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.  


  1. 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.


    1. 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.........

  2. 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!! :)

  3. 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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