Books Film Recommendations Teaching

A parable or a knife?

So once again, here’s the current primary-source list for my post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels course (now titled “Coming of Age at the End of the World”). I dropped 1984, but reread The Giver this week — it really is the archetypal YA dystopian, Christ imagery and abrupt ending and all.

The Giver, Lois Lowry
Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Battle Royale, Koushun Takami (film)
Feed, M. T. Anderson
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Moon, Duncan Jones (film)

I’m trying to nail down the book list so that I can submit it to the Wooster college bookstore, but I’m stuck on one final decision — whether to take out The Knife of Never Letting Go, which pairs with Riddley Walker, and swap The Parable of the Sower into its place. There are elements of TKoNLG that I’d really like to discuss, the book’s engagement with gender and masculinity being the most obvious, and I wish Parable were a little shorter (and better edited). But I think the scope of Butler’s book matches up better with the scope of Hoban’s, and I’m leaning toward including it instead. Thoughts? Opinions?

Really what I need is another month in the course so I could teach TKoNLG along with His Dark Materials (and not just because they both have knives in their titles).


  1. I’d vote for The Parable of the Sower on the general principle that more people should read it, but I haven’t read Riddley Walker, so I don’t know how well they’d play together, as it were.

  2. You couldn’t do both? How long is this course, quarter or semester? I’m just thinking most of your choices aren’t really long reads, so you wouldn’t be over stressing the reading list in that sense, but I would understand if there won’t be sufficient class time to discuss it all.

    Of course, I took at 18th century lit class in college that had us read 10 books in 10 weeks, including things like Tom Jones and Tristam Shandy. So my judgment might be off there. *g*

  3. Robyn, thanks! I think they’d work well together partly because they both deal with origin stories — Riddley Walker is set in a post-nuclear-apocalypse UK and the characters have a mythology about nuclear war that’s acted out in modified Punch and Judy shows. Should be an interesting contrast with Lauren’s Earthseed poetry.

  4. Nephele, it’s a semester course, but 1) there will be a fair amount of other secondary reading too and 2) it’s a first-year seminar for students in their first semester of college, so there needs to be enough time built into the schedule to talk about writing assignments in some detail. I’m still planning out the exact reading schedule, but I’m hesitant to overload them. Will have to think more about this!

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