11th Grade Book List with Summaries 2019-2020
Chimamanda Ngozi, Adichie Americanah
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
James Agee, A Death in the Family
Novel by James Agee about a family's reactions to the accidental death of the father. As told through the eyes of six-year-old Rufus Follet, the story emerges as an exploration of conflicts both among members of the family and in society. The differences between black and white, rich and poor, country life and city life, and, ultimately, life and death are richly depicted. Agee used contrasting narratives as a structural device to link the past and present; italicized passages describing the family's life before the fatal automobile accident are incorporated into the primary narrative of the crash and its immediate effects.
Isaac Asimov, I Robot (and others)
In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.
James Baldwin, Go Tell in on The Mountain
James Baldwin's stunning first novel is now an American classic. With startling realism that brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, this is a work that touches the heart with emotion while it stimulates the mind with its narrative style, symbolism, and excoriating vision of racism in America. Moving through time from the rural South to the northern ghetto, starkly contrasting the attitudes of two generations of an embattles family, Go Tell It On The Mountain is an unsurpassed portrayal of human beings caught up in a dramatic struggle and of a society confronting inevitable change.
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reportage from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy.
Arthur Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
When an enigmatic monolith is found buried on the moon, scientists are amazed to discover that it's at least 3 million years old. Even more amazing, after it's unearthed the artifact releases a powerful signal aimed at Saturn. What sort of alarm has been triggered? To find out, a manned spacecraft, the Discovery, is sent to investigate. Its crew is highly trained--the best--and they are assisted by a self-aware computer, the ultra-capable HAL 9000. But HAL's programming has been patterned after the human mind a little too well. He is capable of guilt, neurosis, even murder, and he controls every single one of Discovery's components. The crew must overthrow this digital psychotic if they hope to make their rendezvous with the entities that are responsible not just for the monolith, but maybe even for human civilization.
Gerrard Conley, Boy Erased
The only child of a car salesman and soon-to-be Baptistpastor, Conley was "terrified and conflicted about his sexuality". At nineteen, while in college, he was outedas gay to his parents and given the choice of being disowned or being subjected to gay conversion therapy that promised to cure his homosexuality. The timing came as his father was about to be ordained as a Baptist minister, Conley was enrolled in a Love in Actionex-gay program, and recounts the harm he was subjected to there in the name of curing his sexuality.
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
Originally intended as a short story, the work grew to a full-length novel as Conrad explored in great depth the perplexing, ambiguous problem of lost honor and guilt, expiation and heroism. The title character is a man haunted by guilt over an act of cowardice. He becomes an agent at an isolated East Indian trading post. There his feelings of inadequacy and responsibility are played out to their logical and inevitable end.
James F. Cooper, Last of the Mohicans
At the centre of the novel is the celebrated 'Massacre' of British troops and their families by Indian allies of the French at Fort William Henry in 1757. Around this historical event, Cooper built a romantic fiction of captivity, sexuality, and heroism, in which the destiny of the Mohican Chingachgook and his son Uncas is inseparable from the lives of Alice and Cora Munro and of Hawkeye the frontier scout.
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
In this book Dinesen gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors--lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes--and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.
David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl
What do you do when the person you love has to change? It starts with a question, a simple favor asked by a wife of her husband while both are painting in their studio, setting off a transformation neither can anticipate. Uniting fact and fiction into an original romantic vision, The Danish Girl eloquently portrays the unique intimacy that defines every marriage and the remarkable story of Lili Elbe, a pioneer in transgender history, and the woman torn between loyalty to her marriage and her own ambitions and desires.
T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
A dramatization in verse of the murder of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. "The theatre as well as the church is enriched by this poetic play of grave beauty and momentous decision" (New York Times). "Within its limits the play is a masterpiece.... Mr. Eliot has written no better poem than this and none which seems simpler" (Mark Van Doren, The Nation).
E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
Considered one of the author's finest works, the novel examines racism and colonialism as well as the need to maintain both ties to the earth and a cerebral life of the imagination. The book portrays the relationship between the British and the Indians in India and the tensions that arise when a visiting Englishwoman, Adela Quested, accuses a well-respected Indian man, Dr. Aziz, of attacking her during an outing. Aziz has many defenders, including the compassionate Cecil Fielding, the principal of the local college. During the trial Adela hesitates on the witness stand and then withdraws the charges. Aziz and Fielding go their separate ways, but two years later they have a tentative reunion. As they ride through the jungles, an outcrop of rocks forces them to separate paths, symbolizing the racial politics that caused a breach in their friendship.
Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
Set in Mexico during the era of anticlerical violence by revolutionaries, the story depicts the martyrdom of the last Roman Catholic priest, who is being hunted by a police lieutenant. The "whisky priest" is a degraded alcoholic who has broken most of his vows but who nevertheless insists upon performing his duties until the very end, when he is finally captured and executed. The book is a Christian parable, pitting God and religion against 20th-century materialism.
Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts
A play of stinging contemporaneity--about religious and societal hypocrisy, guilt that feeds on innocence, their terror of the inevitable, and the battle between truth and darkness, freedom and constraint.
Henry James, Daisy Miller
Originally published in The Cornhill Magazine in 1878 and in book form in 1879, Daisy Miller brought Henry James his first widespread commercial and critical success. The young Daisy Miller, an American on holiday with her mother on the shores of Switzerland’s Lac Leman, is one of James’s most vivid and tragic characters. Daisy’s friendship with an American gentleman, Mr. Winterbourne, and her subsequent infatuation with a passionate but impoverished Italian bring to life the great Jamesian themes of Americans abroad, innocence versus experience, and the grip of fate. As Elizabeth Hardwick writes in her Introduction, Daisy Miller “lives on, a figure out of literature who has entered history as a name, a vision.”
Franz Kafka, The Trial
A terrifying psychological trip into the life of one Joseph K., an ordinary man who wakes up one day to find himself accused of a crime he did not commit, a crime whose nature is never revealed to him. Once arrested, he is released, but must report to court on a regular basis--an event that proves maddening, as nothing is ever resolved. As he grows more uncertain of his fate, his personal life--including work at a bank and his relations with his landlady and a young woman who lives next door--becomes increasingly unpredictable. As K. tries to gain control, he succeeds only in accelerating his own excruciating downward spiral.
James Jones, From Here to Eternity
This is a long, satisfying, commanding novel of the soldiers who were poised on the brink of real manhood when World War II flung them unceremoniously into that abyss. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt is the nonconformist hero who refuses to box at Schofield Barracks and is slowly destroyed by his own rebelliousness. Around him, others are fighing their own small battles--and losing. It's worth noting that Jones' 1951 audience was shocked by his frank language and the sexual preoccupations of his characters.
Jack London, Martin Eden
Set in San Francisco, this is the story of Martin Eden, an impoverished seaman who pursues, obsessively and aggressively, dreams of education and literary fame. London, dissatisfied with the rewards of his own success, intended Martin Eden as an attack on individualism and a criticism of ambition; however, much of its status as a classic has been conferred by admirers of its ambitious protagonist.
Niccolo Machiavalli, The Prince
Machiavelli's The Prince defined modern politics - and is still an excellent guide to everyone who lives among other humans and tries to influence them, from high public office to office politics. This excellent translation by W.K. Marriott offers all of Machiavelli's cynical and often controversial advice on betrayal, shifting allegiances, warfare and the role of the citizenry, as well as how to handle annexing your neighbors, bad press, bad advisers, flatterers, and taxation.
Gabriel Maria Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude
Probably García Márquez finest and most famous work. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of a mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, alive with unforgettable men and women, and with a truth and understanding that strike the soul. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a masterpiece of the art of fiction.
Arthur Miller, The Crucible
A classic of the American Theatre - Arthur Miller's tense, ingeniously multi-layered drama of principle and paranoia. The place is Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, an enclave of rigid piety huddled on the edge of a wilderness. Its inhabitants believe unquestioningly in their own sanctity. But in Arthur Miller's edgy masterpiece, that very belief will have poisonous consequences when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft and then when those accusations multiply to consume the entire village. First produced in 1953, at a time when America was convulsed by a new epidemic of witch hunting, The Crucible brilliantly explores the threshold between individual guilt and mass hysteria, personal spite and collective evil. It is a play that is not only relentlessly suspenseful and vastly moving, but that compels listeners to gather their hearts and consciences in ways that only the greatest theater ever can.
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel, Beloved, centers on Sethe, an escaped slave who, when confronted with the possibility of recapture, killed her two-year-old daughter to spare her the horrors of plantation life. Years later, Sethe and her small family live free in Cincinnati, but a revenant called Beloved, presumed to be the ghost of her dead child, haunts the house
Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
This darkly comic and disturbing novel about religious beliefs was noted for its witty characterizations, ironic symbolism, and use of Southern dialect. Wise Blood centers on Hazel Motes, a discharged serviceman who abandons his fundamentalist faith to become a preacher of anti-religion in a Tennessee city, establishing the "Church Without Christ." Motes is a ludicrous and tragic hero who meets a collection of equally grotesque characters. One of his young followers, Enoch Emery, worships a museum mummy. Hoover Shoats is a competing evangelist who creates the "Holy Church of Christ Without Christ." Asa Hawks is an itinerant preacher who pretends to have blinded himself to show his faith in redemption.
George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
In 1936 Eric Blair, a novelist, critic and political satirist known by the pseudonym George Orwell, went to Spain to write about the Spanish Civil War. This book is his eyewitness account of that conflict. Nothing written since is as moving and alive with the terrors and triumphs of that time past. Orwell battled totalitarianism through his novels ANIMAL FARM and 1984, but for immediacy and passion nothing surpasses this chronicle.
Eric Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other--if only he can come out of the war alive.
Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac
Verse drama in five acts by Edmond Rostand, performed in 1897 and published the following year. Set in 17th-century Paris, the action revolves around the emotional problems of the noble, swashbuckling Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that no woman can ever love him because he has an enormous nose. Secretly in love with the lovely Roxane, Cyrano agrees to help his inarticulate rival, Christian, win her heart by allowing him to present Cyrano's love poems, speeches, and letters as his own work. Eventually Christian recognizes that Roxane loves him for Cyrano's qualities, not his own, and he asks Cyrano to confess his identity to Roxane; Christian then goes off to a battle that proves fatal. Cyrano remains silent about his own part in Roxane's courtship. As he is dying years later, he visits Roxane and recites one of the love letters. Roxane realizes that it is Cyrano she loves, and he dies content.
Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis
Told in two parts that are united in this volume, Marjane Satrapi's powerful graphic memoir traces her life from her childhood during the Iranian Revolution, to an adolescence spent in France, to her return home after college.
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a vivid portrait of life and death in a turn-of-the-century American meat-packing factory. A grim indictment that led to government regulations of the food industry, The Jungle is Sinclair's extraordinary contribution to literature and social reform.
Willian Styron, Confessions of Nat Turner
The Confessions of Nat Turner is not only a masterpiece of storytelling; is also reveals in unforgettable human terms the agonizing essence of Negro slavery. Through the mind of a slave, Willie Styron has re-created a catastrophic event, and dramatized the intermingled miseries, frustrations--and hopes--which caused this extraordinary black man to rise up out of the early mists of our history and strike down those who held his people in bondage.
Alfred Tennyson, The Idylls of the King
The longest and most ambitious work of his career, Idylls is a reflection of Tennyson's lifelong interest in Arthurian themes. His personification of Arthur, the highest ideal of manhood and leadership, is achieved through a delicacy of phrase and metrical effect that are unmatched.
Nathaniel West, The Day of the Locust
Novel by Nathanael West about the savagery lurking beneath the Hollywood dream. Published in 1939, it is one of the most striking examples of the "Hollywood novel" in American fiction. Tod Hackett, a set designer, becomes involved in the lives of several individuals who have been warped by their proximity to the artificial world of Hollywood. Hackett's completion of his painting "The Burning of Los Angeles" coincides with the explosion of the other characters' unfulfilled dreams in a conflagration of riot and murder.
Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny
The Caine Mutiny grew out of Wouk's experiences aboard a destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II. The novel focuses on Willie Keith, a rich New Yorker assigned to the USS Caine, who gradually matures during the course of the book. But the work is best known for its portrayal of the neurotic Captain Queeg, who becomes obsessed with petty infractions at the expense of the safety of ship and crew. Cynical, intellectual Lieutenant Tom Keefer persuades loyal Lieutenant Steve Maryk that Queeg's bizarre behavior is endangering the ship; Maryk reluctantly relieves Queeg of command. Much of the book describes Maryk's court-martial and its aftermath.