Radical idea Jim: don't choose any novels for them.
If the idea is to get students to write about or in response to literature, or to help students to write about or in response to literature, why not focus on just that - - writing and response?
They'll have plenty of books chosen for them in every other subject. If they choose their own books, they'll a) be more apt to respond authentically to them, and b) have practised what you're actually trying to get them to do long after university - - examine possibilities in discourse, make choices, get engaged, and respond in an intelligent fashion.
The furthest I'd go would be to suggest that they choose books from different domains, e.g., if there were three books, they'd choose one "literary" novel (something with criticism written on it), one piece of "junk" fiction (whodunnit, sci fi, etc.) and one piece of non-fiction.
Oh yeah: one other benefit of this - - you'll learn more.
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