Archives For The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat

“Chance favors the prepared” in the used book market.

Saturday is my day for running errands which takes me to Brookfield or New Milford, two Northwest Connecticut communities. Each of these towns has a their own Goodwill store located on Route 7, and I make regular stops to their bookshelves of donated books looking to see what has been most recently donated.

This past Saturday morning, I did just that. In fact, I stopped at both stores and purchased a total of 47 books for $41.43. WhenI came home, I noticed that WebEnglish Teacher had posted a link to a website listing the 100 Essential Reads for the Lifelong Learner  organized by Online Schools. These books were organized by discipline: fiction, non-fiction, autobiography/memoir, biography, world literature literary theory, history, political science,science/math/social science. Her question was “How many of these essential books have you read?” I was happy to see some familiar titles on the list, but many were new to me.

I could not help but notice that I had just purchased five of the suggested titles on this list for different classroom libraries that very day! There were other titles on the list available on thrift store shelves that I did not get since our libraries either already had enough copies or the titles are available online in the public domain.  The Online Classroom Essential Reads List is organized so that each title had a designated number, not a rank, and link provided for each book with a short explanation. Some of the links are helpful.

Here is a list of the 5 PURCHASED ESSENTIAL READS and the grade or class that uses them:

35. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This fictional account of a platoon in Vietnam is based on Tim O’Brien’s experience in the war himself and explores the fear and courage that are necessary to bring one through to the other side.

-This is a text that is used in our Grade 11-American Literature classes. The book is one of the few texts that students will willingly complete; once they finished the first story, they are hooked which is a tribute to O’Brien’s writing style. The prose is artistic but not difficult for even our lowest readers. Our students are curious about Vietnam, a part of history that is chronologically left for those lazy days of June. We use film clips (Platoon, Apocolypse Now, The Deer Hunter) in our unit with this text. We also eat MREs in class, and organize lists as to what each of use “carries.”

43. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff. Wolff recounts his life as a boy and teen struggling with his identity as he lives with his divorced mother and her second husband in the 1950’s.

-This text will go into the English IV elective Memoir. There is a possibility that a 9th grader will choose this as an independent reading book in the non-fiction unit. The narration captures teen angst very well, and could work as a non-fiction companion piece to Catcher in the Rye in Grade 11. If Common Core wants classrooms to integrate more non-fiction, this is an excellent piece to add.

61. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Discover how to find the beauty in life no matter what your experience as you follow the life of a young shepherd who gains so much from his journey of life.

-This book is assigned as summer reading for incoming English II honor students. We require a dialectic journal with 30 quotes from the texts as the summer reading assignment. Despite the burden of writing, students really enjoy this book which allows us to segue from “the journey” archetype taught in Grade 9 to the different types of perspectives in Grade 10 World Literature.

94. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Carson’s powerful writing on the topic of environmental justice creates a book that will make the reader think seriously about humanity’s relationship to the Earth.

-I got this book for the environmental studies teacher. So far, I have found five nice copies this past year. She offers this as optional reading to her students, and I think this should be required reading for students interested in pursuing an environmental science…or any science, for that matter.

100. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. Psychology student or not, this book will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the curious way the mind works–and how it does not work. Several of the most bizarre cases are detailed here.

-I rarely find copies of this book, so finding one in good condition is a score! The psychology/sociology teacher loves to lend this book to her students; they are fascinated by the case studies. I am always excited to find a gently used copy for her to share.

Here is a list of the 10 essential reads I LEFT ON THE SHELVES (and where they are used in our curriculum)

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.-Grade 11; we have enough copies

12. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. -AP English Literature; text is in the public domain so students read this online.

14. The Call of the Wild by Jack London.- Grade 9;  text is in the public domain so students read this online.

15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. -Grade 11; we have enough copies

28. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.- AP English Literature; we have enough copies

33. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.- Optional read for Grade 11 Coming of Age unit OR Advanced Placement English

34. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. -Grade 10; We have enough copies

58. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. AP English Literature; we have enough copies

82. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.- Resource for AP English Language and AP English Literature and Creative Writing

98. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.-I will need to check with the psychology teacher!

 Both Goodwill stores, Brookfield and New Milford, regularly offer a wide variety of used books, and our classroom libraries are currently well-stocked with titles puchased used for $.50-$2.00.
This past Saturday, the  total cost for the five  “essential” titles I did purchase? $5.18. Getting these essential reads into the hands of our students? Priceless.