Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gossip in the Halls of LHS

Since there is so little to gossip about in the halls of LHS while we are on duty before school, between classes, and at lunch, I thought we might like to create a kind of unofficial classics book club. Yes, I know we have plenty to do (lesson plans, grading, extra-curricular activities, etc.), but it would be nice if we could have conversations about something other than the same 'ole, same 'ole.

This isn't an English teacher thing, it is a reader thing. If you like to read, then every once in a while you might like to read a literary classic. You only need to be involved at the level you want to be, so feel no pressure. You don't have to be all in. Participate as you have time. If you are interested, read on. If not, no prob., but if you know someone who might be interested, then would you pass this message along?

The Details:

I discovered a blog called The Classics Club recently, and it inspired me to make a list of 50 classics I would like to read in the next 5 years. Obviously, you don't have to make a list with 50 items, but maybe there are a few classic novels you have always wanted to read or you have heard about them at some point in your life and though you might want to read them. This is the time to jot down your list, whatever is manageable, and begin. If you are interested in my list, see it here - Keller's Classic List.

Tell a friend/ neighbor here at school what you are reading and maybe you can read the same work. I told my lunch group what I was doing, and that I was starting with Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Ryker decided to read it. Then I told Vicki, and she is reading along from TN. Initially, it is interesting to just share your list and find out what people have read and what they want to read.

Making Your List:

To help make your list, I have a couple of links you can check out that have lists of classic novels, plays, poetry collections, etc. Also, literary classics can be from any cannon (western, eastern) or any time period (ancient to modern). Don't feel hemmed in by too many rules. You may even want to read Young Adult classics.

  • This site combines many top 100 lists, so it is pretty comprehensive. #1: A List of Books
  • I also used this link from The Classics Club site because it has some eastern classics. The Big Book List
  • This link has the suggested works that Advanced Placement students should read for the AP Literature and Writing exam. This site is interesting because it divides classics by American, British, and World lit.


You may be in a situation where you aren't sure which classic would suite your taste. If you go to the Goodreads site, you get an opportunity to identify and rate books you have read, and then the site makes suggestions for you to read based on your tastes. The process is much like using Netflix to narrow your movie choices.Also, Goodreads is a perfect place to keep track of your list.


Whether or not you want to document your journey is up to you. You may prefer to read a work, talk about it, and move on to the next piece. I decided to write an informal review of each item I read from my list and post it on my blog. Blogging is a different way of sharing your journey. So, no pressure for this part of the process. If you are interested in blogging what you read, I've linked two free blogging sites to get you going. I'm using one of the free options from blogger. If you decide to blog, please send me a link to your site. I would love to follow you. A plus for blogging is that it makes your list accessible to everyone else in school. That way we could look over lists and identify works we have in common.


No need to pay for all of these classics. Our LHS library has most of them. If you have an e-reader, then many classics are free. Also, if you think you don't have time to set aside for reading, consider using your daily commute to participate. I listen to audiobooks on my way to and from work.

The End:

So, that's it. Thank you for your attention and consideration. I hope you decide to read a classic and find someone in the school to read the same work. Like I said before, I'm reading Little Dorrit by Dickens, and I am listening to Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. I know I will read Pride and Prejudice and A Streetcar Named Desire here soon, but I am open to suggestions from my friends and co-workers for upcoming choices. Happy Reading.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


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Spin List Results

The Classic Club spin list number is 14. That means I will be reading A Streetcar Named Desire by T. Williams. A quick glance at wikipedia tells me the play won a Pulitzer Prize for drama. I'm sure I will check out the movie version with Marlon Brando. I need to finish this by April 1.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Handmaid's Tale Review

The Handmaid's Tale
Book #1: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Finished on February 6, 2013.

As a surprise my SO put a few audio books from my Classics Club list on my iPod for the NMSI trip to Killeen, TX. The trip can take anywhere from 5 - 6 hours depending on if I stop for cupcakes at Ultimate Cupcake. I did not stop this time around (regrets), so the trip was close to 5 hours and in that time I finished listening to The Handmaid's Tale.

I was shocked at how fast the trip went and how short the book is. I think my students could easily read this for a two week assignment and the novel addresses at least half of the ontological questions we discuss in class. Here is the list of ontological questions I use. Of course I was made aware of this list through an AP conference.

1.  What is the meaning of life?
2.  How should I live?
3.  How can I accept the idea that someday my life will end?
4.  What does it mean to be a good person?
5.  What is truth?
6.  Am I brave or a coward?  Does courage matter?
7.  Do the rewards of life balance or outweigh its pain?
8.  How should people treat each other?
9.  How can man live in the ugliness of the modern world without despair?
10.  Why do evil and suffering exist?
11.  How can we tell the false from the genuine?
12.  Does my existence matter?  Do I dare to disturb the universe?

For whatever reason I focused on incidents in the novel concerning bravery and cowardice. At one point, Offred considers whether or not she is brave. After all, a decision can only be brave if there is something to lose or a possible consequence. In Offred's case spying for the resistance would mean a heavy punishment, even death. This conundrum and many others faced in the novel are great for class discussion and immediate, personal connections.

I find it impossible to rate a classic based solely on my enjoyment of the plot. I've got a couple of ideas brewing for a rating system which I will detail later. For now, suffice it to say if I really like a piece then it has potential for re-reading; however, I am also reading with a lens toward workability in an AP course. In this case, I find The Handmaid's Tale is teachable. It could replace The Awakening in my syllabus because it is short but incorporates plenty of the ontological questions (not to mention there is sex which is a big seller in high school). As far as re-reading this novel, I doubt I would do so for pleasure.

Next: I'm reading Little Dorrit and I'm listening to Cold Sassy Tree.

Pride and Prejudice Challenge

The Classic Club has really opened my eyes to a world of like-minded readers. I don't know where I've been and what I've been doing for the past couple of years, but there are so many things to do/read on-line that I'm dumbfounded. I've been checking out other possible challenges for reading during the year and decided that I absolutely must take on the Pride and Prejudice challenge. It is the bicentenary of the publication of the novel. This challenge can be a mixture of reading or watching anything (movies, t.v. series, related novels, etc.) related to Pride and Prejudice. I looked at a number of lists to come up with my own. I'm not sure that I will go in any particular order except to read the novel first and watch the 2005 movie last.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1813 - It has been two years since I read P&P, so I need to re-read for a solid foundation. I hate when I'm reading a sequel and I can't quite remember an important detail.

2. Becoming Jane by Julian Jarrold, 2007 - I love this movie.

3. Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James, 2011 - I am inspired to choose this novel because it is featured on so many participant lists.

4. Pride and Prejudice BBC miniseries, 1995 - I compare all Mr. Darcys to Mr. Firth's Darcy.
Love Mr. Darcy 

5. Austenland by Shannon Hale, 2007 - While I want to read the novel first, there is no doubt I will try to see the movie. From what I can tell, the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January where it was picked up by Sony. My piece of advice or threat to Sony is get the movie out there now!

6. An Unlikely Duet by Leila M. Silver, 2012 - It seems there are a number of sequels featuring Georgiana. Hopefully this one doesn't disappoint.

7.Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Jennifer Becton, 2010 - I've often imagined Charlotte's life after P&P, and it isn't pretty or fun. I hope Ms. Becton does a better job with Charlotte than I have.

8. The Unexpected Miss Bennett by Patrice Sarath, 2011 - I'm not sure I would have chosen this novel except I had a student recently write a paper about P&P where she spent a good deal of time analyzing Mary. 

9. Bride and Prejudice by Gurinder Chadha, 2004 - I have always wanted to watch this movie. 

10. Letters from Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins, 1999 - I actually have this epistolary novel sitting on my bookshelf. I have not read it. It looks like it is from Elizabeth's POV in letters to her sister, Jane. Up to this point I have not put anything on my list from Elizabeth's perspective.

11. An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan, 2003 - This is first in a trilogy. I am skeptical about reading this one because the reviews are all over the place. Still, as it is from Darcy's perspective and incorporates some original dialogue, it is on the list.

12. Pride and Prejudice movie by Joe Wright, 2005 - I can just picture myself watching this movie over Christmas break at the end of the year.

So, there it is. I'm not a stickler for rules and may add or change titles per my interests. See you in Austenland.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spin List

Wah, I know I must post my review of The Handmaid's Tale, but this spin list will have to come first. I've never thought to do an activity like this. We are supposed to pull 20 titles of our list that we haven't read (for me that is really all of them). The Classics Club site suggests a mixture of titles. Then, on February 18, 2013, they will pick a number. The title corresponding with the number is what we should try to read by April 1st. I'm in when it comes to games, so this sounds fun. I'm sure I could incorporate this type of activity in class. So, here is my spin list. I feel like I'm about to play Twister and there is a hot guy on the mat and a stinky guy. My luck could go either way.

  1. Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South
  2. Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart
  3. Burgess, Anthony: A Clockwork Orange
  4. de Laclos, Choderlos: Dangerous Liaisons
  5. Eliot, George: Middlemarch
  6. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters
  7. Hesse, Hermann: Siddhartha
  8. Ishiguro, Kazuo: Remains of the Day
  9. Marlowe, Christopher: Doctor Faustus
  10. O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood
  11. Radcliffe, Anne: The Mysteries of Udolpho
  12. Soseki, Natsume: Kokoro
  13. Voltaire: Candide
  14. Williams, Tennessee: A Streetcar Named Desire
  15. Beckett, Samuel: Waiting for Godot
  16. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
  17. Orczy, Baroness: The Scarlet Pimpernel
  18. Albee, Edward: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  19. Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons
  20. Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy