People who teach English, regardless of our specialty, love to read a good literature. These are books we cherish and would like to share with fellow readers.
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis.
Homer and Langley, by E.L. Doctorow, a great example of Doctorow’s historical fiction. It introduces two brothers and collect anything and everything that documents the “stuff” that the twentieth century is made of.
Blush: Faces of Shame, by Elspeth Probyn.
Watchmen, by Alan Moore et. al. Brilliant, dark, and disturbing re-imagining of the hero by deconstructing the superhero.
Mr. Palomar, by Italo Calvino.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Into Thin Air, by Jon Kraukauer.
Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, is a fascinating piece of contemporary Japanese magical realism.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Collection of short stories very much in the literary tradition, about life in Indian immigrant cultures in the U.S.
Land of Green Plums, by Herta Mueller, provides a compelling and troubling look at what life was like in post-WWII Rumania. She is the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Call it Sleep, by Henry Roth.
Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins.
A Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
Time and the Gods, by Lord Dunsany. A large collection of Lord Dunsany's dreamy, poetic short stories from the turn of the last century. Lovely prose set in fantastic places or far corners of our own. Dunsany was the most important fantasist of the last century until Tolkien and his influence is still felt today, although it is usually unacknowledged.
Splay Anthem, by Nathaniel Mackey.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison.
About Time, by Jack Finney, is a collection of 12 stories.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston.
Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers, and other "Lord Peter Wimsey" detective novels.
Underworld, by Don DeLillo. How can you not like a book that examines the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation against a baseball metaphor?
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and other "Thursday Next" novels.
Heart of Aztlan, by Rudolfo Anaya.
Gertrude and Claudius, by John Updike. You’ll never again read the Bard’s Hamlet without referencing, at least unconsciously, Updike’s wickedly wonderful prequel.
The Warrior's Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and other "Vorkosigan" novels.
The Troubadour of Knowledge, by Michel Serres.
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. The sequel to Oryx and Crake, Atwood envisions a world after a major catastrophe has wiped out most human beings.
A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. A children's book about a little boy named Nobody Owens who grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts.
The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Barchelard.
Beguilement, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and other "Sharing Knife" novels.
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie.
Paradise, by Toni Morrison, describes the tensions between a patriarchal African American community and a group of women who have arrived at an old convent building where they try to find respite and shelter.
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
The Alchemy of Race and Rights, by Patricia Williams.
Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie.
Girl Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen. One of the best mental illness memoirs, ever, and a great feminist text.
Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston.
Saving Fish from Drowning, by Amy Tan, introduces us to a slightly different side of Tan as she sends a group of American tourists to Burma and allows us to witness what happens to them after they have been abducted by a native group.
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison.
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman Wyrd.
Sisters, by Terry Pratchett, and other "Discworld" novels.
Preludes to Insight, by Ronda Dively. For anyone who wants to know more about the creative processes involved in writing, this study of student writers is amazing.
Shark Dialogues, by Kiana Davenport.
Exhuberance, by Kay Redfield Jamison. A study of a certain kind of enthusiastic personality, with biographical descriptions of famous people.
All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy.
The Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, is great fun for all art lovers and those who like a slightly sentimental romance. The movie with Scarlett Johansson is also a must see.
Paula, by Isabel Allende.
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. I recommend that it be read in a class or with a group of interested people.
The Triggering Town, by Richard Hugo.
London, by Edward Rutherford.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carre, remains one of the darkest spy novels every written, and the black and white film starring Richard Burton is every bit as good.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera.
The Human Stain, by Philip Roth.
Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson.
What Liberal Media?, by Eric Alterman.
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.
Jorie Graham's poetry, including the collection Materialism, is guaranteed to make a reader feel as if her or his head has been taken off, given a good shaking, and replaced slightly askew. (This is my standard test for poetry that must be read).
Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron. Welcome to the messy human race . . .
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry.
To Taste the Water, by Norman Minnick. One of the most moving collections of modern poetry I have ever read.
Red Noir, by Anne Waldman.
The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson.
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson.
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Minimalist art style combines with a deeply affecting story about Satrapi's life growing up in Iran around the Revolution.
The Secret History, by Donna Tart. A spine-tingling murder mystery involving college students studying ancient Greek.
The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchitt.
The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields.
Candide, by Voltaire.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan. Amazing collection of young adult books about a modern-day half-blood hero.
Breathing Lessons, by Ann Tyler.
Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin. An older book on methods of creative non fiction. The methods within are useful for fiction and non-fiction, regardless of title. One of my favorite writing texts.
Measure for Measure, by Shakespeare.
Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse.
Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates. A classic horror novel, from the perspective of a serial killer.
Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy. A classic sci-fi text with interesting perspectives on utopias/dystopias and feminist rhetoric.
Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, by Al Fraken.
Lorelei of the Red Mist, by Leigh Brackett, co-author of the script for The Big Sleep (with William Faulkner), sceenplay writer for numerous John Ford westerns. Brackett was a master of gritty noir feel and blue-collar hard luck characters. Her last screenplay was The Empire Strikes Back. Lorelei collects some of the best of her space opera, fully of battered loners and down-on-their luck spacers. Brackett, often called the Queen of Space Opera, was writing stories with Han Solo characters 25 years before the character ever appeared on screen.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles.
The Harry Potter Books, by JK Rowling. By no means soppy children's stories, Rowling's fantasy is sophisticated and thoughtful.
Volatile Bodies, by Elizabeth Grosz.
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. A short history of scientific achievement told in a series of fascinating essays.
Foreign Bodies, by Alphonso Lingis.
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, by Henry Jenkins. He is a media scholar who examines the intersection of new technologies with media, fan cultures, participatory cultures, and collective intelligence.
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood.
Swords from the West, by Harold Lamb. A collection of stories featuring Crusaders from a talented and underappreciated adventure writer of the 1920s.
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner.
The Not So Big Life, by Sarah Susanka. A professional architect describes ways to approach a remodeling of your life. It offers an answer to the question: “How did I get so busy and what can I do about it?”
The World According to Garp, by John Irving.
Wild Trees, by Richard Preston. A prize-winning book about discovering a separate ecosystem that exists in Redwood tree canopies.
Captain Alatriste (trilogy), by Arturo Perez Reverte.
Fences, by August Wilson. Reading any Wilson play is a literary experience.
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
Anything by Amy Bloom. She has a knack for sentences that make me laugh out loud.
My Own Country, by Abraham Verghese.
Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise DeSalvo. The perfect book for everyone who has something autobiographical that needs to be written, even if it hurts.
Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler.
Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko.
Brain Rules, by John Medina. A highly entertaining study of how the brain works, and how we can use that knowledge to be more productive at school and at work.