MVLA > Los Altos High School > Academics > English > English Dept. Course Readings


[ Freshmen ] [ Sophomores ] [ Juniors ] [ Seniors ] [ Film Analysis ] [ Global Connections ] [ Creative Views ]

Listed below are the major texts assigned and films shown in English classes at Los Altos High School.  You will probably recognize some of the titles from your own reading and viewing while others may be new to you.


The literary works we have selected deal with a range of human experience, insight and values. In making literary selections, we consider the difficulty of a text or film in terms of its vocabulary, sentence/cinematic structure and style, its thematic connection to the lives of students at Los Altos, and its place in literary and cinematic history.  We ask ourselves: Will this book or film challenge the strongest readers/viewers yet be accessible to the weaker readers/viewers?  Does this book or film model the kind of writing we would like students to emulate? Are there experiences and themes in this book or film which students can see in their own lives or in the world around them?   Will this work broaden the students' cultural, intellectual and psychological horizons?


Considerable educational research has shown that extensive reading is the single most important factor in determining a student's long-term educational success.  A direct correlation exists for almost every student: Extensive reading leads to educational success, while limited reading leads to educational difficulty.  In addition, good readers write better, have better vocabularies and are typically more knowledgeable in subjects beyond English.

You and your student should know that English teachers will expect 80-100 pages of reading each week, typically 20 pages each school night. Honors and A.P. classes typically require 120-200 pages of reading each week.


We encourage you to read the texts and view the films listed.  Doing so sends an important message to our students about the importance of reading and the class work we do.  We hope that you will enjoy revisiting works that you read as a high school student and that you will find some unfamiliar gems in the newer fiction.

Contact your student's English teacher to confirm which of these texts he or she will be assigning and which films will be shown over the course of this year. 

If you feel that a text or film is inappropriate for your son or daughter you may request an alternate assignment. As noted, some films may have an "R" rating. Contact your son’s or daughter’s English teacher, in writing or via email, if you would like an alternative assignment for a specific text or for any or all “R” rated films.

Survey of Composition and Literature (Freshmen)




Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, The House on Mango Street by Cisneros, To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury

Students will read literature of their own choosing during the "Reading/Writing Workshop" for approximately six weeks.

Examples of films that may be shown:
Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet (both Zefferelli and Luhrman), Shakespeare in Love (selected scenes) (R),El Norte, Eyes on the Prize (selections), Stand by Me (R) (language), Mi Familia (R) (adult themes, brief nudity, language), The Deep End of the Ocean

World Literature and World Literature Honors (Sophomores)

World Literature: Bless Me, Ultima by Anaya, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Sijie, All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque, Things Fall Apart by Achebe 

Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction


Students will read literature of their own choosing during the "Reading/Writing Workshop" 


World Literature Honors: A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Sijie, Nectar in a Sieve by Markandaya , Like Water for       Chocolate by Esquivel, Cry the Beloved County by Paton, Master Harold and the Boys by Fugard, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, The Kite Runner by Hosseini

Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction

Students will read literature of their own choosing during the "Reading/Writing Workshop"

Examples of films that may be shown:
All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory, Platoon (R) (language, violence), Finding Forrester

American Literature and Advanced Placement Language and Composition (Juniors)

The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston, The Diary of Frederick Douglass, The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman by Miller, East of Eden by Steinbeck, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Kesey, The Joy Luck Club by Tan, 50 Essays—A Portable Anthology

Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction

Examples of films that may be shown:
Cool Hand Luke, Dead Poets Society, Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter (excerpts)

English Literature (Seniors)

Siddhartha, by Hesse, Antigone, by Sophocles, Invisible Man, by Ellison, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Fadiman, Macbeth, by Shakespeare


Book circles possible choices include: Catch-22, by Heller, Beloved, by Morrison, Handmaid's Tale by Atwood, Kaffir Boy by Mathabane, Brave New World by Huxley, Obasan by Kogawa Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction


Examples of films that may be shown:

Ellison (biography), Strange Fruit, Split Horn, Macbeth

Film Analysis (Seniors)



The Art of Watching Films by Bogs and Petrie as well as many articles from contemporary journals. Films (whole films and excerpts) such as The Stunt Man, The Player, Pulp Fiction, The Gold Rush, It Happened One Night, Casablanca, On the Waterfront, The Graduate, Annie Hall, Raging Bull, American Beauty, Citizen Kane, Man with a Movie Camera, Nanook of the North, Triumph of the Will, Thin Blue Line, Lessons of Darkness, Bowling for Columbine, The Bicycle Thief, The 400 Blows, Amores Perros, Salaam Bombay, City of God, selected short films and others.

Some films have an “R” rating. Please contact the teacher if you have concerns about your student viewing any particular film.

Global Connections (Seniors)

Kaffir Boy by Mathabane, Night by Wiesel, two student-selected non-fiction texts.

Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction

Examples of films that may be shown:
Return to Paradise, Nuremberg, The Power of One, ,Crimson Tide, Truth and Reconciliation, A Few Good Men

Advanced Placement Literature and Composition (Seniors)

Great Expectations, by Dickens Pride and Prejudice by Austen Dubliners by Joyce, As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, Beloved by Morrison, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Fadiman. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky Invisible Man by Ellison Native Son by Wright Catch-22, by Heller Hamlet, by Shakespeare


Poetry, short stories, news articles, and essays will also be assigned. In addition, substantial independent reading is required for the senior project.

Creative Views I, II, III

Drown by Diaz, Running by Rodriguez,Parrot in the Oven by Martinez

Selected short stories, poetry and non-fiction

Examples of films that may be shown:
Malcolm X, Eyes on the Prize, Crooklyn, Do the Right Thing,