Atypical Homeschool has a 15 year old asking what books students should read by the time they are out of high school. As a teacher of college freshmen, a homeschooling mother, and a PhD in English, I have some definite opinions. You might be surprised by what they are.
So what would I recommend?
I would recommend reading the Bible, especially Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
I would recommend reading fairy tales, particulary the Grimm stories, the Andersen stories, and Aesop’s Fables.
I would recommend reading children’s classics, such as A Child’s Garden of Verses and The Little Red Hen, and The Little Engine That Could.
Other books, in no particular order:
Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Call of the Wild by Jack London, even though it presupposes evolution
The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, again, evolution
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, dystopian, but widely read in high schools, many college teachers assume you’ve read it
Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm by George Orwell
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, about racial prejudice
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, a sad story, but a regular high school read
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Constitution of the United States
The Declaration of Independence
The Pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning, the children don’t come home
The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, a bad guy gets saved at the cost of his girlfriend’s life, her choice, and when he finds out, he comes in revenge and dies
The Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe
Mythology by Edith Hamilton- Greek, Roman, and Norse
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. I taught this in 10th grade literature and my older son has read it. It may not be classic literature, but I think it is worth reading. It introduces students to the idea of nuclear holocaust in a story without, usually, scaring the bejeezus out of them.
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton. I had to read this in my public high school. I remember reading it, talking about it, adn thinking about it.
Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
Peter Pan by Sir James M. Barrie
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, a ubiquitous choice for high school students. Everyone assumes you’ve read it.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller, a better choice of his work. About the Salem Witch Trials.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, watch the 1952 version of the movie, not the modern one. (Dramas should be seen, not read.) It’s a comedy.
Our Town by Thornton Wilder, again everyone assumes you’ve read it.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night by Shakespeare- comedies
Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet by Shakespeare- tragedies
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Okay, that’s 60, with just the names listed here. I think that’s sufficient for the day.
No, it’s not.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
And my previous recommendations, of the best poetry ever, are here, here, and here. It is a series of lists, with some discussion, on 66 poems that I like or have liked. (Note: The poems for PoeTree had to be short.)