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Following are books whose protagonists are especially gifted, intellectually

Branwen:   I have no idea what your powers might be, my son. I only know that God didn't give them to you without expecting you to use them. ...
Emrys:   But I didn't ask for powers!
Branwen:   Nor did I. ... But with every gift comes the risk that others may not understand it. ...
Emrys:   Don't you sometimes wish ... [t]hat you didn't have your gifts? That you weren't so different? ...
Branwen:   Of course.
-- T.A. Baron, The Lost Years of Merlin


Note: Most of these are pretty easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
  • Surviving the Applewhites
    by Stephanie S. Tolan
    Joyous, involving story about a family of stereotypically gifted but stereotypically self-involved Artistes and the stereotypically Troubled Youth who benefits by becoming swept up in their passionate pursuit of Art. Stephanie Tolan takes wonderful advantage of the fact that we all know the Sound of Music so well we can hear the music in our heads, and those stereotypical personality types move the story along efficiently and with great humor. The characters themselves know they are stereotypical; and their self-awareness is one of the things that saves them and the story.
    We particularly LOVED the way butterflies weave the various plot elements together.
    Excellent portrayal of the joys of homeschooling.
  • Stargirl
    Jerry Spinelli
    An amazing fiction book that confronts the issue of a gifted child trying to fit in. My 10 yo and I loved this VERY sad but VERY funny and VERY true novel. We read it to each other this summer, alternating chapters, and every time my older daughter caught us, she'd hang out and listen.
    Stargirl is a brilliant and highly eccentric high school girl. The novel is written in the narrative voice of the boy who loves Stargirl with and for all her eccentricities and yet despite himself wants her to fit in at school so he can fit in too.
    As this book points out, to a great extent, being eccentric is a choice and it does have a profound influence on how other students treat one. OTOH, NOT being eccentric can really isolate a person from herself.
  • Millicent Min, Girl Genius
    by Lisa Yee
    Eleven-year old Millicent Min will be a senior in high school in the fall, but at the beginning of the summer we read about, she is teacher's pet in a community college poetry class and students ranging in age from high school age through college use her as a tutor but don't treat her as a friend. "Sooo sad!", my 10 year old sighs, empathetically. Lisa Yee claims to not have skipped five grades in school, but she certainly understands what many of the issues that might confront a sensitive, gifted, 11-year old high school senior might be. My daughter rated this a 4 out of 5, but that was because, "it ended". An interesting thread of questions it raised for her started with "Is there such a thing as an average IQ?", proceeded to "And how do you know what someone's IQ is?", to "Do you know MY IQ?", to "What IS my IQ?". Made for a long and interesting evening.
  • Ender's Game
    by Orson Scott Card
    Story of a boy who is raised (some would say, manipulated) to use his gifts to save humanity, and the thanks he gets. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
  • Ender's Shadow
    by Orson Scott Card
    Story of one of Ender's soldiers, a boy who is bred with gifts to help save humanity, and the price he pays for having those gifts. None of the Ender books are great literature, but they resonate with gifted readers. This one may be even better than Ender's Game. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
  • First Meetings : In the Enderverse
    by Orson Scott Card
    Prequels to the Ender stories; includes the original novella which grew to become Ender's Game. Fans of Ender's Game will like these.
  • The Last Samurai
    Helen DeWitt
    This hilarious novel starts as a not-quite-five year old's mother gets so sick of answering his questions that she promises to teach him Japanese after he's read the Odyssey in the original Greek. Which he does. Should be required reading for parents of gifted toddlers, but parents of gifted toddlers probably wouldn't have the time. An excerpt.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
    Alexandre Dumas
    Gifted guy takes his devastating revenge.
  • Harriet the Spy
    Louise Fitzhugh
    My daughter initially resisted reading this book because the movie made such an awful impression on her. But she really enjoyed this story of a girl who "wants to know EVERYTHING" and gets into deep trouble for writing down what she knows. Interesting slice-of-life of mostly upper-middle class children at school and play in Manhattan in the nineteen-fifties. The sequel, Harriet the Spy: The Long Secret gets into all sorts of complicated topics such as menstruation, abusive-parenting, and the public expression of religious beliefs that my daughter did not find as compelling.
  • The Giver
    Lois Lowry
    A boy bred with gifts for a special purpose and how he discharges his responsibilities. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers. (A meditation on The Giver)
  • Gathering Blue
    Lois Lowry
    Gathering Blue is a companion novel to The Giver, kind of like next-door-Dystopias. But this one is about a girl born with gifts, not engineered to have them. I am always amazed by books in which children are treated barbarically. (Sometimes I flash back to a time when I did not believe that people would be horribly abused just because they are different.) Books like this one are difficult to read, not because the words in them are hard, but because their messages are so harsh. If I had to choose between Gathering Blue and The Giver, hands down, I'd go with the Giver. Easy to read, extremely inappropriate for young readers.
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
    I was not sure whether to be shocked or amazed at the outrage my daughter expressed when she realized that Menolly was forbidden to sing just because she was not a male. Guess gender bias has not held my daughter back as of yet. On the other hand, she LOVES this book.
  • Dragonsinger
    by Anne McCaffrey
    "Like Harry Potter, but better," says my daughter. "And, it's about a GIRL (Menolly by name) who goes to school to get better at something she's good at."
  • The Mozart Season is the story, told in the first person, of a young girl who comes to understand, deeply understand, the depths of good and evil in the world.


    Note: Most of these are pretty easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
    • The Great Brain
      by John D. Fitzgerald; illustrated by Mercer Mayer
      First person story of one of three Catholic brothers growing up in turn of the century Mormon Utah. We were amazed at the similarities and differences between then and now. For example, they had telephones, but used them only in emergencies. A boy's leg gets infected, he gets gangrene and the leg is removed. The chapter in The Great Brain about his attempts to commit suicide because he is "plumb useless" is terrifying, sad, and, eventually, funny. The Great Brain, the middle brother, is the smartest and not ashamed.
      We have loved every book in this series that we've read, including More Adventures of the Great Brain and Me and My Little Brain. Which is not to say that they are not harrowing. Me and My Little Brain discusses how the younger, possibly less intellectually gifted brother copes with the realization that he cannot think the way his older brother does. (And it begins with a family getting wiped out by an avalanche.)
    • My Brain Is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos
      by Bruce Schechter
      Biography of the brilliant mathematician, Paul Erdos. Inspiring because this extremely odd guy, who spoke in code and could not perform the normal functions most other human beings usually have to do (such as pay bills and cash checks), found ways to mentor promising young mathematicians and revolutionize mathematical thinking.
      The descriptions of some of Erdos Book Proofs are wonderful. Better written and more concise than The Man Who Loved Only Numbers.
    • The Man Who Loved Only Numbers : The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth
      by Paul Hoffman
      Another, more rambling biography of Erdos.
    • Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman
      Autobiography of physicist, Richard Feynman.
      Or, actually, I recommend ANYTHING autobiographical by Richard Feynman.
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