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For more information, please see full course syllabus of AP English Literature & Composition
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Lecture Comments (8)

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Post by Alex Moon on April 22, 2014

Hello! The AP Literature Exam is in two weeks and I would really appreciate it if you could answer my previous question....I love your videos, as always!

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Post by Alex Moon on April 19, 2014

Hi Ms. H, Concerning the open essay prompt on the AP exam where you are free to choose any book you've read, does it matter if I choose books I read for pleasure? To be more specific, I've read Sharpe's Rifles (thanks to your SAT reading list video) and I ended up reading the entire series and absolutely loved it. If I could use those books for any prompt the test throws at me, I'm sure I could do really well. I would appreciate any insights!

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:55 AM

Post by Constance Kang on September 12, 2013

Hey, so I took AP Language Composition last year and Im thinking about self study AP Lit on (you seems like a great teacher) do you think I could get a 5 on AP exam without taking formal lessons at school? Do I need any other supplements? Thx.

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:22 PM

Post by abc123 abc123 on July 30, 2013

well to be truthful, I also had this problem But it got resolved to a large extent .  Here is what I did:
I make notes of whatever I am reading wherever I am reading and for wahtever reason I am reading.
I maintain a blog on whoch I share my reading experience. So now I have place wher I write about what i read and have comments of other readers as well

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Sat May 18, 2013 1:22 AM

Post by KyungYeop Kim on May 17, 2013

Question: I'm a voracious reader who has read many of the books on the list, but I feel as if "reading" and "internalizing for tests" are kind of two different things because sometimes I don't quite understand or remember parts of what I just read. Would you recommend using sparknotes or summary before, while, or after reading a book? or would I be okay with just "reading"?

BTW Thanks for your video. It is very helpful!

Reading List

  • What Does This List Do?
    • 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.
  • Essential Texts
    • 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.

Reading List

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.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:12
  • What Does This List Do? 0:38
    • Provides you with an overview of what the exam expects you to know going into the test
    • Provides a context for the passages you'll encounter
    • Great place to start
  • What Does This List Not Do? 1:10
    • Not a substitute for not reading
    • Won’t get you a good score by itself
    • Do not try to read everything on this list
  • Pre-20th Century Authors 1:50
  • 20th Century to the Present 2:34
    • 20th Century to the Present, cont.
    • 20th Century to the Present, cont.
    • 20th Century to the Present, cont.
  • Wait. What? 5:33
  • Essential Texts 5:41
    • Don't read everything on that list!
    • Go back and look for authors you recognize
    • Pay attention to what's been assigned to you
    • What if you don't recognize any names?
  • Essential Texts, cont. 6:53
    • Anthologies
    • Textbooks
    • Your teacher's bookshelf
  • Ten Good Starting Points 7:59
    • Frankenstein
    • Hamlet
    • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    • The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass
    • Walden
    • Guns, Germs, and Steel
    • Letter from Birmingham Jail
    • Heart of Darkness
    • 1984
    • Oedipus Rex
  • If All Else Fails… 8:53