If you're just starting out in your exploration of literature, you may want to read books that give you a general background of what literature means, with an explanation of how you can evaluate the value of a work.
by Jerome Beaty. Norton. From the publisher: "'The Norton Introduction to Literature' offers students more perspectives on the contexts of literature--authorial, literary, historical, and critical--than any other introductory anthology." This book features 59 stories, 548 poems and 15 plays.
by Bruce S. Thornton. ISI Books. From the publisher: "Providing an overview of each of the major poets, dramatists, prose stylists, and historians of ancient Greece and Rome, Thornton's narrative introduces readers to the work of important classical figures from Homer, Aeschylus, and Thucydides to Virgil, Plutarch, Herodotus, and others. Including short bios and a list of suggested readings, Thornton's guide is unparalleled as a brief introduction to the literature of the classical world."
by Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Prentice Hall. From the publisher: "This edition emphasizes research writing and critical approaches to literature. Including 60 stories, 388 poems, and 17 dramatic works, this book offers a balanced collection of works by male and female authors of different ethnic, political, economic, cultural, and religious backgrounds."
by Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William Cain. Longman Publishing Group. From the publisher: "A leader in the market for over 30 years, this paperback anthology continues to uphold the traditions that have made it a success - classic and contemporary selections with a range of multicultural voices as well as a non-intrusive apparatus that covers the elements of literature and the writing."
by Vladimir Nabokov
, and Fredson Bowers (Editor). Harcourt Brace & Company. From the publisher: "For two decades, first at Wellesley and then at Cornell, Nabokov introduced undergraduates to the delights of great fiction. Here, collected for the first time, are his famous lectures, which include 'Mansfield Park
,' 'Bleak House,' and 'Ulysses.'"
by Janet E. Gardner (Editor). Bedford/St. Martin's. From the publisher: "From Sophocles' classical tragedy 'Oedipus Rex' to August Wilson's recent and profound 'The Piano Lesson,' the selection represents not only important works in the Western dramatic tradition but also a core of the most frequently assigned and popular plays in the classroom."
by Steven Lynn. Longman. From the publisher: "Steven Lynn's groundbreaking 'Literature: Reading and Writing with Critical Strategies' energizes literary study by showing the reader how to use critical approaches to engage literary texts and evolve critical arguments."
by X. J. Kennedy, and Dana Gioia. Pearson Education. From the publisher: "The rich tradition of Kennedy and Gioia's collective poetic voice brings personal warmth and a human perspective to the discussion of literature. 'Writer's Perspectives' sections give commentary on the craft of writing and revising from authors, which provide insight and a more human perspective on literature and the writing process."
by Richard Abcarian (Editor). Bedford/St. Martin's. From the publisher: "Arranged in five broad thematic sections -- Innocence and Experience, Conformity and Rebellion, Culture and Identity, Love and Hate, and The Presence of Death -- the selections encourage students to explore and write about the great themes of humanity. Within each theme, the selections are organized according by genre (so instructors can focus on the elements of literature) and by chronology..."
by Gloria Henderson, William Day, and Sandra Waller. Longman. From the publisher: "New: enhanced coverage of writing about literature, including a revised and expanded introductory chapter on student writing, new student essays in the writing casebooks, and step-by-step coverage of the writing process in each thematic unit's introduction; a considerably expanded and more culturally diverse poetry selection..."