Last week I was putting together my syllabus for a year-long American literature course I'll be teaching to ninth and tenth graders at a homeschool co-op starting in the fall, my favorite genre. There are so many wonderful things I've considered including that I needed advice and perspective from others to help me make sure I wasn't overloading the class. So I tossed the question out on Facebook to find out people's favorite and least favorite books they read in high school. For my purposes this time I threw out everything that wasn't American lit and made my choices from the feedback I got.
Did you see Silver Linings Playbook a few months ago when it was out? I loved the complex characters, plot and the balance between funny and serious moments throughout the film. I thought Bradley Cooper as the main character Pat was wonderful. While I liked him just fine in The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, I loved seeing what else he could do.
I just read the book version by Matthew Quick earlier this week. There are some big differences between the book and the movie, but I liked each of them for different reasons. In both the book and the movie Pat is trying to win back his ex-wife by getting in shape and reading everything she has put on the syllabus for her high school English students. Though he doesn't love what she's selected, he plows through them, looking forward to the day when he'll be reunited with his ex-wife and they can discuss the novels.
Two-thirds of the books Pat reads are ones I've chosen for my syllabus: The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Scarlet Letter and Huckleberry Finn. The two Pat read that I didn't pick are The Catcher in the Rye (which almost made it on to the syllabus. If I teach this class again I might teach this one.) and The Bell Jar.
Here are the rest of the novels that made it in: My Antonia, Of Mice and Men and The Color Purple. We'll also read A Streetcar Named Desire and bits and pieces of Phyllis Wheatley, Anne Bradstreet, Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, Sandburg and Dickinson. I'm looking forward to rereading all these classics myself to prepare.
Have I missed anything What other books do you consider to be important to American literature?