High school reading lists – they can be super daunting. You may find yourself wondering why on earth you should have to read what they’re asking you to. After all, what’s the point? You’re busy doing loads of other things. However, you may be surprised to find that given the chance, many of these books teach you a lot… though admittedly some won’t.
I myself have always been an avid reader, I started reading Harry Potter when I was about 5 or 6 and simply never looked back. Books gave me a whole new world to explore and it was fantastic. But this doesn’t mean I loved all of my assigned books throughout highschool and college. I can appreciate a good story, but there are some books you just have to get through. I have a personal hatred of a book called The Poisonwood Bible, but believe me I read it word for word anyway – it was a classic after all.
As a busy high school or college student, you may have one of those textbooks with only excerpts of books and you’re wondering if you should read the full thing. There are some that are definitely worth it, I know there were for me. Now I can’t say that you’re going to love all of the books that I did. Some you may even hate! But, having done so many assigned readings in my time, I can say that I’ve found a great many amazing books.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
- One of the oldest pieces of literature we know of, that was written some time in ancient Mesopotamia on clay tablets. It follows the exciting adventures of Gilgamesh (our first ever literary hero) and his wild friend Enkidu. The epic lays the foundation for basically all future pieces of literature, particularly what’s next on our list: The Odyssey.
The Odyssey by Homer
- Homer was a spectacular storyteller, and The Odyssey is a must read. It is long, and admittedly there are points that are so descriptive you’ll feel like you’re reading Lord of the Rings, only 1000s of years old. But, the story of Odysseus is captivating and you’ll be transported to a world unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
- This story is also rather long, it develops and progresses as the characters age and is a really interesting introduction to the society of 11th century Japan. Most of the story concerns a young man named Genji, and through his journey we get to experience the Heian period.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
- Taking a jump forward several 100 years, Jane Austin is one of the many female authors ahead of their society. This book follows the Bennet family and their attempts to find suitable matches for all of their daughters – similar to Bridgerton, and written by a woman who could make a true commentary on society, as she was living in it.
Lil’ Bit Spooky
As I lay Dying
Dracula by Bram Stoker
- I was always fascinated by vampires, but though I read it, Twilight just wasn’t for me. So, what better than one of the first vampire tales? It’s a dark, and creepy story, but well worth the read.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
- Everyone more or less knows the story of Frankenstein, but the book is just so much more in depth! But more than the novel, Mary Shelly was a fascinating person. She began writing the novel when she was 18 and it’s considered the first example of science fiction.
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The greatest detective of all time, need I say more? Truth be told, I adore Sherlock Holmes and have watched / read any iteration I could find. But it’s hard to beat the original.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- This is a classic. It’s set in the deep south, discussing racism and prejudice from the perspective of two children, which runs parallel to their lawyer father’s latest case defending a black man. It’s both a coming of age story and a story about the terrible consequences of racism and prejudice. It’ll be relevant in our society for as long as these prejudices still exist, so a must read!
The God of Small Things – by Arundhati Roy
- This book is a tough one, it’s timeline jumps around and often you may feel like you’re following a story in a haze. However, when I finally finished working my way through it and spent some time looking back, I did end up really liking it. The book centers around twins from a small state in India. You see the world through their eyes and how they navigate the sadness, love, and hardships the adults in their life are experiencing as well as their own.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- One of my favorite books, but a very far cry from cheery. It’s about a group of boys stranded on an island during a nuclear war and their struggle to survive. Initially things go very well, but Golding wanted to illustrate a very darkside of humanity and disaster quickly follows. His book really makes you think, but that’s what makes it so good!.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- In this novel we join Guy Montag in a highly censored and controlled society. Their government watches the citizen’s every move and books are banned. Being written in 1953, it has plenty of parallels to the Nazi book burning, and the concern here is that books make you think – have different opinions – in a world where everything has to be the same. The book speaks out against those ideas and is really quite spectacular.
Let’s Talk Shakespeare
David Tennant once said “William Shakespear was a genius” in a comedy sketch on youtube, and he was absolutely right. I couldn’t name just a few of his works, so I’m leaving that up to you. However, I will offer some advice because, as we all know, Shakespearean English is very challenging. In short, it always helps to have a book that will give you an index or some sort of translation because that way the humor and word play doesn’t get lost. Afterall, that’s one of the best parts!
At some point, I had either read enough Shakespeare, or had some kind of magic breakthrough, but suddenly everything made sense and I started loving the plays. I hope you’ll be able to as well because there’s really nothing else like them.
Figuring Things Out
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- This book seems to be one where you either love it, or totally hate it. But, it’s a great coming-of-age story. You follow Holden Caulfield as he deals with his feelings of angst and alienation, and ultimately finds his place in the world.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by
- I think by now everyone will have heard of this and probably seen it, but the book is spectacular. Though I admit, the first time I read it I lay around on my couch for days after finishing it processing a whole slew of emotions.