Basic English Literature (The ‘School in a Book’ Series)

When it comes to analyzing a literary work, here is what you need to know: the basic historical context of the piece; the reason the piece is considered great or important; and what the piece is, ultimately, about (what’s the point?). After that, you’ll want to look at the literary devices in the work and understand how they add to its meaning, beauty and effectiveness. This sounds like a lot of work, but don’t be a martyr: for context, and to get through more difficult works, I highly recommend CliffsNotes and SparkNotes . . . and skimming.

Bonus points: Understand the difference between good and great literature (one is well-written and entertaining while the other is these, plus important and universal in some way) and don’t confuse a work’s true meaning with the meaning that the author intended (the authorial intent). Great literature, it is said, is a mystical creature with a life independent of its creator.

Note that some of the books listed below aren’t English books; I’d love to create a world literature list someday but haven’t yet, so I folded these in.

Works I particularly recommend reading in their entirety have an asterisk after them.

Classic Fiction Reading List

Classic Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan (1628-1688)*
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)*
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving (1783-1859)*
Rip van Winkle, Washington Irving (1783-1859)*
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1797–1851)*
The complete poetry of Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)*
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)*
Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne (1828–1905)*
A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne (1828–1905)*
From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne (1828–1905)*
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne (1828–1905)*
Other novels by Jules Verne (1828–1905)
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)*
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)*
Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)*
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1835–1910)*
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1835-1910)*
Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Green Mansions, William Henry Hudson (1841-1922)*
Dracula, Bram Stoker (1847–1912)*
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924)*
Other novels by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)*
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)*
Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932)
Peter Pan, James Barrie (1860-1937)
The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry (1862–1910)
The Anne of Green Gables series, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1865-1947)
Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling (1865- 1936)
The Scarlet Pimpernell, Emma Orczy (1865–1947)
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells (1866–1946)*
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1866–1946)*
The novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)
The poetry of Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
The Complete Father Brown Stories, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)*
The poetry of Robert Frost (1874-1963)*
The Call of the Wild, Jack London (1876-1916)*
White Fang, Jack London (1876-1916)*
The Sea-Wolf, Jack London (1876-1916)
To Build a Fire and Other Stories, Jack London (1876-1916)*
The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
You Know Me Al, Ring Lardner (1885–1933)
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (1890–1976)*
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie (1890–1976)*
Other novels by Agatha Christie (1890–1976)*
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)*
The Yearling, Marjorie Rawlings (1896–1953)*
Our Town, Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)*
The Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)*
Out of the Silent Planet and the rest of the Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)*
The Once and Future King, T. H. White (1899-1985)*
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900–1944)
Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls (1913–1984)*
Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls (1913–1984)*
Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Beverly Cleary (1916–)*
Other books by Beverly Cleary (1916–)*
You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, John Ciardi (1916-1986)
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007)*
Other books by Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007)
, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Other books by Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Twelve Angry Men, Reginald Rose (1920-2002)*
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell (1920-2002)*
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1926-)*
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson (1927–2013)*
The Bears’ House and other books by Marilyn Sachs (1927–)*
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes (1927–2014)*
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, Hannah Green (1932–)*
Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Patterson (1932–)
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Patterson (1932–)*
Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene (1934–)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1935–2001)*
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller (1944-)*
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (1948-)*
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (1951–)*
The White Stallion, Elizabeth Shub*
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Narnia series, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1816–1855)*
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (1818–1848)*
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (1802–1870)
The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)*
The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)*
The Blithedale Romance, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)
The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas (1802–1870)
The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann David Wyss (1743–1818)*
Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
Everyman, Anonymous
Walden Two, B.F. Skinner*
The Color Purple, Alice Walker (1944–)*
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1952–2001)*
Rabbit, Run, John Updike (1932–2009)*
Rabbit Revisited, John Updike (1932–2009)*
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1932–1963)*
The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1931–)*
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potak (1929–2002)*
The Chosen, Chaim Potak (1929–2002)
The Promise, Chaim Potak (1929–2002)
The complete works of J. D. Salinger (1919–2010)*
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1920–2012)*
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding (1911–1993)*
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949)*
Lost Horizon, James Hilton (1900–1954)*
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)*
Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)*
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle (1853–1911)*
The Man Who Was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
The Ball and the Cross, G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
Daylight and Nightmare, G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
Dune, Frank Herbert (1920–1986)*
The complete works of Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)*
A Separate Peace, John Knowles (1926–2001)*
A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines (1933–)*
The Way of a Pilgrim, Anonymous
The Pilgrim Continues His Way, Anonymous
Stuart Little, E.B. White
The Trumpet of the Swans, E.B. White
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Hugh Lofting
The Walking Drum, Louis L’Amour
The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Peter and Wendy, James Barrie
Pollyanna, Elanor Hodgman
Ben Hur, Lew Wallace
The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Scarlet Pimpernell, Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi
Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
Heidi, Johanna Spyri
Lassie, Eric Knight
Paul Revere’s Ride, Henry Longfellow
Other books listed in Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson

Classic Fiction for Readers of High School Age and Beyond

The Illiad, Homer
The Odyssey, Homer
Oedipus Rex and other selected works of Sophocles (c. 497–405 BC)*
Selected works of Euripedes (c. 480–406 BC)
Selected works of Thucydides (c. 460–400 BC)
Selected works of Aristophanes (c. 446–386 BC)*
The Aeneid, Virgil (70–19 BC)
Odes, Horace (65–8 BC)
The Metamorphosis, Ovid (43 BC–AD 17/18)
Mabinogion, Anonymous (c. 1350-1410)
Beowulf, Anonymous (c. 975-1025)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anonymous (c. 1300s)
The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, Epictetus (c. 55–135)
Prometheus Bound and selected works of Aeschylus (c. 525/524– c. 456/455 BC)
The Oresteia Trilogy: Agamemnon, The Libation-Bearers, The Furier, Aeschylus (c. 525/524–c. 456/455 BC)
The Analects, Confucius (551–479 BC)*
The Aeneid, Virgil (70 BC – September 21, 19 BC)*
Cur Deus Homo, Anselm (c. 1033–1109)
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (c. 1090–1164)*
The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)*
The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375)*
The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (c. 1343–1400)*
The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery Kempe (c. 1373–after 1438)
La Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1415–1471)*
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527)*
Mandragola, Niccolo Macchiavelli (1469–1527)
Orlando Furioso, Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533)
Utopia and other selected works by Sir Thomas More (1478–1535)*
Selected works by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542)
The Schoolmaster, Roger Ascham (1515–1568)
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616)*
The Faerie Queeene, Edmund Spenser (c. 1552–1599)*
The complete works of Shakespeare (1564–1616)*
Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)*
Faust, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)*
Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)
The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)
The complete poetry of John Donne (1572–1631)*
Volpone, Ben Jonson (1572–1637)*
The Alchemist, Ben Johnson (1572–1637)*
Every Man in His Humour, Ben Johnson (1572–1637)
The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster (c. 1580–c. 1634)
Life is a Dream, Calderon de la Barca (1600–1681)
Paradise Lost, John Milton (1608–1674)*
Paradise Regained, John Milton (1608–1674)*
The Bourgeois Gentleman, Moliere (1622–1673)*
The Misanthrope, Moliere (1622–1673)*
Tartuffe, Moliere (1622–1673)*
Pensees, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
Absalom and Achitophel: A Poem, John Dryden (1631–1700)
Oroonoko: The Royal Slave, Aphra Behn (1640–1689)
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (c. 1660–1731)*
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe (c. 1660–1731)
Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift (1667–1745)*
The Bassett Table, Susana Centlivre (c. 1667 to 1670–1723)
The Way of the World, William Congreve (1670–1729)*
Selected poetry of John Hopkins (born 1675)*
The Beggar’s Opera, John Gay (1685–1732)
The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
Satires and Epistles of Horace Imitated, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
The Dunciad, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
Pamela, Samuel Richardson (1689–1761)
Fantomina, Eliza Haywood (c. 1693–1756)
Candide, Voltaire (1694–1778)*
Tom Jones, Henry Fielding (1707–1754)
Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding (1707–1754)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Lawrence Stern (1713–1768)
The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774)
The Sufferings of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)*
Edmond, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
Erotica Romana, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
Hermann and Dorothea, Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832)
The poetry of William Blake (1757–1827)*
A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)
Charlotte: A Tale of Truth, Susana Rowson (1762–1824)
The poetry of William Wordsworth (1770–1850)*
The poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)*
The complete works of Jane Austen (1775–1817)*
The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal (1783–1842)
The Red and the Black, Stendhal (1783–1842)
Don Juan, Lord Byron (1788–1824)*
The Last of the Mohicans, James Fennimore Cooper (1789–1851)
The Deerslayer, James Fennimore Cooper (1789–1851)
Mr. Midshipman Easy, Captain Frederick Marryat (1792–1848)
The poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)*
Sartor Resarus, Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)
Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac (1799–1850)
The complete works of Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo (1802–1885)*
The poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)*
The poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)*
Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852)
The Inspector-General, Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852)
The Professor at the Breakfast Table, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)*
Henry Esmond, William Thackeray (1811–1863)
Vanity Fair, William Thackeray (1811–1863)
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)*
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)*
Other works by Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
The poetry of Robert Browning (1812–1889)*
Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana (1815–1882)
The Small House at Allington, Anthony Trollope (1815–1882)
Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope (1815–1882)
Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883)
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (1818–1883)
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1819–1892)*
The complete works of Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1819–1891)*
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot (1819–1880)
Adam Bede, George Eliot (1819–1880)
Middlemarch, George Eliot (1819–1880)
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880)
Sentimental Education, Flaubert (1821–1880)
The complete works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881)*
The Man Without a Country, Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909)
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1824–1889)*
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1824–1889)*
The Egoist, George Meredith (1828–1909)
The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, George Meredith (1828–1909)
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)*
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)*
Modern Love, George Meredith (1828–1909)*
The complete works of Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906)*
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler (1835–1902)
The Rise of Silas Lapham, W. D. Howells (1837–1920)
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
Tess of the D’ubervilles, Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1842–c. 1914)
The complete works of Henry James (1843–1916)*
Miss Julie, August Strindberg (1849–1912)
The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909)*
Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy (1850–1898)
The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1850–1904)*
The complete works of Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)*
The complete works of George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)*
The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924)
The Hound of Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930)*
The complete works of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)*
The Virginian, Owen Wister (1860–1938)
What Every Woman Knows, J.M. Barrie (1860–1937)
The complete works of Edith Wharton (1862–1937)*
The Petty Demon, Fyodor Sologub (1863–1927)
The complete works of W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)*
Kokoro, Natsume Soseki (1867–1916)*
I Am a Cat, Natsume Soseki (1867–1916)*
The Three-Cornered World, Natsume Soseki (1867–1916)*
The Pastoral Symphony, Andre Gide (1869–1951)
The Pit, Frank Norris (1870–1902)
The Octopus, Frank Norris (1870–1902)
Sarra, Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919)
The Seven Who Were Hanged, Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919)
The Life of Man, Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919)
Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945)
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945)
Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust (1871–1922)
Twelve Men, Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945)
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane (1871–1900)*
The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford (1873–1939)*
My Antonia, Willa Cather (1873–1947)*
Death Comes For the Archbishop, Willa Cather (1873–1947)
O Pioneers!, Willa Cather (1873–1947)*
Of Human Bondage and other selected works by W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965)*
The writings of Amy Lowell (1874–1925)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (1874–1946)
The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (1868–1927)*
In His Steps, Charles Sheldon (1857–1946)*
Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann (1875–1955)*
The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann (1875–1955)*
Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvaang (1876–1931)
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941)*
Many Marriages, Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941)*
Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)*
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse (1877–1962)*
Demian, Hermann Hesse (1877–1962)*
The complete works of E. M. Forster (1879–1970)*
Red Roses for Me, Sean O’Casey (1880–1964)*
Ulysses, James Joyce (1882–1941)
Dubliners, James Joyce (1882–1941)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1882–1941)*
Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (1882–1941)
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)*
Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)*
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)*
Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)*
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)*
The complete works of Franz Kafka (1883–1924)*
The poetry of Ezra Pound (1885–1972)*
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)
Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)
Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951)
Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930)
Women In Love, D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930)*
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930)*
Giant, Edna Ferber (1885–1968)
The Key, Junichiro Tanizaki (1886–1965)
Mutiny on the Bounty, Charles Nordhoff (1887–1947) and James Norman Hall (1887–1951)
The Horse’s Mouth, Joyce Cary (1888–1957)
The complete works of T. S. Eliot (1888–1965)*
At the Bay, Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923)
In a German Pension, Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923)
The complete works of Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953)*
Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953)*
Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter (1890–1980)
The Sea of Grass, Conrad Richter (1890–1968)
Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (1890–1960)
The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter (1890–1968)
Johnny Tremain, Ester Forbes (1891–1967)
Black Spring, Henry Miller (1891–1980)
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973)*
The Lord of the Rings series, J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973)*
Selected works of Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiel Hammett (1894–1961)*
The complete works of E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)*
The complete works of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)*
The Citadel, A. J. Cronin (1896–1981)
The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos (1896–1970)
The Big Money, John Dos Passos (1896–1970)
Nineteen, Nineteen, John Dos Passos (1896–1970)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1897–1962)
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1897–1962)
Light in August, William Faulkner (1897–1962)
Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (1897–1962)
Sanctuary, William Faulkner (1897–1962)
The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder (1897–1975)
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970)*
The complete works of C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)*
The complete works of Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)*
The Sound of the Mountain, Yasunari Kawabata (1899–1972)
Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata (1899–1972)
You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe (1900–1938)
Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther (1901–1970)
Selected works of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902–1991)
The Pearl, John Steinbeck (1902–1968)*
The complete works of John Steinbeck (1902–1968)*
Too Late the Philanthrope, Alan Paton (1903–1988)
The Day of the Locust, Nathaniel West (1903–1940)
Animal Farm, George Orwell (1903–1950)*
1984, George Orwell (1903–1950)*
God’s Little Acre, Erskine Caldwell (1903–1987)
The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1904–1991)
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene (1904–1991)
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (1905–1982)*
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1905–1982)*
Anthem, Ayn Rand (1905–1982)*
Night of January 16th, Ayn Rand (1905–1982)*
We The Living, Ayn Rand (1905–1982)*
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989)
Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1905–1983)
The complete works of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980)*
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett (1906–1989)*
Endgame, Samuel Beckett (1906–1989)*
Act Without Words, Samuel Beckett (1906–1989)
Waldo, Robert Heinlein (1907–1988)*
Magic, Inc., Robert Heinlein (1907–1988)*
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt (1907–2001)
Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988)*
Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (1908–1964)*
The Ox-Bow Incident, Walter van Tillburg Clark (1909–1971)
The Bald Soprano, Eugene Ionesco (1909–1994)*
The Lesson, Eugene Ionesco (1909–1994)
Jack, or the Submission, Eugene Ionesco (1909–1994)
The Chairs, Eugene Ionesco (1909–1994)
A Death in the Family, James Agee (1909–1955)*
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee (1909–1955)*
The complete works of Tennessee Williams (1911–1983)*
Free Fall, William Golding (1911–1993)
The Inheritors, William Golding (1911–1993)
The complete works of Albert Camus (1913–1960)*
The complete works of Dylan Thomas (1914–1953)
The Assistant, Bernard Malamud (1914–1986)
The Fixer, Bernard Malamud (1914–1986)
Dangling Man, Saul Bellow (1915–2005)
All My Sons, Arthur Miller (1915–2005)*
The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk (1915–)
Herzog, Saul Bellow (1915–2005)
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1917–1967)
Selected works of Robert Lowell (1917–1977)
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1917–1993)
The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Muriel Spark (1918–2006)
The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008)
On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1922–1969)*
The Dharma Burns, Jack Kerouac (1922–1969)*
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer (1923–2007)
Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1923–1999)*
Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (1924–1987)*
A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt (1924–1995)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote (1924–1984)*
Music for Chameleons, Truman Capote (1924–1984)*
Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote (1924–1984)*
The complete works of John Knowles (1926–2001)*
The Tin Drum and other selected works by Gunter Grass (1927–2015)*
A Day No Pigs Would Die, Robert Newton Peck (1928–)
The American Dream, Edward Albee (1928–)*
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee (1928–)*
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1929–)*
No Longer At Ease, Chinua Achebe (1930–2013)*
Selected books by Toni Morrison (1931–)
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest J. Gaines (1933–)
Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya (1937–)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard (1937–)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Nora Hurston
Selected works of J.D. Wyss
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
Nana, Zola
Native Son, Richard Wright
The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton

Classic Nonfiction

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank (1929-1945)*
Go Ask Alice, Anonymous*
The Story of My Life, Helen Keller (1880–1968)*
Roots,
Alex Haley*
In Cold Blood,
Truman Capote*
Autobiography of Malcom X,
Malcom X*
Mythology, Edith Hamilton*
Black Boy, Richard Wright (1908–1960)*
Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin (1920–1980)*
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
The Holy Bible
The Koran
The Analects, Confucius (551–479 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze (c. 6th century BC)
The Trojan Women, Euripedes (c. 480–406 BC)
Hippolytus, Euripedes (c. 480–406 BC)
Selected writings of Buddha (c. 500–300 BC)
Selected writings of Aeschylus (c. 525–455 BC)
Selected writings of Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC)
Selected writings of Plato (c. 428–347 BC)
Rhetoric,
Aristotle (384–322 BC)
Nichomachean Ethics,
Aristotle (384–322 BC)
De Republica
and other writings, Cicero (106–43 BC)
On the Nature of Things,
Lucretius (c. 99–55 BC)
The Early History of Rome,
Livy (c. 64 BC–AD 17)
Wars of the Jews, Josephus (37–100)
Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch (c. 46–120)
Annals, Tacitus (c. 56–117)
The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius (c. 69–after 122)
The Campaigns of Alexander, Arrian (c. 89–after 160)
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (121–180)
The Confessions, Saint Augustine (354–430)
The City of God, St. Augustine (354–430)
Enchiridion, Epictetus (c. 55–135)
The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius (c. 480–524)
The Art of War, Sun Tzu (late sixth century BC)
Selected writings of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis (c. 1380–1471)
In Praise of Folly, Erasmus (1466–1536)
The Education of a Christian Prince, Erasmus (1466–1536)
Commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther (1483–1546)
The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther (1483–1546)
Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1509–1564)
Selected writings of John Knox (c. 1513–1572)
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)*
Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross (1542–1591)
The Defense of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
Novum Organum, Frances Bacon (1561–1626)
The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (1596–1650)
Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (1596–1650)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (1632–1704)
The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke (1632–1704)
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys (1633–1703)
Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (1663–1728)
An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)
The Way to Wealth, Ben Franklin (1706-1790)
The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
The Journal of John Woolman, John Woolman (1720–1772)
The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1723–1790)
A Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
On American Taxation, Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
Rights of Man, Thomas Paine (1737–1809)
Common Sense, Thomas Paine (1737–1809)*
A Child’s History of England, Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
Life of Johnson, James Boswell (1740–1795)
Memoir, Correspondence and Misc., Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797)
The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804)
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859)*
Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Sojourner Truth (1797–1883)*
The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859)
On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)*
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)*
For Self-Examination, Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897)*
Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)*
Other works by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass (1818–1895)*
The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (1838–1918)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
Beyond Good and Evil, Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
An Autobiography, Annie Besant (1847–1933)
Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Ego and the Id, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
The Souls of Black Folks, W. E. B. DuBois (1868–1963)
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)*
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
The Constitution of the United States
Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale
The Gettysburg Address
The Magna Carta
The Ecclesiastical History, Adam Bede

Basic Literary Terminology Checklist

Most people should probably know most of these terms; it just makes for better conversation about books. Play with literary analysis by choosing one or two favorite works and identifying some or most of the following literary devices in them. This will help you appreciate their beauty in a way you haven’t before.

Subject: The objective main topic of a piece of writing (i.e. Tom Sawyer’s adventures on the Mississippi)

Theme: The subjective, philosophical idea that is being explored in the work (i.e. boyhood or independence)

Narrative: The work’s story line

Genre: The type or category of writing (i.e. mystery, science fiction, romance, etc.)

Motif: A recurring idea, symbol or set of symbols in the work (i.e. the Mississippi River)

Premise: The question or problem posed by the work

Diction: Word choice

Syntax: The ways words are organized in sentences and paragraphs

Style: The unique way something is written, including the work’s diction and tone

Tone: The unique way the audience receives the work (i.e. formal, conversational, etc.)

Voice: The unique way the author writes. A magazine can have many voices, but maintain a single tone throughout.

Mood: The overall feeling of the piece (i.e. dark, brooding, light, fanciful, etc.)

Pace: The speed and rhythm with which a story is told

Literary convention: A commonly used style, idea or technique in literature

Figurative language: Language that implies or represents an idea rather than directly stating it, often for mood, dramatic effect, or humor (i.e. hyperbole, understatement, analogy, personification, euphemism, simile, metaphor, etc.)

Image/imagery: A mental picture or representation of a person, place, or thing

Analogy: A comparison that goes into some detail

Simile: A short description that compares two different things using the words like or as

Metaphor: A word or phrase that stands in for the object it’s being compared to. (Metaphors don’t use the words like or as.)

Symbol: Something that appears in a piece of writing that stands for or suggests something else

Onomatopoeia: A word or words that imitate a sound

Personification: The attributing of human characteristics to something that is not human

Irony: What occurs when reality is exactly the opposite of one’s reasonable expectation. Example: “I was hired to write books but instead, I am burning them.”

Paradox: A statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense

Foreshadowing: Hints of upcoming events in the story

Pun: A play on words that relies on a word’s having more than one meaning or sounding like another word

Cliché: An overused expression

Double entendre: A phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways

Euphemism: An innocuous-sounding phrase used in place of something disagreeable

Allusion: A reference that is not directly stated or explained (i.e. using “to be or not to be” without mentioning Hamlet)

Oxymoron: A phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings

Synecdoche: Substituting a part for the whole (i.e. “boards” for “the stage”) or the whole for a part (i.e. “the Americans” for “the American team”).

Metonymy: Substituting a related concept for the whole (i.e. “the White House” for “the President”).

Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds in closely-placed words

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in closely-placed words (anywhere in the words)

Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds in closely-placed words (anywhere in the words)

Connotation: A word’s unspoken implication

Denotation: The dictionary meaning of a word

Plot: The events of the story

Subplot: An additional plot interwoven with the main plot

Conflict: A struggle that affects the story line

Setting: The time, place, and conditions in which the action takes place; the work’s context

Point of view (POV): The view from which the story is told. It can be first person (the narrator speaks as himself), objective (the reader knows no more than the reader), limited omniscient (the narrator knows a bit extra about the characters, as when he/she tells the story through the eyes of the protagonist), or omniscient (the narrator knows everything about the characters and situations).

The five parts of dramatic structure: Exposition (inciting incident), rising action, climax, falling action (resolution), and dénouement

Rising action: The set of conflicts in a story that lead up to the climax

Climax: The peak moment of the action, occurring at or near the end of the work. It is the turning point for the protagonist.

Reversal: The point in the plot at which the action turns in an unexpected direction

Falling Action: The action that occurs after the climax, moving it toward its resolution

Dénouement: The final resolution of the story

Characterization: Writing that brings a character to life and makes them unique

Protagonist: The story’s main character

Tragic hero/tragic figure: A protagonist whose story comes to an unhappy end due to his or her own behavior and character flaws

Antihero: A protagonist who isn’t all good and may even be bad

Antagonist: The story’s main bad guy

Round character: A character that is complex and realistic

Flat character: An uncomplicated character that doesn’t feel real to the reader

Foil: A character who provides a clear contrast to another character

Soliloquy: A monologue by a character in a play

Fiction: Imagined, untrue literature

Nonfiction: Factual literature

Biography: A nonfiction life story written by someone other than the subject

Autobiography: A nonfiction life story written by the subject

Memoir: A nonfiction story written by the subject about his or her own experiences, but not about his or her entire life

Anthology: A collection of short stories written by various authors, compiled in one book or journal.

Myth: A story that attempts to explain events in nature by referring to supernatural causes, like gods and deities. Usually passed on from generation to generation.

Fable: A story intended to depict a useful truth or moral lesson. Fables frequently involve animals that speak and act like human beings.

Tale: A story about imaginary or exaggerated events that the narrator pretends is true

Parable: A short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson

Parody: A humorous imitation of a popular work

Satire: A humorous work that makes fun of another work or anything else, revealing its weakness

Travesty: A work that treats a serious subject lightly or mockingly

Types of poems: Ode (dignified poem written to praise someone or something), lyric, free verse (rule-free poetry), limerick (lighthearted rhyming poem with a particular structure), haiku, sonnet, villanelle, sestina, acrostic, elegy, epigram, ballad (narrative folksong-like poem), epitaph (brief poem sometimes written on a gravestone paying tribute to a dead person or commemorating another loss), more.

Stanza: A group of lines in a poem that form a metrical or thematic unit, set off by a space.

Verse: Poetic lines composed in a measured rhythmical pattern, that are often, but not necessarily, rhymed.

Beat: One count pause in speech, action, or poetry.

Stress: The emphasis, or accent, given a syllable in word pronunciation or in poetry reading

Meter: A recurring rhythmic pattern of stresses and unstressed syllables in a poem

Rhythm: A term used to refer to the recurrence of stressed and unstressed sounds in poetry

Couplet: A group of two rhyming lines

Triplet: A group of three rhyming lines

Quatrain: A four-line stanza. Quatrains are the most common stanzaic form in the English language, having various meters and rhyme schemes.

Epic: A long narrative poem, told in a formal, elevated style that focuses on a serious subject and chronicles heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation.

Lyric: A brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker, not necessarily of the poet.

Sonnet: A fixed form of lyric poetry that consists of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme.

Acrostic: A sentence where the first letter of each word of the sentence helps to remember the spelling of a word, or order of things

Villanelle: A type of fixed form poetry consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into six stanzas.

***

Being in love is harder than it sounds. Really, it’s a challenge on every level. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby on Amazon now.

***

Buy stuff on Amazon and support this blog. Easy enough, right? Just click here. Anything you buy counts.

COMMENTS