Monday, April 7, 2014


“Our respect for a well read person 
is praise enough for literature.”
                                                                        T.S Eliot

At our last book club meeting the group discussed the heroine Coraline and how she compares to other contemporary heroines.  Of course the main characters from The Hunger Games and Divergent came up.  After a tremendous amount of thought, I decided to let Lilah read these books, so long as she talks about her feelings while reading with me.  I thought she would be so happy, but as is the case with parenting, our children often surprise us.  She is not overly eager to read them, she just wanted the opportunity to read them.  I told her to let me know if and when she is ready.

I have been giving lots of thought to what would be a fantastic high school book list.  I am not looking at traditional books lists because I think that some book lists are really not relatable to a 14, 15, or 16 year old.  Take for instance Animal Farm.  If the child does not have a solid understanding of pre and post WWII history, how can they truly comprehend this book?  Or 1984.  Quite frankly, this book is far to sexually graphic for any 14 or 15 year old. Or 16 year old as well.  And without a solid understanding of our Constitution and the freedoms that we as Americans have willingly given up over the last several decades, can they understand the dire warnings that Orwell was trying to express?  

On the other hand there is John Steinbeck’s The Pearl.  I may relate to this subject differently than my daughter would, as is expected, but each of us can relate to the theme of what would you do with the opportunity of unimaginable wealth?  Is is a blessing or a curse?  Even though there is the topic of rape in To Kill A Mockingbird, Grace has a background understanding of the civil rights movement, enough to understand this piece of literature and have it touch her the way it touched me.  

When you are free from required reading and able to pick the best books for your child or help your child self-select the best books, where do you begin?  There are so many choices.  

In high school I knew I was going to major in International Business and my course selection demonstrated that.  I read minimal American Literature choosing European works like Don Quixote (one of my favorites) and Kaftka’s Metamorphosis as well as Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I read Moliere’s Tartuffe, but since I do not remember the plot, I doubt I comprehended much of it.  But oh how I loved The Odyssey and The Iliad and Les Miserables.  

I want my girls to love the books they read over the next few years.  I’m beginning to research books read by high school age children that I want to either read or listen to as audiobooks. It will be interesting to see what books others have on their all time favorite book lists.  


dstb said...

Where do you begin? You are so right. There are sooo many books to choose from.

We read Animal Farm a couple of years ago and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much my kids understood. We tend to be heavy on history here, so maybe that helped.

My son is in 9th grade this year and we tied our literature study to the time period we were studying (Ancients - 1500AD). We read the Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey and have started Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. We have plans to do Beowulf and compare it to John Gardner's Grendel. As you can see, I am picking books that I think may appeal to a teen boy. (I refused to do Siddhartha as I had been bored to tears by it when I was in high school).

For the Odyssey, I used the Fagles translation and I also ended up getting it on CD (I figure it was a part of the oral tradition, so listening to it makes sense - narrated by Gandalf, I mean Ian McKellen). In conjunction with this, I happened to find at a used book sale a set of Great Courses CDs on the Odyssey. Professor Vandiver was excellent and I think we both got so much more out of the story by having someone so knowledgeable guide us. We alternated listening to the story with the commentary. (Professor Vandiver also does a series on The Iliad which I got out of the library just so we would listen to the first lecture on the Introduction to the Homeric Epic). By the way, we both really enjoyed The Odyssey. We had read other versions of it by Rosemary Sutcliff and Padraic Colum, so I was a little afraid this more advanced version was going to be less fun, but it wasn't. It was great.

I haven't picked out the books for next year, but I'll have to start looking at that soon. Again, I will probably loosely tie it to our history studies. To get some ideas, I will probably look at the standard high school reading list, but as you note, I don't always find those appropriate. I'll also look at some of the Great Courses literature series and see what books might be covered. There is one set called Heroes and Legends that could give some ideas. I also look at homeschool websites like Ambleside, Teaching the Classics, Tapestry of Grace and see what they have for lists. I'm going to try and do at least one Shakespeare a year and something by Dickens next year. His Junior year we'll be doing American History, so I am holding off on American authors for the most part until then.

Other books we've read (sorry, you get me talking about books and....)
RL Stevenson - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - shorter than his others. Did read-alouds or audio for Treasure Island/Kidnapped
H.G. Wells - War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man - these were fun
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Hobbit

I'd love to see what you come up with.


Jessica said...

What a great list! We used to tie our reading into history when we were doing Story of the World. I plan to get back to SOTW but I let Grace go off on her own for history and she designed her own plan by reading and studying the history that went along with the Dear America series and thus we really focused on American History this year particularly history of the WWII time period.

I plan to spend the summer researching how we are going to approach literature and how I am going to organize it over the 4 years.........

Karen said...

Loved the list too. I can't wait to see what you come up with. I remember thinking that all the books we had to read were 'old' and that was years ago. I have tried to find some lists that were more updated. Great books HAVE been written since 1950!! :)

dstb said...

I told you, you get me thinking about books and watch out! I actually had already started compiling a list that I had forgotten about. Some of the following we have already read or listened to and others are ideas for the future.

Frankenstein (not what I expected - could have been shortened)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Invisible Man
The Time Machine
War of the Worlds
Around the World in 80 Days
Oliver Twist (looooong - he was paid by the word)
Two Years Before the Mast
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Things Fall Apart (not a favorite, but on a lot of lists)
All Quiet on the Western Front
To Kill a Mockingbird
Call of the Wild
The Hiding Place
Island of Dr. Moreau
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Hound of the Baskervilles
Trumpeter of Krakow
Adam of the Road
Door in the Wall
Hittite Warrior
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Great Expectations
Tale of Two Cities
Don Quixote
Count of Monte Cristo
Hound of the Baskervilles
Gulliver’s Travels
Bleak House
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Last of the Mohicans
Scarlet Letter
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
To Kill a Mockingbird
Fahrenheit 451
Nineteen Eighty-Four
The Jungle
The Sun Also Rises
A Farewell to Arms
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Pearl
Lord of the Flies
Sophie’s World
Crime and Punishment
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Hobbit
Lord of the Rings
Heart of Darkness
Atlas Shrugged
The Things They Carried
The Once and Future King
Mila 18 (Leon Uris - ghetto uprising by Jews of Warsaw)
Crime and Punishment
All the King’s Men
Rob Roy
Farewell to Manzanar
How Green Was My Valley
Scottish Chiefs
Cry, the Beloved Country
House of Seven Gables
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

For a really extensive list, google: "Classical Christian Education Support Loop 1000 good books".

Sorry for the length. I hope some others will add their ideas.

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