Letters: Best Teen Fiction And Roommates

Listeners comment on past Talk of the Nation show topics, including the teen classics we never stop reading, like Madeline L'Engle's books. Also, words of warning to prepare your college students to room with a total strangers.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Wednesday, not the day we usually read from your emails and Web comments, but we missed our chance yesterday.

Listener Chip Warden(ph) looked at YA, young adult fiction, in a new way after our show with author Lizzie Skurnick, and remembered what got him excited about reading. Madeleine L'Engle's books led me to the juvenile science fiction of Asimov, Clarke and especially Robert A. Heinlein. After devouring these juvenile novels, I turned to their adult-oriented books.

Needless to say, reading "Stranger in a Strange Land" as a nine-year-old gave me quite an education. I moved on to read the new-wave science fiction writers of the time such as Delany, Silverberg, Niven, Spinrad and Vance. Had my parents had any idea of the content of some of these books, they would have been mortified. I must admit that I looked down on YA authors during my years in the book-selling business. Your discussion has given me a new appreciation of this genre and fond memories of my own shelf discoveries.

Our Ask Amy segment on college roommates and what happens when your teen's college roommate is not what he or she had in mind evoked this memory from listener Lisa Butry(ph). My second year of college in the early '80s, I was returning to the same room I had the first year but with a new, unknown roommate.

I arrived first, put up my save-an-alligator-eat-a-preppy poster and proceeded to leave and go out with friends. When I returned, my new roommate was there in her IZOD shirt with the alligator. Later that night, my friends and I invited our new preppy friend to come on out with us to a movie, and we became great friends.

And this modest proposal came in from Boulder, Colorado, during our segment on whether or not the government should ban cell phone use in cars. Chris Back(ph) wrote, since the danger increases dramatically with long, potentially emotional or complicated calls, why don't we just have the cell phone providers ride a line in their code that terminates all calls that lasts over three minutes that involve a cell tower handoff?

That will require no enforcement and would still allow brief information calls: where was that address again, honey please pick up some milk on the way home. People who were frequently cut off would have a regular reminder that it's just not safe to talk and drive. Of course, we regularly remind you of the same thing - call us, but pull over first.

And finally, we received several strongly worded notes about an ad we played at the top of our show about the Canadian health care system. The ad features a Canadian woman who claims that if she'd relied on the national health care system in her country, she would have died. Steven Schmidt(ph) in San Rafael, California, wrote, I am appalled at your playing of the insurance company ad at the top of your program. The woman did not have a cancerous brain tumor. She did not have a life-threatening condition. She had a non-cancerous growth in her pituitary gland that could've easily waited six months for treatment.

What the woman in the ad, Shona Holmes, did have was what her doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed as a Rathke's cleft cyst growing near the pituitary gland at the base of her brain. Mayo Clinic doctors worried that the speed of growth could cause her to become blind and removed the cyst. What you may have missed if you tuned in late is that we played that ad as an example of the partisan use of the Canadian health care system, and we should have been clearer that the ad may be an exaggeration and that both sides of the health care debate indulge in such exaggerations.

If you'd like more information on Shona Holmes, where we've linked to several stories about her and the controversy over that ad, head to our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. And if you want to go back and hear anything you missed, you can still listen online or download the Podcast. Go to npr.org, just click on TALK OF THE NATION. That's also where you can sign up for our email newsletter. You'll get a daily update on what's coming up on the program and find out how to join the conversation. Again, go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION and look for the newsletter sign-up box.

As always, if you have corrections or observations, the best way to reach us is by email. The address is talk@npr.org. Please tell us who you are and where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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