A Lengthy Literature List for Learners

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This is an excerpt from an article in the Sunday, March 13 Tulsa World newspaper.  In it my friend, Suzy Griffin, lists several books as a recommended canon of classic literature for secondary school students.  She made a point of telling me it is by no means complete and isn’t necessarily meant as a read-all.  It is simply a collection of books useful to a shared literary and cultural experience.  Of all the things we do as teachers, teaching students to read, understand, and communicate using the written word is the most relevant teaching we do.

From The Tulsa World, Sunday, March 13, 2011:

“There’s a reason these books are considered classics,” said Susan Griffin, a department head at Edison. “They tell the stories of our history and our culture; there are allusions everywhere around us, from restaurant titles to song lyrics to crossword puzzles.  “Whether you love them or hate them,” she said, “reading the classics adds a depth of knowledge to our understanding of the world.”

So, starting from the age of 5, here’s a chronological list of some of the books Griffin and her fellow instructors think people ought to read in a lifetime:

The Cat in the Hat or any other books by Dr. SeussMother Goose; How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head, Bill Peet; Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein; Aesop’s Fables; Black Beauty, Anna Sewell; Heidi, Johanna Spyri; The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame; Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, E.B. White; Winnie-the-Pooh books, A.A. Milne; The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder; Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie; Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll; Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson; Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain; Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, Louisa May Alcott; Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins books; The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle; King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Roger Lancelyn Green; Anne of Green Gables series, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Agatha Christie books; Sherlock Holmes books, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas; Anything by Edgar Allan Poe; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien; The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane; To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; A Tale of Two Cities, Charles DickensThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving; Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe; War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells; The Once and Future King, T.H. White; Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith; Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott; Idylls of the King, Alfred, Lord TennysonWuthering Heights, Emily Bronte; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; The complete works of Emily Dickinson; Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier; The House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne; Moby Dick, Herman Melville; Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas HardyAnna Karenina and War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; Anything by William Shakespeare; The Odyssey and The Iliad, Homer; The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; Walden, Henry David Thoreau; Les Miserables, Victor Hugo; Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes; The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck.”

For some, this list might be your summer reading challenge.  But for many of us (I am included) the list simply serves as an example of the quality of literature that makes for a lifetime of excellent reading.

9 thoughts on “A Lengthy Literature List for Learners

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  1. I am in the list simply serves as an example of the quality of literature that makes for a lifetime of excellent reading category, many of these stories being read to me as a young child and many more read by myself in the years following. Though I have discovered there are still many I am yet to read. Part of the reason I love these books as they have life lessons that can be applied today as much as then and though through many of the stories there are tough times and hardship, hope, survival and happiness are among the main themes. I have always felt uplifted and ready to take on the world after reading many of them. They are as relevant today as ever before.


    1. I agree. I still have a few left to read. Suzy tells me they are compiling a list of modern classics as well. I’ll let you know when that comes out!


    2. kelliefish, I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your comment. Reading is so vital to our imaginations. There’s nothing that can replace the joy of a good novel!


  2. Wow! I was surprised that I had read so many of the classic children’s literature. I must have spent my entire childhood reading. NO wonder I am an English teacher. Good job for putting the list out there. It made me want to finish the list. I am always looking for a good read.


    1. Suzy says they are working on a list of modern classics they’ll release before the summer! I know for a fact Ender’s Game will be on it.


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