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Which books should make my AP English syllabus?

Another big question I have in teaching AP English Literature for the first time is, Which books should make the syllabus?

To make the list, a book must meet four criteria:

  1. I have to like it,
  2. I have to think my students might like it,
  3. It must be AP-worthy (whatever that means),
  4. It has to be short enough.

So I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer. It’s very clear how few of the classics I’ve read. (I’m the kind of person who thinks Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights are all the same book.)

For the most part, it’s been fun.

Here is my list so far (not in order):

  • The Metamorphosis
  • The Stranger
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Hamlet
  • Oedipus
  • Siddhartha
  • Beloved
  • Frankenstein

You’ll notice that there aren’t too many surprises. In my first year, I’m not interested in being crazy just for crazy’s sake.

But I am questioning a few things: How many more books should I add? I’m thinking two or three, for 10-11 total. Should Siddhartha really be on the list? Maybe not, but right now, it stays. Should there be more books by authors of color? Maybe, but not necessarily. What other books should be there?

The last question is the hardest.

Over the next week, I’m going to take a look at these titles:

  • 1984
  • Brave New World
  • The Awakening
  • Ethan Frome
  • Cry, the Beloved Country
  • Death of a Salesman
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Streetcar Named Desire
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
  • Ceremony
  • Obasan

Out of the list, Cry, the Beloved Country is my favorite. I also like 1984, but the writing isn’t as great as the ideas. Brave New World is similar that way. The Awakening and Ethan Frome might go well together; their characters do some weird stuff. And I know that I probably need another play.

What do you think? Which 2-3 should make the list? 

Please share your brilliant insights!