English Teachers Make a Book Wish List

By Sean Fischer
Volume 68, Issue III

Throughout your four years of high school, there is bound to be at least one book in English class that you really despise, that one book that makes you cringe every time you hear the title, that gave you PTSD and made you consider adopting French as your first language. Now imagine that you have to teach that book every year for your entire career as an English teacher. This is not to say that all English teachers dislike any book they teach, on the contrary their love of literature is the reason they became English teachers. Nevertheless, the Bulletin asked a couple of the English teachers if there are any books they wish they could teach and incorporate into their curriculum. Here are their responses:

Dr. Kenney:  I’ve always wanted to teach electives on science fiction and crime fiction, so I will choose a book from each category. For science fiction, I always love to teach Watership Down by Richard Adams. I first read it when I was in the third grade, and it really helped shape me as a reader. It’s a rousing epic adventure about the unlikeliest of topics: a group of rabbits on a quest to find a new home. I also have always been fascinated by time travel stories, so I would love to teach two of my favorites in that category: Time and Again by Jack Finney and 11/22/63 by Stephen King.
As for crime fiction, I love classic detective stories, especially Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I’d probably want to teach The Hound of the Baskervilles for the Sherlock Holmes and my favorite Agatha Christie novels are Death on the Nile and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd featuring her famously prim and proper detective Hercule Poirot and Sleeping Murder featuring her other famous amateur sleuth, the shrewd, sharp, elderly spinster, Miss Marple.

Ms. McCarthy: I would love to incorporate Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey into the tenth grade curriculum to get a female take on Odysseus’ forays. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is an accessible novel about a girl caught between two worlds (gangster vs. prep school), and having to navigate between two disparate identities. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica knolls was suspenseful and dealt with timely issues like trying to reinvent oneself after scandal. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is an oldie but goodie about how to deal and socialize with others, which is definitely a lost art in today’s tech-heavy world.

Ms. Fishman: I don’t even know where to begin. The entire Harry Potter series? (But only if I could dress as Professor McGonagall). I was once challenged by a group of freshmen that I couldn’t finish the series in six months (they were horrified that I had not read it). I finished it in three. No wonder someone built a Harry Potter World in Florida.
And as much as I love HP, my first love of tomes goes to those written by Ken Follett. His novel, Pillars of the Earth, is captivating. It’s historical fiction, set in 12th century England. It tracks the building of a cathedral, & perhaps reading about stones & architecture seems like an odd choice, I cannot begin to tell you the amazingness that is Ken Follett. I remember getting so enamored with the story (the first of a trilogy) that the characters became part of my life. And because I couldn’t remember what century the story was set in, I just learned, thank you Google, that it has its own Wikipedia page, TV miniseries AND video game. A thousand-page book inspired a video game?!?!?? I know. Literature is amazing.

Ms. Alfonso: The Snow Wreaked Havoc on My Pipes, and if I could, I would love to teach a few Modernist, stream of conscious novels, ideally Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and if I had a full year elective, James Joyce’s Ulysses as a modernist take on Homer’s epic, The Odyssey. I would choose these because the narrative form is truly revolutionary, and the 1920’s are my favorite artistic decade.

Ms. Fernandez: While some titles come to mind, my first response is more of a genre. I would love to incorporate more humor, memoir, and historical fiction. That being said, The Help is a novel that I would love to teach. It has humor, it has voice and style, and it has poignant social commentary. Although I haven’t read it in years, I think it would be a great addition to any curriculum.

Mr. Durkin: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This book launched the American environmental movement. The food we eat and the water we drink still contain pesticides, and the EPA continues to scale back on regulations and the testing of chemicals that are unsafe. It is still relevant today.


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