Contemporary Literature Possibilities

Greetings all. The list below constitutes possibilities for the contemporary literature course I will teach in the fall semester. I still need to trim about four titles; it’s possible, even now, to consider a replacement text. I want your input.

No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy*

Desperation Road, Michael F. Smith*

Salvage the Bones, Jessmyn Ward*

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas*

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi*

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini*

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz*

The Sellout, Paul Beatty

Looking for Alaska, John Green

Wonder, RJ Palacio

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri*

Natchez Burning, Greg Iles*

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belford*

Flash Boys, Michael Lewis (non-fiction)*

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (non-fiction)*

Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance (non-fiction)

UPDATE: *denotes final selections.

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30 Responses to Contemporary Literature Possibilities

  1. Darby Meadows says:

    I think Looking for Alaska would be good because John Green is such a big author for this generation! The Wolf of Wall Street has always intrigued me and sounds like a fun book to read in class!

  2. Landry Filce says:

    I agree with the vast majority of titles that you have designated as final selections, such as Desperation Road. I believe that it is of utmost importance to read literature wrote by authors from Mississippi, as they give a unique perspective, one that could not be gained by reading the works of any other authors. I also am a fan of Wolf of Wall Street, as it breaks the illusion of bliss being the only possible product of immense wealth, and also shows that these millionaires are often actually horrible people completely unlike the images that the media projects to us. However, I do not recommend reading Looking for Alaska in class. This novel is fun to read on your own, as a sort of beach-book; it becomes unbearable when searching for deeper meanings or discussing the themes as a class. There is little underneath the surface of this book, a trend common in modern young adult literature. I would not recommend reading it in a classroom setting.

  3. Sarah Swiderski says:

    May I please reiterate:

    No Young Adult Fiction

    That said, I support The Wolf of Wall Street as a final selection and look forward to taking this class if my schedule permits it.

  4. Sarah Swiderski says:

    May I reiterate:

    No Young Adult.
    Please.

    That said, I fully support The Wolf of Wall Street as a final selection. I will be looking into my class if my schedule allows it.

  5. Liam McDougal says:

    I strongly recommend No Country for Old Men, as well as McCarthy’s other famous book, The Road. They are both incredible novels that I had trouble putting down. However, I think that John Green should be removed from this list. His books are as formulaic as modern pop music: if you’ve read one of them, you’ve read them all, and anyone who wants to read John Green has already read John Green. The rest of us would be stuck reading it thinking “…really?”.

  6. Shuchi Patel says:

    Wonder would be a good book to teach in the fall. From the summary I read on Shmoop (I know, shame on me), it appears to tell readers to treat others with kindness, even if they are different. The Hate U Give, the Namesake, and Natchez Burning also seem engaging.

  7. Briana Johnston says:

    This course seems like a great addition to the classes offered at MSMS. I’m super excited for its creation and hope that the class is offered for years down the road. Firstly, I believe that John Green should not be read in this class even though it is contemporary literature, it isn’t quite as thought-provoking as some of the other choices. Also, most teenagers, at this point, have already read the John Green option, Looking for Alaska, and I believe it would be a waste when the students could be exposed to other great contemporary literature. My suggestions are No Country for Old Men and The Kite Runner. Personally, I have never read The Kite Runner, but I’ve heard amazing things about it. If I was to take this course, that is definitely a book I would be interested in. Cormac McCarthy is an amazing writer and I believe his book should be analyzed by the students.

  8. Mary Owings says:

    I hope that I have the chance to take this course as an elective – it seem extremely interesting to explore contemporary literature and actually be forced to make time to read these books more often. I am happy to see that you have selected Natchez Burning and The Wolf of Wall Street. I haven’t read these, but often planned on it and heard that they were good. I am also glad that you did not include Looking for Alaska – while John Green’s books are entertaining, they are all the same. I think you could get more of an analysis out of the other selections.

  9. Yousef Abu-Salah says:

    First of all, I would just like to see that this course excites me greatly, because it provides me with the opportunity to explore modern works that I would be able to understand and sympathize much easier with. Now, I would like you to personally recommend The Kite Runner. This book is pure goodness. I have read this book about three times, and I have genuinely enjoyed it beyond words. This book, more than any other I have read, reminds me of my experience of returning to Jordan following my exile from Palestine, with the rawness and darkness resonating through me. Based on the other blog posts, I feel that this book does not deserve enough credit. I beg of you to not cover the Wolf of Wall Street as it is too well-known. I believe that the Contemporary Literature course should not cover books that students would already have read but rather introduce students to modern writers and pieces that are classic and do not receive as much recognition as it should. Personally, I believe that you should not include John Green, because he is, in my opinion, a terrible writer. I know, I know. Shocking right? While I will not delve much farther into this, I just wanted to state my personal opinion on ‘le Green. Another book that interests me is Persepolis. While I had not heard of this beforehand, I managed to look up a summary of it, and it looks quite promising. The Iran Islamic revolution is a very rarely covered time period, and I believe that it would provide the class with much more exposure and knowledge in a subject I am sure that they are particularly knowledgeable about. Finally, I do wish to be accused of only focusing on Middle-Eastern media, so I would also love to recommend Flash Boys. I love this book, and I believe that this one of the premier non-fiction books in modern writing. Overall, I recommend The Kite Runner, Flash Boys, and Persepolis.

  10. Kayla Patel says:

    I read Looking for Alaska and enjoyed it, but I do not think it was one of the best John Green books. I would like to read No Country for Old Men and Salvage the Bones.

  11. Samuel Patterson III says:

    Where’s ‘The Audacity of Hope’, ‘The Help’, or ‘The Fault in our Stars.’ I think it is important to read books about history or historical events that were written in this century. ‘TAOH’ is just a monumental book that is really relevant in today’s political and racial circumstances. ‘TFIOS’ is a really good book that will get you a lot of cool points Dr.E. The other selections seem great from the overviews I’m reading.

  12. Dustin Dunaway says:

    I strongly encourage you to teach Hillbilly Elegy. The book, which I have not yet finished, tackles the enormous apathy problem that is so prevalent in our state. JD Vance, a Yale graduate, reflects on his home in the rust belt with the same gratefulness and humility, how MSMS graduates will one day look upon Brookhaven, Picayune, and Hot Coffee, Mississippi.

  13. Aurelia Caine says:

    I would strongly recommend No Country for Old Men and The Wolf of Wall Street. I have heard that they are both good books, but it would also be good to hear your analysis of them.

  14. AK Mynatt says:

    As mentioned in class, I do not believe The Wolf of Wall Street should be taught in this class. It is a fantastic book that has actually significantly impacted my life, but it is also well known. In a sense, I hope this new class brings the juniors a different take away on books. Before coming to MSMS, I knew all of two books on this list, but now I recognize at least half. What I am trying to say is this class should make everyone think outside the box when it comes to different books, but The Wolf of Wall Street seems pretty inside the box.

  15. Kendall Wells says:

    I have only heard of 3 books on this list before: Looking for Alaska, Natchez Burning, and No Country for Old Men. I’m glad to see Natchez Burning and No Country for Old Men made the list, however I think Looking for Alaska would have been great to addition to the list. Just from reading all the mixed opinions about this book in the comments above, I would’ve loved to hear all the arguing in class. Looking for Alaska is a book people either LOVE or HATE so it would be a great book to add controversy to class discussions.

  16. Anna Smith says:

    In eighth grade I read every single John Green book. Looking for Alaska was not only the best of them, but that book inspired me to a point that I typed a sort of analysis of it to my English teacher at the time about it. That sounds ridiculous, and it may be that I was just in middle school obsessing over literature. This book, however, stood out over the close to 100 books that I read that year and all others in my life. I’d for sure read it again, and I would be utterly disappointed if that book did not make the list. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is also another fantastic book with a similarly fantastic movie. I hate to be the person who recommends another John Green book, but An Abundance of Katherines is another great book and it is math related in a way, so it could appeal to MSMS students in a comprisable way. The Crescendo series is another great series. The first book in that series is the best, though.

  17. Sara Kostmayer says:

    I have already made my personal opinion about one particular book on this list very clear, but I might as well write a blog about it too. The book that I am referring to is Looking for Alaska, although these statements can be applied to any one of John Green’s books. Dr. Easterling, I have seen how incredibly animated you get about some of the works that we read, but I can promise that anything with Green’s name on it is going to be incredibly painful for you to read. All of his books are about, as Mad TV once put it, “pretty white kids with problems.” While some the the themes explored in the books may seem complex at first glance, it becomes clear that every book is essentially some forced existentialism that will wow the eyes of whatever impressionable 6th grader that picks up the book. I beg of you, please do not but this in your contemporary class. Anything but John Green.

  18. Stephanie Dauber says:

    No Country for Old Men, Natchez Burning, and Salvage the Bones are some of the few that sound great and I think that incoming juniors would really appreciate. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of John Green because the meaning is blatant and too easy.

  19. Jagger Riggle says:

    I am really excited for this class, and I cannot wait to take it. Prior to this post, I had only heard of The Wolf of Wall Street and Looking for Alaska, which I have heard are great, but all the titles look amazing. I also find the three non-fiction books interesting, and the fact that they are real makes them even more appealing knowing that the story actually happened. No Country for Old Men and Natchez Burning, as well as all the other ones, look interesting as well.

  20. Jackson Sparkman says:

    I will bring my personal copy of Hillbilly Elegy, I’m extremely exited for this course!

  21. Sabrina Solomon says:

    I would love to see Wolf of Wall Street, Looking for Alaska, and No Country for Old Men in the future selection. I have heard of the first two, but after looking up the last one I listed and reading a brief summary, it seems very interesting. Looking forward to the contemporary literature class.

  22. Patel says:

    I would recommend No Country for Old Men, Between the World and Me, Salvage the Bones, The Namesake, and Desperation Road. I believe that a book should challenge a reader and make them think beyond their comfort zone, and these books will do that.

  23. Angella Osinde says:

    I would recommend these four titles, they’re relevant in social media, and they cover a wide spectrum of themes. (Politics, discrimination, identity to name a few.)
    – Looking for Alaska
    -Wolf of Wall Street
    -Between the World and Me
    – The Sellout

  24. Harlynn Robinson says:

    I would love to see No Country for Old Men, Natchez Burning, The Kite Runner, The Namesake, and Desperation Road studied. All are excellent books that I love and believe you could offer interesting insight on.

  25. Kamal Bhalla says:

    I have heard a lot of good things about Looking for Alaska, The Kite Runner, and The Hate U Give. I really think that the students next year will really enjoy their time reading not only these books, but some of the others you have mentioned as well.

  26. Meagan Pittman says:

    Pleased to see that The Kite Runner, The Namesake, The Wolf of Wall Street, Between the World and Me, and the Goldfinch are on the list. These are all great pieces to study, and it’s great to see fiction as well as non-fiction books included. Overall, the choices seem to be well-rounded and they will make a strong literature course.

  27. Olga says:

    I’d recommend Wonder; it might be slightly below the reading level – it’s technically a children’s book – but it’s very human. I think it’s very earnest in the way it describes living with disabilities, searching for acceptance, the daily struggles everyone undergoes and, especially, the nature of middle schoolers.

  28. Mariana Strawn says:

    I would definitely say that I would love to see The Wolf of Wall Street, Looking for Alaska, Natchez Burning, and No Country for Old Men. I would also say that including dystopian works is important for contemporary literature, simply because they are prevalent among the works produced and are important when understanding the overall attitude of modern works.

  29. Brianna Ladnier says:

    I would like Salvage for Bones, Looking for Alaska, and the Wolf of Wallstreet. I have heard several good reviews for all of these.

  30. Wise says:

    I’m an advocate for Looking for Alaska, Natchez Burning, The Wolf of Wall Street, Flash Boys, and No Country for Old Men. Either I or several close friends have read these and would highly recommend them.

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