For many teenagers, the staple literary works of high school English classes can help forge a lifelong love of reading and critical thinking. Here are just a few of the best books for today’s kids to engage with and why high school students from across the social spectrum can benefit enormously from interacting with the themes explored in classic literary works.
- “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell
At a time where round-the-clock surveillance is an accepted part of life, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” has perhaps never been more relevant to society, and no high school student should enter into young adulthood without reading it at least once. Kids are the future of society, and Orwell’s most famous novel is a lesson in what can go wrong when conformity rules the day.
- “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
A glimpse into the darker side of human nature, “Lord of the Flies” can teach high school students a great deal about the dangers of toxic groupthink. Like “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” “Lord of the Flies” shows teenagers that conformity is a compelling but often deadly force in human affairs. That is a lesson that far too few people learn.
- “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
A beautifully written novella with a profoundly humanistic message at its core, “Of Mice and Men” remains a staple of high school reading lists. As well, it should be: This classic book has much to teach us about misjudging others and about the power of empathy.
- “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It is often deservedly referred to as the “Great American Novel,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece has much to tell today’s students about personal identity, social exclusion, and greed. As novels of great moral force go, it’s difficult to beat this short but extraordinarily poignant volume.
- “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
Long regarded as a potent tale regarding youthful angst and rebellion, the story of William Shakespeare’s most famous character still resonates strongly with today’s teenagers. Hamlet isn’t just about family conflict: At its best, the story gets to the root of human nature itself.
- “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
As one of the greatest critiques of warfare ever written, Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous novel can feel like a revelation to teenagers just getting a sense of the real world. The novel’s sense of humor also makes it highly entertaining and helps make the difficult subject matter here feel more palatable.