• High School Reading List for College-Bound Students

    High School Reading List for College-Bound Students

    • By Lee Binz, The HomeScholar

    The HomeScholar's High School Reading List Will Help  Your Teen Prepare for College.

    Click for Printable High School Reading List

The High School Reading List - In a Nutshell

Welcome to The HomeScholar’s high school reading list for college-bound students! The following selection of books are drawn from a variety of different reading lists, and represent the books that we at The HomeScholar are both familiar with and feel comfortable recommending to college-bound students.


A Great High School Reading List Can Unlock College Admission

It’s not possible (or even desirable!) for any student to read all the books on every high school reading list, and not every book will be appropriate for every child. However, reading from a broad cross-section of both American and World literature will help prepare your students to understand a variety of different cultures and times, and strengthen their knowledge and understanding of great literature. We hope you enjoy this selection!

A great high school reading list is just one of the ingredients to comprehensive homeschool records that open doors for college admission and scholarships. Let me show you how to create professional records quickly! Click to get the Comprehensive Record Solution.

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American Literature

Angelou, Maya I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Two children are abandoned by their mother and sent to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town.

Cooper, James Fenimore The Deerslayer
A young white hunter brought up in the Delaware Indian tribe, has to defend settlers before returning to the Iroquois who have allowed him parole.

Cooper, James Fenimore Last of the Mohicans
The story of the adopted son of the Mohicans, and the daughter of a British colonel, during the French and Indian War.

Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage
A teenager enlists with the Union Army during the Civil War in the hopes of fulfilling his dreams of glory.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
A portrait of the 1920s in America, this is the story of money, greed, excess, and a man in love.

Frank, Pat Alas, Babylon
A survival story that takes place after a nuclear attack destroys all civilization except for a small Florida town.

Franklin, Benjamin The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Written initially to guide his son, Franklin's autobiography is a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life.

Haley, Alex Roots
This book chronicles several generations of a slave family, from a West African youth captured by slave raiders and shipped to America in the 1700s, and concluding with the Civil War.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
Set in Puritan Boston, this book tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair and struggles to create a new life of dignity and repentance.

Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
The life of an American soldier and a British nurse against the backdrop of the First World War, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations.

Keller, Helen The Story of My Life
A young woman overcomes the challenges of being both deaf and blind, with the help of her devoted teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage
John F. Kennedy profiles eight of his historical colleagues for their acts of astounding integrity in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
Exploration of civil rights and racism in the segregated southern United States of the 1930s.

Lewis, Sinclair Main Street
The story of a sophisticated young woman who moves to a small town in the American Midwest in 1912 and struggles against the small-minded culture of the citizens who live there.

London, Jack Call of the Wild
In the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, a domesticated dog is snatched and sold into a brutal life as a sled dog.

Malcom X, with Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcom X
A narrative of spiritual conversion that outlines a controversial Black Muslim’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism.

Miller, Arthur Death of a Salesman
An introspective dramatic play concerning the expectations we have for our lives, our failings, and our inability to find satisfaction with our place in the world.

Melville, Herman Moby Dick
The adventures of a wandering sailor and his voyage on a whale ship commanded by Captain Ahab, whose one purpose is to seek out a great white whale.

Paine, Thomas Common Sense
Paine's daring prose paved the way for the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War.

Poe, Edgar Allan Great Tales and Poems
Stories and poems from one of the most famous creators of detective stories and supernatural tales.

Potok, Chaim The Chosen
Traces the friendship between two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn at the end of World War II.

Sinclair, Upton The Jungle
Explores the workingman's lot at the turn of the century: the backbreaking labor, the injustices of "wage-slavery," the bewildering chaos of urban life.

Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
This is the tale of a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and the Great Depression.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom's Cabin
A slave whose child is to be sold, escapes her beloved home on a plantation in Kentucky and heads North, avoiding hired slave catchers, aided by the underground railroad.

Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huck Finn and his old friend Jim journey down the Mississippi river together.

Twain, Mark The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
A humorous and nostalgic book depicting the carefree days of boyhood in a small Midwestern town during the mid-1800's.

Twain, Mark Innocents Abroad
An acerbic account of the author’s travels in Europe and the Near East, humorously describing both the places he visited and his fellow passengers on the voyage.

Walker, Alice The Color Purple
The story of two African-American sisters, a missionary in Africa, and a child-wife living in the South, told through their letters to each other.

Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery
Autobiography of an influential spokesman and former slave, who became a major figure in the struggle for equal rights.

Wilder, Thornton Our Town
A study of life, love, and death in a New England town at the turn of the 20th century.

High School Reading List - World Literature

World Literature

Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice
English country life is described in this much-loved English romance novel set in a society obsessed with profitable marriage contracts.

Austen, Jane Sense and Sensibility
This tale of manners and courtship in the 19th-century English countryside follows two sisters; one sensible, and the other impetuous.

Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre
In this romance and suspense novel, the orphaned governess Jane Eyre has a brooding, moody, wealthy employer with a terrible secret.

Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
A masterpiece of English romanticism, tells the story of love and revenge.

Carroll, Lewis Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
A fantasy about young Alice, who follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole.

Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote
An eccentric old gentleman from La Mancha convinces himself that he is a knight. With his portly peasant squire, he sets out "tilting at windmills" to right the wrongs of the world.

Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
Recounts a journey into the Congo and reveals the extent to which greed can corrupt a good man.

Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
An English sailor is marooned on a desert island for nearly three decades. He struggles to survive in extraordinary circumstances, and wrestles with fate and the nature of God.

Dickens, Charles Great Expectations
Traces the development of Pip from a boy of shallow aspirations to a man of depth and character.

Dickens, Charles David Copperfield
David Copperfield lives through trials and tribulations, first at a boys' school and then as a young man in London before he goes to live with his great-aunt and eventually finds happiness.

Dickens, Charles Tale of Two Cities
Set during the French Revolution in the cities of Paris and London, a French aristocrat is accused of spying.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor The Gambler
At a casino in Germany, a Russian family awaits news that a wealthy relative has died, but to their dismay, she arrives and begins gambling away their inheritance.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
A poverty-stricken young man is faced with an opportunity to solve his financial problems with one simple but horrifying act: the murder of a pawnbroker.

Frank, Anne The Diary of a Young Girl
Traces the life of the Jewish girl who hid with seven other people in an attic for two years in Nazi-occupied Holland, and chronicles her day-to-day life in a diary.

Golding, William Lord of the Flies
A group of schoolboys stranded on an island soon revert to the state of primitive man, and engage in a struggle between savagery and civilization.

Hamilton, Edith Mythology
Discover the thrilling, enchanting, and fascinating world of Western mythology, from Odysseus's adventure-filled journey to the Norse god Odin's effort to postpone the final day of doom.

Homer The Iliad
An epic poem about Achilles’ vengeance against Agamemnon and the city of Troy at the end of the Trojan War.

Homer The Odyssey
The story of Odysseus' difficulties in returning home after the Trojan War, which was won by the Greeks.

Hugo, Victor Les Miserables
Set in 19th century France, this classic novel follows Jean Valjean as he tries to lead a new life after 20 years in prison. A beautiful story of redemption and salvation. The basis of the world's longest running musical.

Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
This futuristic novel warns of the dangers of sacrificing freedom and individuality for scientific progress and social stability.

Kafka, Franz Metamorphosis
A seemingly typical man wakes up one morning to discover he has been transformed into a gigantic insect.

L'Engle, Madeleine A Wrinkle in Time
The story of friends on a dangerous and fantastic journey that will threaten their lives and our universe.

Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters
This satirical piece portrays human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, and his correspondence with a novice demon in charge of the damnation of an ordinary young man.

Machiavelli, Niccolo The Prince
The world's most famous master plan for seizing and holding power. A disturbingly realistic and prophetic work on what it takes to be a prince...a king...a president.

Marlowe, Christopher Doctor Faustus
A well-respected German scholar grows dissatisfied with the limits of traditional forms of knowledge—logic, medicine, law, and religion—and decides that he wants to learn to practice magic.

Milton, John Paradise Lost
Often considered the greatest epic in any modern language, this is the story of the revolt of Satan, his banishment from Heaven, and the fall of man and his expulsion from Eden.

Orwell, George Animal Farm
Domesticated animals stage a revolt against their cruel master. They soon find they have succeeded in exchanging one form of tyranny for another.

Plato The Republic
A monumental work of moral and political philosophy, presented as a dialogue between Socrates and others discussing the notion of a perfect community and the ideal individuals within it.

Remarque, Erich Maria All Quiet on the Western Front
Through the eyes and mind of a German private, the reader shares life on the battlefield during World War I.

Scott, Sir Walter Ivanhoe
Returning from fighting in the Crusades, the young Saxon knight Ivanhoe must fight to regain the woman he loves and to protect the social order and monarchy of England.

Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein
Tampering with life and death, Dr. Frankenstein pieces together salvaged body parts to create a human monster.

Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
The tale of two young star-crossed lovers and their families, who are caught in a destructive web of hatred.

Shakespeare, William Twelfth Night
After a shipwreck, twin siblings Viola and Sebastian wash up on the shores of Illyria. A story of mistaken identity and love entanglements.

Sienkiewicz, Henryk Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero
This thousand year old masterpiece follows Marcus, a Roman officer in Nero's army, as he falls in love with a Christian woman. The basis of the 1951 movie of the same name.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
This novel describes the oppression of totalitarian regimes, and the terrors of Stalin's prison camps.

Sophocles Antigone
Antigone defies her uncle, the new ruler, which starts a conflict between young and old, woman and man, individual and ruler, family and state.

Stevenson, Robert Louis The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dr. Jekyll wants to rid his soul of evil, and in doing so creates the monstrous alter ego Mr. Hyde.

Swift, Jonathan Gulliver's Travels
Biting satire of British and European society, it follows a shipwrecked castaway encountering fantastical lands and creatures, including the petty, diminutive Lilliputians.

Tocqueville, Alexis de Democracy in America
Covering America's call for a free press to its embrace of the capitalist system, this book enlightens, entertains, and endures as a brilliant study of our national government and character.

Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina
Set against the backdrop of Moscow and St. Petersburg high society in the latter half of the nineteenth century, a woman forsakes her husband for a dashing count and brief happiness.

Tolkien, J.R.R The Hobbit
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to share in an adventure from which he may never return.

Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace
Tracks the evolution of five aristocratic families during the Napoleonic wars.

Wallace, Lew Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
A novel about a Jewish charioteer named Judah Ben-Hur and Jesus Christ. I suggest the unabridged version.

Wells, H.G. The Time Machine
A time traveler steps out of his time-transport machine in the year 802,700 to find Earth populated by a race of people supported by a slave class.

Wells, H.G. War of the Worlds
The first modern tale of alien invasion, this is a story of tentacled Martians attacking the Earth.

Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest
This is a play about two men who bend the truth in order to add excitement to their lives.

High School Reading List - Reluctant Readers

High School Reading List - Reluctant Readers

For reluctant readers, your high school reading list should focus on very short classic books. There are many great literary works that are remarkably short. Consider reading aloud the first chapter, to get them started with the story and pronunciation of character names.

Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage (Instead of War and Peace)
The story of Henry Fleming, a teenager who enlists with the Union Army in the hopes of fulfilling his dreams of glory.

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor The Gambler
At a casino in Germany, a Russian family awaits news that a wealthy relative has died, but to their dismay, she arrives and begins gambling away their inheritance at an alarming rate. As fortunes are squandered and gained, lives are increasingly tied to the fickle rules of chance.

Hemingway, Ernest Old Man and the Sea (Instead of Moby Dick)
The exciting story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

London, Jack Call of the Wild
Set in Yukon Territory during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, a domesticated dog is snatched and sold into a brutal life as a sled dog, where he struggles to survive.

Melville, Herman Billy Budd (Instead of Moby Dick)
The story of an innocent young man unable to defend himself against a wrongful accusation.

Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Frankenstein is a young man fascinated by science and attempts to unlock the secrets of life and death.

Steinbeck, John Of Mice and Men
In Depression-era California, two migrant workers dream of better days on a spread of their own, until an act of unintentional violence leads to tragic consequences.

Steinbeck, John The Pearl
A young, strong, and poor Mexican-Indian pearl diver must find a way to pay the town doctor to cure his son. Then he discovers an enormous pearl the size of a seagull's egg when out diving.

High School Reading List - Prolific Readers

High School Reading List - Kinesthetic Learners

For kinesthetic learners, have your high school reading list focus on books with active main characters. Again, short books may be helpful, but it’s even more important to choose active main characters, rather than primarily pensive characters. Here are just a few examples

London, Jack Call of the Wild
In the extreme conditions of the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, a domesticated dog is snatched and sold into a brutal life as a sled dog, where he struggles to adjust and survive the cruel treatment he receives from humans, other dogs, and nature.

Twain, Mark The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
A humorous and nostalgic book depicting the carefree days of boyhood in a small Midwestern town during the mid-1800's.

Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The young Huck Finn flees with his old friend Jim, and they journey down the Mississippi River.

High School Reading List - Prolific Readers

Voracious readers can sometimes use encouragement to feed their book hunger with quality literature rather than junk. If you have a literary lover at your house, you can increase their intake of great books by simply offering “collections” on their high school reading list rather than individual books. Here are some examples that my prolific reader loved:

Austen, Jane Jane Austen Four Novels
Four of her best-loved novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey

Tolkien, J. R. R. J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)
Four novels: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King

Dickens, Charles Major Works of Charles Dickens (Penguin Classics set)
Great Expectations; Hard Times; Oliver Twist; A Christmas Carol; Bleak House; A Tale of Two Cities

Popular Literature

A variety of colleges have said that homeschool applicants may have an over-emphasis on classic literature, and that high school reading lists should include popular literature. Some colleges have mentioned that inclusion of current literature shows “socialization.” You may want to include some popular fiction in your student’s reading list. For example, this recent book has become a modern classic.

Stockett, Kathryn The Help
The story of black maids raising white children in Mississippi during the 1960s civil rights movement.

High School Reading List for the College Bound

A Word of Caution

All families are different, and therefore all families must decide their own standards for the books to include on their high school reading list. Some of these books are listed on almost every reading list, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect for you. This reading list is drawn from a broad cross section of high school reading lists for the college-bound. However, parents assume all responsibility for their children’s education. If you are not familiar with something on this list, please review the book first.

Are your kids to young for this high school reading list? If so, don't miss out on our middle school reading list. You can get it here

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