I have a lot of awesome students this year.
One of my preservice teachers is the hilarious Rachel, who, when she stopped by Allen Hall to turn in her writer’s notebook for the semester, was carrying a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s excellent book Americanah.
“Ooooh,” I said. “That’s a great book.”
“It is, so far,” Rachel agreed. “I’m only about 40 pages in.”
“Is it for one of your classes?” I asked.
Rachel laughed a little and said no. “It’s on the African American Literature syllabus, though.”
Well, that was exciting to me for two reasons. One was that the African American literature class was going beyond Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston into the realms of contemporary. And the other was that clearly, Rachel had been talking to others about books.
I love me some contagious book love!
“Do you have a friend taking the class?” I inquired.
Rachel looked sheepish. “Well, you see,” she explained, “at the beginning of the semester I always go around to all the different English classes and just stay for the first class so I can get a copy of their syllabus. Then I put all the titles in my Amazon cart and my mom sends me a few books every month!!”
She was gleeful, and I was giddy. Rachel was…a book bandit!
“Wow,” I said, impressed. “So you discover all kinds of new titles this way.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I don’t have time to take every single English elective offered, but I need to know a lot of titles if I’m going to be a good English teacher. So I do this instead.”
I was so impressed that Rachel had discovered, and independently read, award-winning literature this way.
And, I was even more impressed that Rachel knew that to be a successful teacher of readers, you have to know lots of titles so you can match the right kid to the right book at the right time.
Now that winter break is approaching, I’m looking for some new books to read. So I took a cue from Rachel and discovered the following amazing titles on the syllabi (found through the online university bookstore) for various English courses at our university.
Popular American Culture, ENGL 258:
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Fledgling by Octavia Butler
- I am Legend by Richard Matheson
- The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By by Robert Kirkman
Sexual Diversity in Literature, ENGL 288:
- Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel
Fiction for Adolescents, ENGL 405: (this one was a gold mine!!)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander [I bought this, read it one sitting, and cried in public while finishing it]
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
- Free Verse by Sarah Dooley [I bought this one ASAP; it’s set in a West Virginia coal mining town]
- We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Multiethnic American Literature, ENGL 255:
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
- Everything I Never Told You by Cynthia Ng
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet
Thanks to Rachel for inspiring me with a way to find all of these great new titles! I hope you’ll find some great new titles this way, too. Please share them with us in the comments so we can all enjoy!