How Do You Teach Work Ethic? Plus a Reading List

I’ve got two items to share today; one is a question, the other a book list.

First, the question: How do you teach students the value of working hard? There are two ways students can measure themselves in my class:

  1. Their grade
  2. Whether or not they have done their best and are actually pushing themselves to learn.

How do you build #2 into a student? How do you impart the value of hard work, of pushing yourself to ceaselessly grow? Whether students are Christian or not, this work ethic will serve them well. If they are Christian, especially, this is obeying God’s call to “work at [whatever you do] with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

I’d love to hear what anyone in the blogosphere has to say about that question.

Second, toward the beginning of Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris tell of a day when their dad came home with a stack of books for them to read:

This list has me thinking that it would be fun to hand these to an independent study student and ask them to tell me what they make of them.


Book Lists: Time Magazine’s Top 100 Modern English-speaking Novels

I’ve mentioned this blogger once or twice before, and again I want to shout him out: Robert Bruce over at 101 books. He is undertaking the task of reading Time‘s  Top 100 English-speaking Novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses). May his journey be blessed, and may we all take the time to read at least a few on the list that we haven’t yet.

As a Christian, an English teacher, and a bibliophile, I enjoy books lists a lot. Check out the Time List below:

Time Magazine‘s Top 100 English-Speaking Novels Since 1923
*Books in bold indicate already read.
  • The Adventures of Augie March (1953) by Saul Bellow
  • All the King’s Men (1946) by Robert Penn Warren
  • American Pastoral (1997) by Philip Roth
  • An American Tragedy (1925) by Theodore Dreiser
  • Animal Farm (1946) by George Orwell
  • Appointment in Samarra (1934) by John O’Hara
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970) by Judy Blume
  • The Assistant (1957) by Bernard Malamud
  • At Swim-Two-Birds (1938) Flann O’ Brien
  • Atonement (2002) by Ian McEwan
  • Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison
  • The Berlin Stories (1946) by Christopher Isherwood
  • The Big Sleep (1939) by Raymond Chandler
  • The Blind Assassin (2000) by Margaret Atwood (College)
  • Blood Meridian (1986) by Cormac McCarthy
  • Brideshead Revisited (1946) by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) by Thornton Wilder
  • Call it Sleep (1935) by Henry Roth
  • Catch 22 (1961) by Joseph Heller  (College)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger (College)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1963) by Anthony Burgess
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) by William Styron
  • The Corrections (2001) by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) by Thomas Pynchon
  • A Dance to the Music of Time (1951) by Anthony Powell
  • The Day of the Locust (1939) by Nathanael West
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) by Willa Cather
  • A Death in the Family (1958) by James Agee
  • The Death of the Heart (1958) by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Deliverance (1970) by James Dickey
  • Dog Soldiers (1974) by Robert Stone
  • Falconer (1977) by John Cheever
  • The French Lieutenant’s (1969) by John Fowles
  • The Golden Notebook (1962) by Doris Lessing
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953) by James Baldwin
  • Gone With The Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck (High School)
  • Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon
  • The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald (College)
  • A Handful of Dust (1935) by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers
  • The Heart of the Matter (1948) by Graham Greene
  • Herzog (1964) by Saul Bellow
  • Housekeeping (1981) by Marilynne Robinson
  • A House for Mr. Biswas (1962) by V.S. Naipaul
  • I, Claudius (1934) by Robert Graves
  • Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace
  • Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison
  • Light in August (1932) by William Faulkner
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S. Lewis (Childhood)
  • Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Lord of the Flies (1955) by William Golding (College)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1954) by J.R.R. Tolkien (Multiple Times)
  • Loving (1945) by Henry Green
  • Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis
  • The Man Who Loved Children (1940) by Christina Stead
  • Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie
  • Money (1984) by Martin Amis
  • The Moviegoer (1964) by Walker Percy
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf
  • Naked Lunch (1959) by William Burroughs
  • Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright
  • Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson
  • Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • 1984 (1948) by George Orwell (High School)
  • On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) by Ken Kesey
  • The Painted Bird (1965) by Jerzy Kosinski
  • Pale Fire (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov
  • A Passage to India (1924) by E.M. Forster
  • Play It As It Lays (1970) by Joan Didion
  • Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) by Philip Roth
  • Possession (1990) by A.S. Byatt
  • The Power and the Glory (1939) by Graham Greene
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark
  • Rabbit, Run (1960) by John Updike
  • Ragtime (1975) E.L. Doctorow
  • The Recognitions (1955) by William Gaddis
  • Red Harvest (1929) by Dashiell Hammett
  • Revolutionary Road (1961) by Richard Yates
  • The Sheltering Sky (1949) by Paul Bowles
  • Slaughterhouse Five (1969) by Kurt Vonnegut (College)
  • Snow Crash (1992) by Neal Stephenson
  • The Sot-Weed Factor (1960) by John Barth
  • The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner
  • The Sportswriter (1986) by Richard Ford
  • The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1964) by John Le Carre
  • The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston (College)
  • Things Fall Apart (1959) by Chinua Achebe (High School)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee (Nov. ’10)
  • To The Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf
  • Tropic of Cancer (1934) by Henry Miller
  • Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick
  • Under the Net (1954) by Iris Murdoch
  • Under the Volcano (1947) by Malcom Lowry
  • Watchmen (1986) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  • White Noise (1985) by Don DeLillo
  • White Teeth (2000) by Zadie Smith
  • Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) Jean Rhys

 It would be really interesting to read these books, discern the worldview behind each, and analyzie how our contemporary culture has been shaped by these novels.

Article Notes — “Confessions of a Bibliophile,” by Keith Mathison

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bibliophile is “A lover of books; a book-fancier.” Although this is a helpful definition, I’m not entirely sure I want to refer to myself as a “fancier” of anything. I’m from Texas. We either like something or we don’t. We don’t “fancy” things. It’s…unnatural.

So starts a brief, thoughtful look at one Christian bibliophile’s thoughts on what it means to love reading books. In “Confessions of a Bibliophile,” by Keith Mathison, I found two things particularly helpful and encouraging:

  • First, Mathison points out that it’s impossible to read all books. Ecclesiastes 12:12–“Of making many books there is no end.” How, then, shall we choose which books to read? Up until now, I have made those decisions largely based on my own interests, my book review stack, and upon several reading lists (primarily those of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Desiring God, and John Piper). However, Mathison has got me thinking about just what a large proportion of what I read comes from my review stack, and from books that are new. Do I place too much of an emphasis on newness in choosing books to read? I suspect so.
  • Second, Mathison wisely concludes with a warning about how easily our bookshelves can transform into little houses for idols. “All the reading in the world, if it does not ultimately promote our love of Christ and our brethren, is nothing but futility.” Amen.