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English Language and Literature

A Level Language and Literature

Recommended Reading

(To stretch you, enhance your learning and broaden your literary horizons…)

General wider reading


  •  Homer  ‘The Odyssey’ and ‘The Illiad’   (the ultimate Greek adventure)
  •  Austen, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Emma’, ‘Northanger Abbey’  (The most accessible Austens)
  •  Dickens, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Short Stories’, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’
  •   Woolf, ‘Orlando’, ‘To the Lighthouse’, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ (Get to grips with Modern Stream of Consciousness)
  •  Perkins Gilman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (Unnerving novella about mental breakdown)
  •  Hawthorne, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ (Early American novel - adultery and redemption)
  •  Bronte, C, ‘Jane Eyre’ (Early feminist bildingsroman)
  •  Bronte, E, ‘Wuthering Heights’ (Classic gothic love-story.  Great for understanding narrative)
  •  Stoker, ‘Dracula’ (The one with the blood sucking vampire…)
  •  Hardy,  ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (Bridging the Victorian novel and the modern, sad and beautiful novels)
  •  Wilde, ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ (Oh the price of wanting to stay young….)
  •  Collins, ‘The Moonstone’, ‘The Woman in White’  (Late Victorian mysteries)
  •  Ed. Heaney, ‘Beowulf’ (one of the earliest recorded written stories)
  •  Du Maurier, ‘Rebecca’ (Gothic novel)


Classics (some more modern ones…)

  •   Orwell, ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’  and ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ (British political novels)
  •  Huxley, ‘Brave New World’ (Influential novel set in a dystopian future)
  •  Greene, ‘Brighton Rock’  (Gang violence in Brighton)
  •  Golding, ‘Lord of the Flies’ (Classic story of what happens when a bunch of boys become stranded…)
  •  Twain, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, ‘Tom Sawyer’ (Early American stories of childhood)
  •  Atwood, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘The Testaments’ and ‘Alias Grace’ 
  •  Hosseini, ‘The Kite Runner’ (Growing up in 1970s Afghanistan - terrifyingly brilliant)
  •  Barker, ‘Regeneration’ (First in trilogy about WWI)
  •  Nabokov, ‘Lolita’ (beautiful writing, unpleasant narrative voice…)
  •  Joyce, ‘Portrait of the Artist’, ‘Dubliners’ (classic Irish fiction)
  •  Tartt, ‘The Secret History’, ‘The Goldfinch’ (Disturbing and enthralling American novels)
  •  D H Lawrence, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ (infamously sexual content….)


Course specific


Stoker, ‘Dracula’ (familiarise yourself with Gothic style)

Lewis, ‘The Monk’ (unnerving, horrible yet fun Gothic horror)

Walpole, ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (more Gothic, this one is credited as the prototype of its kind)

Wollstonecraft, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ (Shelley’s mother and a fierce activist)

Godwin, ‘Caleb Williams’ (Shelley’s father - also a radical political voice of the period)


All My Sons (for 2021)

Steinbeck, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ (good for American Dream…)

Tennessee Williams, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’


The Great Gatsby

Conrad, ‘Heart of Darkness’ (hugely influenced FSF)

TS Eliot, ‘The Wasteland’ (a tricky poem, but an important text from the early C20th that influenced FSF)

Henry James, ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (Early C20th American writer - an unnerving ‘ghost’ story)


Othello (for 2022)

Bradley, AC ‘Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth’

Heilman, ‘Magic in the Web: Action and Language in Othello’

Ed. Honigman, ‘Othello’ Arden Shakespeare (the introduction to the Arden edition is excellent)


Recasting texts

Bronte, ‘Jane Eyre’ with Rhys ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ 

Austen, ‘‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Baker, ‘Longbourn’ 

Woolf, “Mrs Dalloway’ with Cunningham, ‘The Hours’

Carter, ‘The Bloody Chamber’ (excellent retelling of classic fairy tales)

De France, ‘The Lais of Marie de France’ (translations of medieval French poems which turn the tradition of ‘fairy tales’ on their head)

De Voragine, ‘The Golden Legend’ (retelling of the female Saints stories - some gory bits so be warned!)



  •  Chaucer, ‘The General Prologue’
  •  Blake, ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’
  •  Coleridge, ‘The Ancient Mariner’, ‘Kubla Khan’
  •  Wordsworth, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, ‘We are Seven’ ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’
  •  Shelley, ‘To Wordsworth’ (shows how the Romantic poets would interact with each other through their work and be inspired by each other - links to Browning’s ‘The Lost Leader’)
  •  Byron, ‘Don Juan’
  •  Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’
  •  Thomas, ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’
  •   Rossetti, C, ‘Remember’
  •  Toomer, ‘Cane’ including ‘The Harvest Song’ (Harlem Renaissance literature exploring black identity)
  •  Hughes, ‘Harlem Sweeties’ (Harlem Renaissance)
  •  Hughes. T, ‘Daffodils’, ‘Birthday Letters’ (collection written to/for Sylvia Plath)
  •  Plath, ‘Morning Song’ ‘Ariel’
  •  Heaney, ‘Digging’, ‘Clearances’ ‘Beowulf’
  •  Duffy, ‘Little Red-Cap’. 


Critical essays

  •  De Beauvoir, ‘The Second Sex’ (discussion of gender politics)
  •  Bourke, ‘Dismembering the Male’ (Not as gory as it sounds...gender politics)
  •  Hornby, ‘Ten Years in the Tub’  (A memoir of reading)
  •  King, ‘On Writing: A memoir of the craft’ (By the master of horror, Stephen King)
  •  Sutherland, ‘ Lives of the Novelists: A history of fiction’
  •  Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (reflections on breaking through as a female writer)


Our Favourites

Mrs Balmer’s:


  •  Susan Black ‘All That Remains’ (about death)
  •  Caitlin Moran ‘How to be a Woman’ (not for the boys.. Or maybe it should be)
  •  RD Laing ‘Self and others (psychoanalysis for the sixties generation)
  •  Susan Showalter ‘The Female Malady’ (going mad in Literature)
  •  Tomalin ‘Samuel Pepys’ and ‘Charles Dickens’ (biography)
  •  Hermione Lee ‘Virginia Woolf’ (biography)
  •  Jung Chang ‘Wild Swans’ (amazing multigenerational story about C20th China)
  •  Beevor ‘Stalingrad’ (WW2 siege)


  •  Kingsolver ‘The Poisonwood Bible’
  •  Atkinson ‘Life after Life’ ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’
  •  Eco ‘The Name of the Rose’
  •  Mantel ‘Wolf Hall’ ‘Bring up the Bodies’
  •  Dickens ‘Bleak House’
  •  Flaubert ‘Madame Bovary’
  •  Suskind ‘Perfume’
  •  Austen ‘Persuasion’
  •  St. John Mandel ‘Station Eleven’ (great book about a Pandemic virus…)


Mr Smith’s:

  •  Eric Carle:  ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’
  • Scheffler & Donaldson: ‘The Gruffalo’
  •  George Orwell ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’
  •  Cormac McCarthy ‘Blood Meridian’
  •  Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’
  •  Tom Franklin ‘Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter’
  •  Tom Franklin ‘Hell at the Breech’
  •  Philip K. Dick ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’


Miss Hassell’s:


  •  Kay, ‘This is Going to Hurt: The Diaries of a Junior Doctor’
  •  Butler, ‘Gender Theory’
  •  Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’


  •  Walker, ‘The Color Purple’
  •  Neale-Hurston, ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’
  •  Schuyler, ‘Black No More’
  •  Honeyman, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’
  •  Alderman, ‘The Power’
  •  Hosseini, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, ‘And The Mountains Echoed’
  •  Donoghue, ‘Room’
  •  Keyes, ‘The Break’
  •  Lee, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’



  •  Heaney
  •  Wordsworth
  •  Coleridge
  •  Keats
  •  Clarke