AP English Literature Summer Reading Assignment

  • (note: This is the summer assignment for AP English Literature; for AP English Language scroll back to the preceding section)

    Printable version

    As a student of AP English, you will be expected to begin next year having read at least two books from the list that follows. During the first week of school you will have an essay exam on these two works. The test will mirror, in spirit, if not exact format, the essay section of the AP English Literature exam. On such tests, you are asked to explore your reading through an analytical lens. In doing so, your use of literary devices and depth of thematic exploration are important. Thus, while it will not be required to turn in a formal journal, the English Department highly encourages you to keep an informal journal of your impressions and ideas as you read.

    Here are some potential points of literary exploration for you to consider:

    • How does the author’s use of setting reflect symbolic and/or archetypal concepts?
    • How does the novel reflect the aesthetic conventions of its time?
    • What relevant issues of social concern are explored?
    • What is still relevant about the book today?
    • What do you enjoy about the author’s writing style? Is it their descriptive clarity? Is it an unconventional use of language? Perhaps it is the flair the character dialogue expresses. Conversely, please feel comfortable in noting which elements of the work you found less attractive and/or effective. But remember: be able to support your assertions.
    • Pay careful attention to character development throughout the novel. Which characters are most clearly explored? What do their actions, thoughts, dialogue and presence lend to the work’s overall structure (thematically or with respect to plot development, for example)?
    • Please: Focus on utilizing the array of critical tools you have developed as you have evolved as a reader and writer. What literary devices do you recognize? Moreover, how do you view them as tools of the author?


    Edward Albee—Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

    Jane Austen—Persuasion

    Samuel Beckett—Waiting for Godot

    Charlotte Bronte—Jane Eyre

    Michael Chabon—Telegraph Avenue

    Joseph Conrad—Lord Jim

    Charles Dickens—Oliver Twist

    Fyodor Dostoevsky—Crime and Punishment

    Jeffrey Eugenides—The Virgin Suicides

    William Faulkner—The Sound and the Fury

    Gustav Flaubert—Madame Bovary

    Jonathan Safron Foer—Extremely Loud and
    Incredibly Close

    E. M. Forster—Howard’s End

    Herman Hesse—Steppenwolf

    Oscar Wilde—The Importance of Being Earnest

    Barbara Kingsolver—Flight Behavior

    Toni Morrison—The Song of Solomon

    Thomas Pynchon—Gravity’s Rainbow

    E. Annie Proulx—The Shipping News

    Joyce Carol Oates—Foxfire

    Philip Roth—American Pastoral

    Brian DoyleMink River

    William Shakespeare—The Tempest

    Leo Tolstoy—Anna Karenina

    John Updike—Rabbit Run

    Robert Penn Warren—All the King’s Men

    Edith Wharton—Ethan Frome

    William J. KennedyIronweed

    Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse