All the Texts

This is our list of 100 transformative texts that faculty representing 12 different institutions have identified as meaningful for discussion-based academic engagement at community colleges. The list we present is not intended to be monolithic but reflective of the reaching landscape of texts that raise these important questions across the human quest for the good life.

  • H
  • Hayy Ibn Yaqzan


  • How We Fight For Our Lives


  • If Not Winter/Fragments of Sappho


  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl


  • J
  • Jatak Tales
  • Journey to The West


  • K
  • Kreutzer Sonata


  • L
  • Leaves of Grass


  • Leviathan


  • Love in The Time of Cholera


  • Lysistrata


  • M
  • Macbeth


  • Mahabharata / Bhagavad Gita
  • Mama Day


  • Medea


  • Meditations


  • Metaphysics of Morals


  • Montress


  • N
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


  • Never Let Me Go


  • O
  • Odyssey


  • On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy

    Rushd, Ibn (Averroes)

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich


  • One Thousand and One Nights
  • P
  • Parable of The Sower


  • Paradise Lost


  • Parallel Lives (Selections)


  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed


  • Peloponnesian War


  • Phenomenology of Spirit


  • Poems


  • P
  • Poems


  • Pride and Prejudice


  • Prince


  • R
  • Republic


  • S
  • Salvage the Bones


  • Second Discourse


  • Second Treatise on Government


  • Selected Poems


  • Selected Poems


  • Selected Speeches and Essays


  • Song of Solomon


  • Sonny's Blues


  • Souls of Black Folk

    W.E.B. DuBois

  • Selected Stories


  • Symposium


  • T
  • Tao Te Ching

    Laozi (Lao Tzu)

  • The Analects


  • The Awakening


  • The Color Purple


  • The Elements


  • The Federalist Papers


  • The Fire Next Time


  • The Metamorphosis


  • The Rihala


  • The Story of an African Farm


  • Their Eyes Were Watching God


  • Things Fall Apart


  • To the Lighthouse


  • True History of the Kelly Gang


  • U,W
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being


  • Utilitarianism


  • Wealth of Nations


  • White Teeth


Explore the available Text Guides

Below you'll find content to support the discussion-based study of the texts on our list. We are working on pages like these for each of the 100 texts above. Please come back soon to see our progress!

mary wollstonecraft a vindication of the rights of woman

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

In A Vindication, Wollstonecraft asks questions that are part of the human experience. How does who I am affect how I am viewed in the world in which I live? What has shaped others’ understanding...

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The Complete Greek Tragedies, 3rd edition. Ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. Trans. Elizabeth Wyckoff


Antigone confronts the audience with the questions- is what is legal always what is just? Creon’s law denies Polyneices a basic burial rite. It is illegal to break this law, but Antigone makes the case...

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Audre Lorde, Selected Works of Audre Lorde. Ed. Roxanne Gay. Norton, New York

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde praises, rages, turns a critical eye, desires. The poems are relentless in their observations of Black lives and loves. Lorde was a cultural observer who spoke passionately about the oppressive structures of race,...

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Beloved by toni morrison


Beloved is a powerful novel. Upon finishing it, one student looked up and said, “I love this novel.” Perhaps the reason this student loved the novel so much is its insistence on the capacity for...

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gloria anzaldúa borderlands

Borderlands / La Frontera

This can be an intimidating text, especially for the non-Spanish speaker. Ask students to observe how they respond to the shift between Spanish and English throughout the text. Anzaldúa’s flow between languages is more than...

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Changes: A Love Story Ama Ata Aidoo

Changes: A Love Story

This is a story about modern African women and their frustration at the status quo where women’s rights are concerned. At the heart of the story is Esi, an educated woman, unhappily married woman, and...

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Augustine's Confessions


Although much of the narrative of the Confessions happens during Augustine’s time in Italy, this book, so undeniably central to the western canon, is by a writer who was born, grew up, and spent the...

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Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky stands among the great Russian novelists and world writers. In his characters, the reader encounters the complexity of human thought and desire, the quest for understanding ourselves, and the perennial questions that mark human...

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Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Published by The Library of America, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1931082549

Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America allows students to grapple with complexities and paradoxes associated with democracy and democratic government. Furthermore, Democracy in America allows students to explore how democracy has changed in the United...

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Emily Dickinson selected poems

Dickinson Selected Poems

In her imagery and in her diction, Dickinson captures the questioning nature of the human experience in her poetry. She grapples with questions of love, death, and eternity in a brutally honest way. Her poems...

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Don Quixote

Don Quixote

Don Quixote is often called the first novel. Despite the humor that suffuses the tale, it is a serious and even a tragic work. The laughter the novel provokes, and the distance combined with affection...

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Packer, ZZ. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Riverhead Books. 2003

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

It is impossible to come away from these stories not realizing the trauma of growing up black and female in Packer’s world. The stories resonate with the complexities of race, gender, and class and the...

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Dubliners, Vintage Classics, New York


These stories can introduce students to the Joycean epiphany, the moment at the end of the stories when a profound truth gets revealed to the characters. At the end of “A Painful Case,” Mr. Duffy...

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Fences August Wilson


Fences is a book about inevitability of change and adaptability. It’s about the choices we make when faced with the inevitable. But Troy is also a man in progress. His failings are human failings. It...

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Frankenstein- Or the Modern Prometheus Mary Shelley


Few students will not encounter Frankenstein without some preconceptions, as the character of the creature (if not the story itself) is ubiquitous. But popular culture versions of the story often exaggerate the monstrosity of the...

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Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals

Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals

Kant is notoriously difficult to read and, although it was intended for a more general audience than some of his other works, the Grounding is no exception. Still, the overall goal – to find one,...

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Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Dover Thrift Edition

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

"Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl" addresses the particular issues of being a woman and a slave. Few slave narratives focus on these specific details. Jacobs is writing early Black feminism and bringing...

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Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”

Letter From a Birmingham Jail

In addition to its transformative impact on the civil rights movement, King’s speech also grapples with a timeless human question: is it just to disobey an unjust law? How do you overcome and end oppression?...

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Lincoln-Douglas Debate 7

Lincoln Douglas Debate 7

Lincoln-Douglas Debate 7 highlights the problems that confronted American society on the eve of the Civil War. By 1858, issues over slavery, both the immorality of the institution as well as its possible expansion, had...

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Love in The Time of Cholera

This novel is about Love and all its itinerant forms. Unrequited love. Platonic love. Romantic Love. Parental love. Forbidden love. It is about obsession and rejection. It is about the enduring nature of love and...

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This text raises very directly questions about the role of women in society, about the place of war, and about the role of sexual desire both in individual relationships and in relation to the state....

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Clark, Sandra, and Pamela Mason, eds. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Arden Shakespeare, 3rd series. Bloomsbury, 2015


Does Macbeth kill Duncan because he is fated to do so, or because he was tempted to do so? Would he have killed Duncan of his own free will without the influence of others? Why...

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Mama Day Gloria Naylor

Mama Day

Mama Day explores the concept of home in multiple ways, and in ways that the reader may not be expecting. This novel unlocks the way we think about home, and then forces us to transcend...

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Euripides, Medea


This is a short, riveting text that takes students directly to topics about human nature in extremity – questions of passion, the relationship between love and hatred, justice and the most severe vengeance extending even...

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The Metamorphosis is about human suffering and is a perfect novella to introduce students to Kafka’s work. While the story can be disorienting in the beginning, as the reader progresses, they can relate to Gregor’s...

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Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Dover Thrift, ed.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" is the story of humanity. One goal of the slave narrative was to assert the African’s humanity. Douglass’ narrative addresses the important question what it means to be...

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The Odyssey Homer


Discussing The Odyssey is a productive way to begin an undergraduate education. Many first-year students see themselves in Telemachus, who is struggling to find his identity and to establish himself in the world as an...

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F.H.T. Willetts translation, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1991 (ISBN 978-0374534684)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

This book was transformational upon publication because of the way in which it exposed the harsh reality of the lives of even unexceptional political prisoners in the huge system of camps that made up the...

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Plutarch Parallel Lives

Parallel Lives (Selections)

Caesar is a truly compelling character, whose career brought Rome almost to the pinnacle of its power, but also brought about the end of the republic and the beginning of empire. Through the prism of...

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Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

There are many timeless questions addressed in this text. Part of the human experience is learning how to read the world around you, and to make decisions about relationships. Who is truthful, who is deceitful?...

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The Republic is a book of liberation and transformation. According to Dr. Simon Blackburn, “If any books change the world, Republic has a good claim to first place.” The Republic is the foundational text of...

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Salvage the Bones Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones is one of those texts that force the reader to see the world on the other side of their comfort zone. Esch is unflinching in her observations, forcing the reader to go...

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Anne Carson, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Vintage Books, New York


Using Sappho is a way to bring into the classroom themes around beauty, longing, loss and subjectivity. There are a number of ways to approach this text. One way would be to situate students in...

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Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon, Vintage International, New York

Song of Solomon

Complex characters sit at the center of every Toni Morrison novel. She creates all her characters, these flawed and human people, the admirable and disreputable characters, with great empathy and love, and we as readers...

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“Sonny’s Blues” is also included in Baldwin’s story collection Going to Meet the Man, Vintage International, New York

Sonny’s Blues

The emotional lives of these characters is the story’s most immediate concern and the text takes seriously the question of how we endure loss. As well, it is impossible to understand these characters fully without...

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Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching

The Dao De Jing is attributed to Laozi, translated as “The Old Master,” a possibly fictitious legendary contemporary of Confucius. As such, the Dao De Jing is a response to Confucianism and its emphasis on...

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Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers

The arguments of Publius are alive today. In 1821, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote of The Federalist Papers, “It is a complete commentary on our constitution; and is appealed to by all parties in the...

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The Fire Next Time is a book about hate. The arc of these essays is about race, but more importantly, these essays are about hate and its destructive power. As first and second year students...

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Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Amistad (an imprint of Harper Collins)

Their Eyes Were Watching God

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is an epic feminist manifesto. But it also appeals to anyone who is in search of who they are. In this era of the “authentic self” this novel is a...

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Things Fall Apart_Achebe, Chinua

Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo is a man among men. Raised by a “weak” father, he is determined to undo the legacy of laziness his father left behind. Okonkwo works hard, has the best farm in the land, many...

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Zadie Smith, White Teeth, Vintage International, New York

White Teeth

Smith tackles major issues around race, culture, history and the influence of science and religion with humor and humanity. There are many questions and few answers in the novel. Through her characters and their complicated...

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Kristin Dorsey


Associate Professor of Humanities/English at Central Oregon Community College

Andrea Fabrizio

Andrea Fabrizio

New York

Chair/Associate Professor of English at Hostos Community College

Ted Hadzi-Antich Jr.

Ted Hadzi-Antich Jr.


Associate Professor of Government at Austin Community College & Executive Director of The Great Questions Foundation

Richard Hardesty

Richard Hardesty


Adjunct Professor of History, American Studies, and Sports Studies at Anne Arundel Community College

Danny Hoey

Danny Hoey


Dean of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at Gavilan College

Emily Langston

Emily Langston


Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at St. John’s College


Angie Lohr


Adjunct Instructor of Humanities at Portland Community College

Holly Messitt

New York

Associate Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College

Jacob Mills

Jacob Mills


Professor of Philosophy at Houston Community College

Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson


Professor of English and Director of the Great Books Program at Wright College, Chicago


Anisha Saxena

New York

Assistant Professor of Social Science and Philosophy at Onondaga Community College

Gayle Williamson

Gayle Williamson


Associate Professor of English at Cuyahoga Community College