One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich discussion

Question pertaining to AP/honors reading lists

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Jeremy Why wasn't this ever on one of mine?

I graduated high school in '01 and had never heard of this book until my sister brought it to my attention when I was in college.

I just wanted to start a discussion to try and investigate how and why certain books make it into the curriculum but others are overlooked.

I recognize that only a certain number of books can be read in the course of one's education...but still...

message 2: by Al- (new) - rated it 3 stars

Al- huh, I have not heard of this book being required at all.

I read it a few years ago after discovering the Gulag Archipelego, and reading all of those. Then I tried finding all of Solzhenitsen's works (still working on that). After reading Gulag, I called up my mother and demanded to know why I didn't know anything about Stallin (other than he was a bad guy).

So from that perspective, I'm glad to see it being recommended to's an easy introduction to that history.

Jeremy So far my sister is the only person I've known of to read it for class.

It seems like the perfect required read. Short and to the point, without the flowery victorian romanticism that characterizes such standbys as Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities, as you say it is an easy and interesting intro to Stalinist Russia. I think I could go on and on...

In addition, it is difficult for me to recall a book that is executed so flawlessly and un-pretentiously. He is the anti-Steinbeck (though I like Steinbeck for other reasons).

Jeremy Also, I'm not picking on literature teachers. I know they can't expose us to everything.

message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen I'm a high school teacher, and I have this novel on a list of acceptable choices for outside reading. Our time is limited, so most teachers try to teach from a variety of time periods and cultures. Crime and Punishment seems to be the most frequently taught Russian literature at the high school level (according to my experience).

Jeremy Crime and Punishment is also a great choice for required reading. I'm finding that I like Russian lit the more I read it. Of course, as you say, it's more useful to teach variety rather than focusing on one period or culture to the exclusion of all the rest.

message 7: by Al- (new) - rated it 3 stars

Al- I have a personal *required* reading list, ever-growing, that I wish I could require of my children/husband/friends/ect! I am always interested in what is required reading, and why. Where I am the trend is a long book list that students can choose from. Which is good because there isn't a book forced on you, you can find what interests you...BUT I think alot is lost by 1. not reading a book together, and 2. not being required to read outside of your personal parameters. I think students should HAVE to read from certain points of view (culture?)and history. I think if I had read One Day when I was in high school, my interest in history (as it deals with human rights) would have been piqued earlier.

Hmm, I really like Russian books...but I must be the only one to not care much for Crime and Punishment! I do want to read some of his other stuff, particularly The Idiot, but don't know if I will.

message 8: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen As a teacher, I try to strike a balance between required and recommended reading. I require things that the students might not necessarily pick up, but then either enjoy and/or learn something from. But I agree with those of you who advocate the power of choice, too. So much of school is being told what to do and when to do it. Some students really thrive when they are allowed to read what they love or are curious about. It's funny to me that the books my students love the most from year to year varies. A couple of years ago, Hamlet was the big hit of the year. But for some reason this past year, a large number of my students were mesmerized by The Stranger and went on to read a lot of Camus on their own.

Jeremy I think this discussion is enlightening me. It seems like a mix of choice and requirement is clearly the way to establish a reading list.

The major problem I had with my reading lists was that we never discussed the books we read. I still remember my AP 11 reading list (The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Death of a Salesman) yet cannot remember ever having an enlightening discussion about any of them. Maybe that's partly why I'm re-reading many books from those lists.

On the other hand, we read The Adventures of Huck Finn during class and I chose to read Catch-22 for my independent research study from a list supplied by my teacher. I enjoyed reading both, probably because I was getting some insight into the historical and literary significance other than the meager understanding and narrow worldview of a seventeen year-old boy.

Is it typical to give students a summer reading list and expect them to figure out the importance of a book on their own? It seems sort of pointless to me.

Any suggestions for more Russian lit I should check out?

message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan Have you read any Chekov? Try A Doll's House.

message 11: by Al- (new) - rated it 3 stars

Al- I don't know if it falls under "literature", and it certainly isn't recommended student reading (unless for an advanced degree!) but on *my* required reading list is the Gulag Archipelego...particularly volume 2. After reading, I felt like my knowledge of the world doubled.

And, of course, Anna Karenina. So beautiful, so human, and timeless. You could feel Tolstoy peeking into characters' souls. I wish I could comb through it with a lit teacher!

message 12: by Leslie (last edited Jul 23, 2008 08:21AM) (new)

Leslie Millions of years ago, I read One Day... as a 'whole group' book in sophmore English. I remember being totally consumed by it; however, it was the last book ever pushed/offered/promoted (that I remember) that wasn't by an English or American author.

My daughter, only a 7th grader, is so interested in historical fiction and other cultures. I can't wait for her to pick up that book...I even got a copy to stick on the shelf for future use. While it's not a huge book, I remember being so bummed at how short it was and how quickly we got through it. Obviously, I had an English teacher who knew what she was doing.... I didn't love reading as a sophmore!

This is on the 'Reading Choices' list for juniors at our area high school (along with 30 other books--they list 30 per year and suggest that the kids read at least 10. Not all are classics!)

message 13: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Unfortunately, there are teachers out there who assign great books but fail their students by neglecting any sort of enrichment, like discussion or further study. But I must come to the defense of the rest of us (teachers are so used to getting a bad rap!) who have a true passion for literature and a genuine love of our students. I can't imagine assigning There Eyes Were Watching God and The Things They Carried (my summer AP reading) without coming back in the fall to share our thoughts and reactions to the stories. I'm not there to tell my students what it all means, but I certainly can guide the discussion and offer insight when I think it's appropriate. It should not be common practice for students to read, digest, and understand a book on their own, unless it's part of a research project or some sort of independent assignment.

Jeremy I certainly had my share of good teachers/professors too. I've become friends with more than a few of them. And when I think of what makes a teacher a "good" teacher, I think it starts with engaging students. And 11 AP was not engaging for me. But maybe some of the blame is on me. I remember being seventeen and have come to realize some of the frailties of being a teenager might color some of those educational experiences.

I'm glad to hear a literature teacher's thoughts on the topic. I realize education is a difficult (and sometimes thankless) job and that all too often it's the terrible teachers that get highlighted while great ones toil in anonymity.

Also, thanks to everyone for the reading suggestions.

message 15: by Susan (new)

Susan As someone who has taught English and now as an MA Lit student, I feel keenly the frustration of English classes from both teacher and student perspectives. One thing I stuggled w/ as a teacher was actually getting students to read. A 350 page book seemed overwhelming to them; they complained that reading was boring; they often relied on sparknotes and so entirely missed the beauty of the language. As a student, I feel that push to produce (write a paper, create a presentation) and see how that, ironically, can take the joy out of reading. I also see how necessary some level of direct instruction is. Even grad. students don't have all the tools to get at the heart of a book. It helps to know what some of the issues are that the author is dealing with. I think creating rich discussion is one of the best helps as well as one of the best motivators to help students read and understand.

message 16: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline George Perhaps the teaching establishmen's attitude to this apparently suitable book is shaped by it being so historically representative. It is almost 'faction' rather than straight fiction! Maybe it should be studied in History classes as well. You can learn a lot about the seeds of the Soviet collapse from it.

Jason Leslie,

I would really love to see this list of thirty if you ever have the time. Inbox me if you need to.


Jamus Sumner I know I'm late to the punch here, but I had never heard of this book until a few weeks ago when I happened upon it at a local library book sale. My friend recommended it, and I ripped through the book in two sittings. I would love to read more like this.

Maria This was on the reading list when I was in 8th grade English. I just finished a re-read of it. Very good book, but I think I enjoyed it more back then, which probably had a lot to do with the great teacher I had.

Jennifer Nelson I think Russian authors are ignored in general, except for maybe Tolstoy.

Jamus Sumner I came home yesterday and after seeing your comment on this, had an email from Amazon stating they had some sort of sale on Russian Literature. Ironic.

Jennifer Nelson Isn't that typical. I must say that the Russians are worth FULL price!

Shirley Read this book...

"Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"

No matter what..this is a book of importance. Read it.
You can't help but learn from it.

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