If you could teach any book, what would it be?No reading list, no state standards, no objecting parents. If you could teach one book that you've not been able to teach, or that you're just...

If you could teach any book, what would it be?

No reading list, no state standards, no objecting parents. If you could teach one book that you've not been able to teach, or that you're just interested to try out, what would it be?

Asked on by alexb2

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Definitely Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar. The subject matter--rich and beautiful and nuanced, but certainly controversial--would never make it past a reading board.

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kamiegoldstein | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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I would find teaching The Painted Bird, by Jerzy Kosinski, a very valuable experience. I have taught much Holocaust literature and have traveled to Israel to study the Holocaust with the ADL. Kosinski's novel is a brutal story that hits hard and describes the horrors of war and the triumph of survival in a way that reverberates with readers. This novel is one that I carry with me as a read more about the Holocaust. The very violent moments are shocking but the symbolism is tangible. I have never taught this book because I have never been able to get it approved by school officials.


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sharonelin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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If you could teach any book, what would it be?

No reading list, no state standards, no objecting parents. If you could teach one book that you've not been able to teach, or that you're just interested to try out, what would it be?

I like many of the books listed by other writers posting here in the responses.

One of my personal favorites is one that grabbed my attention when I was in high school:  Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  It was a powerful and engaging book because of its unique plot development using time travel and its biting twist of humor and tragedy -- not to mention its personal/historical treatment of the Dresden bombing during WWII.

My dream is to conduct simultaneous book-studies online, giving students a choice of two themes: anti-war or race relations.

The anti-war strand would include:

  1. WWI: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  2. WWII: Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut
  3. Vietnam: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The race relations strand would include:

  1. Jim Crow era: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Pre-Civil Rights: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  3. Emerging Civil Rights: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  4. Emerging Civil Rights: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

In addition to the required list of reading above, each strand would also include a long list of recommended reading to allow students to extend their exploration of the topics -- and many cross-curricular activities focusing on current historic events related to the book in study.

But... that's my dream.  I'm locked into a state-mandated curriculum so cannot build my own lesson strands!




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joe30pl | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I would to teach any number of books mentioned in this thread. I would love to focus on Mark Twain's lter work, as well as Huck Finn.

Personally, I would love to teach Tolkien and Lewis together.

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whytaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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I am lucky and get to teach the majority of books that I want to.  One year though I had the greatest experience when I taught a group of mostly girls Science Fiction.  We read The Handmaid's Tale and we had the most amazing discussions about what it means to be a woman in today's world.  It was a fluke that it was all girls, and that their parents were quite liberal and open minded.  I still can't believe how lucky I was. 

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jtullier | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I am a fan of post-modern literature.  For that reason alone, I would love to have my American literature honors class study House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III.  The novel has so much to offer -- cultural misconceptions, the race for the American Dream, male-female relationships -- all ending in a zero -- noboby wins the American Dream.  One could serve a dozen meals with all the meat and potatoes in the novel

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kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Holy Quran is the best ever book of the World. The only word of God.

I think this may be a bit narrow in thinking. All books of religion are important to respect and understand, for they all approach the world with the hope and intention of guiding people into a moral life.

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celtic1108 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I would love to teach Dune, not because it a lasting work of literature, but because it does such a good job of creating an entire universe....deals with ecology, economics, feminism, religion, biology, medicine. You name it, it's in there.

Dune IS a lasting work of literature, and as you've pointed out, it contains everything you need: big themes, larger-than-life characters, symbols, irony, an incredible closed-system setting, and varied points of view. It is one of my favorite books -in my top ten, as a matter of fact. You could create an entire course around it.

I love Dune! I think that it is the most underrated Science Fiction Novel around. I would teach HP Lovecraft--all of his works! Simply because Lovecraft is underrated and underrepresented in the sci-fi horror genre.

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celtic1108 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Without a doubt, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. There is just so much in this book. I have planned this class out in my head so many times. Here is the daily discussion topics for the class:

  1. Discuss the structure of the novel--it is a story of growth (from boy to man) and there are 21 chapters. Coincidence? I think not!
  2. Discuss the brainwashing aspects of the language--"There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence."--After a while, this all makes sense!
  3. Issues with the violent images.
  4. Alex's "cure"--moral implications of taking away one's right to think for oneself.
  5. Comparing Kubrick's film to the novel.
  6. Discuss the ending--why did the original American publication not have the final chapter? How is the book different without it?
  7. What is Burgesses' overall message with the novel?
  8. What was Burgesses' inspiration?
  9. What does the title mean?

All of these questions would take days to fully examine! I love this novel.

The only other book that I could spend forever teaching is Ulysses by James Joyce. I could spend a year just talking about the first epic journey!

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kmcappello | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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What a great topic, and what an interesting, varied list of books!  I like the mix of both classic, canonical works and contemporary "soon-to-be-classics" and think that pairing the two is a great way to make the older works more relevant.  I loved Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner, and think it would be great in both a literature and an introduction to philosophy class.  It would also be interesting to read Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections in conjunction with Dickens--there's something very sweeping and Dickensian about Franzen's novel.

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ktm2433 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Oh my God! If only I had unlimited funds.  What a fantasy.  I would be so happy!  I would teach The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  No, it isn't a classic, but it deserves to become one some day.  If you haven't read it, it deals with racism, classism, and many other societal issues.  It also draws the reader in and caputures them, which is what many of the novels available to these kids do not do.  When I was reading it, I never wanted it to end.

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ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I'd absolutely love to teach Joyce's Ulysses, as it's one of the most wonderfully-constructed novels I've ever read.  I spent an entire semester on it in college, and I wrote my Capstone paper on Joyce's incorporation of Hamlet into Ulysses.  Unfortunately, though, I teach at the high school level and haven't had an opportunity to study it since college.  I have, though, used VERY brief excerpts from it in my Honors classes--mostly to teach concepts like allusion, stream of consciousness, etc.  For now, that's enough for me to get my Ulysses fix!  Great question! 

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crmhaske | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The Dispssessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Almost every word written in that book is quotable.  It's a beautiful piece on what anarchism could look like, and the dangers of bureaucracy.  It would be a wonderful choice book for students to read in many different classes: economics (discussions on capitalism), philosophy (discussions on anarchism), literature (discussions on science fiction), and psychology (discussions on a whole plethora of things from this book).  I just love it, I could read it over, and over, and over again and discover something new about it each time.

My favourite quote:

"Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I'm going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I'm going to go and unbuild walls."

Shevek from Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed

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kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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I feel so lucky reading this question because my all-time, overall favorite book to teach is Macbeth by Shakespeare. Macbeth just encompasses so many literary devices and techniques, along with dark, pervading themes that attract students of all ages. It possesses the question of the human condition; along with the change of ourselves when broached with power; the challenges of marriage, womanhood, friendship; the definition of a hero; the question of fate versus self-fulfilling prophecy; the supernatural. I could absolutely keep gushing about Macbethi! Plus, it is so easy to teach in that you can read the text in class, assuring that students are actually transacting with the literature; you can easily leave out unnecessary information, as the acts are succint. Many thematic group activities can be generated from the literature, along with vocabulary and language structure.

I'm simply in love with Macbeth!

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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It's been said, but it bears repeating: To Kill a Mockingbird is by far the best novel I've ever taught. It reached my students on a real and personal level, and the lessons to be extracted from it are applicable throughout time. It is a treasure and a deeply emotional experience all rolled into one. I've never had a student who said that they got nothing out of it. Everyone walks away with something a little different.

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