Join us as we add to our list of summer reading recommendations by English teachers and for English teachers!
– My first pick is Brian Boyd’s Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We all love the plays, but Boyd reminds us why Shakespeare’s sonnets are worth teaching, too. Drawing on psychology and history, Boyd argues that the sonnets reject narrative form in order to explore “the possibilities of verse without stories.” What I like most about Boyd’s approach is its emphasis on close, line-by-line reading, especially reading for patterns. Students working on explications of complex verse can look to this book not just for exemplars but for a celebration of the power of the lyric.
– My second pick is Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones. DC teachers will recognize the street names and landmarks in this now classic collection of short stories (often compared to Joyce’s Dubliners), but every reader can relate to these profoundly human tales of hope, loss, and community. “The First Day” is an unforgettable walk in a young student’s shoes. I remember feeling extremely honored to be an English teacher after I first read that story.
Mark Miazga, an English teacher in Baltimore, recommends these books:
– Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — a page-turning reflection on race, immigration, and identity. It feels like one of the first great novels about the internet age (blogging is a key component), yet it also has a timeless feel to it. Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet is a recent discovery as well–a moving, sprawling Australian family saga built with beautiful, lyrical language.
– A non-fiction book I recommend is the 2011 collection of James Baldwin’s writings released under the title The Cross of Redemption. It contains his essay “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”, which is great, but, in general, I think he’s a major under-appreciated voice whose writing, especially his non-fiction, can be riveting and life-changing.
See our blog post from Tuesday for even more recommendations, and tell us about your own favorites in the comments below.