50 Books to be Read in High School

This is my attempt at creating an essential literature list, such as many of us had to read in high school. The intent is not to read specific classics but to give an overview of the history of literature in English.

Genre Fiction

Fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (alt. The Lord of the Rings)
Graphic Novel: Alan Moore and David Gibbons, Watchmen
Horror: Stephen King, The Shining
Mystery: P.D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
Romance: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, It Had to be You
Science Fiction: Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep
Western: Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage

Old Dead White Men

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal

19th Century British

Jane Austen, Emma
Charlotte, Bronte, Jane Eyre
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
William Makepease Thackeray, Vanity Fair

19th Century American

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Nathaniel Hawthornre, The Scarlet Letter
Henry James, Wings of the Dove
Herman Melville, Billy Budd
Edgar Allen Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper

Early 20th Century British

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion
Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Early 20th Century American

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth


Margaret Atwood, Surfacing
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Toni Morrison, Sula
George Orwell, Animal Farm
Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
Ursula K. Leguin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Graham Swift, Last Orders
Muril Spark, Girls of Slender Means

Other Voices

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Louis Erdrich, Love Medicine
Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World
V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas


Norton Anthology of Poetry
Best American Short Stories of the 20th Century

Film Accompaniment


Fantasy: The Princess Bride
Graphic Novel: Batman (1989)
Horror: Jaws
Mystery: Rear Window
Romance: The Shop Around the Corner
Science Fiction: Blade Runner
Western: High Noon (alt. Red River)

Old Dead White Guys

Castaway (2000)
Barry Lyndon
Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli)
Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh/Thompson)

19th Century Britain

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

19th Century American

Last of the Mohicans
Washington Square

Other Voices:

The Gods Must be Crazy
Remains of the Day
Smoke Signals

Pre-WWII British

My Fair Lady
Heart of Darkness
Brideshead Revisited


Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead