Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From the College Board - recommended books for college-bound students

After reading Joanne Jacob's post on British schools advocating that their students read 50 books a year, I looked at the College Board's recommended reading lists.  In the section below, the books in blue text are those likely to have been assigned in classes taken by an honors/AP-track graduate of our local high school.  22 out of 101 of the"101 Great Books" were assigned in high school classes, while none of the "Classic Cultural and Historical Texts" texts were.

You can see the entire book list after the jump.

101 Great Books
It's a good idea to encourage your child to make a reading list. Teachers, librarians and counselors are good sources for advice on books to include. You can help choose the best books for your child from among the many options. Here are some suggestions.
Author: Title
: Beowulf
Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart
Agee, James: A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel: Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul: The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert: The Stranger
Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton: The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate: The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage
Dante: Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles: A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore: An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George: The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo: Selected Essays
Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Faust
Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph: Catch-22
Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms
Homer: The Iliad
Homer: The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik: A Doll's House
James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong: The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair: Babbitt
London, Jack: The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas: The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman: Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur: The Crucible
Morrison, Toni: Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery: A Good Man Is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene: Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George: Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris: Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia: The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan: Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel: Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria: All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond: Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry: Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D.: The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William: Hamlet
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth
Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William: Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard: Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon: Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles: Antigone
Sophocles: Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis: Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William: Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire: Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr.: Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice: The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora: Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee: The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard: Native Son

Classic Cultural and Historical Texts

The Arabian Nights
Kennedy, John F.
Profiles in Courage
The Bible
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Adams, Henry
The Education of Henry Adams
Malory, Sir Thomas
Le Morte d'Arthur
Aesop's Fables
Machiavelli, Niccolò
The Prince
Andersen, Hans Christian
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Marx, Karl
The Communist Manifesto
Nicomachean Ethics
Paine, Thomas
Common Sense
DuBois, W.E.B.
The Souls of Black Folk
The Republic
Franklin, Benjamin
Tocqueville, Alexis de
Democracy in America
Hamilton, Edith
X, Malcolm
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Hamilton, Alexander; Jay, John; and Madison, James
The Federalist Papers


  1. This is a good list. However, I can't even imagine most of my students ever having opened one of these books. They just don't have the vocabulary or reading skills.

  2. Nope. OK, not all of them. The A students can read. But the C students have serious trouble reading, which is why they are C students. And then there are the D students...

  3. I can account for 18 of the Great Books that I know are part of the curriculum at the high school where I teach as part of the English program. None of the Classic Texts are part of it.

    Ironically, as a Latin teacher I can attest that students who stay with us to the upper levels of Latin will read (or at least be exposed to) Homer, Dante, Vergil, Plato, Edith Hamilton, Aesop, and possibly even a bit of the Bible. A finger in the dam, perhaps, but I like to think it helps.

  4. One of the great things about taking a language in high school is that you often get to read better literature. In my high school English classes, we read a lot of shallow books, even in AP. But in French class, we read Voltaire, Ionescu, the medieval troubadeurs, Racine, Moliere

  5. I think most high school C students would have trouble with the books on these lists. So my concern is that A and B students on the non-honors track would NEVER be assigned these books out of consideration for their academically weaker classmates.

    In other words, the non-honors track would be dumbed down, with lots of easy young adult novels assigned for reading and posters/videos as options instead of essays. I think this is happening now, which might help explain why so many high school graduates are not college-ready.

  6. Thank you Magister Green! Your comment now gives me two data points, allowing me to speculate that many high school AP-track students will have read about 20 of these books by the time they get to college.

    It's curious that none of the classic texts are read as part of the English courses in either school. My son has already read three of them in his first year at a very traditional core curriculum university.

  7. At our local high school, students in AP Spanish read contemporary authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think they only watched Don Quixote on video, but did not read it. I'm going to check to make sure.

  8. My husband went through non-honors English when he was in high school, in the early 70's. He says they never read any of these books, and in fact, barely read any books. He ended up in non-honors English, btw, because of the very weak preparation in his Catholic elementary school.

  9. I just realized something else. I took two years of AP English, in the late 70's, and the only books from this list that we read were Heart of Darkness (Conrad), Turn of the Screw, and Hamlet. We did read a different Hemingway book. That was over TWO years of AP.