My Booklist

  • These are a few recommended titles.

AP Composition Reading List

  • A Tale of Two Cities

    by by Charles Dickens Year Published:

    The period from 1775 - the outbreak of the American Revolution - to 1789 - the storming of the Bastille - is the turbulent setting of this uncharacteristic Dickens novel. It is his only novel that lacks comic relief, is one of only two that are not set in nineteenth-century England and is also unusual in lacking a primary central character. London and Paris are the real protagonists in this tale, much as the cathedral was the 'hero' of Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. Dickens was writing at a time of great turmoil in his personal life, having just separated from his wife, and no doubt the revolutionary theme was in tune with his mental state.

    The result is a complex, involving plot with some of the best narrative writing to be found anywhere, and the recreation of revolutionary Paris is very convincing. The device of having two characters that look identical may seem hackneyed to modern readers, but it is here employed with greater plausibility than in Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson or Collins's The Woman in White.

    Dickens was inspired to write this story by reading Carlyle's newly published history of the French Revolution. Those events and their aftermath stood in relation to their time much as World Wars I and II do to ours, that is, fading from living memory into history, yet their legacy still very much with us. In many nineteenth-century novels, especially Russian and British works, you get a sense of unease among the aristocracy that the revolution will spread to their own back yard. In the case of Russia, of course, it eventually did.

    » Amazon.com

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  • Jane Eyre

    by by Charlotte Bronte Year Published:

    Charlotte Brontë's most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester.

    The loneliness and cruelty of Jane's childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Ever since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman's quest for self-respect.

    » Amazon.com

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  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by by Annie Dillard Year Published:

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a series of essays that combines scientific observation, philosophy, daily thoughts, and deeper introspection with glorious prose. On the surface, Annie Dillard is simply exploring a place called Tinker Creek and its inhabitants: "It's a good place to live; there's lots to think about." But as her observations range well beyond the landscape into worlds of esoteric fact and metaphysical insight, each paragraph becomes suffused with images and ideas. Whether she is quoting the Koran or Albert Einstein, describing the universe of an Eskimo shaman or the mating of luna moths, Annie Dillard offers up her own knowledge with reverence for her material and respect for her reader. She observes her surroundings faithfully, intimately, sharing what can be shared with anyone willing to wait and watch with her. In the end, however, "No matter how quiet we are, the muskrats stay hidden. Maybe they sense the tense hum of consciousness, the buzz from two human beings who in silence cannot help but be aware of each other, and so of themselves." The precision of individual words, the vitality of metaphor, the sheer profusion of sources, the vivid sensory and cerebral impressions - all combine to make Pilgrim at Tinker Creek something extravagant and extraordinary. --

    » Amazon.com

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  • Pride and Predjudice

    by by Jane Austen Year Published:

    Next to the exhortation at the beginning of Moby-Dick, "Call me Ishmael," the first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice must be among the most quoted in literature. And certainly what Melville did for whaling Austen does for marriage--tracing the intricacies (not to mention the economics) of 19th-century British mating rituals with a sure hand and an unblinking eye. As usual, Austen trains her sights on a country village and a few families--in this case, the Bennets, the Philips, and the Lucases. Into their midst comes Mr. Bingley, a single man of good fortune, and his friend, Mr. Darcy, who is even richer. Mrs. Bennet, who married above her station, sees their arrival as an opportunity to marry off at least one of her five daughters. Bingley is complaisant and easily charmed by the eldest Bennet girl, Jane; Darcy, however, is harder to please. Put off by Mrs. Bennet's vulgarity and the untoward behavior of the three younger daughters, he is unable to see the true worth of the older girls, Jane and Elizabeth. His excessive pride offends Lizzy, who is more than willing to believe the worst that other people have to say of him; when George Wickham, a soldier stationed in the village, does indeed have a discreditable tale to tell, his words fall on fertile ground.

    Having set up the central misunderstanding of the novel, Austen then brings in her cast of fascinating secondary characters: Mr. Collins, the sycophantic clergyman who aspires to Lizzy's hand but settles for her best friend, Charlotte, instead; Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's insufferably snobbish aunt; and the Gardiners, Jane and Elizabeth's low-born but noble-hearted aunt and uncle. Some of Austen's best comedy comes from mixing and matching these representatives of different classes and economic strata, demonstrating the hypocrisy at the heart of so many social interactions. And though the novel is rife with romantic misunderstandings, rejected proposals, disastrous elopements, and a requisite happy ending for those who deserve one, Austen never gets so carried away with the romance that she loses sight of the hard economic realities of 19th-century matrimonial maneuvering. Good marriages for penniless girls such as the Bennets are hard to come by, and even Lizzy, who comes to sincerely value Mr. Darcy, remarks when asked when she first began to love him: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." She may be joking, but there's more than a little truth to her sentiment, as well. Jane Austen considered Elizabeth Bennet "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print". Readers of Pride and Prejudice would be hard-pressed to disagree.

    » Amazon.com

    Note: This book is not available in our Library.


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  • The Handmaid's Tale

    by by Margaret Atwood Year Published:

    In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries.

    » Amazon.com

    Note: This book is not available in our Library.

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  • The Second Sex

    by by Simone De Beauvior Year Published:

    In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir posed questions many men, and women, had yet to ponder when the book was released in 1953. "One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should ...," she says in this comprehensive treatise on women. She weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to show women's place in the world and to postulate on the power of sexuality. This is a powerful piece of writing in a time before "feminism" was even a phrase, much less a movement.

    » Amazon.com

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  • Wide Sargasso Sea

    by by Jean Ryss Year Published:

    Difficulty: Challenging

    Jean Rhys' late, literary masterpiece "Wide Sargasso Sea" was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s. Born into an oppressive, colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage the rumours begin, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness. -Amazon.com editorial review

    » Amazon.com

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Recommended reading

  • A Confederacy of Dunces

    by by John Kennedy Toole Year Published:

    Difficulty: Challenging

    A savagely funny novel whose main character will leave you alternating between outrage and admiration.

    Note: This book is not available in our Library.

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  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

    by by Dave Eggers Year Published:

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  • A Prayer for Owen Meany

    by by John Irving Year Published:

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  • Bel Canto

    by by Ann Patchett Year Published:

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  • Childhood's End

    by by Arthur C. Clarke Year Published:

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  • Childhood's End

    by by Arthur C. Clarke Year Published:

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  • Earth Abides

    by by George Stewart Year Published:

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  • East of Eden

    by by John Steinbeck Year Published:

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  • Pillars of the Earth

    by by Ken Follett Year Published:

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  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

    by by Michael Chabon Year Published:

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  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    by by Junot Diaz Year Published:

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  • The Day of the Triffids

    by by John Wyndham Year Published:

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  • The Lord of the Rings

    by by J. R. R. Tolkien Year Published:

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  • The Lords of Discipline

    by by Pat Conroy Year Published:

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  • Time and Again

    by by Jack Finney Year Published:

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  • Watership Down

    by by Richard Adams Year Published:

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11th Grade English

  • The Great Gatsby

    by by F. Scott Fitzgerald Year Published:

    From Amazon.com: In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

    It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

    Note: This book is not available in our Library.

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  • Of Mice and Men

    by by John Steinbeck Year Published:

    From Amazon.com: Novella by John Steinbeck, published in 1937. The tragic story, given poignancy by its objective narrative, is about the complex bond between two migrant laborers. TThe plot centers on George Milton and Lennie Small, itinerant ranch hands who dream of one day owning a small farm. George acts as a father figure to Lennie, who is large and simpleminded, calming him and helping to rein in his immense physical strength. When Lennie accidentally kills the ranch owner's flirtatious daughter-in-law, George shoots his friend rather than allow him to be captured by a vengeful lynch mob.

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  • The Crucible

    by by Arthur Miller Year Published:

    From Amazon.com: Based on historical people and real events, Miller's classic play about the witch hunts and trials in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror which Miller uses to reflect the anti-Communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the U.S.

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Science Fiction and Fantasy

12th Grade English

  • Beowulf

    by by Seamus Heaney, Translator Year Published:

    From Amazon.com In Beowulf warriors must back up their mead-hall boasts with instant action, monsters abound, and fights are always to the death. The Anglo-Saxon epic, composed between the 7th and 10th centuries, has long been accorded its place in literature, though its hold on our imagination has been less secure. In the introduction to his translation, Seamus Heaney argues that Beowulf's role as a required text for many English students obscured its mysteries and "mythic potency." Now, thanks to the Irish poet's marvelous recreation (in both senses of the word) under Alfred David's watch, this dark, doom-ridden work gets its day in the sun.

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  • Cry, the Beloved Country

    by by Alan Paton Year Published:

    From Amazon.com ry, the Beloved Country stands as a singularly important novel in twentieth-century South African literature. A work of searing beauty, Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the background of South Africa and a people driven by racial injustice. Unforgettable for character and incident, it is a novel of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

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  • Frankenstein

    by by Mary Shelley Year Published:

    From Amazon.com A timeless, terrifying tale of one man's obsession to create life -- and the monster that became his legacy.

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  • Macbeth

    by by William Shakespeare Year Published:

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  • The Importance of Being Earnest

    by by Oscar Wilde Year Published:

    From Amazon.com Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers’ entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

    Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend—the "rivals" to fight for Ernest’s undivided attention and the "Ernests" to claim their beloveds—pandemonium breaks loose.

    Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

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  • The Taming of the Shrew

    by by William Shakespeare Year Published:

    From Amazon.com Comedy in five acts by William Shakespeare, produced about 1593 and printed in the Folio of 1623. Considered one of Shakespeare's bawdier works, the play describes the volatile courtship between the shrewish Katharina and the canny Petruchio, who is determined to subdue Katharina's legendary temper and win her dowry. The main story is offered as a play within a play; the frame story consists of an initial two-scene "induction": a lord offers the love story as an entertainment for tinker Christopher Sly, recovering from a drunken binge at an alehouse. Although Katharina repeatedly insults Petruchio, he woos, wins, and tames her by insisting that she is actually the soul of gentleness and patience. After their marriage, he makes her forgo food, sleep, and fancy clothing, and he outdoes her mean tongue by abusing the servants. In the final scene, Petruchio wins a bet that his wife is the most obedient after Katharina gives a speech extolling the virtues of wifely subservience.

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