HomeAcademics & ActivitiesBook Reviews

101 books for college-bound kids

Sharing the classics with your child is an activity you'll both treasure.

By GreatSchools Staff

Take a respite from the rush and chatter of modern life and spend time with a masterpiece. Even better: entice your teen to join you. Choose a book together and take turns reading it aloud, or track down the audio version and listen to it during your next road trip. This book list, compiled by the CollegeBoard, includes classics your student should read before (or during) college. But don't use the "s" word! Instead, let your child know that these aren't just classics, they are tales of romance, war, adventure, and courage, and that — while they won't love every story — a few are sure to become beloved lifelong companions. As author Italo Calvino wrote: “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

Middle school books

Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage
Dumas, Alexandre The Three Musketeers
Golding, William Lord of the Flies
Hurston, Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
London, Jack The Call of the Wild
Miller, Arthur The Crucible
Morrison, Toni Beloved
O'Neill, Eugene Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George Animal Farm
Poe, Edgar Allen Selected Tales
Remarque, Erich Maria All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond Cyrano de Bergerac
Stevenson, Robert Louis Treasure Island
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver's Travels
Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Welty, Eudora Collected Stories
Wright, Richard Native Son


High school books

Author Title
------- Beowulf
Agee, James A Death in the Family
Austin, Jane Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert The Stranger
Cather, Willa Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore The Last of the Mohicans
Dante Inferno
Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore An American Tragedy
Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo Selected Essays
Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Faust
Hardy, Thomas Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
Homer The Iliad
Homer The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Ibsen, Henrik A Doll's House
James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong The Woman Warrior
Lewis, Sinclair Babbitt
Mann, Thomas The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
O'Connor, Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find
Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Proust, Marcel Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
Roth, Henry Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William Hamlet
Shakespeare, William Macbeth
Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles Antigone
Sophocles Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom's Cabin
Thackeray, William Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David Walden
Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
Voltaire Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith The House of Mirth
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia To the Lighthouse


Comments from readers

"I love to read. This list left out a few such as david copperfield, oliver twist, and the war of the worlds. I'm going into the ninth grade and reading really is important and I really enjoy it. It's better than watching tv thats for sure!"
"This is a great list, thank you. My 11-year old son has already read several of the classics listed. One I didn't think of is 'The Color Purple' which I will pull out for him to read this summer. I have never censored his choice of books. We have a house full of bookshelves packed with books and he has free choice and has always made appropriate choices for himself. He began reading 'Black Hawk Down' when he was nine and after the first couple chapters he told us that it was 'a little too intense' for him. The book 'Stolen Lives' spurred lively discussion on subjects that we may never have talked about had my son not read this book. I believe these topics are best learned about in the home where there is an adult available to query. I would much rather my son gain knowledge about sex from books and family discussion than from misinformation from his peers. If I am not familiar with a book my son has chosen I will read it first so I am prepared to enter into a discussion with him. We often read together as a family at night. We take turns reading out loud to each other while the three of us are snuggled up on the sofa. This is one of my son’s favorite things to do as ! a family. My son still reads his early childhood books such as Dr. Seuss. The 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books have been tremendous for teaching compassion ~ they are his favorite series to read out loud. Thank you to the respondent that suggested the book, 'Man's Search for Meaning’; we will add that to our summer reading list as well. I also agree with the recommendation for ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’ series as great adventure books for boys and girls alike. The sea adventure books written by Patrick O’ Brian keep my son captivated for hours. Happy summer reading!"
"These are great! :) However, I thought the Color Purple was pretty explicit in sexual & violent content & can't say I'd recommend for Middle's not something I'd want to read with my pre-teen & was only written in 1982-classic? There are some good ones missing. Would have expected to see Swiss Family Robinson, Tolkien (Hobbit, Lord of the Rings series) or CS Lewis (Narnia, Screwtape Letters). HG Wells, Jules Verne & Ray Bradbury have no mentions. A few of those on the list (Chaucer, Voltaire) I remember being rather amazingly complex when I was reading them in College (& I had perfect verbal SAT scores)...maybe the middle schoolers are way smarter these days? "
"I love the list. I was surprised that I didn't see Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl on the list."