An incomplete list of classic books from the course of literary wanderings, both from voracious reading and a librarian stint. They are delightful, well-written, and thought provoking. After all, isn’t the purpose of an excellent book to shape your thinking by dialogue with great minds across time?

Books that are longer, harder to read, or with more mature subjects have been separated accordingly. Books in the junior high category contain no overt sexuality or graphic depictions of things such as mental disorders, while those in the high school category may contain some non-gratuitous references and treatment. I wouldn’t recommend a book if it were lascivious, like most romance or cheap literature today. If you are very concerned, look up the title on Wikipedia, or ask your local librarian.

Oh, and do not read an abridged version! Not only do you gain scope, a longer attention span, and a wider vocabulary by reading the original prose, abridgments often cut out the richest parts of the stories, leaving it a gutted carcass. If you or your child are unable to plow through Joyce, read something simpler. You can get to Joyce later (hint: Start with Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).

Junior High

  • Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott
  • Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Alice in Wonderland, Louis Carroll
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Kim, Rudyard Kipling
  • Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis
  • Space trilogy, C.S. Lewis
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell

High School

  • Emma, Jane Austen
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Good Earth, Pearl Buck
  • Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper
  • Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  • Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
  • Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • Murder in the Cathedral,  T.S. Eliot
  • Basil and Josephine stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Diary, Anne Frank
  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • ‘Til We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Hamlet, William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
  • Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
  • Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington
  • Picture of Dorien Gray, Oscar Wilde
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