My Take on 10th Grade Reading
Like the educational classroom, the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade hasn’t changed much. We still read the classics which are primarily white European authors. World Literature is particularly difficult because of the wide pool of books and areas to choose from. We are after all talking about all the literature in the world! Some of the classics read in most 10th grade classrooms are: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Animal Farm by George Orwell, All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Marie Remarque, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri. If you look at this list the only societal norms that vastly differ from ours is Things Fall Apart.
High School English Book List: A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Separate Peace by John Knowles is on the high school literature reading list. It is a book about two young teens who go away to boarding school in New England. Gene and Finny become the best of friends; however Finny is good at everything and Gene is average having only a leg up in education because he studies. Finny is better looking and is talented at sports which boys at this age tend to value. One day while they are on a branch intending to jump into the water, Gene purposefully jostles the limb causing Finny to fall landing with a disturbing thug. Finny is no longer able to use his leg and won’t be able to play sports again. In a fit of guilt Gene tells Finny he purposefully jostled the limb of the branch and Phineus is set in a fit of rage. Gene leaves and the same day, Finny dies due to complications with his heart. Although a great story, I’m not sure how we learn much about another culture. Friendship is a theme entrenched in most novels, so this is a book that could be shelved for a more culturally rich text on the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade.
English Literature for High School: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is a book on the high school literature book list. It is a classic that has survived the test of time. Shakespeare’s themes were far-sighted and this is an important novel to read in order to study the Republic and its origins; however, that is not one of the English Common Core Standards. This novel would fit better in a world history course. The play is about how Julius Caesar, a great and powerful leader who is taking the Republic back from a newly defined democracy to the ages of an autocracy. His enemies and friends plot to kill him and they do in a bloody massive stab fest at the Capitol. One of the great controversies in the play is that Caesar’s closest friend Brutus is among those who take Caesar’s life, coining the famous quote, “Et tu Brute?” The most valuable learning component in the play is the speeches that follow Caesar’s death. First Brutus speaks swaying the crowd to see things his way and gets them to forgive him for killing Caesar. Next Antony speaks using all the literary speaking devices, or speech techniques which leads the crowd to rise up in mutiny against the traitors (Brutus’ group). The lesson is that all it took was one passionate, clever speech to turn the fate of the empire. The most valuable use of time would be to show the movie, study the speeches closely, have students write a speech and finish the movie. It’s a difficult read and quite frankly most students do not get anything out of the scenes other than the speech scene. I preface the scene by analyzing Martin Luther King’s speech first looking at speaking devices.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding on the High School English Literature Books
Lord of the Flies is one of my favorite novels to teach. It is a book about a group of British boys in private school who go down in a plane after supposedly being hit by a bomb during the cold war. It is a what if…the cold war turned into real war idea. The boys begin by setting up a sort of Democratic society using the conch to keep order. They divvy up the work, and things run fairly smooth as possible given the limited skills at this age. Slowly the boys go from a civilized-like society to complete anarchy and begin killing each other. The message from Golding is that humans are born inherently evil and if left to their own devices, without consequences, law and order, it wouldn’t take long for savagery to ensue. Here’s the thing. Even though it is such a fun unit to teach, and we learn about human nature, we don’t even learn about British culture. The boys are simply from Britain-the end on culture. For this reason, I think we need to choose a more culturally diverse text. But…I’m still not ready to give it up on the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade.
Animal Farm by George Orwell: High School Literature Reading List
I think Animal Farm by George Orwell is a keeper. The book is an allegory about the Russian Revolution and the dangers of communism, and dictatorship. A group of animals run off the farmer and his wife, and decide they will run the farm with equal distribution. All the animals represent a person or institution from the Russian Revolution. Karl Marx is Old Major, Squealer is propaganda, Napoleon is Joseph Stalin, the horse is the working class, the raven is the media etc. Slowly we see how the deviant leaders such as Napoleon takes over the farm. It is like watching a pot boil over with a lobster in it. Once the animals figure out they have been taken advantage of, it is too late to jump out. There are so many elements to study, standards covered, and important themes and lessons, that I believe Animal Farm should remain on the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade.
High School Literature Book List 10th Grade: All Quiet on the Western Front
This is a depiction of WWI between Russian and German soldiers, sprinkled with some U.S. soldiers towards the end. The book is from the point-of-view of a Russian soldier and all the horrors and atrocities he experiences from the war. He loses everyone in his platoon, all friends, and at one point is shot. We learn about the environmental factors that kill soldiers during war such as corpse rats, and foot rot from mud and lack of resources such as decent boots and even food. When Paul goes home, he is too damaged to enjoy a normal life. He is completely destroyed by the war as were all soldiers from WWI. They are known as the “lost generation“. I believe this book is important because it gives a realistic portrayal of what war is like and leaves out the glorified versions students see on television. It is very dry, so necessary to find a book of similar nature, or find engaging ways to teach the material. For this reason I think this book should remain on the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade
High School Literature Book List 10th Grade: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart is getting closer to what World Literature should be about; however, I’m just going to come out and say it-a little boy slaughtered with a machete by a trusted father-like figure is too much for high school students. Nuff said! For this reason, Things Fall Apart should not be on the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade. It does serve a valuable purpose on a college list.
High School Literature Book List 10th Grade: Books I would Add to the Curriculum
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis: Persepolis is a great read to add to the list of books to read in high school world literature. Persepolis covers culture and war in the Middle East. What I love about this book is that we get a glimpse of a young to teenage girl who lives in a completely different culture, yet is just like us. She wants to fit in, feel safe, cares about music, loves her family, celebrates the similar things we celebrate, and experiences all the same emotions that we experience. It takes a part of the world that tends to be villainized since 9/11 and proves that people are the same no matter where you go.
Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne/Night by Elie Wiesel
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: The heart-breaking novel of the boy in the striped pajamas gives people of glimpse of what it would have been like to live with a family that was on the German side (wrong side). This young boy has a father who is high in rank and even takes orders from Hitler in person. The family lives on sight at Auschwitz to help run the concentration camp. The young boy, completely unaware of what is taking place in the camp, tries to live a normal life. He befriends a boy living in the camp and they meet once a day sitting and talking through the fence about normal things (not what is happening at the camp). Towards the end of the book the boy decides he is going to sneak into the camp so he can help his friend find his father (who has been killed in the gas chambers). The boy sneaks in to what he thinks will be an adventure and is also killed in the gas chambers.
Night by Elie Weisel: Night is a more intense look at what happens on the inside of the concentration camp, which is contrary to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas of what is happening on the outside of the concentration camps. Night truly shows the evils of what happened to everyone: men, women, and children. It is a difficult read but one that is necessary to ensure the Holocaust never happens again. I would accompany these texts with a trip to the museum of tolerance. I also show Hotel Rwanda with this unit so students can see what a more recent genocide looks like. Of course, you will need permission slips for this rated “R” movie. Among the High School English Literature Books is a graphic novel by R.J. Palacio called Blue Bird that I absolutely love, if you have the funds for it.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is an English literature book for high school. It is an easier read; however, it is a subject matter for high school students not middle school. In A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park it is about refugee’s who escape from Kenya to a refugee camp. The journey is brutal and unrelenting and the recovery for one is lucky and not for the majority of the refugees who still live and die in refugee camps. If possible I would supplement this lesson with “When Stars are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson, a graphic novel similar to the themes and circumstances of A Long Walk to Water. Refugee by Alan Gratz is an option that covers the Holocaust and what it is like to be a refugee in one book so if you’re short of time, that is also an option for the High School Literature Book List 10th Grade.
These are just a few suggestions for a high school English book list! I would love to hear what your recommendations would be in your 10th grade classroom! Please add in the comments below! For a blog post on American Literature Book List Visit this blog post.