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

 
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 08:48 pm
@boomerang,
I know that one of my kids read Dogsong at some point. I just googled Paulsen. He's written more than 200 books. Interesting man.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 08:50 pm
@sozobe,
Thanks for the info.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 09:05 pm
@tsarstepan,
Microcosm of the macrocosm? The part that stands in the whole. Really? You haven't heard that?

The students range in age from 18 to 40. There are some who dropped out of high school and earned a GED, although they seem to be a small percentage of the student body.

The interesting thing is that there are things they just don't know. I was telling them how to recognize a good source. One of the features of a good source is currency. A student working on Twelfth Night, chuckled and asked is there anything current about Shakespeare. I said yes, there is: the theory that his family were renegade Catholics. Blank stares. OK. Who was on the throne of England during Shakespeare's time? Blank stares. I went through the Elizabethan Era . . . Elizabeth I and James I. . . The Protestant Reformation . . . Henry VIII . . . Martin Luther.

They knew Henry killed his wives. I dropped everything and did a ten minute mini lesson on the Reformation. I asked whether there was a chapter in their world history texts entitled The Renaissance and Reformation.

I was upset. How can they not know who Martin Luther was? I then looked up the history curriculum for Mass schools. There was the Renaissance and Reformation. Not only were all of the above personalities part of the curriculum, to my surprise, so was the Counter-Reformation and Ignatius Loyola.

If all my students were the same age and from the same high school, I might think something went wrong in one place at one time, but . . .
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 09:08 pm
@littlek,
littlek wrote:

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.

Quote:
From School Library Journal
Grade 8-12

Quote:
From Publishers Weekly
Ages 11-13.


Source: Book reviews on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Hatchet-Gary-Paulsen/dp/1416936475
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 09:33 pm
@tsarstepan,
I just mentioned two books in the "Canal" thread . These were by William LEast Heat Moon and called

BLUE HIGHWAYS-A trip that Moon made across the US in a van and on backroads (the" blue line "highways on the state road maps). Moon was going through a painful split up and the book was a product that he used to work it out. It was adventure pure and simple. Hes a bit =more introspective than was Steinbeck and maybe a bit more scholarly(he was a PhD English grad from some Ivy LEague), it was a really good read.

RIVER HORSE-A trip across the US BY BOAT was a dream Moon had . He was fascinated by our river and lake, and canal networks that we once used for commerce> SO he and a friend got a C-Dory and did the trip from Manhattan to the Columbia River Bar. ALL (except for about 50 miles) on connecting water roads. I believe it was like 3200 miles .
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 10:43 pm
@farmerman,
I did not read River Horse, but I loved Blue Highways. That is a great idea!
ossobuco
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 11:07 pm
@plainoldme,
I've news for you - I learned english history sometime early on and haven't cared to explore it in subsequent years. I never read Twelfth Night and have no plans to do that. I only read Shakespeare in high school. You seem fixated about what you personally know.

I have read a lot of history in the form of books by people who were there - in many places - then.
Please, drop the snot re who knows what.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Apr, 2011 11:08 pm
@plainoldme,
I also thought of Blue Highways. That one gets a yes. William Least Heat Moon - was that his name?
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 05:24 am
@littlek,
The info I saw is the same stuff that tsar posted (thanks, tsar!).

I don't think the rating is based on difficulty. It's an easy book to read. But I imagine all the hunting and skinning and gutting might not sit well with little kids.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  4  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 07:26 am
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:
I would like to put together a list of novels -- not the novels taught in 500 level classes -- that are well written, interesting and easy to read without being too pop culture.


I would recommend anything by Ernest Hemingway. He religiously wrote in very short sentences, almost none of them nested. Yet his prose was good enough for the Swedes to award him the Nobel prize. He also wrote lots of good short stories.

Speaking of short stories: Are you sure it's a list of novels you want to compile? I imagine that your students may be stuck in a vicious circle in which reading frustrates them, so they give up trying, so they fail to improve, so they get even more frustrated, and so forth. If you gave them short stories instead of novels, they'd get the gratification of having finished a text every five or ten pages, rather than every two hundred or five hundred. This frequent gratification may serve you better in breaking your students' vicious circle.
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 08:30 am
@ossobuco,
Your problem, osso, is you think everything written here is a personal affront to you. "Drop the snot" indeed. For a person today to not have a handle on the Reformation -- which is what I was talking about -- is tragic.

When I first came back to these boards, you wrote to me about some differences in opinion we allegedly had in the past. Frankly, those alleged differences were of such high import to me that I had no idea what you were talking about.

The only one taking things at the personal level is you. If you think my post was directed at you, then you need to ask yourself a series of questions beginning with why did I take this so to heart.
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 09:04 am
@Thomas,
I am so glad you have come to this thread. As a person for whom English is not a first language, your contribution gives an insight that most of us, as English speakers from the start, can not make.

Interestingly, there is a another adjunct who uses the adjunct workroom at the same times I do. He is from India and teaches business. Last semester, I had a student who needed to write a paper all the way through in order to organize her thoughts. Her first draft was generally all over the place, while her second draft was much more focused. She is a young woman of ideas: she just needs a framework to organize them. I plowed through her seven page paper while in the workroom and let out a long sigh. He asked what was the matter and I told him. He then suggested that I start each semester with a Hemingway story. I thought that was brilliant.

He is, like you, a highly educated person who is used to reading. I've come to the conclusion that being well-educated can, in some circumstances, be detrimental. (And, as I have just given osso a stern rebuke, she could use my own words here back at me.) I bought a collection of Hemingway (spell check underlines Hemingway: his name ought to be sufficiently well known to not be underlined) short stories and read through them.

I chose "Old Man At the Bridge" which is a moving representation of the effects of war on an individual and a mediation on survival.* The narrator is a young officer trying to move civilians to safety during the Spanish Civil War (no, osso, I would not expect these kids to know about The Spanish Civil War because it was not as monumental as the Reformation). Perhaps 90% of them (students in 101 and not in developmental English) recognized that this was a war story. A few did not, despite Hemingway's use of the artillery. Only about half of them recognized that the story was set in Spain. Fewer still had any idea who the Fascists were. A few said, "I don't get it."

I still think beginning the semester with a short story -- particularly one of that length -- is an excellent method. It allows one to review plot, theme, character and setting and to make the point that essays also have plots (which we call the thesis) and themes (which we might call tone and/or style) and that often there are settings with an occasional character as well.

I still like this story (which I will reproduce in the next post), but Hemingway is not thematically simple. What is, perhaps, his most famous story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," is not an easy read in terms of theme.

A few people on these boards have been screaming about David Foster Wallace's grammar. I bet they haven't read Hemingway recently! I rejected a couple of stories because of Hemingway's grammar. I rejected another few because the sex was too graphic.

POM's comment"
* If I hadn't gone to grad school, in fact, if I hadn't gone to college, would I have seen this story as a "meditation on survival?" I think I would have but I probably would have phrased it differently.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 09:06 am
@plainoldme,
Old Man At The Bridge
By Ernest Hemingway

An old man with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and children were crossing it. The mule-drawn carts staggered up the steep bank with the soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels. The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all and the peasants plodded along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was too tired to go any farther.

It was my business to cross the bridge, explore the bridgehead beyond and find out to what point the enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge. There were not so many carts now and very few people on foot, but the old man was still there.

“Where do you come from?” I asked him.
“From San Carlos,” he said, and smiled.
That was his native town and so it gave him pleasure to mention it and he smiled.
“I was taking care of animals,” he explained.
“Oh,” I said, not quite understanding.
“Yes,” he said. “I stayed, you see, taking care of animals and I was the last to leave the town of San Carlos.”

He did not look like a shepherd or a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his grey dusty face and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, “What animals were they?”
“Various animals,” he said, and shook his head. “I had to leave them.”

I was watching the bridge and the African looking country of the Ebro Delta and wondering how long now it would be before we would see the enemy, and listening all the while for the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious contact, and the old man still sat there.

“What animals were they?” I asked.
“There were three animals altogether,” he explained. “There were two goats and a cat and then there were four pair of pigeons.”
“And you had to leave them?” I asked.
“Yes. Because of the artillery. The captain told me to go because of the artillery.”
“And you have no family?” I asked, watching the far end of the bridge where a few last carts were hurrying down the slope of the bank.
“No,” he said, “only the animals I stated. The cat, of course, will be alright. A cat can look out for itself, but I can not think what will become of the others.”
“What politics have you?” I asked.
“I am without politics,” he said. “I am seventy-six years old. I have come twelve kilometers now and I think I can go no further.”
“This is not a good place to stop,” I said. “If you can make it, there are trucks up the road where it forks for Tortosa.”
“I will wait a while,” he said, “and then I will go. Where do the trucks go?”

“Towards Barcelona,” I told him.
“I know no one in that direction,” he said, “but thank you very much. Thank you again very much.”

He looked at me very blankly and tiredly, then said, having to share his worry with some one, “The cat will be alright. I am sure. There is no need to be unquiet about the cat. But the others. Now what do you think about the others.”
“Why they’ll probably come through it all right.”
“You think so?”
“Why not,” I said, watching the far bank where there now no carts.
“But what will they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the artillery?”
“Did you leave the dove cage unlocked?”
“Yes.”
“Then they will fly.”
“Yes, certainly they will fly. But the others. It’s better not to think about the others,” he said.
“If you are rested I would go,” I urged. “Get up and try to walk now.”
“Thank you,” he said and got to his feet, swaying from side to side and then sat backwards down in the dust.
“I was taking care of the animals,” he said dully but no longer to me. “I was only taking care of the animals.”

There was nothing to do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the Ebro. It was a gray overcast day with a low ceiling so their planes were not up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old man would ever have.




Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 10:12 am
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:
Hemingway is not thematically simple.

Point taken. Then how about "The Old Man and the Sea"? It kind of splits the difference between a novel and a short story, and your students should be able to understand fishing, shark attacks, and the man's inner dialogues about both.

***

Apart from Hemingway, my favorite short stories among the ones I learned in high school are Truman Capote: The Diamond Guitar and Edgar Allen Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart. Psychologically thrilling, comprehensibly written, and short.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 10:21 am
@plainoldme,
Well, it seems you did a good job on that story. Ninety percent of your students got that it's a war story, and that's really the only important aspect about it. So what if it's set in the Spain of the 1930s rather than the Guatemala of the 1990s? So what if it's about Spanish Fascists rather than Guatemalan death squadrons? So what if the ponton bridge crosses the Ebro rather than whatever river it might cross in Guatemala? (Likewise for hundreds of other settings in which the story could have happened.) This is a story about war, and about its effect on an individual. Your students got that. Mission accomplished! No?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 10:27 am
@plainoldme,
Well done, pom! Enjoyed the vignette.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 10:59 am
@Thomas,
As soon as you mentioned Hemingway, I thought of Old Man and the Sea. I also like Poe. I remember reading some Poe in late elementary school, probably 8th grade. Poe is a good choice for kids deep into vampires and other supernatural beings.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 11:00 am
@Thomas,
I guess when you put it that way, sure. Thanks!
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 11:00 am
@cicerone imposter,
It's a good story.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2011 02:00 pm
@plainoldme,
I didn't think your post was directed to me. I was griping about your lack of esteem for students who don't know yet about the reformation or the elizabethans, which you just reaffirmed. I'll agree I could have expressed that with better words than "drop the snot".
 

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