In order to create a high school summer reading list full of interesting and thought-provoking works, one should look to the classics that comprise top reading lists of both colleges and high schools. High school is a time to develop and prepare oneself for college, and classical literature helps students do both of these things. Not only are the classics informative and insightful, they also keep one interested and wanting to keep turning the pages.
First, the American Classics. Publishing company Radcliffe created a 100 Best Novels List that tops the list with the American works The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a novel about the “roaring” 1920s and Prohibition; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which discusses the teenage issues of identity, confusion and belonging; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, a classic about the Great Depression and the greed that created it; and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel about racial inequality in America. Other classic American works include Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a poignant book discussing dystopian America; Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, a short story about forgiveness, grace and the human condition; and the quintessential Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
America does not have a monopoly on great books though, so works from other countries must be included as well. The now-famous Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit by English author J.R.R. Tolkien are excellent works of fantasy fiction, as well as fellow English author George Orwell’s 1984, a dystopian novel set in a future world. Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is a brilliant, albeit long, piece of classic Russian literature, as is Leo Tolstoy’s breathtaking Anna Karenina. The more modern, but still of exceptional, quality works The Satanic Verses and The Trial of God by Indian-British author Salman Rushdie and Jewish author Elie Wiesel, respectively, round out this category of non-American works.
One’s summer reading list should not be composed of just classic fiction. There should be a healthy dose of historical and entertaining works as well. Another book by Wiesel, Night, remains the top memoir of the experiences of a Holocaust survivor. Why We Can’t Wait is Martin Luther Kings Jr.’s brilliant book on civil rights and racial equality. The Education of Henry Adams, an autobiographical and historical account written by Henry Adams, finishes out the historical and intellectual list. For entertainment and light reading, the manga Full-Metal Alchemist by Japanese author Hiromu Arakawa is an exciting series with a good story line, artistry and character development.
These books are some of the top works that have come about in the past few centuries. Many of them have greatly shaped America and continue to be relevant. More complete lists of top works can be found in the 100 Best Novels, 100 Best Non-Fiction, and the 100 Greatest Novels of All Time .