College of Arts and Sciences

Books that English Majors Must Read: The Top 5

Do you agree?  If not, come up with your own list and brief rationale for its inclusion. Students, faculty, and staff can submit to Tiffany (

Below is a list of Mark Mossman's top 5 books for English Majors . (Posted September 7, 2017)

Top Books English Major 5. William Wordsworth, The Selected Poems of William Wordsworth (edited by Stephen Gill).  With Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth, and I guess ST Coleridge, changed the world.  Easily the most influential poet in the history of the world.  All English majors should read a significant amount of Wordsworth.

4. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein .  The first science fiction novel.  Enough said there.  But Frankenstein is a novel that really engages everything from disability and bodily difference to theories of education and behavior.  It is a book that may be both a critique of “science” and an argument for “science,” a critique of “democracy” and an argument for “democracy.”  Again, another must read.

3. Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.  This is arguably a stylistic masterpiece.  Forget everything else.  This book is about language.

2. William Shakespeare, Hamlet.  And this book is about the modern mind and the ethical complexities of all of it, about identity, justice, mental illness. Awesome. Again, a must read.

1. Homer, The Odyssey.  In addition to being just a great story of adventure, like Hamlet, The Odyssey is really a book about being a person, in this case a person who solves problems with intellect rather than force.  A must read.