What Are Your Favorite Works of World Literature?

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Help! I spent most of my life reading dead, white, often-American males, and now I find myself teaching a class in world literature. Only you can prevent me from teaching The Odyssey again

I just finished teaching my first semester of world literature. We covered some familiar works–The Iliad, the Canterbury Tales, The Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as some less-taught pieces from central and southwest Asia. (Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, for instance.) But now the second semester is approaching,  we’re moving on to other far-flung parts of the world, and I need to know where to go. I’ve got a little time to read this winter, and I’m in good standing with the Memphis Public Library, so help me out!

Below are some works I might consider for teaching either in-class or as outside reading assignments. The students are in grades 11-12 and are of varied proficiencies.

What have you read? What did you like? If there is something missing from my list, please help me add it. Thanks.


Coming of Age with Elephants by Joyce Poole

Waiting for the Rain by Shelia Gordon

Southwest and South Central Asia:
Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Malgudi Days by R. K. Narayan
Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya 

East Asia and the Pacific:

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

A Healing Family by Kenzaburo Oe

Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey by Lydia Minatoya

Fire in the Sea: An Anthology of Poetry and Art (edited by Sue Cowing)

The Americas:

The Book of Medicines by Linda Hogan
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda
Selected Poems by Gabriela Mistral

4 thoughts on “What Are Your Favorite Works of World Literature?

  1. the only one I've read from this list is Siddhartha, and I really enjoyed it. I read it in college and I particularly enjoyed the lyrical storytelling aspect of it. Well, I thought it was, I'm not sure what others would think! ~Caitlin

  2. Also, while I have never read them, I have heard good things about Waiting for the Rain by Shelia Gordon and Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. Caitlin

    1. Cool. I was surprised to find many copies of "Kon-Tiki" at the library, so it must be something lots of people read. Same goes for "Waiting for the Rain," though it looks a little juvenile for my students. Thanks for the input!

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