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AP English Literature: Recommended Reading for the AP Test


These reading recommendations for the AP English test are categorized into 6 literary styles, each listing major authors and their works. As an Advanced Placement English student looking to excel, you understand the importance of careful planning and organization, even when considering options to pay for an essay online to supplement your learning resources.

Your English teacher is not given a standard curriculum to follow; therefore, he/she must offer the best materials that will teach and challenge you in both literary analysis and composition. Preparing for the AP English exam requires exposure to and knowledge of a wide selection of literature covering many periods, styles, and genres.

Suggested Reading List to Achieve High Scores on the AP Literature Exam

The following reading list will help you review your literary background assisting you in measuring your strengths and weaknesses. Further, it breaks down six major literary writing styles helping you to organize your studies both chronologically and thematically. Note: the following list contains authors/works that qualify for the literary style, but a few of the authors were around before the movement/era came about.

Classicism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The classical writer shows clarity, objectivity, structure, noble ideas, dignified language, universality, and/or restraint in his/her works.

Recommended authors and works

  • Homer: The Iliad; The Odessey

  • The Bible: "Genesis"; "Exodus"; "Matthew"

  • Sophocles: Antigone; Oedipus Trilogy

  • Euripides: Medea

  • Aristotle: "On Memory and Reminiscence"

  • Plato: "The Apology"

  • Moliere: The Misantrope

  • Racine: Phaedra

  • John Milton: Paradise Lost

  • Alexander Pope: "An Essay on Man"

  • Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels (Satire)

  • Voltaire: Candide (Satire)

Realism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The realistic writer shows psychological elements, objectivity, detail, truth, portrayal of characters, and a lack of sentimentality in his/her works.

Recommended authors and works

  • Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

  • Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment

  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

  • Chekov: The Cherry Orchard

  • Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls; The Sun Also Rises

  • Ibsen: A Doll's House; Hedda Gabler

  • Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Magical Realism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: These writers show characteristics that move between the objective world and the fantasy world.

Recommended authors and works

  • Laura Esquivel: Like Water for Chocolate

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude

  • Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis (style fits both magical and expressionism)

Romanticism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The romantic writer shows focus on the individual, mystery and the supernatural, spontaneity, idealism and dreams, freedom and renewal, power of nature, passion, emotion, and imagination in his/her works.

Recommended authors and works

  • Anonymous: Beowulf

  • Boccaccio: The Decameron

  • Cervantes: Don Quixote

  • Shakespeare: Hamlet; King Lear; Sonnets

  • Robert Burns: "A Red, Red Rose"

  • Goethe: Faust; The Sorrows of Young Werther

  • Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter; "Twice Told Tales"

  • Bronte: Jane Eyre

  • William Blake: "The Chimney Sweep"

  • William Wordsworth: "I Wondered Lonely As a Cloud"

  • Hugo: Les Miserables

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

  • Lord Byron: "She Walks in Beauty"; "Sonnet on Chillon"

  • Percy Bysshe Shelley: "Ode to the West Wind"

  • John Keats: "Ode to a Nightingale"; "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson

  • Robert Browning: "Pippa's Song"

Impressionism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The impressionist writer shows emotions and feelings, vagueness, ambiguity, emphasizes color, light, mood, and appeals to the senses.

Recommended authors and works

  • Henry James: The Turn of the Screw; The Europeans; The American

  • Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

  • Katherine Mansfield: "The Little Governess"; "Bliss"

  • Kate Chopin: The Awakening

Expressionism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The expressionist writer shows subjectivity, symbols, man vs. society, abstract ideas, and mysticism in his/her works.

  • Recommended authors and works

  • James Joyce: Dubliners; Portrait of an Artist

  • Eugene O'Neill: The Iceman Cometh

  • T.S. Eliot: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

  • Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis; The Trial

Naturalism: Literature and Authors

Characteristics: The naturalist writer is concerned with facts and details, social reform, extreme realism, and man as an animal in society.

Recommended authors and works

  • Tennessee Williams: The Glass Menagerie; A Street Car Named Desire; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

  • Frank Norris: The Octopus

  • Stephen Crane: Maggie, A Girls of the Streets

  • Upton Sinclair: The Jungle

Other Literary Styles

Absurdist  – authors often show a realm of fractured reality in their writing; it is based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless (Albert Camus' The Stranger; The Plague).

Existentialist  – writers show a concern with man's alienation;

Symbolist – writers reach out beyond romanticism to employ symbols and evocative suggestions in place of direct statements. For a comprehensive exploration of this literary technique, consider consulting essay writing services that offer in-depth explanations and interpretations.

Approaches to Preparing for the AP English Exam

Taking on an AP English class is a big challenge, and it is best approached with dedication and structure. You can get your highest exam score by following these steps to build a strong platform:

  • develop your study plan

  • gain the knowledge

  • practice your skills

  • implement the strategies

  • maintain your confidence

Familiarizing yourself with these authors' writing styles as well as the suggested literary works will empower you to be successful in your AP English class. Furthermore, reviewing, practicing, and mastering your reading, writing, and research skills will give you the best chance to get your highest score on the AP English Exam.

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