EDSITEment's Recommended Reading List for College-Bound Students
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."
–Sir Francis Bacon, English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561-1626)
"Let us secure not such books as people want, but books just above their wants, and they will reach up to take what is put out for them."
–Maria Mitchell, the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer (1818-1889)
Based on the College Board’s recommended reading lists, EDSITEment has composed a guide to our lessons and reviewed websites to help prepare college-bound students.
Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart
- Lesson: Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart: Teaching Through the Novel—This lesson introduces students to Achebe's first novel and to his views on the role of the writer in his or her society.
- Lesson: Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: Oral and Literary Strategies—This lesson introduces students to Achebe’s first novel and to strategies of close reading and textual analysis.
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
- Lesson: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: The Novel as Historical Source—This lesson involves using a novel as a "primary" source; students can also gain valuable insights in the study of social history. This lesson examines two themes in this novel — the status of women and the nature of class.
Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre
- Lesson: Introducing Jane Eyre: An Unlikely Victorian Heroine—Through the following activities, students will learn the expectations and limitations placed on Victorian women, then contemplate Brontë's position and rationale for publishing this novel under a pseudonym.
Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop
- Lesson: Pioneer Values in Willa Cather's My ántonia—Combining the study of history and literature, the goal of this lesson is to guide students in a self-directed exploration of how Cather's novel interprets and represents the values associated with pioneer life of fortitude, hard work, and faithfulness.
- Website: American Writers: Willa Cather
Chopin, Kate: The Awakening
- 3-Lesson Curriculum Unit: Kate Chopin's The Awakening—Students explore how Chopin stages the possible roles for women in time and culture in the novella as well as exploring the author’s life, culture, and literary traditions.
Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage
- Lesson:The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Courage Students are asked to select the one of three published endings to The Red Badge of Courage best suited to their understanding of Crane's exploration of values.
- Lesson: The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Realism Instead of memorializing battle that had come to seem increasingly artificial and unreal, this lesson increases students' understanding of Crane's influences and how the novel's style helped convey a new realism.
de Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote
- Website: Aprende y Diviértete con Don Quijote—Spain’s Ministry of Education website introduces students to Cervantes and his novel to Spanish language students through engaging interactive activities (proverbs and vocabulary exercises for all proficiency levels).
Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury
- 5-Lesson Curriculum Unit: William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury: Narrating the Compson Family Decline and the Changing South—This curriculum unit engages students in a close reading of the novel, prompting them to consider changing narrative structure and voice and the relationship between this changing structure and character development. Upon completion, students will have a solid understanding of the novel and of the changing South, and they will be able concretely to analyze the novel in spoken and written forms.
- Website: American Writers: William Faulker
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
- Lesson: The "Secret Society" and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby—Students explore the nature of the "secret society" implied in this novel through a close study of the text of The Great Gatsby, an examination of Fitzgerald's letters and other statements, and a consideration of class, wealth, and status during the turbulent 1920s.
- Website: American Writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter
- Lesson: Hawthorne: Author and Narrator—Through this lesson, students come to understand the difference between the point of view of the narrator and the author in the The Scarlet Letter and put Hawthorne in the context of his time.
- Website: American Writers: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms
- Lesson: "Three Shots": Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams—In this lesson, students investigate Hemingway’s unique prose style as they study issues related to independence and notions of manliness as they conduct in-depth literary character analysis of this short story.
- Website: American Writers: Ernest Hemingway
Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Lesson: Folklore in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God—In this lesson, students benefit from Hurston’s work as a folklorist as they uncover the Southern black folk tradition resonating within this masterpiece.
- Website: American Writers: Zora Neale Hurston
Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
- Lesson One: Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: Profiles in Courage—This lesson asks students to read the novel with an eye for all instances of courage, particularly those of moral courage.
- Lesson Two: To Kill a Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933: Profiles in Courage—In this lesson, students are required to study court transcripts and primary sources from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African American youths of rape.
London, Jack: The Call of the Wild
- Lesson: Jack London's The Call of the Wild—This lesson asks students to explore London’s intention in writing this novel and to consider how well the author succeeds in telling a story from the point of view of an animal.
- Lesson: Metaphorical Gold: Mining the Klondike Gold Rush for Stories—Selections from Jack London's The Call of the Wild are used to provide focus and structure for students' primary source research and to serve as models of vivid narrative prose for students' own stories.
Marquez, Gabriel García: One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Website: EspañOlé offers students hundreds of resources for the teaching and study of Spanish language and literature, including the Centro Virtual Cervantes, which features an excellent portal on Gabriel García Márquez.
Melville, Herman: Bartleby the Scrivener and Moby Dick
- Website: PBS's Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World This site covers the history of the American whaling industry from its 17th-century origins through the golden age of deep ocean whaling, as well as the life of Herman Melville, examining many inherently American themes evident in his writing.
O'Connor, Flannery: A Good Man Is Hard to Find
- Lesson: Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find": Who's the Real Misfit—Students read and analyze "A Good Man is Hard to Find" then learn about the South in the 1950s, including the evolving transportation system in the U.S., fueled by the popularity of the family car.
Orwell, George: Animal Farm
- Lesson: Animal Farm: Allegory and the Art of Persuasion—This lesson plan introduces students to the concept of allegory though George Orwell’s novella, Animal Farm.
Poe, Edgar Allan: Selected Tales
- Lesson: Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and the Unreliable Narrator—This lesson asks students to consider a variety of narrative stances as they analyze how Bierce and Poe utilize narration in two stories.
- Lesson: Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and the Unreliable Biographers—This lesson asks students to consider the distinctions between the narrators of literary compositions and their authors’ life experiences, providing insight into how these authors crafted their stories
Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
- Lesson: Dust Bowl Days—This lesson introduces the 1930s to today's students through primary source accounts, images of people who lived through the Depression, and artists such as Steinbeck and Lange, who embedded this era in the American consciousness.
- Website: New Deal Network documents images from the "Dust Bowl" era, when drought and the Great Depression combined to drive thousands from the Great Plains in an exodus John Steinbeck portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Look in the website's Document Library for the Report of the Great Plains Drought Area Committee and in the Photo Gallery for images of Dust Bowl life.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Lesson: Lesson 5: Women's Lives Before the Civil War—This lesson asks students to document pivotal events in women's lives before the Civil War, such as the 1851 publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’ Cabin, as well as review a Photograph of Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin Appeared in Serial Form in order to decide how the lives of women were changing in at midcentury.
- Website: Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture This website from the University of Virginia presents a vast multimedia archive of primary material covering the years 1830–1930, organized around Harriet Beecher Stowe's seminal work.
Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Lesson: Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context—This lesson asks students to combine Internet historical research with critical reading exploring what readers see in Huckleberry Finn and why they see it that way.
Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth
- Lesson: Personal or Social Tragedy? A Close Reading of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome—This lesson asks students to consider whether Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, is a personal tragedy born of the character’s indecision and personal failures, a social tragedy symbolized by the oppressive New England setting, or a combination of the two.
Miller, Arthur: The Crucible
- Lesson: Dramatizing History in Arthur Miller's The Crucible—In this lesson, students consider how Arthur Miller interpreted the facts of the witch trials and successfully dramatized them.
Shakespeare, William: Plays
- Lesson: Hamlet and the Elizabethan Revenge Ethic in Text and Film—This lesson explores Shakespeare's Hamlet by interpreting the Elizabethan attitudes toward revenge as reflected in the structure of the popular Elizabethan revenge tragedy.
- Lesson: Hamlet Meets Chushingura: Traditions of the Revenge Tragedy—This lesson sensitizes students to the similarities and differences between cultures by comparing Hamlet and Bunraku/Kabuki dramas in order to explore the complex nature of revenge in Shakespearean dramaand the Tokuhawa ethical code.
- Lesson: Shakespeare's Macbeth: Fear and the Motives of Evil—This lesson ask students to consider what Macbeth’s motives are and why he continues to choose to do evil.
- Lesson: Shakespeare's Macbeth: Fear and the 'Dagger of the Mind'—This lesson has students read, discuss, and perform a wordless version of the "Banquet Scene" (3.4) in order to learn how Shakespeare dramatizes fear.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Lesson: William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Conflict Resolution and Happy Endings—This lesson invites students to focus on Shakespearian characters by describing and analyzing their conflicts and then to observing conflict resolution.
Romeo and Juliet
- Lesson: Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: 'You Kiss by the Book'—This lesson explores the techniques that Shakespeare uses to capture the magic of this play, and focuses on the use of a lyrical form that heightens its impact on the stage.
Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus Rex
- Lesson: Sophocles' Antigone: Ancient Greek Theatre, Live From Antiquity!—This lesson covers the universal issues raised in Antigone, such as power, gender, family obligation, ethics, and honor, and gives an overview of ancient Greek theatre.
- Lesson: The Beauty of Anglo-Saxon Poetry: A Prelude to Beowulf—In this introduction to Old English literature, students become acquainted with Anglo-Saxon literature and literary techniques, thus preparing them to read Beowulf with an appreciation for its artistry and beauty.
- Lesson: A Story of Epic Proportions: What makes a Poem an Epic?—Students identify elements of traditional epic poems, such as the invocation, and make the connection of the hero to his homeland, the basis on which many instances of the epic hero as national figure rests.
- Website: Labyrinth: Resources for Medieval Study This website provides students with a host of medieval Texts and Translations, along with Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts including Beowulf in Old English and Beowulf in Modern English. Teaching Resources: Old English is another component on this site.
Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
- Lesson: Chaucer's Wife of Bath—This lesson helps students understand the complexities of the Wife of Bath's character and the rhetoric of her argument by exploring the various ways in which Chaucer crafts a persona for her.
- Feature: The Autumn of the Middle Ages: Chaucer and Dante—This feature provides students with background to The Canterbury Tales and puts this narrative poem in its historical context.
- Lesson: A Storybook Romance: Dante's Paolo and Francesca—This lesson focuses on the theme of courtly love and highlights one episode in the Divine Comedy, providing students with an introduction to Dante's great poem.
- Feature: The Autumn of the Middle Ages: Chaucer and Dante—This feature provides students with background to Dante's La Commedia (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) by putting this narrative poem in its historical context.
Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey
- Lesson: A Story of Epic Proportions: What makes a Poem an Epic?—This lesson introduces students to the epic poem form and to its roots in oral tradition. Students also learn about the epic hero cycle and oral storytelling patterns.
Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass
- Lesson: Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe—This lesson has students consider how Whitman's poetry reflects his attempt to combine universal themes with individual experiences and feelings and reflects on how his poetry was colored by the Civil War.
- Lesson: Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy—This lesson seeks to uncover how Whitman's poetry reflects his notion of a “democratic poem” and how this theme reverberates through the poetry of Hughes.
Non-fiction and Autobiography
Adams, Henry: Education of Henry Adams
Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
- 3 Lesson Curriculum Unit: From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography—This lesson has students read Douglass's narrative to analyze his vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners. Students also identify and discuss Douglass's acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.
- Website: American Writers: Frederick Douglass
Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
- Website: American Writers: Thoreau
X Malcolm: Autobiography of Malcolm X
- Lesson: Black Separatism or the Beloved Community? Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.—In this lesson, students will examine whether the separate black nation proposed by Malcolm X was a better or nobler goal than "the beloved community" of Martin Luther King, Jr., and what Americans would need to believe, and how would they need to act, in order to achieve Malcolm X's as opposed to King's goal.
- Website: Teaching American History Malcolm X
Hamilton, Alexander, Jay, John, Madison, James: The Federalist Papers
- Lesson: The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power between State and Federal Governments—The lesson traces the U.S. federal system of government to its roots, established by America's Founders in the late 18th century, highlighting the controversial issue of state sovereignty versus federal power and the resulting system of government formed by the Constitution.
- Lesson: The Federalist Defense of Diversity and the Extended Republic—As Americans considered whether to adopt the Constitution proposed by the Convention in 1787, one of the central issues had to do with the proper size of the nascent republic. Anti-federalists argued against a large republic. The task of refuting the anti-federalist argument against a large and defending the proposed Constitution fell mainly to Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, writing as Publius, in The Federalist papers.
- Website: Teaching American History Ratification of the Constitution
King, Martin Luther: Essential Writings
- Lesson: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nonviolent Resistance—In this lesson, students investigate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s concept of nonviolent resistance and the role of civil disobedience within it from several angles including the Alabama clergymen who rejected King's intervention in Birmingham's racial conflicts in 1963, and the president of the National Baptist Convention, Joseph H. Jackson, who thought King's protest methods were unproductive. Students will evaluate the merits of these arguments and decide which view could best secure civil rights for black Americans.
- Website: Martin Luther King Papers Project
- Website: “American Civil Rights Movement” Natural Law, Natural Rights and American Constitutionalism
Kennedy, John F: Profiles in Courage
- Lesson: "The Missiles of October": The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962—This lesson examines how this Cuban Missile crisis developed, how the Kennedy administration chose to respond, and how the situation was ultimately resolved.
- Lesson: JFK, Freedom Rides, and Civil Rights Movement—This lesson examines the critical role of Freedom Riders and other grass roots activists in pushing the Kennedy Administration to face the contradiction between its ideals and the realities of federal politics.
- Lesson: JFK, LBJ, and the Fight for Equal Opportunity in the 1960s—This lesson provides students with an opportunity to study and analyze the innovative legislative efforts of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the social and economic context of the 1960s.
Macchiavelli, Niccolò: The Prince
- Website: “Machiavelli” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Website: “Machiavelli” in Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism
Marx, Karl: Communist Manifesto
Paine, Thomas: Common Sense
- Lesson: Common Sense: The Rhetoric of Popular Democracy—This lesson looks at Thomas Paine and at some of the ideas presented in Common Sense, such as national unity, natural rights, the illegitimacy of the monarchy and of hereditary aristocracy, and the necessity for independence and the revolutionary struggle.
- Website: American Writers: Thomas Paine
Tocqueville, Alexis de: Democracy in America
- Feature: twenty-five-year-old French aristocrat spent nine months criss-crossing the United States. Tocqueville’s sojourns in America lead to the writing Democracy in America, which remains one of most important books on America political life.
Mythology, Folklore, Fairytales
Aesop: Aesop’s Fable
- Lesson: Aesop and Ananse: Animal Fables and Trickster Tales—The legendary figure Aesop was reported to have orally passed on his animal fables, which have been linked to earlier beast tales from India and were later written down by the Greeks and Romans.
Andersen, Hans Christian: Andersen’s Fairy Tales
- Lesson: Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales—The colorful characters, strong emotions, and engaging language of Andersen's tales offer rich imaginative experiences for students, as well as opportunities to analyze deep cultural themes and ideas.
Hamilton, Edith: Greek Mythology
- Lesson: It Came From Greek Mythology!—Greek mythology offers inspiration for many works of art (both written and visual), insight into the human condition, a glimpse at an ancient people trying to make sense of phenomena they could not explain, and the source for many names and terms we use today.
Malory, Sir Thomas: Le Morte d’Arthur
- Lesson: Exploring Arthurian Legend—This lesson explores the growth and transformations of the stories surrounding King Arthur, beginning with the period when we first become aware of them as part of the oral tradition in medieval Europe and follows them as they develop to become important literary works such as Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.
- Launch Pad: Exploring Arthurian Legend—Trace the elements of myth and history in the world of the Round Table.
- Lesson: Tales of King Arthur—The stories of King Arthur and his Court have entertained young and old alike for over a thousand years. In this lesson, students will discover how historical events gradually merged with fantasy to create the colorful tales we enjoy today.
- Website: U of Virginia E-text