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Best World Literature ideas for Non-reader teen-boy!!


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I have a rising 10th grade son who is not a fan of reading. He can read well, but it's like pulling teeth. We read together mostly... He does pull free reads off the shelf from time to time. I need suggestions on World Literature to go with our survey of World History this year. Literature devices are a must! I'd like for him to read some of the usual classics, but I also want him to enjoy reading.... Please list your ideas, book lists, or literature programs down below! 

My older, graduated girls would read anything thrown at them... my son has been a challenge in this area. He'd rather make model boats all day! 

Thank you!

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Posted (edited)

What World History program were you considering using?
And do you want the lit. to match up fairly closely time-period-wise with the History?
That would help with coming up with ideas. 😉

Program ideas that might be of interest:

Global Perspectives Studies: Africa & Asia
by WTMer @Farrar. It is a full credit EACH of History/culture + Literature. However, the focus is NOT a whole World / whole sweep of history survey, in case that's what you are looking for. Her second year study that focuses on Europe is coming out soon, so if spreading out your World history+ Lit over 2 years (for a total of 4 credits), that might be an option, to cover more of world history in depth with go-along literature.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature: Gold: World Literature
A light program, with not a lot of teaching info or discussion questions, and light on modern lit. selections, but some interesting and varied choices for the ancient/medieval time periods.

Scott Foresman Classics in World Literature
Textbook. <-- That link is to the student text; here are links to the teacher edition and the study guide@Susan C. of these boards often recommends the  I can't see inside for contents, but from a past post she says that the text includes:
- historical background for each time period
- author biographies
- very meaty questions, really teaches literary analysis
- good paper prompts
- section in the back that explains literary analysis terms
- breakaway sections that cover types of writing or literary elements common to that time period

Edited by Lori D.
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5 minutes ago, Lori D. said:


Global Perspectives Studies: Africa & Asia
by WTMer @Farrar. It is a full credit EACH of History/culture + Literature. However, the focus is not a whole World / whole sweep of history survey. Her second year study that focuses on Europe is coming out soon, so if spreading out your World history+ Lit over 2 years (for a total of 4 credits), that might be an option, to cover more of world history in depth with go-along literature.

The Europe year is out already, actually. 🙂 The US year is... um... delayed. It'll be out eventually. This year for sure.

It's not a light reading program though, so it may not be right for the OP. 

I generally think that literature lists are fine for a literature plan. But I know some people need more support.

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7 minutes ago, Farrar said:

The Europe year is out already, actually. 🙂 

Yea! 😄 

8 minutes ago, Farrar said:

...The US year is... um... delayed. It'll be out eventually. This year for sure.
It's not a light reading program though, so it may not be right for the OP. 
I generally think that literature lists are fine for a literature plan. But I know some people need more support.

Thx for the additional info, too. 😄  (straight from the author's lips, folks! That's always the BEST extra info!)  

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

What World History program were you considering using?
And do you want the lit. to match up fairly closely time-period-wise with the History?
That would help with coming up with ideas. 😉

Program ideas that might be of interest:

Global Perspectives Studies: Africa & Asia
by WTMer @Farrar. It is a full credit EACH of History/culture + Literature. However, the focus is NOT a whole World / whole sweep of history survey, in case that's what you are looking for. Her second year study that focuses on Europe is coming out soon, so if spreading out your World history+ Lit over 2 years (for a total of 4 credits), that might be an option, to cover more of world history in depth with go-along literature.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature: Gold: World Literature
A light program, with not a lot of teaching info or discussion questions, and light on modern lit. selections, but some interesting and varied choices for the ancient/medieval time periods.

Scott Foresman Classics in World Literature
Textbook. <-- That link is to the student text; here are links to the teacher edition and the study guide@Susan C. of these boards often recommends the  I can't see inside for contents, but from a past post she says that the text includes:
- historical background for each time period
- author biographies
- very meaty questions, really teaches literary analysis
- good paper prompts
- section in the back that explains literary analysis terms
- breakaway sections that cover types of writing or literary elements common to that time period

Yes, we'd like the literature to match up, but may be somewhat hard with the history book he chose (Masterbooks World History: Stobaugh). I'm planning on fleshing it out a bit, but the key this year was to spend less time on reading history because of the amount of reading in his other subjects. Masterbooks World reads more like a "regional" flow of history and not fully chronologically. It is chronological, but there are chapters that are: "Japanese History," "Indian History," "Persian History," "Chinese History," and so on. It begins with Gilgamesh (Genesis then moving towards Mesopotamia), which is one epic we are going to be reading. Ds definitely wants to read Robinson Crusoe this year... so that will be going on the list, too.

On my bookshelf I have: 

LLAtL World, Prentice Hall Literature World Masterpieces (NC Penguin edition), and a Spark Notes 101 Literature book. 

I think I just feel like I have too much in front of me to solidify my plans. I know I want him to read some classics, short stories, poems, etc. Preferably shorter reads. A solid boy friendly book list would help!

Thank you for responding.  

Edited by Murrayshire
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18 hours ago, Murrayshire said:

Yes, we'd like the literature to match up, but may be somewhat hard with the history book he chose (Masterbooks World History: Stobaugh)...
... I have:  LLAtL World, Prentice Hall Literature World Masterpieces (NC Penguin edition), and a Spark Notes 101 Literature book. 
...I think...I have too much in front of me to solidify my plans... I want him to read some classics, short stories, poems, etc. Preferably shorter reads. A solid boy friendly book list would help...

Of your 3 "on the shelf" programs, LLATL World matches up with a lot of what you're looking for. You could add / substitute here and there with other things, as desired (for example: to include Robinson Crusoe).

Or, if wanting a series of titles for a "DIY" literature, below are some (mostly) boy-friendly ideas that roughly match the line up of your History program (and also presumes that you have done/will do American and British classic lit. in other years):

ANCIENTS (roughly weeks 1-9 of Masterbooks World History)
- Epic of Gilgamesh *
- some Greek myths -- short stories
- Oedipus the King -- short play
- possibly an abridged version of The Iliad or The Odyssey, or this TV mini-series of The Odyssey
* = [note: a fun read-along might be Thick As Thieves (Turner), book #5 in The Thief series, which can be read as a stand-alone book; the series setting is very similar to ancient Greek isles, and this particular book has a number of the author's own mythic stories about a pair of characters VERY like the characters of Gilgamesh and Endiku from Epic of Gilgamesh--also, the telling of the stories within the larger narrative is done in a similar style as Gilgamesh; AND watch season 5, episode #2  (called "Darmok") of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it draws heavily on Gilgamesh]

ASIA / AFRICA / SOUTH & CENTRAL AMER. (roughly weeks 10-18 of Masterbooks World History)
- selections from unit 1 of LLATL
Asia:
- The Art of War (Sun Tzu) <-- short version with notes of explanation; full audio version (1 hr. 20 min.); China
- Indian folktales - India; short stories, usually with a moral; Panchatantra tales (Hindu); Jataka tales (Buddhist)
- Monkey King myths - China; short stories
- Haiku poetry selections - Japan
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Sijie) - China in the Cultural Revolution; short novel
Middle East:
- selected Arabian Nights tales - short stories
- possibly Persepolis (Satrapi) -- graphic novel, set in 1970s-1990s, memoir of a girl, so may be uncomfortable for a boy??
Africa:
- African folktales - short stories
- Things Fall Apart (Achebe) - novel
- possibly a choice of contemporary African nonfiction memoir:
   Born a Crime (Noah)
   The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Kamkawmba)
   A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Beah)

MIDDLE AGES to ENLIGHTENMENT (roughly weeks 19-27 of Masterbooks World History)
- selections from unit 3 of LLATL
- something on King Arthur, if not already familiar [ex: Story of King Arthur (Pyle); The Once and Future King (White)]
- Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon; short epic
- selected Canterbury Tales (from an abridged/prose retelling) - England; short stories
- a play by Shakespeare -- England; possibly consider watching rather than reading
- Robinson Crusoe (Dafoe) -- England; novel
- selected fairy tales - 17th-19th centuries: Grimm brothers = German; Charles Perrault = French; Hans Christian Anderson = Dutch

EARLY MODERN to PRESENT (roughly weeks 28-36 of Masterbooks World History)
- possibly some short story selections from unit 4 of LLATL
- Dracula (Stoker) - Ireland
- A Day of Pleasure (Singer) - Poland; autobiographical sketches of Pre-WW1 Poland; short novel
- All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque) - Germany; semi-autobiographical, WW1 trench warfare; long novel - intense
- Night (Wiesel) - Poland; very short autobiography of entering WW2 death camps; intense
- Animal Farm (Orwell) - British; short novella; communism/capitalism
- Cosmi-Comics (Calvino) - Italy; short story collection, can just do selected stories; existential worldview
- Life of Pi (Martel) - Canada; shipwreck survival story; existential worldview and philosophical symbolism
European short story ideas:
- The Necklace (de Maupassant) -- France
- Frritt-Flacc (The Storm) (Verne) -- France
- Fight With a Cannon (Hugo) -- France
- How Much Land Does a Man Need (Tolstoy) -- Russia
- The Nose, or, The Overcoat (Gogol) -- Russia

- The Queen of Spades (Pushkin) -- Russia

That last section is unrelentingly heavy, so you might fudge and include a lighter/humorous British or American book at the very end of your year. 😉 Or perhaps something inspiring and joyful.

Also, you might consider watching some movies of some classic lit. that you would like DS to be familiar with over the next few years. Maybe once per month do a family film night and watch a movie that is faithful-to-the-book, discuss, done. You could do that for the rest of high school, and cover a lot of classics without having to actually read all of it, since one of your goals is familiarity with some of the classics. 😉 

For poetry... Most of the traditional classic poetry tends to be Western -- British and American -- and (with the exception of Shakespeare sonnets), it all tends to be from the 19th century and first part of the 20th century. For poetry from other continents (Asia, Africa), check out your Masterpieces anthology.

A few other poetry ideas (again, largely 19th cent/early 20th cent. British/American):
- Perhaps insert units from CAP's Art of Poetry here and there? 
- Or Progeny Press' Introduction to Poetry guide?
- Or read 3 poems a week from one or more of these lists:
   Best Poems Encyclopedia website: "Top 100 Best Poems"
   Poetry Soup website: "Top 100 Famous Poems"
   Discover Poetry website's "100 Most Famous Poems"

Edited by Lori D.
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PS
Just adding that my suggestions are a bit of a compromise. It's tough coming up with a world lit. list for a non-reader that ALSO includes traditional classics AND is mostly shorter works. 😉 

Traditional classics tend to skew towards Western works, especially British/American authors (like Dickens, Bronte, Austen, Stevenson, and, Hemingway, Hawthorne, Melville, etc.) -- and with the other traditional European classics tending to be thick novels (in length and/or content) such as War & Peace (Tolstoy/Russia), Don Quixote (Cervantes/Spain), Les Miserables (Hugo/France), and the Divine Comedy (Dante/Italy).

Meanwhile lit. that might better fit a non-reader tends to skew towards things like:
- historical fiction (works by American authors set in other parts of the world)
- YA (shorter, discussion-able, but not necessarily classics or by world authors)
- sci-fi/fantasy (also discussion-able, but not set in or about other parts of the world, and usually by American/British authors rather than world authors)

Edited by Lori D.
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I'm leaning towards Metamorphosis for a German book and some Fairy Tales and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for a Russian book. It is sad to not do Dostoevski but must keep things realistic.

 

I'm not sure which one yet, but I will probably do an audio adaptation or movie of Les Miserables. What a magnificent story but really I can't make my non-reader read it plus other books. I know, it is not the same! But we all must make choices. 

 

Thanks for The Odyssey mini series suggestion Lori.

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1 hour ago, frogger said:

I'm leaning towards Metamorphosis for a German book...

...I will probably do an audio adaptation or movie of Les Miserables. What a magnificent story but really I can't make my non-reader read it plus other books. I know, it is not the same! But we all must make choices. 

Thanks for The Odyssey mini series suggestion Lori.

No need for apologies! Too many books, not enough time, so we have to make hard choices. 😉 Yes, absolutely! Good movie versions can work well if what you're looking for is familiarity with the work, especially to be able to pick up on allusions and references in other works or in pop culture. Have fun with your choices of visual versions of some classics! 😄 

re: Metamorphosis by Kafka
While my DSs are good thinkers, and they would read what was asked of them, they weren't "literature initiators" (lol -- a half step away from "non-readers" 😉 ), and I have to confess that Metamorphosis, even though it's shorter (novella length) was a slog. We did it aloud together just to push through, and both DSs thought it was way too long and drawn out (although, that actually supports the worldview and author intention). Plus the almost "non-ending" (which fits the existentialism and borderline nihilistic worldview of the work) was a real conversation killer here 😉 .

FWIW -- just sharing our experience, in case others have non-readers who also strongly need plot and/or relatable characters -- Metamorphosis does not have either of those elements, so it may be a tough slog. 😉 


For a bit of help with this one, see this Cliff's Notes article for some good background information. Also, this page and this page from Schmoop explain the complex sentence structure (in the original German, his sentences often end with a surprise twist), and that what the main character metamorphoses into is not a bug or a cockroach (as it is often translated), but as an "animal too debased to be used as a sacrifice". Bear in mind that Kafka was Jewish (and very aware of the Old Testament and clean/unclean sacrifices). He was also a European Jew -- and European Jews had been shunned, reviled, denigrated, and ghetto-ized for centuries. All that to say, this is a subtle and tough work, that can be somewhat opaque because most of us need to read it in translation, which can miss the mark of Kafka's original intentions.

Edited by Lori D.
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Yes, I did Metamorphosis with my daughter and a friend in 8th grade and I think I liked it better than them, but they didn't think it was as bad as many others that were classics. 

 

Thanks for warning OP though. It isn't action based for a boy teen reader but I think there is a lot of dynamics in the characters that can make you think. 

 

I liked the original post because it feels much harder to come up with World Lit than British or American Lit because the extra work involved in understanding through a different cultural lens. 

This thread is making me think though. Do I want to focus on love of story (if not reading for my dyslexic) or do I want depth of study? I might be better off to focus on just love of reading and story and hope it catches and hope he can see the big themes of life and how we grapple with them and then picking only one or two books to look at really in depth from World Lit. 

Sorry OP,  grappling with this myself.

 

Edited by frogger
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19 minutes ago, frogger said:

...I liked the original post because it feels much harder to come up with World Lit than British or American Lit because the extra work involved in understanding through a different cultural lens. 

This thread is making me think though. Do I want to focus on love of story (if not reading for my dyslexic) or do I want depth of study? I might be better off to focus on just love of reading and story and hope it catches and hope he can see the big themes of life and how we grapple with them and then picking only one or two books to look at really in depth from World Lit. 

Sorry OP,  grappling with this myself.

That sounds like a great plan -- meets some of your goals, while really taking into account your individual student. 😄 

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23 minutes ago, frogger said:

Yes, I did Metamorphosis with my daughter and a friend in 8th grade and I think I liked it better than them, but they didn't think it was as bad as many others that were classics. 

Thanks for warning OP though. It isn't action based for a boy teen reader but I think there is a lot of dynamics in the characters that can make you think...

Yes, I think my larger body of experience with literature, plus life experience, made Metamorphosis more interesting for me than for DSs. Both of my guys were pretty no-nonsense/black & white in their teens, so they just didn't have a lot of patience for certain types of works, even thought there was some meat to discuss. (Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein leap to mind as 2 works that DSs kept wanting to apply a "dope slap of reality" to the main characters... It did make the reading/discussion entertaining at times 😂 )

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On 7/10/2021 at 12:35 AM, Lori D. said:

Of your 3 "on the shelf" programs, LLATL World matches up with a lot of what you're looking for. You could add / substitute here and there with other things, as desired (for example: to include Robinson Crusoe).

Or, if wanting a series of titles for a "DIY" literature, below are some (mostly) boy-friendly ideas that roughly match the line up of your History program (and also presumes that you have done/will do American and British classic lit. in other years):

ANCIENTS (roughly weeks 1-9 of Masterbooks World History)
- Epic of Gilgamesh *
- some Greek myths -- short stories
- Oedipus the King -- short play
- possibly an abridged version of The Iliad or The Odyssey, or this TV mini-series of The Odyssey
* = [note: a fun read-along might be Thick As Thieves (Turner), book #5 in The Thief series, which can be read as a stand-alone book; the series setting is very similar to ancient Greek isles, and this particular book has a number of the author's own mythic stories about a pair of characters VERY like the characters of Gilgamesh and Endiku from Epic of Gilgamesh--also, the telling of the stories within the larger narrative is done in a similar style as Gilgamesh; AND watch season 5, episode #2  (called "Darmok") of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it draws heavily on Gilgamesh]

ASIA / AFRICA / SOUTH & CENTRAL AMER. (roughly weeks 10-18 of Masterbooks World History)
- selections from unit 1 of LLATL
Asia:
- The Art of War (Sun Tzu) <-- short version with notes of explanation; full audio version (1 hr. 20 min.); China
- Indian folktales - India; short stories, usually with a moral; Panchatantra tales (Hindu); Jataka tales (Buddhist)
- Monkey King myths - China; short stories
- Haiku poetry selections - Japan
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Sijie) - China in the Cultural Revolution; short novel
Middle East:
- selected Arabian Nights tales - short stories
- possibly Persepolis (Satrapi) -- graphic novel, set in 1970s-1990s, memoir of a girl, so may be uncomfortable for a boy??
Africa:
- African folktales - short stories
- Things Fall Apart (Achebe) - novel
- possibly a choice of contemporary African nonfiction memoir:
   Born a Crime (Noah)
   The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Kamkawmba)
   A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Beah)

MIDDLE AGES to ENLIGHTENMENT (roughly weeks 19-27 of Masterbooks World History)
- selections from unit 3 of LLATL
- something on King Arthur, if not already familiar [ex: Story of King Arthur (Pyle); The Once and Future King (White)]
- Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon; short epic
- selected Canterbury Tales (from an abridged/prose retelling) - England; short stories
- a play by Shakespeare -- England; possibly consider watching rather than reading
- Robinson Crusoe (Dafoe) -- England; novel
- selected fairy tales - 17th-19th centuries: Grimm brothers = German; Charles Perrault = French; Hans Christian Anderson = Dutch

EARLY MODERN to PRESENT (roughly weeks 28-36 of Masterbooks World History)
- possibly some short story selections from unit 4 of LLATL
- Dracula (Stoker) - Ireland
- A Day of Pleasure (Singer) - Poland; autobiographical sketches of Pre-WW1 Poland; short novel
- All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque) - Germany; semi-autobiographical, WW1 trench warfare; long novel - intense
- Night (Wiesel) - Poland; very short autobiography of entering WW2 death camps; intense
- Animal Farm (Orwell) - British; short novella; communism/capitalism
- Cosmi-Comics (Calvino) - Italy; short story collection, can just do selected stories; existential worldview
- Life of Pi (Martel) - Canada; shipwreck survival story; existential worldview and philosophical symbolism
European short story ideas:
- The Necklace (de Maupassant) -- France
- Frritt-Flacc (The Storm) (Verne) -- France
- Fight With a Cannon (Hugo) -- France
- How Much Land Does a Man Need (Tolstoy) -- Russia
- The Nose, or, The Overcoat (Gogol) -- Russia

- The Queen of Spades (Pushkin) -- Russia

That last section is unrelentingly heavy, so you might fudge and include a lighter/humorous British or American book at the very end of your year. 😉 Or perhaps something inspiring and joyful.

Also, you might consider watching some movies of some classic lit. that you would like DS to be familiar with over the next few years. Maybe once per month do a family film night and watch a movie that is faithful-to-the-book, discuss, done. You could do that for the rest of high school, and cover a lot of classics without having to actually read all of it, since one of your goals is familiarity with some of the classics. 😉 

For poetry... Most of the traditional classic poetry tends to be Western -- British and American -- and (with the exception of Shakespeare sonnets), it all tends to be from the 19th century and first part of the 20th century. For poetry from other continents (Asia, Africa), check out your Masterpieces anthology.

A few other poetry ideas (again, largely 19th cent/early 20th cent. British/American):
- Perhaps insert units from CAP's Art of Poetry here and there? 
- Or Progeny Press' Introduction to Poetry guide?
- Or read 3 poems a week from one or more of these lists:
   Best Poems Encyclopedia website: "Top 100 Best Poems"
   Poetry Soup website: "Top 100 Famous Poems"
   Discover Poetry website's "100 Most Famous Poems"

You are absolutely AMAZING, Lori!!! Thank you so very much for lining up my resources with story/book selections! I'll pull off the ones I have on my shelf... let ds look through... and schedule in those short stories & poetry. I totally agree that Shakespeare should be listened or watched, not necessarily read. We will add one or two in. Maybe Julius Caesar being one of them. 

He did cover American Literature this year for 9th with US History... We might get more creative in 11th by creating a detective/mystery/ or dystopian list since he is wanting to go into law enforcement to become a detective. Possibly British Lit for 12th. I've been reading some of your older threads with creative book lists! Thank you again for your help and your time!!   

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Haven't you thought about "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas, "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque? I think these books will be interesting for a young man. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know your son's character. But I find these books worth reading. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/14/2021 at 2:59 PM, LesleyParker said:

Haven't you thought about "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas, "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque? I think these books will be interesting for a young man. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know your son's character. But I find these books worth reading. 

Yes, we may listen to the audio for All Quiet on the Western Front. We've read Dracula already... He is just not into BIG books... 🤪

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