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In my target question I asked for suggestions to improve our literary
reference section. Thanks to everyone for such thoughtful and detailed

I love the Gale series: Novels for Students, Drama for Students, Short
Stories for Students, and Poetry for students. Expensive but very
comprehensive... Includes biographical info., plot summaries, character
analysis, historical context, as well as several pieces of literary
criticism. All in one place! Great stuff.... We use it a lot...
We purchase books in a series "For Students..." Drama for students, Poetry
for STudents, Short Stories for Students, Novels for Students.  They're
published by Gale.  Our students and teachers really like them.
We like the Scribner's sets American Writers and British Writers a lot.
They are heavily used, when students don't go to the online databases.

Look at sale   Then click on Series. The problem is that
they are from Gale and very expensive, but at least they don't cover 100's
of volumes the way the Contemporary Authors and their ilk do. American
Writers is $1482.75 and the British Writers is $1174.50 on sale till Nov.

The Gale rep told me that some schools are making lists of their most
commonly researched authors and ordering only the volumes (in Contemporary
Authors anyway) with those authors in them.
They're not cheap but I have been purchasing books from Greenwood Press. The
Literary companions series has volumes on individual authors - Hemingway,
Fitzgerald, etc. The Critical Companions series has volumes on more
contemporary authors - Michael Crichton, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, etc. I
try to purchase volumes on the most popular authors and have been adding to
them year by year.

Gale's Novels for Students series is wonderful!
Gale's Novels for Students, Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction, and
Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults are three series we have that
I highly recommend.
        They are much more readable on a teen-age level than Gale's
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century Criticism, etc., which
are the core of our collection. However, Gale's Black Literature Criticm and
Hispanic Literature Critism are highly used because many of our students are
African American and Hispanic.
I like the set from Gale.

Authors & Artists for Young Adults

Anything by Harold Bloom.  We have those.  They contain good
biographies, criticisms on works, timelines, etc.  There are several
sets -- Bloom's Novelists (Dramatists, Poets, Short Story Writers) as
well as many others.  Something About the Author is good for more recent
authors.  We also have Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century
Literary Criticism, and Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism. Another
series I really like is Poetry for Students.  This set also comes in drama,
short stories, novels.  Most of these are by Gale. Greenwood Press publishes
the series, Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Authors.  I have
read James Walsh.  Each chapter critiques a different work by the author
with attention to a particular area of study or literary device.  This book
runs 100+ pages and costs 39.95.  It is well researched and quite scholarly.
  There is quite a number of authors in the series.

I worked in a college library and the accompanying books to Literature
and Its Times are quite good as well.  Novels for Students, Poetry for
Students, etc.  Also the sets called American Writers and the
accompanying set, British Writers published  by Scribner's.  There's
another set called Great American Writers and a corresponding one called
Great British Writers published by Marshall Cavendish.  All very good and
used a lot in my high school library.

Our juniors and seniors get a lot of use out of the following:

American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies
Charles Scribner's Sons
0684136732 (Vol. 1)
Multi-volume set with new volumes issued yearly.
Quite pricey. I think a newer volume will cost about $145.00.
Earlier volumes will cost about $80.00 each.

British Writers

Charles Scribner's Sons
0684157985 (Vol. 1)
Same as American Writers

Magill's survey of American Literature
Marshall Cavendish Corporation
Multi-volume set. Good information.
Gives biography and analysis of individual.
Then critiques 2 or 3 works of the author.
Not sure of price

Magill's Survey of World Literature
Marshall Cavendish Corporation
Multi-volume set. Similar to
above set...survey of American Literature.

Critical Survey of Short Fiction
2nd Revised Edition
Salem Press
7 volumes
Features writers like
Jane Austen
James Baldwin
Ambrose Bierce
Pearl Buck
Woody Allen
Saul Bellow
Usually includes biography, analysis, and then
Breaks down specific short fiction pieces.

Novels for Students
Multi-volume set about $90 to $100 each
Chooses a specific novel
Example of novels in volume 1
Huckleberry Finn
The Bell Jar
Fahrenheit 451
A Farwell to Arms
Pride and Prejudice
Breaks each novel down by (15 to 18 pages long)
Author Biography
Plot Summary
Historical Context
Critical Overview

Great World Writers: Twentieth Century
Marshall Cavendish
13 volume set
Spotlights various authors
Volume 1
Kobo Abe
Isabel Allende
W.H. Auden
Samuel Becker
Volume 2
Albert Camus
Joseph Conrad
Anita Desai
Each volume features about 9 authors
Gives Born, Died, Identification, Significance
The Writer's Life (2 pages)
The Writer's Work (2 pages)
Reader's Guide to Major Works (2 pages)
Some Inspirations Behind the Author's Work (2 pages)
Other Works

Great American Writers
Marshall Cavendish
13 volume set
Set up same as Great World Writers
Volume 1 sample authors
James Agee
Sherwood Anderson
Maya Angelou
James Baldwin
Saul Bellow
Volume 2
Willa Cather
Truman Capote
Judy Blume
Stephen Vincent Benet

I apologize for the length. Hope this helps some.
I hope you have a ton of money because I have a ton of suggestions:
First of all, learn the name HAROLD BLOOM.  He has written or edited tons of
wonderful series, all lit crit:
        This is the Chelsea House website that lists his series and titles.  And by
the way, itself is a good   starting place for Lit Crit that
Chelsea has just started, and it's free.  They are trying to hook you on
Harold Bloom!

Another publisher that specializes in literary criticism is Twayne, which
was bought out by Gale:
                U.S. Authors Series
                English Authors Series
                World Authors Series
                Masterworks Series
        My "old school" English teachers used to require that kids use at least one
Twayne volume in their bibliographies.
        I don't know what state you live in, but New York State has purchased a
state-wide license for Twayne's Authors Online  that is free to all public
and school libraries. Maybe your state has a deal with them too!  Or wait
til your projects get in full swing and ask for a trial from Gale!

I also really like the Greenhaven Press's Literary Companion series, ALSO
bought out recently by Gale:
        I have lots of these, both on authors and on works.  They are great because
each chapter is devoted to something specific, so in addition to checking
the index, it's easy to skim down the table of contents to see if a certain
chapter is perfect for what the kid needs.  The "chapters" are actually
published criticisms collected from over the    years.  For example, Readings
on Nathaniel Hawthorne:
                Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Biography
                Stories Derived From New England Living (1965--Edmund
               Fuller & B. Jo.Kinnick)
                The Divided Artist And His Uncles (1984--Gloria C.
                Hawthorne's Puritan Mind (1957-Stanley T. Williams)
                The Social Criticism of a Public Man (1967-Sculley
                Hawthorne Ranks High Among American Authors (1972- Jay
                B. Hubbell)
                A Skeptic Incompatible With His Time and His Past (1959-
                Henry Canby)
                The Wisdom of Hawthorne's Blackness (1850-Herman
                Hawthorne's Use of Mythology (1969--Hugo McPherson)
                Finding a Voice in a New Nation (1959-Peter Conn)
                Hawthorne's Struggle With Method (1955-Charles Feidelson
                The Development of Hawthorne's Romanticism (1970-Morse
                Hawthorne's Female Characters (1952-Randall stewart)
                Twice-Told Tales: A Blend of Stories (1954-Roy Harvey
                Hawthorne's Tales of Brevity and Effect (1842-Edgar
               Allan Poe)
                Three Masterpieces in Twice-Told Tales (1972-Neal
                The House of the Seven Gables Captures the Atmosphere of
                Old Salem
               (1955-Van Wyck Brooks)
                The PAst Revisits the Present in House of the Seven
               Gables (1979-Rita Gollin)
                The House of the Seven Gables: Hawthorne's Second-Best
               Book (1949-Mark Van Doren)
                The Ambiguity of The scarlet Letter (1957-Richard Chase)
                Old and New Worlds in The Scarlet Letter (1971-Michael
                Color and Light Images in The Scarlet Letter (1955-Hyatt
                History, Art, and Wisdom in The Scarlet Letter (1954-
               Randall Stewart...)
        I think it's really cool that kids get to read criticisms OF
        Hawthorne BY people like Poe and Melville!

        And we also have the Greenhaven volume Readings on The Scarlet
Letter:         Foreword
                Nathaniel Hawthorne: Haunted by the Guilt of his
                CHAPTER 1: Structure and Style in The Scarlet Letter
                        A Powerful Masterpiece, by Mark Van Doren
                        Flaws in The Scarlet Letter, by Henry James
                        Style in The Scarlet Letter, by Richard Fogle
                        The Scarlet Letter is a Romance, by Roy Male
                        A Four-Part Structure, by Gordon Roper
                        Allegory in The Scarlet Letter, by David Levin
                CHAPTER 2: Characters in The Scarlet Letter
                        Characters in The Scarlet Letter, by Edwared
                        The Characters Reveal the Story's Meaning, by
                       Hyatt Waggoner
                        The Role of Pearl, by Anne McNamara
                        Hester's Defiance, by Nina Baym
                CHAPTER 3:  Major Themes
                        Hawthorne Examines English Traditions, by
                       Frederick Newberry
                        A Critique of Puritan Society, by Allison Easton
                        The Meaning of the Scarlet A, by Claudia Johnson
                        The Relevance of "The Custom House" by John
                For Further Research
                Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne

So you see, I really like the fact that The Scarlet Letter volume is not
simply a re-hashed repeat of the Nathaniel Hawthorne volume, and that there
are notable critics I recognize (Van Doren, Wagenknecht, Waggoner, etc.), as
well as noted authors in their own right (Poe, Melville, James, etc.)

Gale also has three series of its own:
        Literary Masters series has over a dozen volumes that cover authors like
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Salinger.
        Literary Masterpieces has another dozen volumes covering individual works
like Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Sun              Also Rises, etc.
        Literary Topics covers movements/genres, like Magical Realism, Expatriate
Movement, Existentialists, etc.

And I also subscribe to The Gale Literature Resource Center, which costs a
fortune, even through our local BOCES.  But it's invaluable if you really
need lit info, both biographical and critical.  But you didn't ask about
online resources!

I hope this is helpful!
I love these 3 sets as do the kids all by Marshall Cavendish.  They are
expensive but very well done--and even interesting.  Great Writers of the
English Language, Great American Writers 20th Century, and Great World
Writers 20th Century.
We couldn't do without the ....For Students books from Gale.  Poetry
for Students, Short Stories for Students, Novels for Students, etc.
Just GREAT!  And made for HS students.

If your emphasis will be on biographical information, take a look at the
Gale series "Authors and Artists for Young People."

To get an idea of the authors covered in each volume, go to and look at their print series.  When you choose
each series, then choose a volume, you can get the table of contents.

Right now, Gale is having a half price sale on their older volumes, so
This may be a good time to take a look.

Last year I purchased Great American Writers, 20th century, published
by Marshall Cavendish. They have gotten a lot of use.

Our literature reference section is probably our most used. The
reference books by Gale are very good. Major 20th Century Writers, St.
James Guide to Young adult writers, World authors (various dates, from
Wilson), Contemporary novelists, Novels for students, Science fiction,
fantasy, and horror writers (UXL), The Oxford companion books are also
used. The American writers series from Scribners is popular along with
Great American writers: 20th century from Marshall Cavendish.  We also
have several networked CD_ROM products on our network that provide
access to a lot of reference books for a relatively small amount of
money. We have Masterplots, Twayne's English Authors, Twayne's American
authors, Monarch Notes, and several others.  I bought most of the CDs from
the Gale catalog in the spring when they were really on sale. They may not
even be available anymore, but they work really well.

We love Novels for Students, Drama for Students, and Poetry for Students
from Thomson Gale. If I had to pick only one, it would be Novels. It
includes some bio. info, a synopsis, and some criticism.

Carissa Henry
DCHS Media Specialist
Trenton, GA

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