9 books you should have read in high school that are totally worth reading now.

Category #5 for the 2016 MMD Reading Challenge is “a book you should have read in school.” This is the time to catch up on those classics (old and new) you feel like you really should have read by now.

My own list for this category was extensive (even though I thought my own high school reading list was pretty good!) If you, like me, tend to get a little panicky when you consider all the books you feel like you should have read by now, take heart: you’ll get more out of reading these novels now than you ever would have gotten out of them in high school.

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2015 Reading Challenge: books you should have read in high school (that are totally worth reading now)
The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald's classic was the topic of my first high school term paper—and despite that, I still love it. Fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby has built a mansion on Long Island Sound for the sole purpose of wooing and winning his lost love Daisy Buchanan, who married another man while Gatsby was serving overseas. This classic American novel captures the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, while weaving a wistful story of love and loss. Even if you've seen the movie (especially if you've seen the movie) you need to read the book. More info →
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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

This groundbreaking classic is a Gothic romance, mystery, and psychological thriller all rolled into one; its themes were astonishingly modern for 1847. Those who have read it will spot its influence everywhere. If you never read it in high school, you know what to do. If you were forced to read it back then, give it another try: you’ll enjoy it much more the second time around. More info →
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

In this absurd, existentialist tragicomedy, playwright Tom Stoppard reinvents Hamlet from the perspective of the two minor characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, childhood friends of Hamlet who King Claudius uses to get more information about the insane prince. There's plenty of witty, rapid-fire dialogue to accompany the existentialist philosophy. (PSA: this is easy to read for a play, but the 1991 movie with Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfus isn't half bad.) More info →
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Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Dickens' thirteenth novel (and arguably his best) follows the early adventures and coming of age of the young orphan Pip. Back in 9th grade, I thought I was "lucky" that MY English class didn't have to read this one, unlike my poor friends who were assigned to a different teacher. Flash forward ten years, when I plucked this off the shelf as a "duty read," and then stayed up way too late turning the pages so I could find out how it ended. More info →
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Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway

I read this myself for the Reading Challenge, having previously read A Room of One's Own but none of Virginia Woolf's novels. In this slim novel, Woolf weaves together two seemingly unrelated storylines: one following Mrs Dalloway, an upper class woman preparing to host a dinner party, and the other her "double," a shell-shocked WWI vet contemplating suicide. Woolf used stream-of-consciousness style to explore the inner workings of the mind; this pioneering technique had a lasting effect on fiction as we know it. More info →
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As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying

While I greatly prefer my own assigned high school read The Sound and the Fury, the backstory on this slim novel is truly astounding. Faulkner claimed that he wrote it in 6 weeks, working from midnight to 4:00 a.m., and that he didn't change a word. The story, again set in Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, is narrated by 15 different characters over 59 chapters. Consistently cited as one of the best novels of the 20th century, both for its own sake and for the great influence it had over subsequent fiction. More info →
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East of Eden

East of Eden

This is Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, and in his opinion, his finest work. ("I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.") My high school English teacher assigned us The Grapes of Wrath instead, so I didn't read this until a few years ago. The title references the fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent embattled relationship between brothers Cain and Abel. Grounded thoroughly in its California setting, interweaving the stories of two Salinas Valley families, Steinbeck's magnum opus feels tragic, yet hopeful. More info →
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Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

While many believe that Emma is Jane Austen's masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice is more likely to show up on assigned reading lists. On the other hand, consider yourself lucky if you never read Austen in high school. If you were lucky enough to have a gifted teacher who brought classic works to life, that's fantastic—but many of us read just enough Austen in high school to be convinced she was boring and stuffy. Give her a try now—Pride and Prejudice is a terrific place to start, and if you don't fall in love with her writing (although I certainly hope you do), at least you'll know what the fuss is about. More info →
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To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird

In this 1960 classic, small-town attorney Atticus Finch attempts a hopeless defense of a black man unjustly accused of rape, and to teach his children, Scout and Jem, about the evils of racism. It's been a staple on high school reading lists for years (and I talked about my significant high school experience with Mockingbird here), but it enjoyed a fresh burst of publicity when its companion Go Set a Watchman was published this summer. (I'd love to be in the course that reads both, together.) More info →
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What are you reading for this category? Tell us your high school favorites, or the required high school reading you feel like you should have read by now, in comments. 

9 books you should have read in high school that are totally worth reading now. If you didn't read these in high school, don't worry: you'll enjoy them more as an adult anyway.


Leave A Comment
  1. Jennifer says:

    I had to read Catch-22 in high school and have been wanting to go back and re-read it, especially since I found out a few years ago that my grandfather once flew with Joseph Heller in WWII.

    • Debbie Snyder says:

      Some books are better listened to. I am listening to P & P on Audible. The reader has a British accent. It’s perfect!

      • Terri says:

        Definitely! I have only “read” Jane Austen by listening to it. Sometimes things are so wordy, because of the time, that I find listening is the only way I can read through it. I also did this with Jane Eyre. But to redeem myself, I have read Woman in White and Wives and Daughters in print! I’d recommend either of those, though probably not for books you should have read in high school!

  2. Kirsten says:

    I have my 40 yr old brother’s high school copy of Jane Eyre in my purse for something to read when I’m waiting somewhere. Alas, it wasn’t something we read in my British lit class. I would suggest 1984. I read it on my own in high school and loved it. My husband read it within the past year and loved it, too. We read Light in August in 10th grade, and I enjoyed it immensely. We were required to read about half of your list in my high school AP English classes, including R&G are dead. Afterwards, we watched the movie Strange Brew, a Canadian 1980’s movie that is based on Hamlet. Still not sure how we convinced our teacher to let us do that.

  3. I read most of these in Junior High. I went to a very literacy based school. One missing that made a profound impression is THE ODESSSEY BY HOMER AND WAR AND PEACE . One I wish they would have assigned is ANNA KARINANA. Long but worth the time.

  4. If I were interviewed for your podcast, Great Expectations would be the book that I hate. BUT – I read and really enjoyed As I Lay Dying in high school (I can’t even remember what it’s about) as well as To Kill A Mockingbird. I also liked Ethan Frome for whatever reason… I think because the message was so strong. Oh and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! I loved that book.

    • Melanie says:

      I read Ethan Frome in high school, and now that I think back on it, I think it’s really weird that we read that one because it’s so different from Wharton’s other novels (at least the ones I’ve read).

  5. Heidi says:

    My reading challenge this year is all classics — 50 of them. Some I know I read in HS (but don’t remember well), some I know so well I’m not sure if I’ve read them or just seen the movies. Included on the list are: Agnes Grey, Bleak House, Dubliners, Gulliver’s Travels, Northanger Abbey, Robinson Crusoe, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I started with one for every letter of the alphabet (except X — not a lot of titles starting with X!) and found so many great reads, I’ve picked two per letter. So far I’ve completed: King Solomon’s Mines, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Wuthering Heights, North and South and Bel Ami. I’m woefully behind (waylaid by classics retold like: Jane Steele and Hamlet: A Novel) but long summer evenings are just on the horizon.

    • Jess says:

      I have to say that I thought Lady Chatterley’s Lover was not all that great. Envelope pushing considering its era, but really not all that good, and such an abrupt ending.

    • Sandy Young says:

      What a wonderfully delightful goal! I may copy you. I was a high school English teachers for 32 years and haven’t read a classic since I retired 20 years ago. I think it’s about time that I got back to what I used to require of my students. I’m stymied, though, by your mentioning Jane Steele and Hamlet: A Novel. Sounds intriguing, but I can’t find it on Amazon. Can you help me? Loved your post!

      • Heidi says:

        The Hamlet adaptation is an audiobook: http://www.amazon.com/Hamlet-Prince-Denmark-Novel/dp/B00IRH401S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462452627&sr=8-1&keywords=hamlet+hewson.

        Jane Steele was just published: http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Steele-Lyndsay-Faye/dp/0399169490/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462452710&sr=1-1&keywords=jane+steele

        I keep a list of every new-to-me book I read and these are 2 of the 5 I’ve ranked a 10 (out of 10) in roughly 130 books I’ve read in the last four years. Jane is delightful (even the cover is amazing) and listening to Richard Armitage for hours is always a pleasure.

        If you’d like my classics list, let me know. They’re almost all pre-20th century (or at least set then) and cover a huge range.

        • Sandy Young says:

          Thanks so much for the clarification on Hamlet and Jane! I’ve already checked out Jane on Amazon and am debating whether or not to order it. Sounds great! Please do send me your classics list. I’d love to have it. I taught classics for 32 years, but I need to re-read them and add some to my own list. Surely do appreciate this!

          • Heidi says:

            2016 – The Classics Reading Challenge (Published 1594 – 1957)
            One work per author (* own a copy/audiobook)

            Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery (1908) *
            Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte (1847)
            Bleak House – Charles Dickens (1852) *
            Bel-Ami – Guy de Maupassant (1885)
            Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (1853) *
            Castle Richmond – Anthony Trollope (1859)
            Dubliners – James Joyce (1914) *
            Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde – RL Stevenson (1886) *
            Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton (1911)
            Erewhon – Samuel Butler (1872)
            The Forsyte Saga – James Galsworthy (1906) *
            Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev (1862) *
            Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift (1726) *
            The Golden Bowl – Henry James (1904)
            The House of 7 Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne (1950)
            The Hound of Baskervilles – AC Doyle (1901)
            Ivanhoe – Walter Scott (1820)
            The Invisible Man – HG Wells (1897)
            Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne (1864) *
            The Jungle – Upton Sinclair (1906) *
            King Solomon’s Mines – H Rider Haggard (1885) *
            Kim – Rudyard Kipling (1900)
            Lady Chatterley’s Lover – DH Lawrence (1928) *
            Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (1868) *
            Middlemarch – George Eliot (1871)
            Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (1856)
            Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen (1817) *
            Notes from Underground – F Dostoyevsky (1864)
            The Once and Future King – TH White (1958) *
            Orlando – Virginia Woolf (1928)
            The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (1890) *
            A Passage to India – EM Forster (1924)
            Quo Vadis – Henryk Sienkiewicz (1895)
            Quartet – Jean Rhys (1929)
            Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe (1719)
            Ross Poldark – Winston Graham (1945) *
            Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse (1922)
            Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser (1900)
            Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (1892) *
            Thank You, Jeeves – PG Wodehouse (1934) *
            Uncle Silas – Sheridan le Fanu (1864)
            The Unfortunate Traveler – Thomas Nashe (1594)
            Vanity Fair – WM Thackeray (1847)
            The Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith (1766) *
            The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (1859) *
            Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (1847) *
            The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte P Gilman (1892)
            The Yearling – Marjorie K Rawlings (1938)
            Dr. Zhivago – Boris Pasternak (Yes, a cheat) (1957) *
            Zeno’s Conscience – Italo Svevo (1923)

            If not actual “classics” are historical novels (e.g. Ross Poldark, The Once and Future King, Dr. Zhivago)

          • Kathy Aguirre says:

            I just learned this about Eliot while I was considering reading “Romola”: “George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans). Through a family friend, she was exposed to Charles Hennell’s An Inquiry into the Origins of Christianity. Unable to believe, she conscientiously gave up religion and stopped attending church. Her father shunned her. Her intellectual views did not, however, change.”

          • Sandy Young says:

            Heidi — Thanks for the list! I have read some, taught some, but managed to miss even more. You’re helping me to get back into classics, and I really do appreciate that!

  6. Debbie Snyder says:

    Let’s add one more to this great list: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton! Read it in Jr. High, impacted my life BIG TIME!

    • Marianne M says:

      Totally agree with this recommendation was going to add it myself. I just got it for my 15 year old daughter.

    • Debby says:

      Me too, we read it in my 9th grade at school and I read it and re-read it and read it aloud to my little sister. It’s still with me and every once in a awhile like The Little House books I have to take it out and read it again. ❤️

  7. Faith R says:

    I tried to read Mrs Dalloway recently and I found it SO difficult to read. The pace is so slow!! I just never had enough to time free from distractions to read enough to feel like I was making progress in the story.

  8. Rebecca Christie says:

    for this one I read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I loved this book, and I have been asking myself ‘Why didn’t I read this before now?’ I am currently working on “East of Eden” for the book that intimidates me. I had been wanting to read it for a while, but for some reason it always got put off because I was afraid of it. I do not even know why, it is not the length.I actually prefer books that have depth in them, just a psyche thing a mental block of some sort.

  9. Julia says:

    In my freshman English class we read 1984 by George Orwell and A Separate Peace by John Knowles – I don’t think we could have read anything better for the time. They still remain some of my favorites and even more meaningful today.
    I wish they gave us more Dickens though, I remember reading Oliver later in school, but I think there’s so much more to learn from in A Tale of Two Cities.

  10. Dana says:

    Pride and Prejudice is the only Austen book I have read . I came very late to the party on it, but I loved it. I want to read Emma. I have a copy from the used bookstore. I need to get it out.

    Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and TKAM is my all-time favorite. I disliked The Great Gatsby in high school. I reread it a couple of years ago and I still did not like it at all. I must be missing something with that, since I am in the minority.

    • Molly says:

      Don’t worry about not liking Great Gatsby. There are plenty of “classics” I don’t like at all. Just because it a book is considered a classic doesn’t mean it must be your cup of tea.

  11. Dawn says:

    Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
    Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    Once and Future King by TH White / Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brian
    Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, TS Elliot

    These were all selections from High School Literature class.

  12. Brittney says:

    I’m relieved to see that I have indeed read most of the books on your list. Two of my favorite required reads from high school are Macbeth and The Crucible- I revisit it every Halloween.
    Two books I feel that I definitely should have read by now are 1984 and The Grapes of Wrath.

  13. Laura says:

    Steinbeck! Grapes of Wrath is my favorite, but any of his are good. Emerson’s essays. A Tale of Two Cities. Shakespeare (but, it helped having a great teacher to guide you through those works!)

  14. Kenia Sedler says:

    In high school, I read The Great Gatsby (which I remember disliking) and Great Expectations, which was ok but I wasn’t thrilled about (I seem to remember it being a highly abridged version inside my English textbook). :-/ What is it about reading classics in high school that make most people dislike them?? Ugh! Luckily, I read Jane Austen *after* high school and, lo & behold, Pride & Prejudice happens to be my favorite novel!

    Starting May 29th, I’m joining an online read-along for Jane Eyre, which I’ve never read. I’m so excited for it! I’ve already purchased my copy, and I cannot wait to fill it up with my thoughts and notes in the margins. 😀 I’m also thrilled that I’ll be reading it with a group of fellow booklovers.

  15. Bonnie Oswald says:

    One of my favorite reads in high school was “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck. This lead to my reading every Pearl Buck I could find! Ghandi I thoroughly enjoyed, but when I saw the movie years later I was bored! Also read anything about Henry VIII…. Covering all of his wives made for plenty of reading! Not sure when I read “Little Women”, “Little Men” & “Alice in Wonderland”.

  16. Diana Young Hall says:

    I’ve read most of these but need to read a few. My most memorable reads from High School were The Scarlet Letter, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Little Women. My favs are anything Jane Austen with Emma being my personal favorite. I also enjoyed The Crucible which our teacher had us perform the play in class and Wuthering Heights. The one that scared me to death when I read it in HS was Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. So much to read, so little time!?

    • Terri says:

      I loved And Then There Were None. My Mom was a terrific Agatha Christie fan. I never got into it, but ATTWN was the only one I read. And it scared me too. Not as much as the night I was babysitting when I was twelve and read a scary Man from Uncle book!

  17. Stephanie says:

    I didn’t read any of these in high school, despite being quite the voracious reader in my youth. I finally made my own list of “books I really should read” a few years back, and it’s been so cool to explore the “classics.” I really didn’t care for “The Great Gatsby” and hated “Catcher in the Rye”. I LOVED “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. “East of Eden” made me a Steinbeck devotee, and “Of Mice and Men” was the first book in years to make me cry. “Great Expectations” is the only Dickens book I can seem to tolerate. Great list! I’m definitely going to have to add a few from here to my own.

  18. Cat says:

    Yes yes yes! I did read Pride and Prejudice in High School but thought it was shallow and boring. HA! I read it a couple weeks ago and seriously couldn’t put it down!!! I just finished Sense and Sensibility and now I want to read the rest of Austen’s books-I don’t think I’ve read any of her others! Next on my list was Dickens, I started Oliver Twist but it was so sad I just couldn’t handle it right now, so I just requested Great Expectations from my library-so glad to hear your description, now I’m super excited about my next read! 🙂

  19. Mary Kate says:

    I think I’m just not a classics person. I read most of these in high school, and tried to embark on a few rereads in recent years–of The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird–and got a little … bored. I think I just prefer the fast pace of modern books.

    The only one on this list I really loved: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead is an absolutely fantastic, thought-provoking play. All of Tom Stoppard’s plays are.

    • Jessica Donohue says:

      It’s funny you say that about being a “classics person”. I have the same feeling. I love contemporary literature more. When I read the classics I feel I’m being lectured to, but when I read cont. lit. I feel like I’m in a conversation.
      That said, I re-read The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad and had a different perspective as an adult.

  20. I am a Virginia Woolf freak (I actually read The Waves and not because I was forced to in a grad school seminar!) and yet I would say that To The Lighthouse is better and more accessible than Mrs. Dalloway. So I would recommend that as an assigned book to revisit if someone is checking out Woolf. Also, James Joyce: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — readable in a way Ulysses is just not.

  21. Liz says:

    I honestly never had any of these books assigned in high school except for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead – we read it in conjunction with Hamlet, and then she led us off on an existentialist tangent that I really appreciated, even at the time. Having already read a bit of Camus & Satre helped me in college, oddly.

    I am still surprised we didn’t do the Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, considering I grew up in central California…

  22. Joanne says:

    I’ve read many books on your list (yay!) but missed a few which I’ve added to my ever-growing books-to-read list for 2016.

    I remember The Hobbit in 6th grade and Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies in high school, plus we read Candide in my French class. I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but the other three I really enjoyed.

  23. Ginger says:

    I’m shocked and relieved that I’ve read most of these – except Faulkner. I’ve always been intimidated! But your glowing recommendation gives me the confidence to give him another try.

    I’m always delighted to find, when I do give a classic my attention, that it’s always fantastic. I suppose that’s why they are… well, classics. 🙂

  24. Carrie Roer says:

    Yay I was hoping you would post about this category soon. 🙂 I was one of those kids who chose to take composition classes in high school instead, and so I never had a single literature class EVER. I asked for recommendations for this category in the SortaAwesome/SortaLiterary groups and heard everything from those you mentioned above to Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, Grapes of Wrath, and A Brave New World. Decisions decisions…

  25. I haven’t read any Faulkner yet, so I will try As I Lay Dying for the challenge. Regarding the Dickens, I actually prefer Bleak House. I loved the pseudo-detective/ mystery atmosphere of it. In that same vein, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is wonderful.

  26. This is such a good list.
    So far I have read The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables series, The Jungle Book, and Slaughterhouse-Five for this category. Currently reading Around the World in 80 Days and Where the Red Fern Grows is on my to-read list.

  27. Janet says:

    I had to read Kim by Rudyard Kipling and Les Miserable by Victor Hugo. Disliked both intensely. I was much too young to have read this books and have often thought I ought to go back and reread them as an adult. I was the same way about Shakespeare. Hated him in high school, love him as an adult.

  28. Dawn says:

    I was having a hard time trying to find a book for this part of the challenge since I had read most of these listed!
    Then I realized that I hadn’t ever read 1984, which apparently most high school kids read so I’m really glad that I found something that fits into this task!

  29. Becky S says:

    I was so lucky to have an English teacher that got us through Crime and Punishment. I loved it, still think about it, and would love to give it another shot as an adult. I know however, that without her and her discussions, reading it would have been a very different experience.

    A personal favorite was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, which I feel stands the test of time and impacts every generation.

  30. Kate Preston says:

    What a great list! I have probably read half those books, as many of them were options on our high school reading list. I have to say, though, I couldn’t get through East of Eden, and ended up throwing it across my room in disgust. I was in my early 20s at the time (I am MUCH older now) and thought that Steinbeck’s portrayal of women was terrible — they were either evil or insipid. Is everybody going to get mad at me for saying that? Should I try reading it again?
    I’ve read every Austin, P&P is by far my favourite, and if you’re at all interested in her, you should read Carol Shields’ wonderful biography called Jane Austen: A Life. It’s excellent and gives a lot of insight into her life.

  31. Rachel says:

    The Shadow of the Wind was fantastic, yet left out of my high school experience.
    I am glad my education included Lord of the Flies and a novel about Melba Patilla Beals and her journey i to the first desegragation of a High School in Arkansas.

  32. Marijke says:

    Catch 22: I reread it a few years ago and still found it oddly beautiful.
    Catcher in the rye: Fantastic book, worth rereading and rereading
    1984: Classic stuff and still very topical (China, Russia, Turkey)

  33. vera says:

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a book that somehow seems to have encompassed a whole quarter during my sophomore year of high school. It’s soooo short; not sure how the teacher stretched it out. It was probably more relevant in the 80’s but could still make an impact without much time necessary!

  34. Molly says:

    I read Rebecca earlier this year for the category “a book published before I was born”. Right now I am reading Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee for my “should have read in high school” book, but after a few chapters I am not sure I should have read it then. Perhaps I’ll flip these two around.

  35. Whitney Cant says:

    I didn’t read most of these classics until I took my BA in English at university — The Great Gatsby is the only one that was taught at my high school. The main book that was taught when I was in school was 1984 by George Orwell, so that’s what I’ve chosen for my MMD Reading Challenge Book #5. This will be my first time reading it, and I’ve always been intrigued on why it makes such an impact on readers.

  36. Casey says:

    When teaching 9th graders, my favorites were John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque. My students loved both of these once the class discussions began. I also have a soft spot for Animal Farm by James Orwell due to it’s allegorical nature. It was tough teaching the Russian Revolution alongside what seemed to be such simple book, but thoroughly enjoyable at the same time. As for this list, I’ve read 5 of them 🙂

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  38. Sandy Young says:

    Someone recommended A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as a “must read” for high school students. Since I had never read it, I immediately bought a copy. If I were still teaching, I’d surely require it for my students. Loved, loved, loved it! Thanks to whoever recommended it!

    • Debbie Snyder says:

      Glad you loved it!!! It was probably me, among others (I am sure), but it is one of the very best books I’ve ever read! I turned my teenage daughter on to it recently, and she came in my room sobbing and thanked me. She did the same with The Outsiders, after I recommended it, which also is right up there as an all time best ever!

  39. Hannah says:

    Yes!!! Only two that I haven’t read/aren’t on my list. With every read I thought, “why didn’t they make me read this in school?!” Although we did read Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird in high school.

  40. Tara says:

    I would say that my favorite HS read that started out as pure torture, and ended as one of those books I think of often and reread would be “A Separate Peace”, by John Knowles.

  41. Brandyn says:

    My only good high school assigned reading experience was “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay. I slogged through “Grapes of Wrath” and “The Scarlett Letter”, and read the first third of “Tess of D’Urberville’s” before caving to Cliff’s Notes. There are obviously many more that I’m blocking out.

    Since graduating college I have tried to mix in some classics and have found some I liked. I finally finished “Jane Eyre” last year and added it to my favorites. I shockingly gave “East of Eden” a shot based on a friend’s recommendation and really enjoyed it.

    I reread “The Great Gatsby” and still find it dreadful and after finishing both “Persuasion” and “Pride and Prejudice” I concluded that Jane Austen is not for me. Side note: I do love the story of P&P, but I find her writing style tedious.

    I’ve never read any Virginia Wolfe so I may give “Mrs. Dalloway” a try.

    • Mary says:

      I am so sorry that you found Gatsby so terrible. It is one of my favorites. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? The writing style is different than Fitzgerald. You might enjoy it.

  42. Mary says:

    I am currently reading Wuthering Heights. I had an outstanding high school reading experience, but Wuthering Heights was never on the list. My next pick is Vanity Fair. I read it in high school, loved it and really want to read it again.

  43. Lynn Schaffner says:

    I must be a good deal older than you, because I DID read these books. I read most of them in junior high (7th and 8th grade), a few in high school and “Jane Eyre” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” in 5th and 6th grade. I got sent to detention in 8th grade for reading “Dr. Zhivago.” Apparently, it was a banned book at my school, but I didn’t know it. I had to get a note from my mother giving me permission to read it. I still remember the look she gave the principal when she handed him the note giving her permission. I love your list and the suggestions offered in the comments. There is no friend like a good book!

  44. Ruth says:

    I also read most of these books in high school but I went to a private school that taught a classical curriculum back in the 80s. My youngest child is a sophomore at our local public school and the stuff they have them read is garbage. I don’t understand why public schools don’t teach the classics anymore.

    • Brandyn says:

      They don’t read any classics? My public high school in the 90’s did lots of classics. Luckily I was already a reader or I would have concluded that I hated reading and not just that I didn’t like those particular books.

      I’ve noticed a trend in schools incorporating contemporary books in with classics to try to engage students, but I know that the local schools here still read 75% classics.

    • L. says:

      I read To Kill a Mockingbird in 5th or 6th grade. Many on the list I’ve heard of. The rest I will definitely read. Thanks

  45. Laura Jean Edwards says:

    In my school years I also read Little Women, Watership Downs, Rebecca and Gone With the Wind.

  46. Audrey McDonald says:

    We also read Siddhartha, some Shakespeare, Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Thank goodness for the classics!

  47. Michelle says:

    I love this list! Many of these I read in high school back in the 80s. I went to a southern high school and the curriculum was traditional. We also read Huxley’s Brave New World. I will be reading some of these over the summer.

  48. Julia says:

    Out of all of these, in high school we only had to read To Kill A Mockingbird. That seems weird looking back given that there are so many classics we never read. I should really pick some of these up and give them a go, I suppose they’re classics for a reason!

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

    • Beverly says:

      I read that too, Tara. I should read it again. Also read Death Be Not Proud, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm. I remember my seventh grade English teacher telling me I ought to read The Ugly American. I should go find that….

  49. Krysia says:

    In my English class we read Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, The Catcher in the Rye, the Old Man and the Sea – at the time I thought they were terrible. I haven’t tried to reread them so maybe I would appreciate them now. It took me until college to discover Jane Austen!

  50. Eleanor Behm says:

    I read 3 of those books in high school: Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, and To Kill a Mockingbird. All great books. Jane Eyre will always be my favorite. The rest of them are my to-read list. I’m shocked that I haven’t read Pride & Prejudice yet…or any of Jane Austen.

  51. Karen says:

    I’ve read six out of nine as an adult (Jane Eyre and P & P many times). The funny thing is, except for quite a bit of Shakespeare, I don’t remember ever being set novels to read in high school, but I didn’t attend in this country. It’s possible I just have a very bad memory!

  52. This year I am in Grade 9 I had to read Great Expectations which took me a long time to finish because I have to read the chapters twice just to understand it. But I already finish reading To kill a mockingbird during my grade 8 summer and I fell in love with it. And when I learned that I need to read this book in Grade 10, I was excited to read it again. Our grade 7 had to read Tall Story and Grade 8 had to read Joy Luck Club.

  53. Mary Beth Hamilton says:

    Have re-read several of these. Not on your list is a book I read in high school, because I had to. Re-read it 35 years later for my book-club. Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth- now would rank among the 10 greatest reads of my life!

  54. Yvette says:

    My favorite high school reads were To Kill A Mockingbird, Ferinheit 451, and 12 Angry M, in that order. These three books were the only books that I have read that allowed my mind to create a picture as I read along each day. I’m now almost 45 years old and still have my high school copies. My kids have also read MY COPIES. I must say though, I was very disappointed in the movie version of Twelve Angry Men. None of the characters were as I envisioned them to be. I haven’t read much since the early 90’s. This list will hopefully inspire me to pick up books again. Thank you for sharing.

  55. Gina says:

    I read “Mockingbird” last month. It wasn’t required reading in hs and I figured it was about time I picked it up. It was worth the wait.

  56. Sandylaz says:

    No must read book list is complete without Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield is an iconic character. He is the character who defines teen angst. He is sympathetic and lovable. He is multi-dimensional and unpredictable. He is also a little bit crazy which makes him so fascinating to read about.
    I’d like to put “A Separate Peace” and “Ordinary People” into the mix for consideration. They are great studies in adolescence, and both deal with the death of a teen and how those around them react. Great studies in human behavior!

  57. Suzanne Crichton says:

    I had the great fortune to be introduced to Margaret Atwood in high school. The first book assigned was SURFACING to be followed the next year with THE EDIBLE WOMAN. I’ve loved her novels ever since!

  58. I was homeschooled then in private school, so I only read P&P and To Kill A Mocking Bird in school. But I’ve since read about half of these. Can I cover my face when I say with embarrassment that I didn’t like Mrs. Dalloway. Is that awful? I felt guilty for not enjoying it the whole time I read it. But I love the others that I’ve read from the list!

  59. K. Rose says:

    We read All Quiet on the Western Front, Flowers for Algernon, The Chronicles of Narnia. I read Pride and Prejudice last year and loved it. I do think All Quiet on the Western Front and Diary of Anne Frank should be required in today’s schools if they are not already as the current school generation really has no living ties back to that era outside of films. ALso I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I think it appropriate for older high school readin and the full I Have a Dream speech. I hated Great Gatsby.

  60. M T V says:

    Only read books that you enjoy ¡ if you’re not loving them ! Don’t panic God will not strike you ! Take a pause and read what you love !

  61. C.C. Donoho says:

    I adored Jane Eyre and Great Expectations and To Kill A Mocking bird. My fave Austen is Sense and Sensibility, just a little bit more wonderful to me than Pride and Prejudice. The 3 most influential books that I read in high school were One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, The Fountainhead, and my fave book of all time, East of Eden. I have read Steinbeck’s masterpiece in every decade of my life, starting at 15, And it never disappoints.!!

  62. Grace says:

    Didn’t get much from Beowulf, but gifted teacher helped me follow Sound and the Fury(Faulkner) with symbolism of Benjie (moaning)suffering because sister Quentin was having sex, the symbolism of Benjie and Christ etc. Love of literature for life?

  63. Naomi says:

    I can’t wait to read my way through this list but I’m surprised Wuthering Heights isn’t on here! I’m halfway through it and it’s honestly one of the best books I’ve ever read, I can’t put it down. I am glad I wasn’t forced to read it in high school, though, because I never would have appreciated it properly.

  64. Jackie says:

    I read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury in eleventh grade. I had never read science fiction before and it turned me into a SF fan for life.

  65. Lois Murphy says:

    Yes!! Ethan Frome – like many mandatory reading lists in the 60s at my high school – these books were way over our heads. I re-read this when my daughter was in high school (not loving it either) and I was able to understand the love, misery and twist of fate that befell the characters. I couldn’t put it down. I have read many of the 9 books – but will never be a Dickens fan.

  66. Maria says:

    Loving this thread and I have added many to my reading list. It has also reminded me of some marvellous reads so thank you for that.
    I went to school in England in the 60s and the reading list was not very progressive. We read Chaucer, Shakespeare, George Elliott, (Silas Marner,) and Thomas Hardy, (Trumpet Major.) I still love Shakespeare but I only came back to Hardy and Elliott much later. Chaucer has never darkened my door again.
    My first “proper read,” was Heidi, and I cried my eyes out when Heidi had to leave her grandfather.
    I loved the Katy books by Susan Coolidge and read Little Women and Good Wives amongst many others as a youngster. I loved Gone with the Wind and read it as a teenager, late into the night, with the aid of a torch, under the bedclothes. Loved the Poldark books and devoured Georgette Heyer.
    I read To Kill a Mockingbird after seeing the film on TV and did the same with The Diary of Anne Frank.
    I loved Jane Eyre but really didn’t like Wuthering Heights. I thought Heathcliff was horrible. I read Rebecca and then other D du M. I think Frenchman’s Creek was amazing. A young woman who becomes a pirate. How far ahead of it’s time was that?
    I read Animal Farm but never 1984 so that is now on my list.
    Love Jane Austen and read them all, my favourite is Emmma. Very funny and such a flawed character. I adore her. I saw a fantastic P and P performed at the Minack outdoor theatre in Cornwall on a summer evening, with the sea as a backdrop. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
    Have read a fair amount of Dickens and they are wonderful. If starting out I recommend A Christmas Carol. It is a very slim volume.
    In recent years my reading has ebbed and flowed a bit. I try to read out of my comfort zone if I can. That is how I discovered The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and then read A Thousand Splendid Suns. I can’t recommend them enough.
    I see I have been carried away. Will stop now.

  67. Katrina says:

    I had to read The Crysalids in high school and hated every word. I don’t even remember finishing it and probably just took the “F”. Years later when discussing favorited reads with my cousin she mentioned how it was one of her favourites I decided to take another look, I now understand the appeal and have introduced it to my own daughters, making sure to help with the dissection along the way so they can experience the enjoyment of this sweeping tale.

  68. Emma says:

    Just stumbled upon this list, and as a current senior in high school, thought I’d leave you with the books required at my public school 🙂
    Freshman- House on Mango Street, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet
    Sophomore- Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, the Odyssey, Things Fall Apart, Persepolis, Slaughterhouse 5
    Junior- Huckleberry Finn (since removed due to several complaints), the Great Gatsby
    Senior- (in my optional literature class) the Awakening, Hamlet, Brave New World, Song of Solomon, Heart of Darkness (painful).

  69. Lois Murphy says:

    We were assigned Ethan Frome in high school. UHG!! I re-read it as an adult and loved it. In 1967 we were just too young to understand the love story and the angst. It remains one of my favorite stories.

  70. Jo Ann Seals says:

    I’ve read six of these books and loved everyone one of them. It made me a fan of Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolfe, Tom Wolfe and others. They Gave me hours of reading enjoyment!

  71. Mandy says:

    Just yesterday, I mentioned “The Hound of the Baskervilles” to a 30-ish, apparently middle class woman. Never heard of it, much less read it. I’m not sure she even recognized “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”. Sigh.

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