At their heart, novels are about how people get on with one another - or fail to.
I'm not really a fan of oversimplifying literary merit by reducing it all to short lists purporting to have determined the best of the best or the worst of the worst as though individual variables among readers deserve no place in the criteria used to determine the list. Literary Reading's benefits may come in a more complex mixture that can not be so simplistically determined.
HOWEVER, it is of course interesting to be open to the values and benefits that might be engaging in books we have not read ourselves.
But this aside has actually been a digression of sorts. My real interest in this article is that it is not a list purporting to be the 10 Best Novels for preparing students for college and career or for preparing students to be globally competitive. It isn't that these "trump cards" in the current educational reform conversation aren't important. It's that there are other benefits of literary reading that are just as important, and perhaps are at times quite a bit more important than the three trump cards.
Why is it that we can not pass gun control in a country where more than 70% of the citizenry wants some serious attention paid and they/we want it NOW?
Why is it that divorce rates are so high? Child abandonment and/or abuse is so high? So many people cause so much pain and suffering because of their anger management issues? Bullying is rampant among youth?
The list is immense, but perhaps at the heart of many of our social problems is that we are so focused upon criteria directly related to future economic success and security, important as they may be, that we are avoiding / ignoring / oblivious to the proverbial elephant in the room. We may be under-valuing the importance of educating our children in the area of being humane beings with an "e."
Our focus our attention upon preparing our students with skill sets important for what they want to do professionally, for example when we place significant attention on the importance of STEM education, we may be causing a de facto "trimming of attention" to the arts, whose benefit is often more impactful in their attention to contemplating what kind of persons we want to be in our equally if not more important roles as friend, parents, spouses, neighbors, and even as co-existing neighbors at the global level.
We want our students to prepare to be good employees and productive citizens. And, developing the appropriate skill-sets for those roles should be important considerations in our curricula.
But we also ought to want to be having our students explore the great questions such as whether or not they really want to be bullies or mean girls; believers in fair-play or willing to side-step the social rules to gain personal advantage, global citizens or "we're-number-one-so-who-cares-about-them" xenophobes? Do we want our children to wonder whether the status quo is the best we can do or to question whether there is not only room for improvement, but also serious ongoing harm to many that should not be ignored any longer as a result of the blind acceptance of the status quo?
As to the article itself, I'm not certain that the author has nailed the true values of each of the recommended novels or explored the point at as admirable a depth as I was hoping for. Yet, pointing to the literary reading values of questioning whether one wants to be like the characters with better manners or the characters without manners, or to be like the thoughtful characters or the arrogant characters; or to participate in conversations with both our mouths and ears because we have much to contribute and much to learn or just with our mouths because we like to hear ourselves talk, but really aren't that interested in other's points of view.
There are other social benefits mentioned in the article. Though had I an opportunity to tweak the article, I might suggest that literary reading als raises questions about our social responsibilities would have offered an even deeper insight into important areas "less attended to when the arts are left out or reduced to lip service in a curriculum design when STEM education is perceived as a de facto card.
"Google Lit Trips" is the legal fictitious business name for GLT Global ED, an educational nonprofit