In this lesson, our instructor Rebekah Hendershot, gives a general Reading List to help you prepare for the exam. Shell start by explaining what the list does and does not do, and then dive right into various authors. Youll learn about pre-20th century authors, 20th century authors, and present day writers. Youll also find out whats essential and what you can skip, as well as, 10 good starting points. The lists are long, but dont worry, the lesson ends with some suggestions of what to do if you cant manage to review any of the books.
This list provides you with an overview of the quality of literature the AP English Literature and Composition exam expects you to understand going into the test.
It provides context for the passages you’ll encounter in the multiple-choice and essay sections.
It’s also a great place to start if you’re trying to make sure you’ve read something you can use on the open essay.
What Does This List Not Do?
This list is not a substitute for reading, or paying attention in class.
It will not get you a good score by itself (name-dropping doesn’t help you very much, even on the essays).
If you’re watching this video a few weeks before the exam, do not try to read everything on this list. It will not help you and it might make your head explode.
I’m probably kidding about the exploding-head thing. But only probably.
Pre-20th Century Authors
Joseph Addison, Matthew Arnold, Francis Bacon, James Boswell, Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jean de Crèvecoeur, Charles Darwin, Thomas De Quincey, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Margaret Fuller, Edward Gibbon, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Hazlitt, Thomas Hobbes, Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent), Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, John Locke, Thomas Macaulay, Niccolò Machiavelli, John Stuart Mill, John Milton, Michel de Montaigne, Thomas More, Thomas Paine, Francis Parkman, Walter Pater, Samuel Pepys, John Ruskin, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Henry David Thoreau, Alexis de Tocqueville, Oscar Wilde, Mary Wollstonecraft.
20th Century to the Present
Edward Abbey, Diane Ackerman, James Agee, Paula Gunn Allen, Roger Angell, Natalie Angier, Gloria Anzaldúa, Hannah Arendt, Michael Arlen, Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Dave Barry, Melba Patillo Beals, Simone de Beauvoir, Lerone Bennett Jr., Wendell Berry, Sven Birkerts, Susan Bordo, Jacob Bronowski, David Brooks, William F. Buckley, Judith Butler, Rachel Carson, G. K. Chesterton, Winston Churchill, Kenneth Clark, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Jill Ker Conway, Arlene Croce, Richard Dawkins, Vine Deloria Jr., Daniel Dennett, Jared Diamond, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Maureen Dowd, Elizabeth Drew, W. E. B. Du Bois, Leon Edel, Gretel Ehrlich, Loren Eiseley, Richard Ellmann, Nora Ephron, Niall Ferguson, Timothy Ferris, M. F. K. Fisher, Frances Fitzgerald, Janet Flanner (Genêt), Tim Flannery, Shelby Foote, Richard Fortey, John Hope Franklin, Antonia Fraser, Thomas L. Friedman, Paul Fussell, John Kenneth Galbraith, Mavis Gallant, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Atul Gawande, Ellen Goodman, Nadine Gordimer, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, David Halberstam, Elizabeth Hardwick, Elva Trevino Hart, Chris Hedges, John Hersey, Christopher Hitchens, Edward Hoagland, Richard Holmes, bell hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Pauline Kael, Evelyn Fox Keller, Helen Keller, George Kennan, Jamaica Kincaid, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Kingsolver, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, Alex Kuczynski, Lewis H. Lapham, T. E. Lawrence, Aldo Leopold, Gerda Lerner, Andy Logan, Philip Lopate, Barry Lopez, Norman Mailer, Nancy Mairs, Peter Matthiessen, Mary McCarthy, Frank McCourt, Bill McKibben, John McPhee, Margaret Mead, H. L. Mencken, Jessica Mitford, N. Scott Momaday, Jan Morris, John Muir, Donald M. Murray, V. S. Naipaul, Geoffrey Nunberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Barack Obama, Tillie Olsen, Susan Orlean, George Orwell, Cynthia Ozick, Steven Pinker, Francine Prose, David Quammen, Arnold Rampersad, Ishmael Reed, Rick Reilly, David Remnick, Adrienne Rich, Mordecai Richler, Richard Rodriguez, Sharman Apt Russell, Carl Sagan, Edward Said, Scott Russell Sanders, George Santayana, Simon Schama, Arthur M. Schlesinger, David Sedaris, Richard Selzer, Leslie Marmon Silko, Barbara Smith, Red Smith, Susan Sontag, Shelby Steele, Lincoln Steffens, Ronald Takaki, Paul Theroux, Lewis Thomas, George Trevelyan, Calvin Trillin, Barbara Tuchman, Cynthia Tucker, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, John Updike, Gore Vidal, Alice Walker, Jonathan Weiner, Eudora Welty, Cornel West, E. B. White, George Will, Terry Tempest Williams, Garry Wills, E. O. Wilson, Edmund Wilson, Tom Wolfe, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Anzia Yezierska.
Obviously you can’t read everything on that list!
Go back through the names and look for authors you recognize. Read or review their major works.
Pay attention to whatever your English teachers have assigned you over the years. Those texts are often selected for their importance and their relevance to students. They’re a good place to start.
You don’t have to like everything. You don’t even have to understand everything.
What if you don’t recognize any names?
Anthologies – Collections of well-known works by certain authors or on certain topics. Norton Critical Anthologies are particularly useful. Look for both anthologies of literature and anthologies of literary criticism.
Textbooks – While there is no standard textbook for AP English Literature and Composition, a good literature textbook can often contain lots of useful literature, helpfully cut down to its most important parts.
Your teacher’s bookshelf – I’m not kidding. Ask your English teacher for advice. Talk about his or her favorite books. If you’re under time pressure, it really helps to hear from somebody who knows what they’re talking about, and you’ll end up with one book more than you had to begin with.
Ten Good Starting Points
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
Walden – Henry David Thoreau
Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
1984 – George Orwell
Oedipus Rex – Sophocles
If All Else Fails …
Look at lists of major award winners, and the authors on the College Board’s list.
Google the descriptions.
Read something that sounds interesting.
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
This book includes five full length practice exams with all questions answered and explained. It includes a review of test topics covering details test takers need to know, such as poetry,prose fiction, and drama. It also includes sample student essays with critiques of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as a detailed glossary defining 175 literary and rhetorical terms.
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New ed edition
This book is a reprint of the Shakespeare Head Press edition, and it presents all the plays in chronological order in which they were written in an easy to read format. It also includes Shakespeare's Sonnets, as well as his longer poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
Grammarly is the world's leading software suite for perfecting written English. It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations.