BOOKS BANNED FROM THE CURRICULUM
Recently, I have been thinking of all the great books they never told me about in my 20 years of school. It is surprising that the curriculum has not changed much in recent years.
Here is a list of the 15 most assigned books in colleges today:
1. Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2. Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Oedipus, by Sophocles
5. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
6. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
7. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
8. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
9. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Ann Jacobs
10. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
11. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
12. The Odyssey, by Homer
13. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
14. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
15. Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Frankenstein was too popular to be assigned in my day.
Beloved hadn't yet been written.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston was not on the radar back then.
We did read Virginia Woolf, but only To The Lighthouse.
All of the rest were on the curriculum then and many years later, still there.
Many incredible novelists are missing from this list. Just to name a few - Roth, Mailer, Vidal, Hemingway, Dickens, Tolstoy, Joyce, Dostoevsky - the list is too long and I am sure you can name many, too.
So here is my list of ten books to read that you didn't read in school:
Black Spring by Henry Miller. Miller was damned as a pornographer when he was alive, but now, his shocking look at the world is much more intune with current sensibilities. This book is about growing up in Brooklyn and escaping to Paris. Beware - this isn't a writer looking for your admiration or even understanding. This is a writer who wants to tell it like it is.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. In the mid-1930s, the Spanish Civil War was fought on the front page of newspapers all over the world. Fascism was rising up against the elected democratic government of Spain. Hemingway was first a reporter and he went to Spain to cover the war, then returned with one of the great novels of our time.
The Stories of John Cheever. The modern world was gris for Cheever's mill. You will recognize it and, in the process, recognize yourself.
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. As a guy who never lived further than a traffic-filled commute from a big city, how I came to love this book and its author is beyond me. I just do. I think you will too.
The King Must Die by Mary Renault. Three thousand years ago, a small group of people living along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea created Western Civilization. Renault tells one of the great tales about how that happened. Her hero, Theseus, leaves home to find his father and fortune. His story is older than Troy.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Probably, you know the story - or think you do. The various movies and musicals do not do justice to this masterpiece of storytelling. There are hundreds of characters, most of whom you will never forget. I know - it's long. But you have the time and you couldn't find a more entertaining book.
The Human Stain by Philip Roth. Sometimes, a great writer can write a novel that is beyond comprehension. Something happens in this story of a college professor who is fired for making a racial remark. Roth takes us to the core of what is destroying our country - and not one mention of Trump.
Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. In the late 1800s, a Sicilian makes an accordian that ends up in the hands of many different immigrants to America. This is the story of those immigrants and their times.
The Comedians by Graham Greene. Hati in the 1960s. A great story full of diplomats, killers, survivors, vegetarian former Presidential candidates and a couple of lovers. Greene specialized in writing about the world's hot spots and making them come alive through his memorable characters. This is what life is like in many countries, even today.
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. OK, so here is a real short one for you - but every page packs a punch you won't forget. Passion is what life is all about, so dive in and enjoy.
So, read on and yes! it will be on the exam!