Lord of the Flies
Stranded on an uninhabited island after surviving a plane crash, a group of young schoolboys are left to fend for themselves. As each boy attempts to establish power, ideas about community, empathy, leadership, and innocence are examined with striking symbolism. More than 60 years later, this coming-of-age story—full of sympathetic characters and hope for survival—will have you questioning human nature.
Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler is essential reading for all stages of life. Depending on where you went to high school and your English teacher’s philosophy, you may or may not have been introduced to Kindred, the sci-fi modern classic that finds 26-year-old protagonist Dana traveling back in time—repeatedly, and against her will—to save the white son of a plantation owner. Regardless of your age at first read, you’ll find it exceptional.
Pride and Prejudice
If you’re only familiar with Austen’s most-loved novel because of Colin Firth, it might be worth revisiting. When Mr. Darcy, the typical aloof romantic hero, and Mr. Bingley, rich and eligible, move into the neighborhood, they find themselves objects of curiosity for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s five unmarried daughters. Equal parts funny and romantic, Pride and Prejudice perfectly depicts the awkwardness of love—and the ways it makes fools out of all of us.
Of Mice and Men
At just under 200 pages, there’s no excuse not to have read this classic tale of friendship. Set in California during the 1930s, we get to know to field workers George Milton and Lennie Small. Despite being opposite in nature, they form a quick bond and become family, facing life’s triumphs—and struggles—together. Surprisingly gripping, you’ll swallow this up in one sitting, whether you’re reading for the first time or a second (or third, or fourth).
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Ernest Hemingway declared this book as the only book: “there was nothing before, there has been nothing since.” If that doesn’t make you run to your nearest bookstore, we don’t know what will. Told from Huck’s point of view, this story follows him and a freed slave named Jim as they sail down the Mississippi on a raft. The injustice of slavery, the complexity of friendship, and the loss of innocence give this story its power and heart. Give it a read to find out why it’s often called The Great American Novel.
Possibly the most famous political allegory of our time, Animal Farm tells the story about a group of animals, inspired by a boar named Old Major, who rebel against their human owner. Successful in their plans and left in control of their own society, they soon learn they can’t trust whom they once thought they could. If you read this in high school, chances are a re-read now would reveal things you missed.
A sequel to Homer’s The Iliad, this poem is a narration of Odysseus’s decade-long journey home after the Trojan War. As Odysseus encounters challenges along the way, he uses his wit and artfulness to survive. Translated many times in many different languages, The Odyssey is a classic story worth adding to your must-read list.
Based on the witch hunts of 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts, this fictional play is based on real people and events. At the center of the story is a love triangle; John Proctor is engaged in an affair with Abigail Williams, while his wife is being accused of witchcraft. A gripping tale of what happens when hysteria takes over and the wrong people are in control, its lessons (unfortunately) still apply to modern society.
Memories of high school feature cafeteria lunches, gossiping about who’s dating whom, and hanging out by your locker—and, if you’re book nerds like us, the reading lists. Whether you were the A+ student who devoured every page or the slacker who spent more time making cootie-catchers, we’ve compiled the high school reading list you’ll want to have a reunion with.
Featured Image: @BCK/Twenty20