High school students often panic senior year, afraid that they haven’t read enough “literature” before going off to college. I’m here to tell you, don’t worry! If you enjoy reading and have actually finished a few novels start to finish, you will be miles ahead of your fellow collegiates (I’m serious about this). The more you read, though, the better prepared you will be, so try to tackle 5 to 10 of the books on this list, preferably from a few different categories.

Some schools have lists of suggested reading for incoming freshman. Try visiting the English Department website of your future school and see if they have such a list.


Allende, Isabel. House of the Spirits
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert. The Plague
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt
Malamud, Bernard. The Natural
Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick
Morrison, Toni. Beloved
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find
Orwell, George. Animal Farm
Orwell, George. 1984
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado”
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club
Tolkien, J.R.R. Lord of the Rings
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Updike, John. Rabbit, Run
Voltaire. Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple
Weisel, Elie. Night
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine
Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse


Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Haley, Alex. Roots
Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs
Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden


Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince
Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto
Plato. The Republic
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America

Science and Religion

The Bible
Bronowski, Jacob. The Ascent of Man
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time

Social Science

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology
Prager, Dennis. Happiness is a Serious Problem


Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot
Chekhov, Anton. The Cherry Orchard
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire