Reading Rainbow Redux

It’s t-2 days until I teach the last session of my spring semester, introductory fiction course. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, the course is geared towards non-majors of any class standing, although juniors and seniors far out number freshmen and sophomores in enrollment, at least in my experience.

As one would expect, this survey course is designed to give students a broad-based exposure to fiction, and accordingly, students in my section read novels and short stories from multiple historical eras and literary movements.

By design, the course also focuses heavily on the “structures” or elements of fiction, such as characterization, allusion, stream of consciousness, rising action, etc.  The goal is to expose students to a set of versatile tools for literary analysis so that, by course’s end, they are able to (1) read literature in a more engaged, thoughtful manner, (2) interpret literature with a greater degree of accuracy and complexity.

It seems to me, then, that my role as instructor also involves creating the conditions which might encourage students to become lifelong, analytical readers. (The italicized word is key: indeed, I assume that many students who find their way to this course already self-identify as readers, but perhaps don’t begin the class fully aware of their potential as critical, reflective consumers of literature.)

To that end, I am giving students on the last day of class a list of “suggestions for further reading,” that is, a selection of titles cued from our syllabus that they might enjoy, or at least find thought-provoking. (Aren’t the two mixed? Sometimes, I’m not sure.) Such a gesture might strike some as being too-closely inspired by the tactics used by companies like Amazon and iTunes to get, well, people to consume more.  But, I like to think of this list as being a Reading Rainbow redux of sorts, except for adults.

Get the list after the jump.

Vetted, Tried-and-True Suggestions for (Fun, Thought-Provoking) Further Reading

Did You Enjoy…

They Came Like Swallows and want to read another influenza- and WWI-themed story? Try “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” in Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter.

They Came Like Swallows and want to read more of William Maxwell’s work? Try his novel, So Long, See You Tomorrow and/or his autobiography, Ancestors: A Family History.

Cannery Row? Try John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat and Sweet Thursday, which are the first and last installments, respectively, of his Cannery Row collection. Alternatively, try Richard Rodriguez’s The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, a memoir in which he discusses the concept of  the insider/outsider divide in American culture and the educational system.

Maus (i.e., our only graphic novel on the syllabus)? Try Alison Bechdel’s Fun House: A Family Tragi-Comic or Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis. Both bildungsromans, the former focuses on a woman coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian while the latter focuses on an Iranian woman who grew up in the midst (and aftermath) of the 1979 revolution.

Their Eyes Were Watching God? You might like Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which Walker wrote after finding Hurston’s unmarked grave in Florida.

Do you want to read…

Something else by a Harlem Renaissance writer? Try The Conjure Man Dies, an intricate murder mystery by physician-turned writer Rudolph Fisher.

More illness-as-metaphor stories? Try the original (novel) version of I am Legend, by Richard Matheson, which is a great read even if you’ve already seen the Will Smith version of the movie.

Something  about family and survival? Try Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is about a father and son battling to survive a post-apocalyptic world, or  E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, which provides a different perspective of familial survival.

Something about the Holocaust and its aftermath? Try The Reader (in translation), which focuses on the trial of a concentration camp guard in Germany almost one generation after the Holocaust.

More short stories? Try The Things They Carried, which contains “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”; or The Wheel of Love and Other Stories, which contains  “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?”; or The Interpreter of Maladies, which contains “Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine.”

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Posted in Books, Fiction, Life of the Mind

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Dr. Amy Rubens
I'm an "ambulant scholar," and I move among several worlds. As a professor of English, I research and write for audiences within and outside of academia. As a teacher of writing, literature, and culture, I facilitate learning. As a blogger, I critique, question, and reflect. Learn more about this blog and the work I do as a professor and workplace writing consultant.

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