AP English Reading List
Meet our New Intern
My name is Daniela, and I am the Foundation’s intern for the month of July. I was assigned here by the Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program, which I applied to last fall. FCYLP matches students accepted into their program with an internship within the county government based on each student’s interests. In addition, throughout the year we meet once a month and learn about different functions of the county government. For example, we have done a poverty simulation and a budget breakdown. Though this is my first desk job, it is not my first time working for the library system in some way. Every Saturday for the past three school years I have volunteered as a tutor at my local library, and will start back up again volunteering in the fall. For the summer though, I will be working for the Foundation and other library departments, currently helping out with the Foundation’s social media program.
This past year, I took AP English Language and Composition. In my English class, the whole year centered on the concept of free will. Whether one believes in free will or not, and to what extent they believe in it or do not believe in it, dictates the person’s philosophical and political beliefs. The AP test taken in May asks students to elaborate and defend their philosophical and political beliefs, so the discussion of free will was the perfect way for each of us to figure out what exactly we believed in by the time we had to take the test. To provide us with starting points for our discussions, every book we read revolved around free will as well. What books did you read in high school? Did your English teachers pick themes for the year as well?
Taking place in the year 1984, Orwell chronicles the life of Winston Smith as he begins to question the government he lives under in constant war time. The book begins with Smith’s purchase of a notebook, which is seen as a crime against Big Brother. Smith begins to journal, writing whatever comes to mind, and making sure to stay out of way from the all-seeing television he has in his room. At work, Smith is in charge of destroying evidence day to day of different events in history that Big Brother deems false. Smith meets Julia, a comrade with similar ideas, and the two begin to meet in secrecy to discuss these issues. They eventually fall in love, which is against the law as well. This famous novel, which is only one of two books ever written by Orwell, makes a statement about the ever growing control that society and government has over us, as well as our willingness to let these bodies control our lives.
Brave New World
Unlike most dystopian novels which first prompt the society as perfect to later tear it down, Brave New World does just the opposite. Beginning with a tour through a human hatching facility, this society makes no point to hide its fault. Bernard Marx is a psychologist with an inferiority complex in a society where everyone is engineered to fit the role desired for them. Trying to move up the social ladder, Bernard begins to vie for the heart of Lenina, a woman who is completely content with herself and society, doing whatever is expected of her, and having fun while doing it. The novel details their developing relationship together, as well as their changing relationship with society as the two deal with different issues that come their way.
A semi-autobiographical novel, Kurt Vonnegut, the author and narrator of the book, creates Billy Pilgrim to discuss his actions in World War II and the effects of his actions thereafter. Vonnegut specifically chooses the bombing of Dresden, which Vonnegut himself survived, as a talking point for the rest of the book. Slaughterhouse Five follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran, who insists that aliens have taught him how to time travel to different points in his life. Told in fragments, the writing is more thematic than chronological. Slaughterhouse Five is a witty book which everyone will get something different out of. Though on the surface Slaughterhouse Five seems to be a funny science fiction story, this novel discusses PTSD, and is seen by most as having an anti-war standing.
On the morning of Josef K.’s thirtieth birthday, he wakes up to find two men rather than his breakfast who insist he may not leave as he is being detained until his arraignment. The Trial follows the case of Josef K. as it moves through the court, without him ever knowing what he is being charged with. K. was purposefully written as an arrogant and unlikeable character, making it harder to sympathize with him. Written to mimic psychiatrist’s notes on patients and published posthumously against Kafka’s orders, The Trial comes in many different versions and translations as the writing was found in fragments rather than all together. Though the beginning and end is clear, the succession of chapters in the middle is still debated since information is changed chapter to chapter as not all the chapters were ever found or written.
Beyond the AP Reading List
All of these books are literary classics I recommend everyone read at least once. Though I may not have enjoyed every AP reading deadline I had in the moment, once I finished the books, I was always glad that I had taken the time to read them rather than the SparkNotes version of the books. Out of these four books, Slaughterhouse Five is my personal favourite, but each book fits a different personality. Though all written about free will, they are all vastly different in writing style and handling of the subject. Have you read any of these books, and if so, what was your opinion of it? What other books have you read about free will?
Blog by Daniela.