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Which novels would you recommend for adults whose reading skills lag?

 
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 02:24 pm
Found some interesting lists of contemporary writers on line including the New Yorker's list of "20 under 40" years of age.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 02:29 pm
@plainoldme,
While my wife volunteered at the local library, I found two books that I purchased at bargain prices. The first, Endurance, by Caroline Alexander, and 8th Confession by James Patterson, both for $9. Haven't read a Patterson novel in several years, so I'm really looking forward to it. As for Endurance, I've always had an interest in Ernest Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica.
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farmerman
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 02:56 pm
@plainoldme,
I think Moby Dick would not be appropriate because it spends so much time discussing just whaling boats and keeps missing its point. Melville can be a bit dense .

Travels with Charley IS an easy read and its by a great author who had lots of insites about the country . Again, several levels.

Huck Finn or (less so) Tom Sawyer may need to to have the reader develop a sense of dialect (I always loved reading in what I supposed was the dialect of the characters).
Zane Grey and London are two goodies also and you can drop in some poems by Service to fill in prose and poetry.
Nothings better for prose than to decipher the language that only poetry can provide.

This sounds like a neat project.
Take a run therough THE VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE. Its more an adventure story.
Are your students mostly rurral or urban?
If theyre urban, perhaps some detective stories by ELmore LEonard would be good reading. They are very easy, Leonard paints his scenes with action (unlike some who just bore the **** out of me with these Bulwar Lytton phrases and run-on POS)
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:02 pm
@farmerman,
I personally have a hard time with detective and spy fiction as well as mysteries. I just can't get into them. However, that won't keep me from recommending a few.

I agree that Huck Finn is too difficult. A great deal of Twain is too sarcastic for students with comprehension issues. Tone throws them completely.

You're right about narrative poetry. I remember being 8 years old and listening to Charles Laughton read THe Highwayman on the Ed Sullivan Show. Poe's Annabelle Lee is another narrative poem they might enjoy. The Charge of the Light Brigade could be thrilling as well.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:05 pm
@farmerman,
The Voyage of the Beagle and Shackleton's adventures could be good choices, if they aren't too thick. I liked Mutiny on the Bounty. Those old sea stories are thrilling.
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farmerman
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:05 pm
@plainoldme,
I remember Sister Atilla (the nun) reading Vacel Lindsay's THE CONGO.

Lotsa rhythm and substance.
plainoldme
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:11 pm
Can anyone fill me in on these contemporary authors? I've read Sherman Alexie and Jeffrey Eugenides. I think Alexie is accessible but that Eugenides would float a bit over their heads.

Donald Antrim, Ethan Canin, Michael Chabon, Junot Diaz, Tony Earley, Nathan Englander, Allegra Goodman, A. M. Holmes, Matthew Klam, Jhumoa Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee, Rick Moody, Antonya Nelson, George Sanders and William T. Vollman?
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:14 pm
@farmerman,
I remember The Congo as well. Twin sisters who were a year ahead of me and who loved theatre recited it for a competition. What bothers me about that poem was not the poem itself but the footnotes, one of which was "their basic savagery." Then I saw the Congo, creeping through the black, cutting through the jungle, with a golden track. Boom-a-lay, boom-a-lay, boom.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:34 pm
@plainoldme,
Diaz has had a story or maybe more than one in the NYer - maybe all of those have?
Roberto Bolano stories are in there. (well regarded writer who died fairly recently)

I and a lot of other people are gaga about a very recent real life 'mystery' by David Grann in the NYer - and I insist I was gaga before I saw anyone else was.
http://www.slate.com/id/2290801/
Grann's piece may well be too complex re what is going on in it - but if some of your students are both bright and interested in politics while language challenged, one or another might like it.

But - these are stories that I've read, whether or not they are tidbits of novels. Grann's is clearly a report.
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:35 pm
@plainoldme,
Yes, Alexie is accessible.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 06:21 pm
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:

Michael Chabon
way too flowery, no

Quote:
Junot Diaz


way too many unexplained non-English words and general convolutedness, no (I love him tho)

Quote:
Jhumpa Lahiri
(note spelling change), she's pretty good, a lot of her books/ stories are about the immigrant experience, so good for ESL students for that reason I think. Generally pretty straightforward language, very insightful characterizations. (One of my very favorite authors.)
plainoldme
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 06:59 pm
@sozobe,
That's really helpful. Particularly the too flowery. Is Diaz a magical realist? I like the genre but it would confuse the students.
tsarstepan
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 08:52 pm
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant.

It's an incredibly fascinating work of nonfiction. Part history, part anthropology, part sociology, part evolutionary biology, part conservationist tract, and part unorthodox murder mystery.

The book is the investigation of a mysterious animal attack taken place in Siberia. Could a Siberian tiger be capable of premeditated murder? Could an animal conceive and commit an act of vengeance wrought upon an individual man whom the tiger perceived he was wronged by?

It reads like a thriller but it isn't a shallow poppy throw away book. I'm sure the subject would be fascinating and accessible for those individuals who find reading an entire book a migraine inducing chore.
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plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 09:25 pm
I should give you an idea where their reading level is. They thought Barbara Ehrenreich's essay, "A Step Back to the Workhouse?" in which she discussed what she feels is wrong with workfare was about having mothers earn their welfare checks. I could not disabuse them of that notion.

They thought an excerpt from Barbara Tuchman's In a Distant Mirror was science fiction because they had never heard of the bubonic plague.

They did not understand Mark Twain's Two Views of the Mississippi and they thought M. Scott Momaday's essay on his quest to visit the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains was a dream sequence. They did not know the expression medicine as used by native Americans and had no idea what a shaman is.

When I used the expression "microcosm of the macrocosm," they had no idea what I was talking about. They failed to recognize the word "ad-ver-tis-ment" with the emphasis on the first syllable because they would pronounce it "ad-ver-teyes-ment," with the emphasis on the third syllable.

This is a 101 and not a remedial class.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 09:57 pm
@plainoldme,
Theres nothing lost with you explaining several of these concepts and examples of word and phrase construction. The laguage skills are also about comprehension NO? Where is the admonition to do the reading Ive assigned and sit there with your google by your side or underline the more difficult phrases and lets discuss them. Pretty soon their knowledge level will expand as they read more.

plainoldme
 
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Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 10:21 pm
@farmerman,
I put together study guides for their "project" books, that is, the books they were to read during the semester and write papers on.

We also discuss all of their assigned readings in class. While we should just discuss the techniques used by the authors that make each essay a specific type (definition; cause and effect; argument), I talk about the relevant history or social situation; define words; discuss the connotation as well as the denotation.

My aim with this list is to encourage some independent reading during the summer so that they will increase their comprehension skills.

Listening to "I don't get it" over and over again was frightening.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 12:10 pm
I don't think I've seen this mentioned yet but Mo and I have been reading Gary Paulsen's "Brian series" that starts with Hatchet. There are five or six books in all.

They're really good boy-type stories. They're fairly contemporary (the first is from 1987). The language is easy to understand.

I'm an adult and I'm enjoying the series as much as Mo is so I don't think it would be insulting to an adult in any way.

It might be worth it for you to have a look!

http://www.amazon.com/Hatchet-20th-Anniversary-Gary-Paulsen/dp/1416925082/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302631738&sr=1-1

(I just noticed that the book is recommend for grades 8-12. I think that probably has more to do with the theme of the books than the difficulty level. Some parts are a bit gory.
sozobe
 
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Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 12:13 pm
@plainoldme,
Diaz isn't really a magical realist. He's an urban, multi-culti voice, very stream of consciousness. Kind of like if Dave Eggers was a Dominican New Yorker.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 05:58 pm
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:

When I used the expression "microcosm of the macrocosm," they had no idea what I was talking about.

I have no idea what you're talking about. Sad

How old or young are these students? Is it wrong to assume that prior to this latest attempt at education (GED? Or pursuit of Associates degree?) that these students for the most part have dropped out of the education system at one part in their individual lives?
littlek
 
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Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 08:39 pm
@boomerang,
Boomer, could Hatchet been recommended for ages 8-12 and not grades 8-12? We have some low-readers reading that book in Middle School.
 

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