the FBI, and communism, the parallels between this era in American history and the rebellion against President Snow are undeniable.

Get Real by Mara Rockliff
ISBN: 9780762437450
In the Panem’s consumerist society, the people of the districts are exploited so the citizens of the Capitol can enjoy an excess of goods, and this is the underlying reason for the rebellion. This guide to ethical consumer choices can help today’s youth make informed decisions about what they buy.

The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood
ISBN: 9780446698856
Readers will find this book interesting and informative, whether they are trying to overthrow an unjust regime, like Katniss, or find themselves facing life-threatening illness, a criminal threat, or any of life’s other adversities.

What About Fiction? 

The Hunger Games trilogy explores so many topics, including science, morality, culture, politics, and survival. The series makes a great jumping off point to entice readers to pursue a variety of nonfiction, ranging from how-to manuals to biographies and memoirs.

Of course, the themes and plot elements that attract readers to The Hunger Games are also diverse, which means it can be difficult to match the perfect fiction read-alike for someone looking for something “like The Hunger Games.”

Teasing out the appeal factors is important before recommending a title. This handy chart can help select the book that best fits the interests of a particular reader.

Molly Wetta is an MLIS student and YA librarian assistant at Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, KS, where she wrangles a teen book club and manages the library's Tumblr. She also contributes to YALSA's young adult literature blog, The Hub.