Closer Readings Commentary

EDSITEment's Recommended Reading List for College-Bound Students

Red Badge of Courage (1895) cover
Photo caption

Red Badge of Courage (1895) cover.

"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

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice

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

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

Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter

Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms

Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird

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

Orwell, George: Animal Farm

Poe, Edgar Allan: Selected Tales

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

Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth


Miller, Arthur: The Crucible

Shakespeare, William: Plays



A Midsummer Night's Dream

Romeo and Juliet

Sophocles: Antigone, Oedipus Rex



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.

Dante: Inferno

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey

Whitman, Walt: Leaves of Grass

Non-fiction and Autobiography

Adams, Henry: Education of Henry Adams

Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Thoreau, Henry David: Walden

X Malcolm: Autobiography of Malcolm X


Hamilton, Alexander, Jay, John, Madison, James: The Federalist Papers

King, Martin Luther: Essential Writings

Kennedy, John F: Profiles in Courage

Macchiavelli, Niccolò: The Prince

Marx, Karl: Communist Manifesto

Paine, Thomas: Common Sense

Tocqueville, Alexis de: Democracy in America

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 DArthur.
  • 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

Religion and Philosophy

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Du Bois, W.E.B.The Souls of Black Folk

Bible, The