The List

The List

The English Department invites you to complete the list. What is the list? It is easier to say what it is not than what it is. It is not a list of books that represents the canon. It is not even a list of all our favorite books or all the great works we hope you will someday read. Rather, it is the list of books that emerged when we asked this question of ourselves: what books do we think are essential; what books do we think no one—and in particular, no English major—should leave college without having read? We gave ourselves this limitation: we could each only offer up five books for the list and at least three of those had to come from our area of specialization. So, the list is idiosyncratic in the best sense of the word: each of us struggled individually to identify the five books we thought it most essential for you to read while in college. The books that emerged from those individual choices became “The List.”


We hope you will take the challenge to read these books along with us! 

  • Anyone who completes 5 works from The List receives an English Department mug.
  • When you complete 10 works, you receive an exclusive List mug. 
  • Complete 20 works, you receive an exclusive List tote bag. 
  • Finish 30 works from the list, we will buy you a copy of your favorite work from The List and inscribe it, and then invite you at the end of the year to join us at a literary salon where we discuss these wonderful works. 
  • If you read all 41 of the books from this list while at Wittenberg, you get to make a difficult choice yourself: you get to choose your own essential work of literature to add to The List.

    Here's how the challenge works:

  • Sign up in the English department office (Hollenbeck 102) if you want to take the challenge. You have your college years to complete the list. If you want to print an alphabetized list to check off as you go,, or if you want one divided by professor as below, - you can also pick either one up in the office when you sign up for the challenge.
  • When you finish reading a work of literature from the list, pick up a slip from the English department office to fill out with your name and the title of the book.
  • Take that slip with you and talk with the professor who recommended the book (or with one of the alternate professors if any are listed for that title) about what you found most interesting about the work, and get their signature on your completion slip. Return the slip to the English department office.
  • Keep track of your progress on The (check)List and come to the English Department office to redeem your rewards as you reach each benchmark.
  • To find the book in the Thomas Library/EZRA or through OhioLink, click the book title. 

To see the 2018-2020 version of The List, .
To see the 2015-2018 version of The List, .
To see the 2013-2014 version of The List, .

The List

Note: While you should try to meet with the professor who chose the book for The List, many titles have alternate professors (listed parenthetically after the author) with whom you may also meet to discuss and earn credit for completing the work.

Dr. Lori Askeland

 My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass 

 A Room of One's OwnVirginia Woolf (Fallon, Hinson, Mattison, Richards)

 Moby-DickHerman Melville (Hinson, Mattison, Starr)

 Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (Hinson, Richards, Starr)

 The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X with Alex Haley


Professor Andy Graff

 Cathedral, Raymond Carver (Hinson, Starr)

 Hatchet, Gary Paulsen

 True Grit, Charles Portis (Hinson)

 Remarkably Bright Creatures, Shelby Van Pelt

 Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor (Askeland, Hinson)


Dr. John Gulledge

 Othello, William Shakespeare (Hinson, Richards, Starr)

 The Alchemist, Ben Jonson (Richards)

 Hero & Leander, Christopher Marlowe

 The Blazing World, Margaret Cavendish (Richards)

 Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais (Hinson)


Professor D'Arcy Fallon

 Slouching Towards BethlehemJoan Didion (Mattison)

 The Things They CarriedTim O'Brien (Hinson, Mattison, Richards, Starr)

 The Boys of My YouthJo Ann Beard

 The UndertakingThomas Lynch (Mattison)

 A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual SubstanceBrian Doyle


Dr. Scot Hinson

 GileadMarilynne Robinson (Askeland, Graff)

 The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (Askeland, Richards, Starr)

 Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (Askeland, Fallon, Mattison, Starr)

 The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (Askeland, Starr)

 Ulysses, James Joyce (Gulledge, Mattison)


Dr. Michael Mattison

 Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby

 Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (Hinson)

 Ohio, Stephen Markley

 Wittgenstein's Mistress (or Reader's Block), David Markson 

 What the F---, Benjamin Bergen


Dr. Cynthia Richards

 Clarissa (Broadview abridged), Samuel Richardson (Gulledge)

 Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne (Askeland, Gulledge)

 Evelina, Frances Burney (Gulledge)

 The Letters of John Keats (Gulledge)

 OroonokoAphra Behn (Gulledge)


Dr. Marlo Starr

 Zong!, Marlene NourbeSe Philip

 Whereas, Layli Long Soldier

 Look, Solmaz Sharif

 The Unconsoled, Kazuo Ishiguro

 Milkman, Anna Burns


Jordan Hildebrandt

 Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott [Mr. Hildebrandt is the first student to complete The List, reading 75 books, May 2012] (Mattison)

To read about Jordan's experience completing The List, 

To see the 2013-2014 List, 

To see the 2015-2018 List, 

To see the 2018-2020 List, 

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