I recently purchased a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Complete Stories and set myself a goal of reading it cover to cover–that’s all 911 pages plus introductory material. (We’ll see how that goes.) The introductory material introduced details of Vonnegut’s struggles and successes as a short story writer, but for someone familiar with Vonnegut and his works, the introductory material was not particularly enlightening. Nonetheless it prepares the reader for the task at hand. Dave Eggers does a fine job, his introduction to the collection being anecdotal without being sloppily sentimental. The editors of the volume, Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefiled, provide a three-fold introduction, part publication history, part eulogy, and part justification of the collection. It’s written in a clear, avuncular tone that fans of Vonnegut will appreciate. This prefatory material drives home the point that Vonnegut’s time as a short story writer was key to his development, both stylistically and thematically. It also offers a promise to readers about to undertake the task of consuming nearly a thousand pages of prose: that these collected stories as a body of work will be just as honest about and thematically relevant to the human condition as Vonnegut’s longer works. In other words, they will not only enlighten us about Vonnegut’s development as a writer, but about what it means to be human. As Eggers puts it, “Most of the stories in this collection are moral stories. They tell us what’s right and what’s wrong, and they tell us how to live.”
I added over fifty books to the classroom library this summer; now it’s your turn! Students in English I, English II, English III, and High School Reading can turn in books from the independent reading list for bonus points. Each book is worth five bonus points and students can turn in up to two books per quarter.
Keep in mind that the point is to donate books that either (1) you already own or (2) you find really cheap somewhere. I do not recommend that you go out and buy a new copy of the book simply to donate as that might be quite expensive. Instead, keep your eyes open for cheap copies or if there is a book you really want to read, buy it, then donate it when you are through.
I almost always find a handful of books from the list when I visit any thrift store. When I visit the Goodwill in Ozark, I sometimes buy books for the library myself, but if I bought them all, I would spend hundreds of dollars of my own money. So often I move them to the top shelf all the way to the left to make them easier for my students to find. I put half a dozen books from the list there yesterday, for instance.
The point of this bonus is two-fold: (1) it helps familiarize students with titles and authors on the list and (2) it helps build up our classroom library, which makes it easier for all students to find books on the list.
If you have questions, let me know.
Classical Comics is a series of books that turn classic works of literature into full color comic books. The above image is from MacBeth but there are fifteen in the series so far, including five of Shakespeare’s plays. Click here to see more.
Thanks to Mrs. Casey Burkett for sending me the link. 🙂
“What should I read next? It is not a casual question. We are not frogs. We are chasing something more profound than flies. Every time I finish a book and consider what to read now, it feels…important.”
-Sonya Chung, “On Deciding What to Read Next“
Here are a few famous people whose favorite books are on our independent reading list:
Charlie Chaplin: Oliver Twist
Mel Brooks: Crime and Punishment
Barack Obama: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Steven Spielberg: Treasure Island and The Last of the Mohicans
Madonna: Gone With The Wind
Gloria Steinem: Little Women
General Norman Schwarzkopf: White Fang
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Wuthering Heights
Stephen King: Lord of the Flies
Tom Hanks: Crime and Punishment and The Hobbit
John Lennon: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Winona Ryder: Catcher in the Rye