eNotes Presents: Which Book Should You Read Next?

These AP-worthy novels are both enjoyable to read AND suitable for your exams.

eNotes.com
Created by eNotes.com
On Aug 11, 2016

What setting would you most like to explore?

Which political issue do you find the most interesting?

What would you rather have to eat?

What word gives you the creeps?

What DON'T you want to read about?

Which of the following book scenes sounds the most exciting to read?

Which high school read did you enjoy the most?

Choose your spirit animal!

The House on Mango Street By Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street By Sandra Cisneros

What it’s about:
A young Latina girl who grows up in a bad neighborhood and learns how to mature amidst poor influences.
Why it’s great for AP tests:
This book covers every question the AP gods can throw at you, since it includes themes of:
Coming of age
Heritage and culture differences
Gender roles
Independence
Sexuality
Self-discovery
Abuse and rape
Confidence and selfishness
Sacrifice
Why it’s a good read:
Since The House on Mango Street is written in vignettes (mini chapters that each stand alone), it is an easy read. Each different vignette tells of a different aspect of Esperanza’s life as a young Latina, and if you take a paper and pen, you can easily identify the theme and message of each mini chapter. At the end, see how the themes all tie together.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/house-on-mango-street

The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver

What it’s about:
A strictly religious white Georgia family moves to the heart of Africa to attempt to spread the word of God to the natives. (Hint: it doesn’t go so well!)
Why it’s great for AP tests:
This deeply striking novel really digs into the obsolete nature of religion when pitted against the forces of nature. Throughout the book, you read about the slow deterioration of the strength of each character, in their own way. Each character in this book has a distinct personality that makes them easy to compare and contrast. Here are a few themes of the book:
White supremacy
Free will
Problems with colonialism
Gender roles
The oppression/abuse of women
Religious conflict
Survival instincts
Why it’s a good read:
There are deaths, snakes, political conflicts, fires, plagues, and all sorts of catastrophes that will keep you gripping the book and reading on. You’ll passionately love some characters, and passionately grow to dislike some others.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/poisonwood-bible

Beloved By Toni Morrison

Beloved By Toni Morrison

What it’s about:
An escaped slave woman tries to kill her children so that they do not have to suffer through slavery. She succeeds only in killing one, and years later the ghost of that child comes back to haunt her.
Why it’s great for AP tests:
This book has landed a spot on many “banned book” lists due to its explicit content. However, the dark tone and horrible stories told within Beloved are not to be forgotten. Here are the themes:
The dehumanizing effects of slavery
Sexuality
The effects of death on family
Love’s redeeming power
Community support
Motherhood
Guilt/Coming to terms with the past
Why it’s a good read:
Disturbing and chilling, Beloved will give you the creeps while simultaneously forcing you to understand the struggle that slaves went through prior to emancipation. The return of Sethe’s dead daughter in the form of a quiet, beautiful, and seductive young woman will make you read on to see what other horrors can befall such a cursed family.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/beloved

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

What it’s about: A future dystopian religious society forces women into being oppressed sex slaves whose only purpose is to reproduce.
Why it’s great for AP tests: Since this book so thoroughly addresses the issues within politics meeting religion, it can be applied to many AP prompts. These are the themes:
Gender roles
Misogyny
Oppression of women
Abuse and rape
Politics clashing with religion
Free will
Guilt and innocence
Why it’s a good read: Beautifully written and mysterious in all aspects, The Handmaid’s Tale will keep you up all night until you finish it. The main character, Offred, has such a captivating story and personality that you will be on the edge of your seat as she encounters dangers and experiences life as a burdened sex slave.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/handmaids-tale

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte

What it’s about: An orphan with an evil aunt defies all odds to be a successful governess. Then, she falls in love with her employer only to discover that he has a dark secret.
Why it’s great for AP tests: Considered a classic and a permanent resident of the Literary Canon, this book is sure to impress the scorers of your exams. Here are the themes:
Independence
Love and passion
Religion
Forgiveness
The desire for a family/acceptance
Gender roles
Why it’s a good read: There is a reason this book has survived so long. Written over 150 years ago, this tale of success in the face of constant challenges carries a theme of self-improvement and independence that will strike a chord in your heart.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/jane-eyre

The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

What it’s about: A Lithuanian family immigrates to early 20th century Chicago. They attempt to work under the harsh conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry, and are horrified to learn the truth about their false dreams of America.
Why it’s great for AP tests: This riveting tale of misery and dying hope expertly conveys the mindsets of immigrants during the industrialization of America. The tone of despair and loss of hope throughout the novel is redeemed at the end by a startling political movement, and the AP gods love books that are strong in dark themes. Here are a few:
The American dream
Conflicts of class
Individualism
Mourning
The evils of capitalism
Family obligations
Why it’s a good read: Sinclair intended for the book to be a political statement, but the truth of the public interest was instead founded upon his grotesque descriptions of meatpacking and the illnesses that workers endured from the unsanitary conditions. Stories of people being boiled alive and turned into processed meat, vivid imagery of the deaths of livestock, and constant brutal illnesses fill the pages of this book. If you want to cringe, this is a perfect read for you.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/jungle

Swamplandia! By Karen Russell

Swamplandia! By Karen Russell

What it’s about: A family whose income relies on an alligator wrestling theme park (yes, you read that correctly) deals with the hurdles that arise after their star gator-wrestler succumbs to cancer. Each character embarks on a different journey of self-discovery, and each faces different challenges of adapting to life outside of the family business.
Why it’s great for AP tests: This unique read is contemporary, yet filled with classic themes that tie together a family despite their personal disagreements. Elements of the supernatural, the ironic, and the uncomfortable all bring together the children of the Bigtree family as they are faced with the harsh realities of the world. Hello, AP prompts about internal struggles. Here are the themes:
Distrust
Family obligations
Death and mourning
Coming of age
Sexuality and rape
Desperation
Why it’s a good read: The unusual setting of this story combined with alligator lingo and a competing theme park of darkness makes for an interesting read to say the least. Hints of frustration and mourning are tied into the struggle for children to be listened to by adults. The long, intertwined paths of the different characters each face different hurdles that bring them back together in the end. It’s a heartbreaking, yet intriguing story.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/swamplandia

The Turn of the Screw By Henry James

The Turn of the Screw By Henry James

What it’s about: A governess who hopes to have a romantic life quickly discovers that the house she is working in is quite haunted. She decides to keep the children in the house, despite the hauntings, and the situation escalates to become dangerous.
Why it’s great for AP tests: This short classic could be considered a parallel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in many ways; however, the governess in this story is considerably more unlucky than independent governess Jane. Here are some of the themes of this horror novella:
Ghosts
Good vs. evil
Insanity
Responsibility
Blind passion
Why it’s a good read: Many ideas are packed into this short, easy-to-read tale about a governess and the two children in her care. The story is chilling and interesting, with hints of mystery. Think of ghosts standing in open fields and noises in the hall at night. If you like quick reads that have enough evidence to write a cohesive essay, this is the novella for you.

See the eNotes page: http://www.enotes.com/topics/turn-screw