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High School Reading

I dig classics and heart them. In high school, on top of the traditional curriculum in English (English 1/2 Reading; English 3/4 World Literature, etc.), I had the option for electives in courses that focus on specific genres and periods. “20th century Novels”, “Contemporary American Literature”, “Modernism”—they sounded as sophisticated as they looked in the transcript for college application. While the required readings opened my eyes to the horizon of literature over time and geographic barrier, it was a tremendous amount of work to stay afloat two English classes. Some of the books I either forget or have a vague impression of. Recently a mother, also alumni of Cal, came to the reference desk with a note, which turns out to be the current suggested reading list for her daughter. I was more than excited to know what’s on the list, boldfaced are the ones I have read:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart.
Alvarez, Julia. How The García Girls Lost Their Accents.
Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg,Ohio.
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Arnett, Peter. Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Bagdad.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.
Baker, Russell. Growing Up.
Blais, Madeleine. In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights.
Brooks, Polly Schoyer. Queen Eleanor, Independent Spirit of The Medieval World: Biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth.
Cather, Willa. O Pioneers!
Cervantes, Miguel de. Don Quixote.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House On Mango Street.
Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim.
Cooper, James Fenimore. Last of the Mohicans.
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War.
Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe.
Delany, Sarah and Elizabeth. Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment.
Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie.
Du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca.
Eliot, George. Silas Marner.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.
Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies.
Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face.
Gunther, John. Death Be Not Proud.
Haley, Alex. Roots.
Hardy, Thomas. Return of the Native.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The House of Seven Gables.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter.
Heinlein, Robert A. Stranger in a Strange Land.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms.
Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises.
Homer. The Iliad.
Homer. The Odyssey.
Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Joyce, James. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace.
Kuralt, Charles. Charles Kuralt’s America.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.
London, Jack. The Sea Wolf.
Malamud, Bernard. The Natural.
McCaffrey, Anne. Dragonsong.
McCullers, Carson. Member of the Wedding.
Melville, Herman. Moby Dick.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind.
Myers, Walter Dean. The Glory Field.
O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried.
Orwell, George. 1984.
Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Complete Tales and Poems.
Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev.
Potok, Chaim. The Chosen.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front.
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye.
Scott, Sir Walter. Ivanhoe.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.
Shepard, Alan and Deke Slayton. Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon.
Shute, Nevil. On the Beach.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.
Steinbeck, John. The Pearl.
Steinbeck, John. The Red Pony.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Stoll, Clifford. Silicon Snake Oil.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden.
Thurber, James. My Life and Hard Times.
Thurber, James. The Thurber Carnival.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy.
Wright, Richard. Native Son.

This list reflects the particular preference of one school district. But since when did they pull out James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, and Toni Morrison, or was my high school way more advanced? I do fairly well in the department of popular titles: Austen, Dickens, Hemingway, Lee, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck. Surprisingly, I happened to have read all Shakespeare’s titles on this list, plus a few others. Faulkner, who always intimidates me, is a work in progress. Currently perusing The Sound and the Fury, which actually doesn’t hammer my head as much as it did in high school. As I Lay Dying I have avoided since my last encounter with him. I would like to tackle some of the titles from this list, more urgently The Glass Menagerie, The Things They Carried, The House On Mango Street, Autobiography of a Face, and Death Be Not Proud.

11 Responses

  1. I love these lists and when I review this one I’ve read quite a few but still have a ways to go!

    • I actually love this list a lot because I enjoy reading classics. Now I have a fairly good list to take with me when I visit bookstores and libraries.

  2. I’ve read 25 off of that list!

    • Very good. I don’t think I could read even half of them in high school, almost half of the ones I do have read were read when I was in college.

  3. I remember liking Death Be Not Proud in high school, and Autobiography of a Face a few years ago. The House on Mango Street is high on my list, but I think you should add O Pioneers! to your urgent list, too. That’s my favorite Cather novel (so far). I love lists!

    • The House on Mango Street is the current choice of the library reading group. I just purchased a copy of O Pioneers after I read your recommendation. Death Be Not Proud is on my list. 🙂

  4. Hi Matt,

    The Things They Carried and Autobiography of a Face are must reads – both are beautifully written. Lucy Grealy was an amazing writer who sadly took her life several years ago now. She taught at Bennington. I would also add “Death Comes for the Archbishop” to your Willa Cather selections. T.

    • I’ll take any books you recommend. 🙂 I remember you recommend Tim O’Brien so I have been keeping an eye on hos books. Autobiography of a Face is on order. Hope all is well with you

  5. Wow yeah, I’ve found that, as an adult, I’m much more in to Pynchon and Sartre and contemporary stuff than the “classics”.

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