The purpose of this assignment is to have students investigate and consciously examine:
1) what they have read
2) why they have read these books
3) how they find new fiction to read
4) where they get information about
5) and reflect upon whether they want to
write the kinds of stories they enjoy
Instructions to Students
Step 1: Review the handout "The Greatest Novels, Ever" and highlight the novels you have read.
After completing the highlighting, write a brief reflection essay on what the highlighting reveals. Are there areas with lots of highlighting and areas with very little/no highlighting? Is there an “empty” place that you’d like to be full of highlighting? Did you recognize many or some of the novels you have not read? Of the books you have read, how did you first hear about these novels? What made you want to read them?
Step 2: Add books to the list.
The list I have created is purposefully incomplete. Add 15-20 books (novels, novellas, or short story collections) to existing categories or create a new category and suggest 15-20 books for it.
After you have found 10-15 books, write a brief reflection essay upon how you found these books. What methods did you choose? Where did you go? Who did you talk to? Is this your normal way of locating books to read? How did this process differ from the normal way you find books to read?
Step 3: Create your own “canon.”
Make a list of 25-30 novels, novellas, or short story collections (but not plays, epic poems, movies, or nonfiction), which you believe are the greatest works of prose fiction ever.
Afterward, write a brief reflection essay on the list you have created. Why did you choose the books you chose? What makes these books great? Are there any books on the list that you have not actually read? Are there any books on your list that you have not read and have no immediate plans to read? If so, why are these books on your list? Is it because they are “classics?” Do you feel obligated to read certain books, even if you aren’t excited about them? What makes you excited to read a particular new novel? What do you look forward to? What do you anticipate emotionally and stylistically that leads to your excitement?
Step 4: Choose one book.
From your list of 25-30 works of fiction, choose one to read this semester that you have read and admire deeply, a book you have re-read before, a book that made you want to be a writer, or a book that made you say, “I wish I had written this book.” Explain why you admire this book and what about it you want to copy/imitate.