Wednesday, February 15, 2012

College Bored? List of 101 Books

Today in shocking confessions of Melanie…

I am a college English teacher, and I haven’t read all *101of the books every high school student should read, according to the College Board, the administrators of the SAT test taken by college bound high school students.

I have read a number of tomes on the list—I refuse to tally how many—and have read several or all of the books of some authors listed, like Ernest Hemingway. You’re not impressed, are you? I didn’t think so.

I have gaps in my education. Some gaps you could drive a Chevy Suburban through. I’ve read a lot of books, but not nearly, not even close, to the number that many of you have read. Yes, you! And I’m the English teacher. Chance are, you are not. Life is strange, strange, strange.

Guess what else? I don’t confine my reading to certified “literary” books, either. When I teach literature classes, we spend a fair amount of time questioning what is “literature,” and who gets to vote in that election, anyway?

I read popular novels. There, I’ve said it. A hush falls over the blogging universe. I read detective, suspense, spy novels, some fantasy, to include… VAMPIRES and BOUNTY HUNTERS.  Sookie Stackhouse of the True Blood books has a friend in me. Stephanie Plum, Evanovich’s Jersey bounty-hunter, is next to my bed in the form of Seven Up.

I do read “literature,” too, whatever that means.  When I’m picking out a book to read, I don’t often consider whether the book fits someone’s criteria of literature.  Go ahead, call me a slacker, although I prefer the term “dissident.” For example, George Eliot’s (born Marian Evans) rebellious life fascinates me; her novel, Middlemarch, not so much. I’ve tried in great earnestness to read this book, hailed by some as the greatest novel of all time, three times over the years. Nope, I can’t do it. Not yet.

I don’t give up easily on books—it took me about six years and three tries before I read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. That third time, I loved it so much I followed it up with every novel my man Hem wrote.

There’s still breath in my body, a charged-up battery in my Kindle, and a library card in my wallet. Oh, and a Barnes and Noble coupon in there somewhere. I’m not dead yet, so I should be able to knock a few more books down before I head for the big Shakespeare festival in the sky. Whether the books will be on the College Board’s list, I can’t say, but a few of them probably will.

So George Eliot, be patient, and Stephanie Plum, I’ll see you tonight.

How about you? Is there a “classic” book you’ve tried to read several times you just couldn’t finish?


  1. Melanie, Melanie, Melanie! You, an English professor, read books other than literary classics??! Shocking! I have tried to read "grown-up books," but I don't know if I'm just not smart enough to get most of them, or not sophisticated enough or what. so, I think I'll stick to Janet Evanovich!!

    1. Ha-ha! In our tiny college library the other day, I was looking through the several shelves of Shakespeare, shaking my head. I wondered, "Is it time for me to give Shakespeare another shot? If I read one of these books about the S. man every week for a couple of years, I could do it!" Then, having come to senses, I said, "Nah. Don't think that's going to happen."
      Janet Evanovich's fortune is secure-- I think I have 10 books to go in the Plum series to get caught up to date!

  2. OK, might as well get out on the limb here, and give you a number. My number is 48, as in I believe I have read 48 of those 100 books, and I was a language arts teacher for the sixteen years I taught. (I would have taught longer, but got into the game late) I also read genres outside the classics, but not as much anymore. Now I am too busy adding to the printed word to have time to take it in. It comes and goes.

    1. Not enough hours in the day to do it all! Your number is quite impressively high, and you may have noticed that these lists do vary depending on the source. Can we take 10 lists of 100 and average it all out? Middlemarch is not even on the College Board list, I noticed.

      Another problem I have is that although I may have read a book on the list, the odds that I remember much more of it than the title grow increasingly high! Sigh.

  3. Do the Reader's Digest Condensed books count? My mom owned them and I read them all. I know that's cheating but I read the best parts.

  4. Why sure they count! We had a ton of them around the house growing up-- hadn't thought about them in years. Since you owned a bookstore, you have me over a barrel in book knowledge.
    Super-congrats on how well your books are doing! We will meet one day at a book convention, I'm sure of it! I'll be the one asking for your autograph.:)

  5. Okay, fine. I read 41 of them but I am NOT an English teacher - though I suspect I acquired enough units in college to qualify for a minor - just probably NOT the right units. I took every contemporary lit class possible JFF but not so big on WS or stuff from previous centuries. I must admit that many of te books off this list that I read, I read while in high school. I was tracked into honors English all along and we read and dissected the classics (mostly under the direction of Sr Regina - who later became Sr Barbara - and also Sr Aidan - they knew their English lit courses).

  6. I won't say my pitiful number of reads from the list. But thanks to my kids, who have read a surprising number of the books, and then encourage me to read them, I have been persuaded to set aside my Patricia Briggs every once in awhile!

  7. I attended community college a couple of years ago and read The Awakening, Ethan Frome, Medea, Othello and Giovanni's Room (the theme was "Love Sucks"). I actually enjoyed them, despite wanting to slit my wrists (oy...such downers). IN another class we read White Teeth, which was apparently a huge deal when released...hated it, 'bout killed me getting through it.

    The class that I read the above books for was English Composition 1B, however the teacher asked us to do a creative writing exercise and write a final chapter for Giovanni's room...that was the ONLY fun I had in that class. He was such a sourpuss!

    So, yes...I'd like to know who is in charge of selecting the peeps that get the privilege of deciding what is important to read, because they've got some explaining to do!

  8. I've attempted Jane Eyre a double digit number of times to no avail. I've read Wuthering Heights somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 times. Regarding George Eliot/Marian Evans, I actually wrote my (high school)senior paper on her and her life without reading ANY of her works. Shame, shame.

    I, too, have enormous gaps in my education, being self-taught for the most part. (High school diploma, but no college.) I read widely, though, and you're just as likely to find a celebrity memoir on my nightstand as this year's Pulitzer Prize winner. (In fact, I actually had Rob Lowe's memoir and Jennifer Egan's PP winner A Visit From The Goon Squad on my nightstand at exactly the same time. I was waiting for the Literature Police to show up at my door at any moment.)

  9. I've had Middlemarch sitting next to my bed for the last 3 years. I just can't, Melanie. I won't.

    I cannot seem to make it through anything by James Joyce either. And I can't stand Virginia Woolf or Joyce Carol Oates. You can't make me. So there! *stamps foot*

  10. Yes, there are a few books I tried to read but put down because they were absolutely boring. Most of them I can't even recall anymore...that's how bad they were. But one comes to mind, Anne Rice's The Violin. That was just awful!

    But rest assured that I will continue to read Janet Evanovich. I read her books like candy!

    Big hugs, querida Amiga!