“Moby Dick” By Herman Melville Published in 1851, it has often been called one of the greatest American novels of all time. The story of Ishmael and his quest for the great white whale is a master class in literary devices. Any student that is learning about the history of literature, or anyone that has an interest in the great works of American Romanticism, must read this book.
“Lord of the Flies” By William Golding William Golding received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Booker Prize for Literature and he was even knighted in 1988. He is best known for his novel, Lord of the Flies, which continues to be one of the most challenged and controversial books of all time, despite the fact that it reaches the top of almost all best-loved and must-read literature lists. Lord of the Flies, which comments on the human tendency towards group thinking and the lines between peace and war, is challenging because it does so through the eyes of children. One of the most powerful and thought-provoking books of all time, Lord of the Flies is another absolute must, though not for the faint of heart.
“1984” By George Orwell Few authors have worked their way into the English language like George Orwell. His novel 1984, which was originally published in 1949, continues to be one of the most influential novels of all time. Common terms like big brother is watching and the thought police originate from Orwell's tale of a totalitarian society. The issues of censorship, freedom and surveillance are just as relevant today as they were when the novel was originally published.
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” By Mark Twain Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens) has often been celebrated as the Great American Author. Written in 1876, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy growing up in the south along the Mississippi River. The novel was also followed by a sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The two novels are commonly named among the greatest American novels of all time and both are a must for any literature fan, as their historical significance and cultural impacts are immeasurable.
“Brave New World” By Aldous Huxley There are many novels that depict the image of a utopian society. Perhaps none is as well known and respected as Brave New World. Banned multiple times in various countries, Brave New World has been at the top of the list of most controversial novels ever written for its depiction of darker themes. However, despite the controversy, Brave New World remains a challenging and intelligent novel that is a must read.
“The Catcher in the Rye” By J.D. Salinger This classic story of teenage angst and rebellion remains a popular novel amongst teenagers all over the world. As popular as it has always been, The Catcher in the Rye was also the most censored book in high schools and libraries from 1961 to 1962, and it is one of the most frequently challenged books to date. However, the novel has also been called one of the best novels of all time and it has been an inspiration to many, including former President George H. W. Bush.
“On the Road” By Jack Kerouac There is little debate as to the significance of Jack Kerouac, who is often hailed as the defining author of the Beat Generation. His novel, On the Road, is universally celebrated as one of his best. In addition to being on just about every list of important literature from the 20th century, On the Road has also influenced many artists and authors today. Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Hunter S. Thompson have all publicly stated how On the Road was an influence for their work. Clearly, this is one novel that young adults will devour.
“Slaughterhouse-Five” By Kurt Vonnegut A satirical look at World War II through the eyes of a soldier, Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five is often cited as his most influential work. The themes of fate versus free-will are explored in this classic novel, which has also been the subject of criticism and banned-book lists. Banned in some schools as recently as 2011, Slaughterhouse-Five is continually respected as one of the best English novels of the 20th century. High-schoolers will love the unique take on such a well-known time in history, while the quick pace and intelligent writing will make this a very fast read.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” By Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston was an author far ahead of her time. Written in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God was one of the first novels to depict African-American communities and women's sexuality. Today, the novel is hailed as one of the original works of African-American and women's literature, and continues to be an inspiration for African-American women throughout the United States. In a time long before the civil rights movement, Hurston's novel shows the courage and influence that one person can have on society.
“Watership Down” By Richard Adams On the surface, Watership Down may seem like an innocent children's book. However, one glance at the story within and it is clearly not a novel meant for young children. High schoolers, however, will be able to immerse themselves in the heroic fantasy style of the novel, as the animals in the story are anthropomorphised and the tale of the destruction of their home evokes themes of the classic hero's epic tale.
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