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Language Arts Resources & Tools

Books

Incomplete Education
- An Incomplete Education - by Judy Jones, William Wilson. This book covers most subject areas. I really like the literature section as it offers some of the more obscure works by each author and provides a little background on him/her. Beginning with a section on American Literature, it goes beyond the first and second most famous works. To top it off, this book is actually readable! The authors are even funny at times. While there is a newer edition, you can buy this one used for around a dollar plus shipping at half.com here.
The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy
- The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy - by Hirsch, Trefil, and Kett. This book contains a few chapters of use to a language arts player, but if you are on a budget, there are better places to look. This book does have things to offer but is probably better for a Humanities/Lang. Arts player than one that is solely a student in the latter. Fortunately it can be purchased rather inexpensively. The edition shown to the left can be purchased used for under a dollar plus shipping here. While it won't put too much of a dent into the budget, there are much better resources for language arts.
Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia
- Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia - by Benet. This is THE language arts reference. Almost all question writers use this or have used this at some point in time when writing. Since the writers use it, it is probably a good idea that you do too! This gives a short (sometimes) description of authors, works, characters, and places in most important works for quick recall purposes. Designed as an encyclopedia, it isn't exactly a great read, but if you need to know more about that book you heard a question on back in practice, this is where you need to go first! Buy this! Buy it now! You can buy it for less than a dollar plus shipping here despite its cover price of fifty dollars.
Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature
- Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature - Similar to Benet's in the format, it is less commonly used however I can tell you that it too is an excellent resource. Don't necessarily limit yourself to choosing between the two as sometimes the descriptions provided can differ a bit, or one can offer more insight than the other. Besides at less than a dollar plus shipping here, you can probably afford to swing both. I've known of writers to use both for information.
Literature Teacher's Book of Lists
- The Literature Teacher's Book of Lists - When you begin studying language arts seriously, lists are your primary tool for improvement. The subject just lends itself to list study as you will be able to answer more questions by simply knowing what author wrote what book from a large volume of works than you will knowing the names of characters from a far smaller selection of works. Learning characters, plots, contexts, etc. definitely has its place. To become a great language arts player it is a must, but first tackle lists with a book like this one. It provides lists by country, genre, and literary format. It is worth the money at around a dollar plus shipping for the older version shown here.
Masterpieces of World Literature
- Masterpieces of World Literature - by Frank Magill. This should be your first jump into the depths of literature when preparing yourself as a language arts specialist. With 270 of the most asked about novels in world literature, you can begin learning plotlines and characters with this hardback. As a former coach, I purchased a copy of some books for each player on my team that focussed on language arts. This is not one of those books. While it would be great for each of them to have a copy, it is a little more expensive than some of the others above. You can usually find one here for under twenty dollars plus shipping. While in comparison this sounds expensive, the cover price is $55.00.
Shakespeare 101
- Sparknotes 101 - Shakespeare - by Sparknotes Editors. The more you know about Shakespeare the better. The most frequently asked works are his. While this does not include the bard's full works, though at some point all language arts players should read certain selections, it does include summaries, character analyses, and the contexts in which each play and sonnet is written. At less than four dollars plus shipping used here on Amazon, it is a must!

Web Sites

www.fraughtmachine.com/refdesk - The Fraught Machine's Reference Desk - This site is a collection of links to other sites that one would find useful when studying for quiz bowl and quick recall competitions. I will not pretend that I have been to every site refenced here, but most that I have visited are excellent sources designed for more narrow topics, which is nice when you are looking for something specific.
http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/ - Spaknotes Literature Section - The literature section provides summaries, contexts, character analasyses and more on various works in literature and some philosophy as well. Definitely check this site out when researching a specific novel as it will provide a good starting point when getting a little more in depth.
http://nfs.sparknotes.com/ - Sparknotes No Fear Shakespeare - Similar to the above literature section, it dives into each act of Shakespeare's plays. It also provides character descriptions which by themselves can answer many questions.
http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature-study-guides.html - Cliffs Notes Literature - Similar to sparknotes, though I believe it actually covers more works. Whether you prefer sparknotes or cliffsnotes is a personal preference, but most people generally gravitate towards one or the other.
http://www.bibliomania.com/ - Bibliomania - A source for full texts, study guides, and author biographies. The usefullness of this site is obvious. Spend a little time here as, unlike many others listed here, poetry, non-fiction, and reference books are all accessible here.
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page - The Gutenberg Project - Full texts online of over 25,000 works whose copyrights have expire in the US. While it is not recommended as the best way to learn what you need for quiz bowl or quick recall, you can read full novels here.

Lists

NAQT - "You Gotta Know" Lists - There are a few lists here that would benefit the language arts player, especially when just starting out. Having said that, the full Literature Frequency List is required knowledge for every good L.A. player.

Kevin Keegan's Literature Master Lists - These lists are a must have if you can get your hands on them. From what I have seen Mr. Keegan does not promote these as much as he used to, however, their content is still the best I have seen. While they are a little pricey, if you have the budget for them, they are worth it. Mr. Keegan does not have a web site and instead you have to contact him directly to purchase these.

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