Imagine yourself lounging by the pool on a hot day. The sun is at midday, it is unrelentingly hot, and you are contemplating more sunscreen, but you're feeling too lazy (or is that heat exhaustion?) to reach into your bag to grab it. You're vaguely hungry and maybe kind of bored, and you're realizing that while this is the summertime scene you've dreamed of, something is missing.
You scan your mind, your eyes search your immediate surroundings -- is what I'm missing here on this table? No, that's just a half-eaten bag of potato chips (ugh, 'I should work out' you think), but it's not a good workout you're missing either because practice is later. You begin riffling through your bag, you pass over the sunscreen (wait, on second thought, you apply it liberally every 3-4 hours and after sweating or swimming), you find various receipts (so much fast-food), a few stray lint-covered mints (gross), some chap stick (nice), and...oh yes, yes, there it is! You cautiously fish it out and you behold your forgotten item, a bit fearful but expectant.
In your hand is a book. That book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy and it is your required AP Literature summer reading. Mrs. Hilliard has carefully chosen this book for you. She chose this book for you for all sorts of reasons, but rest assured the foremost reasons is because it IS a work of literary merit, and you are now in the business of thinking about books as Art, and Craft, and Works of Literary Merit. You are also in the business of deciding if a book doesn't quite live up to a work of merit (like all 50 Shades...yep, I said it).
And that is where this pool-side scenario leads us.
Read The Road, and then read any book you want, so long as it's fiction, of reasonable length, and one you haven't read before. Check out this link for highbrow beach reads, this one for page-turners, and, if you're ambitious, this one for AP prep. And then write a one-page analysis for each book, either defending or challenging it as a work of literary merit.
Use our definition: Literature is written work that is ambiguous, provocative, complex, and personally and emotionally challenging.
And remember to refer to the list of literary merit qualifiers on the handout.
Now, put on that sunscreen and get to reading!