Prepare for AP exam, read up!

By Rebecca Fowler
Staff Writer

With AP tests next month, students planning to take the AP Literature exam are brushing up on their book smarts—their knowledge of novels, that is. 

With a massive list of over 340 books appearing on the test at one time or another, it can be challenging and overwhelming to choose which novels to focus on during test preparation.

Luckily, you don’t have to.

For AP Literature exam takers, and even AP Language and Composition takers as well, here is a list of 10 books from the detailed “AP Suggested Reading List” on Konawaena High School’s virtual library, including how many times each book has appeared on the exam.

#10: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (Ireland)

                This challenging novel tells the story of Stephen Dedalus, a young Irish boy aspiring to be an artist but must fight against the forces of life that pull him down.  Portrait is somewhat autobiographical of Joyce’s childhood and is exceptional in that it is one of the first books to use the “stream of consciousness” writing method.  This book has been on the AP Literature Exam 12 times, most recently, in 2009.

#9: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Britain)

                This short, yet heavy novel follows seaman Marlow’s journey along the Congo River, as he discovers hearts of darkness in the central of Africa as well as in all people.  This novel goes where few do—into the evil nature of man.  Heart of Darkness first appeared on the AP exam in 1976 and has since been seen 12 times.

#8: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (America)

                The classic story of the rebellious boy, Huck Finn, and his journey up the Mississippi River has earned its way to becoming greatly loved, representative of American literature and, not surprisingly, onto the AP Literature exam many times—13, to be exact.

#7: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Russia)

                The crime.  The punishment.  And everything in between.  This lengthy but rewarding novel tells the story of Rodia Raskolnikov, a young thinker who murders an innocent woman and must discover what is truly right and wrong, the value of human life and the importance of love.  This classic has appeared on the AP exam 13 times, most recently in 2009.

#6: King Lear by William Shakespeare (Britain)

                There has to be a Shakespeare piece on this list, doesn’t there?  This play describes King Lear as he banishes a daughter who speaks out against him and never suspects that his other two praising girls are plotting against him.  King Lear has been on the exam 14 times.

#5: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (America)

                The famous tale of the great white whale, Moby-Dick, and crazed man, Ahab, seeking revenge against him ranks as No. 5 on this list, as it has been on the test 13 times.

#4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Britain)

                Finally, a romance.  This dramatic novel tells of Jane, a sweet governess who falls for her student’s mysterious father, Rochester.  The book centers on Jane’s growth from childhood to adulthood as well as Rochester’s tragic and horrifying secret.  Jane Eyre has appeared on the AP exam 15 times.

#3: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Britain)

                Passing her sister’s book by one year, Emily Brontë’s classic has appeared on the AP exam 16 times.  Her romance novel is told from three different narrators and relates the history of two homes, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and the bonds that were formed and broken between the dwellers there.

#2: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Britain)

                “It was the best of times, it was the wor…”  Wait, wrong novel.  Though Great Expectations might not have the quotable-quotes A Tale of Two Cities does, it surely does not fall short in terms of fame.  Dickens’ renowned story of Pip and his journey to find happiness and success in a confusing world has remained a classic for generations.  This novel has appeared on the exam 16 times.

#1: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (America)

                Surprisingly, the most popular novel on the AP Literature test is also one of the most modern.  Written in 1952 by African-American author, Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man is an intense, inspiring book centered around an unnamed black man’s attempt to discover his identity, despite who society tells him he is.  The man, “invisible” to those around him, must find out how to live in a white-majority city.  Invisible Man has appeared on the AP exam 21 times.

               All of these books can be found on

               The following novels have appeared on the AP test in each of the past three years:

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

All the King’s Men by Robert Warren

Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams