Thursday, September 30, 2010

English Faculty Book Picks

Are you ready for two really long lists?

During my final semester at BYU-I, I had an assignment to pick one book from three lists and then put together a presentation for each of the three books. The lists were comprised of books in the canon, recommended books, and nonfiction books related to English/writing. My professor put the lists together by asking all the English faculty what one book in each category they thought everyone should read. So, looking for a good book to read or perhaps just wondering what books you should read before you die, here's some titles to consider.

Recommended Booklist

·         The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth
·         The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
·         The Ambassadors by Henry James
·         An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
·         Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
·         Arabella by Anonymous
·         Best American Short Stories
·         Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
·         The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
·         Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
·         The Brothers K by David James Duncan
·         Bungay Castle by Elizabeth  Bonhote
·         Candide by Voltaire
·         Century of the Wind by Eduardo Galeano
·         Collapse by Jared Diamond
·         The Color Purple by Alice Walker
·         Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
·         The Conjure Woman by Charles Chestnutt
·         The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
·         Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
·         Field Guide by Robert Hass
·         Five Skies by Ron Carlson
·         Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
·         Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop
·         The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
·         God: Stories edited by C. Michael Curtis
·         Good Omens:  The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaimon and Terry Prachett
·         The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
·         Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
·         The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
·         How to Read Literature Like a Professor:  A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines  by Thomas C. Foster
·         In Memoriam A.H.H by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
·         Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
·         The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
·         The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
·         Language as Symbolic Action by S.I. Hawakawa
·         The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
·         The Light Princess by George MacDonald
·         Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
·         Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
·         Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard
·         Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
·         Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
·         The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
·         Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery by Richard Selzer
·         Mrs. Mike: The Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
·         My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
·         Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
·         Night by Elie Wiesel
·         The Octopus by Frank Norris
·         A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
·         Persuasion by Jane Austen
·         The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
·         A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
·         Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
·         Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
·         The Road by Cormac McCarthy
·         The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
·         A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
·         Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler
·         The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·         Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
·         The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
·         The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
·         Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
·         Story by Robert McKee
·         Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
·         Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard
·         The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
·         The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber
·         The Tree of Man by Patrick White
·         The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
·         The World is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman
·         These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prince by Nancy E. Turner
·         This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
·         Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
·         Translation by Brian Friel
·         Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
·         Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
·         White Boys by Reginald McKnight
·         Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
·         Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
·         Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre

The Canon

·         Absolom, Absolom by William Faulkner
·         Adam Bede by George Eliot
·         The Aeneid  by Virgil
·         All My Sons by Arthur Miller
·         Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye
·         Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
·         Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
·         As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
·         Beloved by Toni Morrison
·         Beowulf
·         Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
·         Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
·         The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
·         Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
·         The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
·         Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
·         Crucible by Arthur Miller
·         Cry, the Beloved Country  by Alan Paton
·         David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
·         Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
·         A Death in the Family by James Agee
·         Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
·         Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri
·         A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
·         Dream Songs by John Berryman
·         Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede
·         The Efficacy of Prayer by C.S. Lewis
·         An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
·         For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
·         Frankenstein   by Mary Shelley
·         Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
·         Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
·         Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
·         Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
·         Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift
·         Hamlet  by William Shakespeare
·         Collected poems of Thomas Hardy
·         Collected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Heart of Darkness  by Joseph Conrad
·         Holy Bible
·         Huckleberry Finn  by Mark Twain
·         Illiad   by Homer
·         Imagining America: Stories From the Promised Land edited by Wesley Brown
·         Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
·         Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
·         Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë
·         Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
·         Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
·         Collected poems of John Keats
·         King Lear  by William Shakespeare
·         Life and Times of Fredrick Douglass in His Own Words by Fredrick Douglass
·         Life of King Alfred by Asser, Bishop of Sherborne
·         Light in August by William Faulkner
·         Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (If you choose this option, the play to pair it with would be Ah, Wilderness)
·         Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth
·         Macbeth by William Shakespeare
·         Merchant of Venice  by William Shakespeare
·         Middlemarch by George Eliot
·         Midsummer Night’s Dream  by William Shakespeare
·         Moby Dick by Herman Melville
·         Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
·         Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf
·         My Antonia by Willa Cather
·         Odyssey  by Homer
·         Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
·         Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
·         One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
·         One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
·         Othello by William Shakespeare
·         Paradise Lost  by John Milton
·         Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge
·         Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
·         The Prelude by William Wordsworth
·         Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
·         Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
·         The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
·         Riders to the Sea by J. M Synge
·         Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
·         Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
·         Scarlet Letter  by Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·         The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
·         Selected Tales and Sketches by Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
·         Silas Marner by George Eliot
·         Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
·         Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
·         A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
·         Tempest by William Shakespeare
·         Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
·         Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
·         Till We All Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
·         To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee
·         To the Lighthouse  byVirginia Woolf
·         Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
·         Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
·         Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
·         Walden by Henry David Thoreau
·         The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen
·         Winesberg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
·         Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
·         Collected Poems of William Wordsworth
·         Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

That should keep you going for awhile :)

Actually, come to think of it, looks like I've got a lot of reading to do!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hobbits and Harry Potter

I hope you all had a great Hobbit Day! Want to see one way I celebrated?

Something you'll find out about me sooner or later (so I might as well reveal it now) is that I like to make videos. Nothing too fancy. Just stuff for fun and mostly for my own enjoyment. I don't really have the means at the moment to buy myself an awesome camera or nice editing software, so I make do with my little digital camera and Windows Movie Maker. Someday I'll have better equipment, but for now, I'm perfectly satisfied.

A friend of mine (creator of and I created a little video in honor of Hobbit Day. She has better equipment than I do, which you will probably notice. We live in completely different parts of the country, but we haven't let that stand in the way of our occasional film shenanigans.

Something else that might interest you readers and movie fans: the new trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 has been released! In my opinion, it looks so incredibly awesome! I'm pretty excited to see it in theaters. I had my doubts about the decision to break the final movie into two parts, but now I'm thinking it's all going to work out fantastically! Take a look for yourself!

Totally awesome, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Tolkien Week!

"There is nothign like looking if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after."
--J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

I was just informed that is is Tolkien week! Tomorrow is Hobbit Day. September 22nd marks the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. There's a whole article on the celebrations here.

As I was given such notice as of the event, I will probably have to do something more spectacular next year (such as dressing up in an elvin cloak and putting together a feast and probably exchaning gifts of some sort! If only I could get Gandalf to come and shoot off some of his famous fireworks...). I'll probably have a bit of a quieter celebration this year. Perhaps I'll have a "Lord of the Rings" marathon or I'll read Roverandem which is currently sitting in my room begging to be read or perhaps I'll watch the cartoon of The Hobbit while I drift off into sweet dreams of elves, dwarfs, and dragons. That last one's always good for a few laughs.

"It's the dragon Smaug, or I'm a fool!" Classic line. That's more towards the end though. You'll have to watch the whole movie fore that treasure.

Another Hobbit connection you might get a kick out of is the music video to Leonard Nimoy's "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

There are countless other Tolkien inspired videos that you can watch on youtube.

Now, perhaps on a little more serious note, let me share some of my experience with Tolkien. The Hobbit is actually one of my favorite books of all time, but it didn't start out that way. I first read it in middle school for an assignment. My first impression? I thought it was dull. I hated Tolkien's style. One thing specific that I remember bugging me was how the narration would elude to things that wouldn't happen until the end of the book. It would say something like "This would inevitably lead to Bilbo dressing up like Barbie to trick the dragon, Smaug, into not eating him or his dwarf friends."

Okay, that's me being a little facetious again. Hopefully you know what I mean. But as I read The Hobbit for the second and even third time, I began to love all those things that annoyed me at first. The Hobbit is one of the books that taught me that sometimes you've got to give things a second chance. Sometimes we aren't ready for certain books the first time we set upon to read them.

I've met some people who are a bit intimidated by Tolkien as his style of writing is much different than what we are used to today. And I'll admit, his writing style is difficult to get through sometimes. With some of his work, I find that you have to read it once for the general idea and then you read it again for enjoyment (you don't have to try so hard the second time!).

I really do enjoy his stories. If you'd like to pick up The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I suggst reading The Hobbit first. Bilbo's adventure is a little more fun, not so dark, and the language isn't quite so hard to get through. That will help you warm up to The Lord of the Rings. Another suggestion I have is to watch Peter Jackson's films of the trilogy. Though different in some aspects, being familiar with the films will help you keep track of important names and characters when you read the books.

Another couple short stories I've read and would recommend are Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major.

So however you choose to celebrate Tolkien week/Hobbit day, make sure that you take time to read some of Tolkien's work. Take some time to read up on Tolkien himself or some of the numerous papers and articles focusing on his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Thanks J.R.R. Tolkien for sharing your talents with the world! You were a great story teller.

Time to go dig up all my random Tolkien related items :)

Have a great Tolkien week!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Banned/Challenged Books and My Recommendations

Have you ever done something just because someone sparked your curiosity by telling you that you shouldn't? Kind of like when someone tells you that they just saw the worst movie ever, but you still go and see it just so you can know for yourself. That's pretty much why I ended up seeing and then reading The Golden Compass. Plus, reading a banned/challenged book was one of my assignments in a Young Adult Literature class I was in. That's how I discovered whole lists of banned/challenged books with the reasons why they were challenged.

My interest was peeked. Here were a bunch of books that parents everywhere didn't want their children to read. Some of them I can understand. If I had children of my own, there are some books that I wouldn't want them to read until a certain age, and there would even be some that I would recommend not to read at all (not necessarily because I think it's inappropriate, but really there's some books that I think are a waste of time or just dumb. I still end up pushing through a lot of those dumb books just to see if it gets any better. Sometimes it does.). There are other books that I see on these lists and I immediately start laughing a little to myself and wonder why they were challenged in the first place. In my mind, they're perfectly all right, but I suppose it's all up to the individual reader. That's why I suggest giving some of these books a chance.

My suggestion: I don't want myself or anyone else to end up reading something and becoming thoroughly embarrassed or offended. So do a little research. Find the lists that tell you why books have been challenged. Again, I think some of the accusations made against these books I find to be a little ridiculous. No offense. So check out what other readers have said about the book so you can be more clear on the challenged subject matter.

A good list can be found at the ALA website, who even have a Banned Books Week from September 25-October 2! Another list can be found at

There's some others ones you can look at as well. Take a look. It's kind of fun to see how many of them you've read. Quite a few are books that are required reading for schools.

Here are a few books on the lists that I would recommend reading:
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Anything by Roald Dahl (a few have ended up on these lists)
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
- The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
- The Pigman by Paul Zindel
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
-The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

There's some other good ones that are on these lists too. Like I said, just double check for content if you're concerned before you read these.