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Carly's avatar

Which books should I choose from this reading list?

Asked by Carly (4510 points ) January 28th, 2013

For my literary criticism class I have to pick three books to read about and write papers on. One has to be by Faulkner, and the other two have to be from this list.

If you had to pick 2, which ones would you choose and why?

Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Awakening – Kate Chopin
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

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29 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird

I hear good things.

janbb's avatar

Mrs Dalloway and Heart of Darkness because they are both magnificant! On the other hand, To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful book and The Awakening is one of the seminal feminist novels in America.

Seek's avatar

Fahrenheit 451 and Of Mice and Men.

I’d also say that it was a hard choice between Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm. So Animal Farm is a close runner-up.

bookish1's avatar

Depends. Are you writing each paper on a separate book? Or do you have to discuss all 3 books in one paper? Do you have topics for the paper, or is it up to you to come up with one?

Pachy's avatar

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Seek's avatar

Am I the only one that found To Kill a Mockingbird to be a painful experience, and not in a good way?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Lord of the Flies was AWESOME!!!!!

@Seek_Kolinahr Nope, not just you, it was very disturbing to me and I bawled. :)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@janbb chose the ones I was thinking of. I second her remarks. Oh, I hope the Faulkner is Go Down, Moses.

muppetish's avatar

Animal Farm: I had a good experience reading this book. It may be short, but, as a allegory, it’s quite packed with details.

The Awakening: While I adored Chopin’s novel, the rest of my class hated it. If you’re interested in feminism and are looking for an intimate narrative (at least, I felt quite close to Edna as I read the book), then this would be an excellent choice.

The Great Gatsby: I liked Gatsby, but not as much as my fellow English majors. However, it is an important, canonized novel and there is a ton of information out there not only to help shape your research, but also to help you contextualize the time period and identify the autobiographical components in relation to Fitzgerald.

Heart of Darkness: Admittedly, I was not a fan. It was too dense and made me feel suffocated.

Of Mice and Men: It’s not a bad story, but I am not a fan of Steinbeck’s writing style.

Slaughterhouse Five: Absolutely love this one and since I am taking a class on 9/11 literature, the parallels interest me. I might even write a research paper on it myself. Vonnegut’s prose is pretty delicious, too.

The Things They Carried: I wrote a paper that I might present on O’Brien’s collection last quarter for my graduate course. There is a lot to work with in this, especially if you are either interested in postcolonial or trauma theory. It can get a bit gory, though.

To Kill a Mockingbird: While I thoroughly enjoyed Lee’s novel, I don’t know that I have much to say about it from a literary perspective. Maybe it’s been too long since I read it, though.

The rest I haven’t read yet and cannot comment on.

TL;DR: I personally would choose The Awakening, Slaughterhouse Five, or The Things They Carried, but that is because the style, themes, topics, and characters are the ones that catch my interest the most.

Which book by Faulkner are you going to work with?

Sunny2's avatar

I agree with @Pachyderm_In_The_Room
Farenheit 451 because it is a worrisome futuristic vision and message.
To Kill a Mocking Bird for its wonderful setting, characters and plot.

Seek's avatar

@KNOWITALL I just hated the writing. Couldn’t make it through. I have a big problem with American literature though, for the most part. Just ugh.

wundayatta's avatar

Slaughterhouse Five and Brave New World, because I love books that deal with politics and the future.

Unbroken's avatar

Well there are some excellent books on the list it is a tough choice.

Aldous Huxley is a gloriously wise insightful man but his book was a little dry. The legend goes that he taught George Orwell and they became friends. They were debating more likely scenarios for the distopian future. They ended up sending each other their manuscripts.

George Orwell was a much more engaging writer but 1984 lacks a certain depth BNW has.

Slaughterhouse five was a painful humbling read. It was as close of a biography to Vonneguts imprisonment in the internment camps of WWII after his capture. It was abstract and included more present the reflection of his experience on his life rather then the actual event. He was a humanist and an incredible thinker and I believe he won a nobel prize. His book is extremely unconventional.

Farenheit 451 is my favorite on the list. Very fast read. There is not an unnecessary word in book but it is incredibly descriptive. I have reread the book many of times and though I like Illustrated man it is my favorite of his.

Lord of the Flies was not particulary well written but I loved the plot and subject matter.

Of mice and men I found slow… Once I got started it was a good read. Once again I liked the subject matter but it wasn’t the page turner.

Harper Lee was notably brave and intelligent. Her book and characters were brillaint compelling realistic. But it wasn’t made to make you feel comfortable. Even now I squirm and am angered by the injustices and perhaps it is the most real to me.

The Great Gatsby was interesting but I didn’t feel like it was relevant when I read it I should reread it.

The others I would personally pick to read because I haven’t read them yet.

Jeruba's avatar

I’d ask the same questions as @bookish1. And for present purposes I would say choose the books that present the best possibilities for papers you might write well, as opposed to the books that are the most entertaining, enlightening, or easy to read.

Wait a sec—now I see that you wrote: “three books to read about.” Read about? not read?

gailcalled's avatar

I would choose “Mrs. Dalloway” and “Heart of Darkness” because I was not able to get through them when I was a student. Now, I’d like to be pushed into another reading of both of them.

Virginia Woolf used to make me feel like lining my pockets with stones and wading into something wet.

burntbonez's avatar

Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies—for the animal metaphors, esp. the pigs.

Luiveton's avatar

Of Mice and Men. – Allows you to discuss strong and controversial subjects; Great depression of the 1930s, Racism, sexism (eg. how women were seen as possessions, and prizes, especially for lonely men on the ranch who devote their unstable lives to committing to any job they temporarily get. back then they couldnt afford to build a stable life with a family, so people such as the son of the boss were considered lucky.) , power lust (eg. how a woman grabs her first chance at power by attacking a black man, how the son’s boss attacks people working on the ranch, how the black man grabs his first chance at power by attacking the disabled man, lennie.) , friendship and loyalty between a man who is protective of his mentally disabled lifelong friend, dreams (most important theme to discuss, every character has their own haven built within their heads, their dreams only limited by their imaginations. Dreams are discussed and shown throughout the whole book. Can they achieve them? Do their dreams misguide them to the extent where they begin to confuse reality with dreams? Do they start to gain hope..all for nothing? Do people like george who dont believe in dreams start to get excited by the idea towards the end only to face the inevitable -that such a life is not meant for men on the move, especially when they have a challenged friend to protect? You will be able to discuss each character’s dream in detail and how that reflects their life. Does it give us readers an insight on their personality, or past perhaps?) What is the overall idea and purpose of the characters, are they perhaps used to reflect the lives of certain classes within that time period? Etc. It is a very interesting book to explore.
Even the title has a story behind it.

Animal Farm. – Animal farm might not come across as an interesting book, but once you begin to immerse deeper, you will find a stronger and more fascinating meaning behind the story.
Those animals do not merely represent biological organisms confined within the premises of a mediocre farm.
They represent power, dictatorship, different classes, the propaganda and the extent of obliviousness of the ruled.
Every single character, every single action, every single neighboring enemy/ally, represents the dire circumstances that used to exist in the Soviet union. (Farm=soviet union)
There are many symbols used throughout (eg The horse hoof and the horn is suposed to be the hammer and sickle.), many leaders being portrayed (Stalin, Karl Marx, etc.), proletarian working class (specifically boxer) and their lack of education -following blindly and believing lies.
What does the farm’s anthem mean?Why does it change? Why do their dreams exist but remain compressed, is it perhaps due to their lack of education? Or is it because they are made to doubt themselves?
Is the leaders’ true motive to promote communism? Or do the pigs have an ulterior motive, using a certain ‘spokesperson’ pig (Squealer ie russian media) to reflect propaganda?
What does the evolution of their actions (the pigs) say about them, are they starting to resemble humans? (i.e. previous and initial overthrown dictator/s)
Are elements of manipulation shown from the very start, thusly hinting the negative effects this ‘revolution’ will later have? (apart from the pigs, there are the trained dogs (the police force) and kicking snowball (trotsky) out etc, so maybe snowball was better at lying through his speech, whereas only way Napoleon (joseph stalin) could win was by manipulation and threat.)
What does the ending say ..the game of cards between pigs (government) and humans…and the presence of 2 aces, where clearly there should be one ace..are both sides cheating each other without realizing it?
What does the beginning say, about that old pig (Karl Marx, and somewhat Vlademir Lenin. Father of ‘animalism’ ie original communist leader), describing the dream..was the revolution meant to be a success, did the whole thing backfire? Does his death at the beginning show this? Does it foreshadow the following and gradually built disaster? (The guy probably died for real, research required)
Sorry it’s very unorganized I just typed in my thoughts everywhere.

marinelife's avatar

Fahrenheit 451 and Mrs. Dalloway are my two votes.

Unbroken's avatar

@Luiveton Very detailed and correct synopsis. However for clarity sake I believe you might have changed your mind after writing the title of mice and men and it should be To kill a mockingbird.

glacial's avatar

@Carly Can you tell us more about what other books you have enjoyed, so we can recommend something based on your tastes? I loved Mrs Dalloway, too – but I’m not sure I would recommend it to someone your age, unless you are an uncurable bookworm.

Unbroken's avatar

@Carly Thanks for asking this question I may not have helped but I love literary questions. If you give us a better idea of what topics you find interesting and what type of follow up you have to do I promise to do my best to be more helpful in this matter.

glacial's avatar

*incurable. Yeesh.

burntbonez's avatar

I suggest you count up votes from everyone here and use the two top vote getting novels.

Yeah. Then it is completely objective and has nothing to do with your taste. A winning formula.~

filmfann's avatar

Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby. Heart of Darkness is also terrific.
Most of the books on the list should be read by everyone, but these are pivotal in culture, and I am all about cultural references.

Seek's avatar

@filmfann It is much easier to understand Warner Bros. cartoons if you read “Of Mice and Men”.

And I will love him and hug him and squeeze him and call his name George…

Luiveton's avatar

@Carly “However for clarity sake I believe you might have changed your mind after writing the title of mice and men and it should be To kill a mockingbird.” Meaning?

janbb's avatar

I do agree with whoever said that Mrs Dalloway might not mean much to a younger person so that qualifies my recommendation but I love it.

Earthgirl's avatar

Definitely Brave New World .That book had an enormous impact on me. I cannot fairly say what number 2 should be since there are some I did not read but my heart goes to Slaughterhouse Five or Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury and Vonnegut are 2 of my favorite authors.

Carly's avatar

@glacial and @rosehips

The list is actually my own that I proposed to my teacher. I love all of them, and I’ve already read all of them as well. My issue right now is that I don’t know how to choose from this list of books I’m fond of equally.

—Just found out though that one of the books my teacher really likes is To Kill a Mockingbird, so now I only need to choose one more!

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