Texts should be chosen from several genres (fiction, drama, poetry, essay, etc.) and span more than a single century. We encourage diversity of race, gender, and social background among the authors read. Although we work from a common syllabus template that includes units on nonfiction, poetry, drama, and fiction, we encourage experimentation and individuality in GEL courses. To that end, instructors will typically order 2-3 books for a GEL course.

All course books should be chosen from the File Comprehensive Book List. Note that this spreadsheet includes different sections for novels, nonfiction, and drama. The list is sortable by author, year, genre, and several other fields.

The rest of the reading can be drawn from shorter works that can be uploaded to the instructor's course website (ICON) in digital form. We have included a library of poems, short stories, and essays that teach very well, but instructors are also welcome to use these materials as inspiration and to incorporate other short pieces of their choosing. 


✷ Suggestions for Teaching Novels - Click this link to access general tips and lesson plan templates for teaching the novel form, including a section devoted to teaching long novels.

Atwood, Margaret | The Handmaid’s Tale
Austen, Jane | Pride and Prejudice
Butler, Octavia | Kindred
Card, Orson Scott | Ender’s Game
Carter, Angela | The Bloody Chamber
Cather, Willa | My Antonia
Cather, Willa | O Pioneers!
Capote, Truman | In Cold Blood
Chandler, Raymond | The Big Sleep
Collins, Wilkie | The Woman in White
Díaz, Junot | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Doctorow, Cory | Little Brother
Eugenides, Jeffrey | The Virgin Suicides
Fitzgerald, F. Scott | The Great Gatsby
Gaiman, Neil | The Sandman: Nocturnes and Preludes
Haddon, Mark | The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Harris, Charlaine | All Together Dead
Hemingway, Ernest | A Farewell to Arms
Hurston, Zora Neale | Their Eyes Were Watching God
Ishiguro, Kazuo | Never Let Me Go
James, Henry | The Turn of the Screw
Larsen, Nella | Passing
Larsen, Nella | Quicksand
Le Guin, Ursula K. | The Left Hand of Darkness
Miéville, China | The City and the City
Morrison, Toni | Beloved
O’Brien, Tim | The Things They Carried
Robinson, Marilynne | Housekeeping
Rushdie, Salman | Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Shamsie, Kamila | Kartography
Shelley, Mary | Frankenstein
Stoker, Bram | Dracula
Twain, Mark | Pudd’nhead Wilson
Vonnegut, Kurt | Slaughterhouse-Five
Wells, H.G. | The Island of Doctor Moreau
Whitehead, Colson | Zone One
Wilde, Oscar | The Picture of Dorian Gray

Short Fiction

Suggestions for Teaching Short Fiction

Alexie, Sherman | “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”
Alexie, Sherman | “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”
Atwood, Margaret | “Happy Endings”
Baldwin, James | “Sonny’s Blues”
Bierce, Ambrose | “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
Biss, Eula | Is This Kansas
Bradbury, Ray | “There Will Come Soft Rains”
Carver, Raymond | “Cathedral”
Chopin, Kate | “The Story of an Hour”
Coover, Robert | “The Babysitter”
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins | “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Faulkner, William | “A Rose for Emily”
Fitzgerald, F. Scott | “Winter Dreams”
Hemingway, Ernest | “Hills Like White Elephants”
Jackson, Shirley | “The Lottery”
Kafka, Franz | The Metamorphosis
Kincaid, Jamaica | “Girl”
Kingston, Maxine Hong | “No Name Woman”
Lahiri, Jhumpa | “Interpreter of Maladies”
Litt, Toby | “The Monster”
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia | “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”
O’Brien, Tim | "The Things They Carried"
O’Connor, Flannery | “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
O’Connor, Flannery | “The Displaced Person”
Oates, Joyce Carol | “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Orozco, Daniel | “Orientation”
Parker, Dorothy | “Big Blonde”
Poe, Edgar Allan | “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Silko, Leslie Marmon | "Lullaby"
Tolstoy, Leo | “The Death of Ivan Ilych”
Updike, John | “A&P”
Vonnegut, Kurt | “Harrison Bergeron”


Suggestions for Teaching Poetry

Looking to teach several poems that fit together? Check out these poetry clusters, organized around a central theme or historical period.

Check out PDF icon this list of "Poems People Should Read," a document created collaboratively by students and faculty in the Iowa English Department. If you would like to teach these works, most have been digitized and are available through this link

*Introduction to Poetry Lesson Plan (Conor Hilton)

Akhmatova, Anna | “Lot’s Wife”
Anonymous | “Scarborough Fair”
Atwood, Margaret | “You Fit Into Me”
Baraka, Imamu Amiri | “Ka ‘Ba”
Bishop, Elizabeth | “One Art”
Blake, William | “The Tyger”
Burns, Robert | “To a Louse”
Burns, Robert | “To a Mouse”
Carroll, Lewis | “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
Carson, Anne | “Autobiography of Red”
Collins, Billy | “Marginalia”
Doty, Mark | “Tiara”
Eliot, T. S. | “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Gray, Thomas | “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes”
Hass, Robert | “A Story About the Body”
Housman, E. | “Loveliest of Trees”
Marlowe, Christopher | “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”
The Pearl Poet | “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”
Piercy, Marge | “Barbie Doll”
Poe, Edgar Allan | “The Raven”
Pound, Ezra | “In a Station of the Metro”
Rankine, Claudia | Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
Rich, Adrienne | “Diving into the Wreck”
Roethke, Theodore | “My Papa’s Waltz”
Shelley, Percy Bysshe | “Ozymandias”
Tennyson, Alfred Lord | “Ulysses”
Williams, William Carlos | “The Red Wheelbarrow”


Suggestions for Teaching Drama

Bennett, Alan | The History Boys
Chekov, Anton | The Seagull
Edson, Margaret | Wit
Fornés, María Irena | Fefu and Her Friends
Glaspell, Susan | Trifles
Hall, Katori | Our Lady of Kibeho
Kushner, Tony | Angels in America
Marlowe, Christopher | Doctor Faustus
McDonagh, Martin | The Pillowman
Ruhl, Sarah | Eurydice
Shakespeare, William | Hamlet
Shakespeare, William | Othello
Shakespeare, William | The Tempest
Shakespeare, William | Titus Andronicus
Shakespeare, William | Twelfth Night
Smith, Anna Deavere Smith | Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities
Sophocles | Oedipus Rex
Williams, Tennessee | Streetcar Named Desire

Graphic Novels

Suggestions for Teaching Graphic Novels

Bechdel, Alison | Fun Home
Ellis, Warren | Frankenstein’s Womb
Gaiman, Neil | The Sandman
McCloud, Scott | Understanding Comics
Miller, Frank | Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Moore, Alan, & Dave Gibbons | Watchmen
Satrapi, Mariane | Persepolis
Spiegelman, Art | Maus
Wilson, G. Willow, & Adrian Alphona | Ms. Marvel


Suggestions for Teaching Non-Fiction

Capon, Robert Farrar | “On the Onion”
Didion, Joan | "At the Dam"
Didion, Joan | “On Keeping a Notebook”
Douglass, Frederick | Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Eliot, George | “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”
Jacobs, Harriet | Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself
Jefferson, Thomas | “Notes on the State of Virginia”
Moore, Lorrie | “How to Become a Writer”
Mead, Rebecca | “The Scourge of Relatability”
Smith, Zadie | "Joy"