Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings: Revisited

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In my classes at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, I sometimes do something I call — Doc Chuck’s recommended readings.  I suggest a book for the students to read at another point in the future. I ask the students to write the title and author and then tell them that what they do with that information is entirely up to them.  Some of these works I consider to be among the best and most important books ever written, and some I simply found to be wonderful and entertaining.

Now, the list:

Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings:

Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.

Brown, Larry. Fay.

Cervantes, Miguel De. Don Quixote.

Delaney, Frank. Ireland.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.

Doyle, Roddy. A Star Called Henry.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose.

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.

Grass, Günter. The Tin Drum.

Helprin, Mark. A Soldier of the Great War.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Pacific and Other Stories.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Homer. The Iliad.

. . . . . . . The Odyssey.

King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Stand.

Lee, Harper.  To Kill A Mockingbird.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  Complete Works.

Rice, Anne. Interview With the Vampire.

Rowling, J. K. The entire Harry Potter series.

Shakespeare, William. The Collected Works.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind.

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.

I am certain there are many books I have forgotten to mention.  This is neither intended to be all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be authoritarian.  I hope that someone may find a book or books from this list, read them, and enjoy them.

What books would you add to this kind of list?

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

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An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe!

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Happy 209th birthday to Edgar Allan Poe, one of America’s greatest writers! Not only is Mr. Poe one of the most important writers of Gothic literature, in which he explored the darkness in the human soul, but also he is considered to be the father of the modern detective story. In his detective M. Dupin, Poe laid the groundwork, in terms of observation and deduction, for the great Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Among his best short stories are “The Fall of the House Of Usher”, “The Masque of The Red Death”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Purloined Letter.”

Equally as important as his fiction is his extraordinary poetry. My two favorites are “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” When reading these, please try doing it out loud. Hearing the words gives life to the rhythm of the poems.

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I first encountered Poe as a student in 8th grade. For some reason, many consider his works to be juvenile writing, but that is a complete misreading of his deeply complex work. I have studied his writing in graduate school, and I also teach his work in a variety of college courses, both at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

If you have never read his work, do yourself a favor, and read from one of the masters of writing.

Again, here’s to you Mr. Poe!

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A New Semester!

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Summer is close to ending, and autumn will soon be here, a wondrous season of change.  Among those movements are the leaving behind of summer activities and the return of the academic school year.  The first day of the semester at both schools where I teach, Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, has arrived. I had a busy summer and taught summer classes, so this is not following on a long break, but I always am excited at the start of a new collegiate year.

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I often write, in this blog, about writing, and that is my other passion, but teaching is still my main field, my main vocation, and my driving force in life. I love to teach, and this semester I have a wide variety of courses; among them are the following: First Year Composition, Renaissance Imagination, Gothic and Horror, and Modern American Fiction. These courses reflect some, but certainly not all, of my areas of study and interest.

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I always feel blessed that I am able to incorporate my love of reading into a field in which I lead discussions about this material. In fact, I am extraordinarily lucky, because I love my work, and I know there are far too many people who do not have this good fortune.

I also love that I have a wide range of students in my classes.  I teach both traditional-age students and non-traditional adult students.  As someone who was an adult student myself, a story for another post, I embrace having adults in my classes.

So, onward with the semester!

Quotations from Harper Lee And Umberto Eco

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To honor the writings of the two recently deceased great writers, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, I wanted to offer these quotations in remembrance:

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  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”                                                                                                      Harper Lee  To Kill A Mockingbird

  “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”                                                    Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird

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 “Love is wiser than wisdom.”                                                                                                        Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

“This, in fact, is the power of the imagination,  which, combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain, can compose the idea of a golden mountain.”

                                                 Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

 

More Reading and Writing Quotations

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“Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.”                                    J. K. Rowling

 

“I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.”                                         J. K. Rowling

 

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“Believe in yourself. Keep writing.”  Neil Gaiman

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”                                              Neil Gaiman

 

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”            Ray Bradbury

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

                                                                  Ray Bradbury

Banned Books

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I was working on my book order and syllabus for a class I will teach next semester, a special topics course, Banned Books, and in looking over various sites that detail books that have been challenged and banned, both in the Unites States and throughout the world, I was struck by the sheer enormity of the attempts by people ranging from parents to churches to governments to control what people may read and the courage and strength of those who have opposed such efforts.

If you are interested in this subject, I recommend several good sites: http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/banned-books-around-world#.VFWZdckQM1J and
http://www.ala.org/bbooks/ among others.

One of the issues in creating a course and its syllabus is deciding what books to include, always a difficult task, especially when so many books have either been directly banned or challenged. I wanted to make certain that I included books that have been attacked for a variety of reasons. The novels I chose were banned/challenged for motives ranging from sexuality to religion to government issues. Without giving the entirety of the syllabus, among the books I chose to include are D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, Talisma Nasrin’s Shame, and Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man. As I mentioned, I had to leave many books out that I would have preferred to include, mainly because of size. The reading list is already intensive, and since this is an undergraduate course, I have to consider length of weekly readings. It is always a dilemma in choosing texts.

What is clear though is the courage some authors have to write texts in places where their lives can be put at risk as well as their readers for creating and reading novels. Both the courage of a writer like Talisma Nasrin and a reader and activist like Malala Yousafzai are beyond question. This integrity and bravery have been exhibited by writers and readers for centuries, and I am humbled in their presence.

We, as writers and readers, must always remember that the freedom to read is a crucial part of life, and we need to be vigilant against those who would deny that basic freedom.