Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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How many of these books have you read?

This article is a bit silly — I mean, the title is actually “What Ivy-League Students are Reading That You Aren’t”, which strikes me as, well, silly. I mean, does the author — Christopher Ingraham — mean that “we” aren’t reading those books NOW? Because whether or not we read them in college, there’s no special reason to expect us to be reading them again right this minute, is there?

Also, when he looks at “all books assigned,” he includes . . . textbooks! Like Campbell’s BIOLOGY. That’s *really* silly.

But I like this one bit where the article checks out the books that are most assigned in actual English classes. Here Ingraham compares the books most assigned overall to the ones most assigned by the Ivies. That’s at least mildly interesting, don’t you think? So here:

All Schools:

Frankenstein
Canterbury Tales
Paradise Lost
Heart of Darkness
Hamlet
The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
The Yellow Wallpaper
Young Goodman Brown
The Awakening
Oedipus

That actually strikes me as a pretty good list! I don’t think “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a novel, though. Isn’t that a short story? Creepy? A woman is going insane? Pretty sure I’m remembering the right story.

Interestingly, I’ve read (at least parts of) everything above The Love Song of J. AP. Below that, only “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I’ve never even heard of Young Goodman Brown.

Overall, though, I’d say this list is reassuring considering we keep hearing that today’s college freshmen are reading on something like the seventh grade level.

To compare, here’s the list from the Ivies:

Canterbury Tales
Paradise Lost
Persuasion
The Faerie Queen
Hamlet
The Spanish Trilogy
Heart of Darkness
Jude the Obscure
Twelfth Night
Frankenstein

Persuasion! That’s good to see. The non-Ivy students are missing out if they never read Austen. And the Ivies get to read a comedy as well as a tragedy, lucky them. Still, reasonable overlap, I’d say. Again it seems peculiar to include one of these works — “The Spanish Trilogy” is a poem, not a novel — I mean, a relatively short poem, not like The Faerie Queen or whatever — so I really don’t think the criteria for these lists were sufficiently strict.

Although I’m pretty sure I’ve read Frankenstein, I’m almost totally sure it wasn’t assigned in school. Did any of you have Frankenstein actually assigned?

I’ve read eight works from those two lists combined, which is about half of the fifteen works total.

I’d never heard of three of these works: Young Goodman Brown, The Awakening, and the Spanish Trilogy.

I actually enjoyed three of these works: The Canterbury Tales (we only read bits of this), Persuasion, and Twelfth Night.

I loathed one of these: Heart of Darkness.

How about you, these lists spark any fond or loathsome memories?

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7 Comments How many of these books have you read?

  1. Mike S.

    Ones I’ve read in bold:

    Frankenstein (within the last decade)
    Canterbury Tales (college Chaucer class– for a quarter, with a glossary, I could read Middle English. :-) )
    Paradise Lost (started this many times, but haven’t made it all the way through yet)
    Heart of Darkness (I think I read this in my twenties)
    Hamlet (Saw/read it first in high school, wrote alternate ending in law school. :-) )
    The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock (high school, I’m pretty sure)
    The Yellow Wallpaper
    Young Goodman Brown (never heard of it before today, but it’s a short read. :-) Also found a Kate Beaton “Hark, a Vagrant” strip about it.)
    The Awakening (never heard of it, though I’ve now read the Wikipedia article. :-) )
    Oedipus (high school)

    Ivy list, minus duplicates

    Persuasion (did an Austen binge while on a Europe trip after law school; I could depend on finding her work in any bookstore with English books, so I’d finish one and pick up the next)
    The Faerie Queen (I think I’ve started it once or twice)
    The Spanish Trilogy (just now, never heard of it before today :-) )
    Jude the Obscure
    Twelfth Night (took a Shakespeare comedies class, I think in high school?)

    So ten total now, or eight not counting the short works I just added.

  2. James Pailly

    I’ve read about a third of the books on these lists. The only one I was forced to read for class was Heart of Darkness. It’s not exactly my favorite either.

  3. Elaine T

    Five of the first, seven of the second. I remember parts of Frankestein and Paradise Lost and Faerie Queen all being slogs.
    Frankenstein was something I just read, it wasn’t assigned. I think Faerie Queen was, too. Read other Hawthorne (Scarlet Letter) not Young Goodman Brown. Oedipus was really good, especially when we translated it, which helped get across subtlties lost in translation. So was Persuasion, and the Chaucer. The rest… meh.

  4. Pete Mack

    I liked Heart of Darkness (and Apocalypse Now, too.) On the other hand I loathed Jude the Obscure when I read it in HS.

  5. mona

    Never heard of Jude the Obscure, The Spanish Trilogy, or Young Goodman Brown, but I’ve read all the rest except The Twelfth Night and The Awakening. Some of them only parts.

    I was assigned Frankenstein in college, which I am forever grateful for, because I’d been avoiding it as a classic up until then. I devoured it.

    Heart of Darkness was the only book I skipped in high school; I was so averse to it. Conversely, the Yellow Wallpaper has stuck with me—so creepy, and so well done.

  6. Macsbrains

    I had Frankenstein assigned 3 times: 7th, 9th and 12th grade. I had Of Mice and Men assigned 4 times: 4th, 7th, 9th & 11th grade.

    I am glad that I read it, as far as reading classics go, but I didn’t enjoy it the first time let alone the third.

    And I did rant a lot about getting a book assigned in 11th grade that I had also been assigned in 4th grade. That one I can’t stomach at all and definitely didn’t reread for those other classes. (Not that I don’t see its literary merit, but no thank you, never again.)

    I was never assigned any of the rest of them, not even Hamlet. Probably because it wasn’t depressing enough.

  7. Rachel

    Mike, I think it’s funny you decided to go on and “read the stuff the Ivy students are reading that you aren’t”, to recast the title of the original article. I think I’ll probably go read the “Spanish Trilogy,” too.

    Oh, Young Goodman Brown was Hawthorne? Yes, I, too, read The Scarlet Letter.

    Mona, I agree, “The Yellow Wallpaper” gave me some images that have stuck with me. Creepy, disturbing images.

    Macs . . . you made me laugh at the Probably not depressing enough line. But that’s really awful! I remember you commented before that EVERYTHING you were assigned was dark and depressing. Ugh!

    Also, Of Mice and Men in 4th grade? …. ?

    I was assigned Madame Bovary twice, and actually read it both times, which now I can’t fathom since it is my most loathed book of all time.

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