The Five Books I Would Require If I Taught an English Literature Class

Guidelines:
1) Please only choose five books.
2) Select only works published originally in the English language.
3) Please select works of literature-quality writing.
1

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2

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3

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4

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5

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3.99 avg rating — 511,918 ratings
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6

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7

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8

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9

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10

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4.09 avg rating — 1,149,706 ratings
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11

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12

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13

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14

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15

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16

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17

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18

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19

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20

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4.04 avg rating — 787,255 ratings
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21

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 483,615 ratings
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22

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23

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24

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25

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26

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27

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28

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29

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30

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31

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32

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33

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34

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35

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36

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37

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4.06 avg rating — 349,911 ratings
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38

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3.94 avg rating — 318,709 ratings
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39

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4.33 avg rating — 301,987 ratings
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40

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41

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4.23 avg rating — 282,442 ratings
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42

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43

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44

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45

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3.47 avg rating — 145,295 ratings
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46

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4.18 avg rating — 465,729 ratings
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47

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4.23 avg rating — 366,160 ratings
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48

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49

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3.53 avg rating — 224,696 ratings
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50

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51

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52

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53

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54

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55

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56

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57

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58

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59

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60

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61

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62

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63

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4.34 avg rating — 164,717 ratings
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64

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65

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66

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67

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68

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69

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70

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71

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72

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73

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74

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75

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76

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77

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78

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79

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80

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81

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82

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83

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84

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85

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86

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3.84 avg rating — 235,064 ratings
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87

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88

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89

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90

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91

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92

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93

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94

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95

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96

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97

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98

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4.18 avg rating — 242,861 ratings
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99

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100

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flag this list (?)
459 books · 1,875 voters · list created December 2nd, 2008 by Jim (votes) .
Tags: classics, school
168 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Jim 1354 books
54 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2739 books
597 friends
Laurie 1126 books
34 friends
Tracy 283 books
22 friends
Phillip 3615 books
121 friends
Amanda 4157 books
111 friends
Phyllis 742 books
65 friends
Jessica 319 books
47 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-41 of 41) (41 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

If it's an English Lit class, what are Kafka, Dostoevsky and Kundera doing there?


message 2: by Amelia (new)

Amelia Funny, a lot of these books I have read in L.A classes. The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Secret Life of Bees. That's interestin.


message 3: by Carolyn (last edited Jan 14, 2010 06:00AM) (new)

Carolyn Barbara - in the U.S., "English" class in our primary school system (K-12) is the class that focuses on reading and writing, so in this case, "English Lit" refers to the English class that is focused on Literature written in English, regardless of the writer's nationality.

Otherwise, we'd really be reading "American Lit", literature by American authors, not "English Lit", presumably written by writers in England/Great Britain/the UK or "Australian Lit" or "Canadian Lit", etc.

Hope this helps. = )

Amelia: What is a "L.A." class? "Literary Analysis"? "Los Angeles"? "Leisure Arts"? = )

The main question I ask after reading this list is - For what grade? There are certainly differences in reading level demonstrated on this list...


message 4: by Antoine (new)

Antoine I took English Lit at face value, and focused on five books from before 1688 that have shaped the language and the mind. I chose them specially because they are books people would not choose to pick up outside of a class. In fact, all of them are long poems.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I had to read The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (MSP) my Freshman year of college and its a short story but I think it would be good in high school as it makes people think.


message 6: by Nathalie (new)

Nathalie Pretty much every book on here is required reading in english classes...


message 7: by Deb (new)

Deb Books that are translated from other languages are not English literature. How good the English is depends entirely on the translation. If I attended an English literature course and was told to read "Crime and Punishment" or "The Count of Monte Cristo", I would think the teacher had completely lost it!


message 8: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Deb wrote: "Books that are translated from other languages are not English literature. How good the English is depends entirely on the translation. If I attended an English literature course and was told to ..."

That would be your own loss.




message 9: by Carolyn (last edited Jan 14, 2010 06:02AM) (new)

Carolyn Deb wrote: "Books that are translated from other languages are not English literature..."

You're right, we should clean the translations off the list. Anyone want to list them all for me? and I'll do it.

Antoine, I don't think Deb was saying they aren't great works of literature - they just aren't English literature (works written originally in English).

ETA: Someone is also going a little nutso with the HP books on this list. Fun reading, yes - 'literature', no.


message 10: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Jan 14, 2010 12:43PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed for not being written originally in English:

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russian)
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas (French)
The Trial, by Franz Kafka (German)
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert (French)
The Stranger, by Albert Camus (French)
All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque (German)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy (Russian)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera (Czech)
Kristin Lavansrandatter, by Sigrid Undset (Swedish)
The Confessions of Felix Krull, by Thomas Mann (German)
The Odyssey, by Homer (Greek)

Lolita was written in English, so I left it on.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Carolyn wrote: ... ETA: Someone is also going a little nutso with the HP books on this list. Fun reading, yes - 'literature', no.


The score assigned to the "Harry Potter" entries also suggests that the voter didn't confine themselves to merely five books. I thought that was a core point with this particular list?


message 12: by Carolyn (last edited Apr 23, 2010 07:23AM) (new)

Carolyn That's true, people should only be choosing 5 books, but if they're choosing HP as 'literature', they obviously are ignoring the directions.
It's a self-enforced limit.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Yeah, I kept mine to five, which made making the list very interesting. Only space for what I consider the very best of the best.


message 14: by Jenn (new)

Jenn They might have confined themselves to five books, just because HP was up there, doesnt mean one person added them all.


message 15: by Carolyn (last edited May 07, 2010 10:51AM) (new)

Carolyn Jenn{OuR lAdY pEaCe LuVa!!!} wrote: "They might have confined themselves to five books, just because HP was up there, doesnt mean one person added them all."

That's true. I was not saying that one person added all the HP books, but rather that if posters are ignoring the directions to post only 'literature' (which HP is not considered), then they can equally ignore the stipulation to only select 5 books.
Sorry that wasn't more clear.


message 16: by Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) (last edited May 19, 2010 07:17AM) (new)

Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) If you want to find out who placed a book on the list, click on the link saying "(xy) persons voted" -- the person first to vote for a book is also the person first listed there.

Perhaps more to the point, though (and also aside from the "literary fiction" or "literature quality" issue), in the case of the HP books the disregard of rules was, at least when I initially commented on this, apparent from the score itself, as at the time they only had a single voter each -- and scores decidedly below 96 (which is the lowest score a book SHOULD have if it has only a single voter and that voter has confined themselves to 5 books). Indeed, the scores were in the low 80s, indicating that this particular voter had placed in excess of 10, possibly (if memory serves) even in excess of 15 books on the list.

Then again, since the books appear to have been purged, let's just hope the issue has become moot ... :)


message 17: by MJ (new)

MJ Carolyn wrote: "Barbara - in the U.S., "English" class in our primary school system (K-12) is the class that focuses on reading and writing, so in this case, "English Lit" refers to the English class that is focus..."
In my experience, English Lit means literature from England and possibly the UK. American Lit. is another breed altogether. Yes, we cross fertilize, but the genres are different, or so I think. Thus my votes are for lit. from England.


message 18: by MJ (new)

MJ This list contains some great works. Some, however, are plays - not books. Different genre.


message 19: by Trisha (new)

Trisha Drape It's impossible to choose only five, of course. But if I were a middle school teacher, I absolutely would choose The Book Thief.


message 20: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten deleted user wrote: "I had to read The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (MSP) my Freshman year of college and its a short story but I think it would be good in high school as it makes people think. "

I agree, Trisha. While reading this for 'intro to literary analysis,' I recommended it to my niece - then a nursing student. I believe this would be a good read for Hospice workers.

From an English major's standpoint, there is much to choose from in terms of analysis, a good tool, if you will, for HS students.

When I was an undgrad a few yrs ago, I met another non-trad - Russian major who - at the time, was enjoying this "required reading" it in its original language.


message 21: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten Kirsten wrote: "deleted user wrote: "I had to read The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (MSP) my Freshman year of college and its a short story but I think it would be good in high school as it makes people think. "

I agree..."


This is my very first posting; I may have inadvertently deleted something... So, my apologies, Trisha!


message 22: by Mal (new)

Mal Antoine wrote: "Deb wrote: "Books that are translated from other languages are not English literature. How good the English is depends entirely on the translation. If I attended an English literature course and ..."

I agree with Deb. My degree is in English Education, and the class should focus on works written in English, Middle English, or Old English--and in all of my classes they did. My minor is in Russian Education, and I completely agree that there is a lot to be learned in literature written in foreign languages and then translated into Russian, but one of the points of English lit classes is to teach the students about the literary history in their own language. That's why in high school we separate the junior and senior years into British and American literature--so we can get more specific.

In short, I agree with Deb that if I were asked to read books in an English lit. class that were originally written in foreign languages I would think it odd. I don't think she is saying NOT to read any books in foreign languages.


message 23: by Cocoazen (new)

Cocoazen Carolyn wrote: "Barbara - in the U.S., "English" class in our primary school system (K-12) is the class that focuses on reading and writing, so in this case, "English Lit" refers to the English class that is focus..."

It's ambiguous. Sometimes English Lit does refer to literature by British authors. In this case, the person who started this list specified "2) Select only works published originally in the English language." So, it appears that he or she was referring to the original language rather than nationality.


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 14, 2012 01:48PM) (new)

Wouldn't Lolita and One Hundred Years of Solitude need to be taken out of this list? I'm seeing a lot of works that weren't originally written in english.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) I removed One Hundred Years of Solitude, but Lolita actually WAS first written in English, and translated into Russian only later (by Nabokov himself). See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita

On another note, though, what about Three Cups of Tea and David Starkey's bio of Elizabeth I, both of which are on p.2 of this list? Wouldn't one read those books for reasons other than their LITERARY value? (History, travel, social studies, etc.)


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

English lot does mean books written originally in English. For other works to be included, that would be comparative literature.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Themis-Athena wrote: "I removed One Hundred Years of Solitude, but Lolita actually WAS first written in English, and translated into Russian only later (by Nabokov himself). See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolit..."

I didn't know that. Interesting. Thanks :D


message 28: by Anusha (new)

Anusha 1 One of Shakespeare's tragedies,
2 The Great Expectations/ Oliver Twist by Dickens.
3 Far From the Madding Crowd/The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy.
4. Vanity Fair by Thackerey
5. The way of all Flesh by Samuel Butler.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Anusha wrote: "1 One of Shakespeare's tragedies,
2 The Great Expectations/ Oliver Twist by Dickens.
3 Far From the Madding Crowd/The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy.
4. Vanity Fair by Thackerey
5. The way of..."


Everybody can add books -- just click on the tab up top next to "all votes."


message 30: by Hoyadaisy (new)

Hoyadaisy Loved the list! I am an English professor, and I just saw "The Tempest," so I made myself a little five-book course using a journey theme. Fun.


message 31: by Pam (new)

Pam Masters I'm not going to split hairs over the inclusion of Shakespeare on this list. Why? Because in my English Lit classes in both high school and university he was included. If his works were not to be considered literature, why would they teach his works in those classes?


message 32: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Oct 06, 2012 10:18PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Removed, for not being originally written in English:

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke (German)
The Odyssey, by Homer (Greek)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby (French)


message 33: by Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship (last edited Dec 23, 2012 05:04PM) (new)

Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship At the university level, "English literature" certainly means literature written in English, and probably from UK/English authors. However, in grade school, at least in the U.S., "English" is shorthand for "reading and writing" (or, for older kids, "literature and composition"). There is certainly no requirement that all the works taught originally be written in English and I think it would shortchange kids to do so. Not everybody goes to college, or takes comparative lit if they do. English classes at my school included works like Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Stranger, to name a few examples. So if voters are envisioning themselves teaching grade school English (as opposed to university-level classes where they'd probably have more defined subject matter anyway--18th century literature or postcolonial literature or Shakespeare's Tragedies or whatever), it seems perfectly legitimate to vote for works written in other languages.

As for what's "literature" and what's not, that's subjective--if you don't think it's literature, don't vote for it, but there hardly seems to be any point in a Listopia about it if people are just deleting stuff they don't agree with. (Er, as a librarian, I'd add that Goodreads REALLY doesn't want us to do that unless a book is clearly not within the list's parameters. Clearly as in, for instance, Harry Potter on a "historical fiction" list.) I've heard of Harry Potter being taught in school--hey, it gets kids reading--and if actual teachers do it, it makes sense to let people vote for it whether you personally think it's worth a vote or not.


message 34: by Jain (last edited Jan 26, 2013 04:36PM) (new)

Jain Removed Journey to the Center of the Earth and Les Misérables (both published originally in French), Crime and Punishment (published originally in Russian), and The Diary of a Young Girl (published originally in Dutch).


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Jim: Does Isn't It Pretty To Think So? meet the criterion of what you understand/expect to be literate-quality writing? This book is currently being spammed onto 30+ pages' worth of listopia lists and GR librarians have started a housecleaning operation, but far be it from anyone to remove any books you'd want to keep on the list ...

Thanks in advance.


message 36: by Ed (new)

Ed MJ wrote: "This list contains some great works. Some, however, are plays - not books. Different genre."

Books are books whether they be novels, memoirs, poetry, autobiographies, or plays...or anything else that fits between a front & back cover be it hardcover, paperback or e-book. Thus plays are just as much "books" as any other form of literature.


message 37: by Sonny (new)

Sonny When I was in college, a class in English Literature was the study of works written by Englishmen (and women). There was also a class in American Literature to cover the works of Americans. I am not aware that this classic structure has changed. But I see from the chain above that I am far from the only person who has trouble with the books included on this list.


message 38: by Ouida (new)

Ouida Kinney While many of these titles are excellent, English, American, and World Literature are separate classes whether High School or University. So. What were her "top five"?


message 39: by Greg (new)

Greg Z I read 8 of the top ten in high school, or perhaps a few even in junior high, and within the USA. If I were teaching high school English, I'd take out #9 (Book Thief) and #10 (Giver) and replace with Frankenstein and Dracula. And for college: first and foremost, "Lolita", because there isn't a more beautifully written book in the English language.


message 40: by Autumn♥♥☽ (new)

Autumn♥♥☽ deleted user wrote: "I had to read The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (MSP) my Freshman year of college and its a short story but I think it would be good in high school as it makes people think. "

I had to read it in college and think its way too depressing for high school! In fact most of these books are way too depressing! Why is that?


message 41: by Book Dragon (new)

Book Dragon Carolyn wrote: "Barbara - in the U.S., "English" class in our primary school system (K-12) is the class that focuses on reading and writing, so in this case, "English Lit" refers to the English class that is focus..."

For my school, LA means Language Arts.


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