Even though I’ve always liked reading, I always dreaded required reading. So many of the archaic classics just did absolutely nothing for me at the time I read them. However, several of them were also very thought-provoking. If I was given a high school English class with free reign how to teach it, I would want to include some books written in the last few years as well, because many of them are also very impactful. Below is a mix of older classics and newer stories that I feel every high school student should read.
1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I kind of feel like this one’s a given, and for good reason. I read it in the 10th grade and am long overdue for a reread.
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My thoughts on this one can be summed up in this GIF:
3. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
This book is about The Salem Witch Trials, written during the time of the Communist Red Scare in America. Point being: the message it timeless. This book rocked my world in 11th grade.
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Thought-provoking but far from boring. I read this one the summer before my senior year, and it really wasn’t a bad poolside read. Plus, it may encourage the students to read more Oscar Wilde, which they should because he is hilarious.
5. Anthem by Ayn Rand
Alternative possibilities that work just as well: The Giver or The Hunger Games. But let me explain what I think is great about Anthem for high school students though. First off, it’s short, which is always a plus for required reading. Secondly, the character perspective is interesting. At first, you’re not reading about a unique individual, like Katniss. And you’re not reading about a child who is given a great opportunity, like Jonas. You’re reading about an adult who is toiling in his world when he makes a discovery on his own that changes everything. Besides, there’s a decent chance in this day and age that a high school student has probably already read The Giver and The Hunger Games. Anthem explores more dystopia themes that will take their critical thinking to another level. It is a little heavy-handed, but that in itself might make for interesting discussion as well.
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Pretty much because it’s a fantasy gateway, and if a high school student hasn’t read any fantasy yet, it’s time for them to discover if it’s for them or not.
7. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Another genre read that again, I think high school students should be exposed to. And it certainly has plenty of material for a paper or a class discussion.
I had to include both, because seriously, moving WWII fiction that focuses on lesser-known parts of history.
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I had considered just making this one a bonus for AP students, but this book impacted me too much for me not to put on this list. Even if it’s an abridged version, that’s fine. No one really needs that sub-plot about the sister anyways. This book is all about consequences to actions, something I think all high school students need to think about.
What books made an impact on you in high school? What book do you wish you had read in high school?