The Ultimate High School Reading List

January 30, 2020 · CLASSMATES FUN

Now that we are a month into 2020, it’s time to check in on our New Year’s resolutions. How many of you made a promise to read more books this year? Maybe you are feeling nostalgic and want to revisit some of the classics from your high school English classes. Or maybe somehow you missed them the first time around and finally want to check them out. Whatever the case, here are five popular books that you should add to your reading list.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This 1960 Pulitzer-prize winning book by Harper Lee features the story of a six-year-old girl named Scout, her older brother Jem, and their heroic lawyer father Atticus Finch during the Great Depression in a fictional Alabama town. The novel follows two narratives – the children’s fascination with their reclusive neighbor Arthur “Boo” Radley, and the trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white woman and who Atticus is appointed to defend in court. The book proved widely successful and was adapted into a movie in 1962 starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. The story deals with racial injustice, gender roles, courage, and compassion, making it not only a popular choice for high school reading, but in some cases, a required one.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald did write other novellas and various short stories, The Great Gatsby will always be considered his magnum opus. The novel, written in 1925, takes place a few years earlier and follows Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book and a World War I veteran, who rents a bungalow in Long Island, New York next to a multi-million-dollar estate owned by a man named Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is known for throwing luxurious parties, and after Nick attends one, the two become friends. The reader is also introduced to Nick’s distant relative Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. The book serves as critical social commentary of Prohibition-era America during the height of the Jazz Age, an era which was known for jazz music, economic wealth, rebellious youth, and flapper culture, and showcases Fitzgerald’s personal disillusionment with “the American Dream”. Almost 100 years later, this book is still being taught in high school classrooms around the world.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, was originally intended for adults but is most often read by adolescents due to its themes of angst and alienation. The novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, has also become an icon for teenage rebellion. The story begins just as Holden has been expelled from boarding school, and the reader witnesses his various menial tasks throughout the day – talking to his roommate, going to a comedy show, making small talk with a taxi driver, and attending a nightclub – all while following his exact thought processes. Although popular in many classrooms, it’s had its share of controversies. The book has been censored or banned in many schools since its publication, due to the vulgar language, sexual references, and encouragement of rebellion, among other issues. Despite its calls for censorship, Catcher still remains one of the most popular books of all-time. It was so popular, in fact, that Salinger became a recluse for the rest of his life in order to avoid the unwanted attention. Although he died in 2010 at the age of 91, his legacy continues to live on through the story, which has remained relevant all these years later.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Nobel prize winning British Author William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies in 1954, and it then became a movie in 1963 and a remake in 1990. Although not initially well-received, it’s grown in popularity over the decades. It was ranked third in a 2016 poll of the United Kingdom’s favorite books from school and was listed as one of the top 100 most influential novels by BBC as of 2019. It’s also become popular in the United States, and the author Stephen King features it prominently in several of his novels. The plot follows a group of boys stranded on a deserted island in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, who attempt to create their own government. Considered an allegorical novel because of its hidden meanings, the story includes themes such as tension between rational and irrational emotions and morality and immorality. Although it was written as a young-adult book, these ideas make Lord of the Flies accessible to anyone.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

An English class would be incomplete without at least one piece of literature by Shakespeare, and Hamlet is one of his most famous. Shakespeare’s plays were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies, and Hamlet is the latter. If you decide to read it, however, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time, because it’s his longest play and has over 30,000 words! The story is about Prince Hamlet seeking revenge on his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father in order to marry his mother. The concept was derived from the legend of Amleth, who is a figure in Scandinavian medieval legend, because Shakespeare often drew from history and other plays when writing his own. Hamlet is not an easy read, as it is written in Early Modern English, but there are plenty of copies available with footnotes to help you with some of the words.


These are just five popular choices, but there are many others, of course. What other books do you suggest? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Information Source: Wikipedia