I wrote a few weeks ago about my “Rediscovering the Classics” class, which is beginning its third year this September. In fact, this weekend we had our first meeting where we talked about what the year may bring and I unveiled the list of books we will be reading. The list is (I hope) a mix of well-known favorites and lost treasures ready to be unearthed again.
Anybody who knows me knows that I have strong opinions about how the classics are taught in school. One of my criticisms is that students are thrown into books whose vocabulary, terms and language–although it may still be English–are so antiquated that the students are intimidated and even feel that the story has no relevance to their lives anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth! These books are classics because the language is often hauntingly beautiful and because the stories themselves deal with timeless themes. But sometimes students need to ease gradually into these older works of literature, so that the language and vocabulary is not such a shock. So you may notice that (with one or two exceptions) we read the books in backwards chronological order based on the date of publication.
And now, without further ado, here is the list. I hope you will enjoy it, and maybe even read along with us. I would love to hear your comments!
- September: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 1986 (Canadian)
- October: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1890 (Irish)
- November: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1969 (American)
- December: Passing by Nella Larsen, 1929 (African American)
- January: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 1958 (African)
- February: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, 1925 (English)
- March: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, 1847 (English)
- April: Candide by Voltaire, 1759 (French)
- May: As You Like It by William Shakespeare, 1599-ish (English)