All the books, poems and plays that constitute the playable “levels” in WordWhile are in the public domain. But being in the public domain is only one of the criteria I use in selecting a piece for the app. First and foremost, I want this app to be a collection of excerpts and examples of great literature. My literary game for iOS and Android is casual and you don’t have to know the literature to have fun playing, but playing gets you closer to these works and plants worthwhile (get it?) seeds.
Who decides it’s great literature?
The Greatest Books is an amazing website featuring a list of the greatest books of all time and across all nations. Shane Sherman, the site’s creator, builds this list algorithmically from a large and every-growing set of lists of top books. In other words, being near the top of Shane’s list means a book is considered by many to be one of the greatest, most important books ever written. These are “the must-reads”. The ranking of books further down the list is more volatile but being on the list at all is a good sign that these are truly great works of literature.
So how am I doing? How many books on The Greatest Books list are represented? The game was first released in June of this year with a collection of proverbs (timeless) and eight texts from Shakespeare, two sonnets and excerpt from several plays. Among the excerpts are the following:
- “To be or not to be…” from Hamlet, no. 8 on the list
- “What a piece of work is man” also Hamlet
- “O Romeo, Romeo” from Romeo and Juliet, no. 285
- “Once more unto the breach” from Henry V, no.641
- “Now is the winter of our discontent” from Richard III, no. 813
- “The quality of mercy” from The Merchant of Venice, a somewhat less impressive no.1702
Keep in mind that we’re talking about the “1702nd greatest fiction book of all time” as the website put it.
To every great update its great literature
To those initial collections, I’ve since added “Pickin’s from Dickens” with excerpts from the following novels by Charles Dickens:
- two from Great Expectations is no. 23
- three from Bleak House, no. 163
- two from A Tale of Two Cities, no.225 and
- one from Nicholas Nickleby, no. 1027
Other excerpts are already readable in the “Choose & Peruse” section of WordWhile but not yet playable. (Making the novel selections for these texts takes a long time.)
- three more from Bleak House, no. 163 and
- the one from Oliver Twist, no.234: “Please, sir, I want some more.”
In the most recent update, you can now play the following poems in the new collection “Selected Poems”.
- “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” from the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, no. 100
- “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron, included in his selected works, no.767
- “Remember” by Christina Rossetti, whose books of complete works is at no.1280
Other poems included in the set of eight but not yet playable are
- “When I heard the learn’d astronomer” from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, no. 38
- “Death be not proud” by John Donne, whose complete poetry is book no.321
These are the rankings as they stood on November 10, 2017. As I say, the further down the list a book is, the most volatile its ranking. Whenever Shane adds a new list to the set used to compile these results, it surely shakes things up a bit.
Great children’s literature too
The “Children’s Classics” collection is mostly nursery rhymes (my wife’s favorite thing to play for relaxation and a giggle) and tongue twisters, but there are three wonderful poems as well. Of them, “Jabberwocky”, by Lewis Carrol, is from Through the Looking Glass, no.207. The others—“The Blacksmith” by Longfellow and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by Wordsworth—are no less great, although they aren’t found in any specific books listed on The Greatest Books.
I want to dive deeper into this great literature!
Having played with the texts in WordWhile, you’re now interested in reading some of these great books? Hooray! The game worked! All the texts are in the public domain so you could always read them on a site like Project Gutenberg or listen to probably all of them on Librivox, an amazing source of public domain audiobooks read by volunteers! If however, like me, you enjoy the feel of a real book in your hand, I encourage you to the follow the links in this post to The Greatest Books website where you’ll find more information and links to numerous editions of each book. Clicking those links is a nice way to give back to Shane for building a wonderful resource.
But what about…?
I think it’s fair to say that, thus far, great literature is well represented in WordWhile. If you haven’t played this literary game for iPad, iPhone and Android devices, by all means get it today. You’ll find links to the App Store and Google Play on the website Home page. Is there some great literature you’d like a chance to poke and tweak in WordWhile? Leave your recommendation in the comments!