". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Better Reading List

Not long ago I shared my thoughts on a list of literary works that the College Board recommends college-bound students read before leaving high school. In my opinion the list is unrealistic in scope, with too many titles and a number of selections that I consider to be more college than high school terrain.

Here's a better list, compiled by Bill Bennett a few years ago after he posed the question to a group of experts he selected. I have read either all or part of everything on the list except for the Communist Manifesto. (Must I?) I didn't finish War and Peace, I can't say that I have read every last word of Homer, and I've only read parts of Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics and Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Oh yes, and I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read every one of Shakespeare's plays (although I've read many). That's one of my goals before I die. But the rest of it I've got covered--even all of Paradise Lost (that is one great read, let me tell you). Do you think that means I could get back into college? What about you? Are you college material. Go and see. (To my teenagers: if you want to see what's coming in the next few years, this list will give you a good idea. And take note of what we've already read. We're making good progress!)

By the way, there is nothing on Bennett's list younger than 30 years old. I like that. Not that a work has to be old to be good. But I think it takes a little time to ascertain if something is a classic or not. The College Board list was, in my opinion, a bit too eager to open the door to modern literature.

(HT: Kathryn Lopez, The Corner at National Review)


Evan said...

I'm missing Steinbeck, Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner, Salinger, De Tocqueville, and Tolstoy. So, most of the Americans and Tolstoy. And a lot of Shakespeare, but I've got the fundamentals, I think.

I love that the Aeneid is on the list. It's the most neglected of the epic poems.

The Communist Manifesto is a pretty quick and easy read, and I think it's worth reading. It really drives home how much Marxism plays off some of the worst of human desires to produce something so dehumanizing.

Elephantschild said...

Many of those works I have not read. Does it count for something that I know *about* them, and something about *why* they're important?

De Tocqueville would be a good example of that. I haven't read it, but I know about it.

You know what else? When I read that list, I get angry. I get angry at how my "education" has failed me.