Choosing a novel to teach.

I plan to teach a novel in my Introduction to Composition section next semester as the basis for a literary analysis essay. My plan is to read and discuss a novel as a class to the point that students should have so much information at their fingertips, writing a literary analysis essay should be a snap. Basically, if students do the reading, participate in discussion, take notes, and make the connections, they should have a solid essay. My book order is due soon (like, now) so I need to finalize my novel choice within the week. I’ve narrowed my choices down to this list:

Animal Farm by George Orwell, 128 pages.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, 272 pages.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, 224 pages.

These three remain from a narrowed down list of eight; I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Animal Farm uses clear metaphors and symbols, yet many students have already read this in high school. I haven’t read it in a while, but I believe I have plenty to say about it. Likewise, The Things They Carried is often read in high school, but the collection of short stories / chapters aids the story’s accessibility and it’s a great read. Into the Wild intrigues me because it’s journalistic nonfiction style reminds me of the first essay my students will write, an explanatory synthesis. This essay asks the student to work with multiple sources and organize by idea, much like this novel does. Plus, the film is phenomenal and, I feel, worth taking class time to watch and discuss.

I polled my Introduction to Creative Writing students on the list of eight today, and the two which got the most votes were Into the Wild and The Catcher in the Rye, which I haven’t read and I’ve decided I’m just too busy right now to properly prepare for the course. Consider this my official polling of you, dear reader. Which do you see working in a college composition classroom?


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