To become an accomplished writer of essays you must read essays, not only for the pleasures which this particular form holds for readers, but also to learn about the range and texture and scope of this kind of writing, to see what writers have done with it, and, I hope, to be inspired with possibilities for your own writing. Part of your work for the semester, then, will be to read a great many essays and to respond to what you read in writing.
I will expect roughly half a page or so (a little less, a little more) of typewritten response to each piece you read. If you want to combine responses to two or three selections because of subject matter or style or whatever, your combined response should be correspondingly longer. Keep your notebook on your hard drive also, and for security, on a disk—a good way to make sure a lost notebook doesn't present serious problems at the end of the semester when your Reader's Notebook will be part of your portfolio which you will turn in at semester's end. I expect your responses to be informal, speculative, reflective of careful reading, and written in a spirit of critical questioning and exploration.
Your responses should begin with a citation of author and essay title at the top of the page. Then you should begin with a concise summary of what you've read (just a few sentences), then note or quote any passages that you found particularly striking or memorable (with parenthetical page citations), state what you understand to be the writer's point—the idea or motive which gives the piece shape and force—and speculate, if you care to, on how the piece might be useful to you in your own writing. Of course I'm interested to know whether you enjoyed the reading or not, and why. You are also welcome and encouraged to refer to other things you've read by way of comparing or contrasting the piece you are writing about with others.
My hope is that keeping the notebook will deepen and enrich both the reading and writing you'll do in the weeks ahead, and that it will help you in your efforts to become a better writer.
Look, Lenore. "Facing the Village." Manoa 12, no. 2 (2000): 68-78.
George, Diana Hume. "Zane Grey on a Carousel in Indian Territory." Creative Nonfiction 22 (2004): 62-73.
Lee, Chang-Rae. Family Life, "Coming Home Again." Yorker, October 16, 1995, 164.
Slater, Lauren. "Tongue and Groove." The Iowa Review (Spring 2006).
Kincaid, Jamaica. "On Seeing England for the First Time." In The Best American Essays 1992. Edited by Susan Sontag. Series edited by Robert Atwan. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1992, pp. 209-220. ISBN: 9780395599365.
Pratt, Minnie Bruce. "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart." In Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism. Edited by Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1988, pp. 11-63. ISBN: 9780932379535.
Levy, E. J. "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." In The Best American Essays 2005. Edited by Susan Orlean. Series edited by Robert Atwan. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2005, pp. 121-130. ISBN: 9780618357130.
Unger, Donald N. S. "Judging Fathers: The Case For Gender-Neutral Standards." In Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power. Edited by Shira Tarrant. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008, pp. 206-211. ISBN: 9780415956574.
Hooks, Bell. "Reflections on Race and Sex." In Daughters of the Revolution: Classic Essays by Women. Edited by James D. Lester. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1996, pp. 193-201. ISBN: 9780844258812.
Williams, Patricia J. "Reflections on Law, Contracts, and the Value of Life." In The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, May/June 1991, pp. 42-46. ISBN: 9780674014718.
Ozick, Cynthia. "A Drugstore in Winter." In The Best American Essays of the Century. Edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2000, pp. 490-496. ISBN: 9780618155873.
Dillard, Annie. "The Death of a Moth." Harper's Magazine, May 1976, 26.
Doyle, Brian. "Yes." Harper's Magazine, September 2002, 30.
Reprint. "Spring 1989." The Virginia Quarterly Review 65, no. 2 (1989): 69-71.