Our friend Arthur is a young Brazilian neighbor. We spend Wednesday evenings sitting and chatting. He wants to improve his already-excellent English, and we just thoroughly enjoy spending time with him.
At our last meeting, he mentioned that he had finished reading Tom Sawyer and was looking for more books to read. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I told him I’d draw up a list for him to begin his journey into American/English literature. He wants to read in the original language, not Portuguese translation, so I made sure the books were at a fairly fundamental level. Lots of “juvenile” fiction that is foundational for American students.
He plans to study abroad for graduate school, and perhaps live abroad for a while, and understands that the best way to get to know a culture is through its literature. My plan is to begin reading Brazilian novels, for the same reason. Then, together, we can discuss the books and clarify for one another whatever mysteries lie within: cultural, language, or historical.
Here’s the list of books I gave him (it’s only a start; if you have suggestions, I’ll certainly consider adding them!):
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
- Alex Rider Series (Stormbreaker, Point Blank, Eagle Strike, etc.), by Anthony Horowitz (series, British)
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (British)
- A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
- A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin (series)
- The Giver, by Lois Lowry (series)
- A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
- Lost Horizon, by James Hilton (British)
- The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton
- Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
- Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
- The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper (series)
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- 1984, by George Orwell
- A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
- Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stevenson
- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
- Watership Down, by Richard Adams
- Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh (British)
His reply: The list looks amazing, some of them I had already heard of before, I think it’s gonna be an amazing journey.
My reply: It makes me so happy to encounter a reader! Books open our world and our hearts and minds. … We might never finish!
Now I have to go back and reread all of them. I know I still have miles to go before I sleep, but I can’t help rereading my favorite books. My grandmother used to call any repetition “chewing your cabbage twice.” But, I must read these books for a second, third, fourth, maybe fifth time. Why? Because they’re classics, and so worth the time!
And next, I shall read a Brazilian translation of The Little Prince. I know the story, so I can concentrate on the vocabulary and grammar. After that, perhaps another translation, or a jump into Brazilian short stories.