Listography: 15 Popular Books That Were Required Reading In High School


Most high schools in the United States of America have required reading lists for ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade. As I've found from being in various book clubs, not all high schools have the same required reading and was super surprised that my peers hadn't read several of these books, especially since quite a few of them went to school in the same state as I did. You'd think that school systems within each state would have very similar required reading! However, they are taking the time to read them as adults, which I find impressive.

My high school had the following English and Literature classes:  Ninth Grade English, Tenth Grade English, American Literature, British Literature, and World Literature. At my high school, if you were in honors English, you either skipped over Ninth Grade English or Tenth Grade English and were required to take American, British, and World Literature. If you were not in Honors English, you were allowed to choose between British Literature and World Literature your senior year of school. I chose to take World Literature and ended up in class with several of my friends that had been in Honors English classes.  This list excludes books that were required reading in British Literature since I didn't take that class.

Without further ado, here was my required reading list in high school.

  1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Ninth Grade English):  a tragedy about teenage star-crossed lovers whose deaths brings their families back together.

  2. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Tenth Grade English):  a historical tragedy about the conspiracy of Brutus and Cassius to prevent Julius Caesar from becoming the dictator of Rome.

  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Tenth Grade English): orphaned Pip is an apprentice with the hopes of becoming a gentleman.

  4. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (American Literature):  at sixty years old, Willy Loman is let go from his job after thirty-four years. With no future to dream about, he reflects on his past.

  5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (American Literature):  a story following the life of Captain John Yossarian during World War II and what him and his comrades do to stay sane.

  6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (American Literature):  Holden Caulfield drops out of his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York.

  7. The Crucible by Arthur Miller (American Literature):  this novel follows the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and is used to reflect the anti-communist hysteria brought on by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunts" in the United States.

  8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (American Literature):  Hester Prynne commits the sin of becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Her punishment is to wear a scarlet A on all of her clothing.

  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (American Literature):  Jay Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan and moves into a mansion near her and throws lavish parties.

  10. Animal Farm by George Orwell (World Literature)*:  a satire where animals take over a farm to create justice and equality for everyone.

  11. 1984 by George Orwell (World Literature)*:  a dystopian novel set in the future where the government is a "big brother" who persecutes people who show individuality and independent thinking.

  12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (World Literature)*:  fireman Guy Montag becomes disillusioned with censoring and burning books and quits his job to preserve them instead.

  13. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (World Literature)*:  a science fiction book following a World War II solider named Billy Pilgram and his survival of the Allies' firebombing of Dresden.

  14. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (World Literature):  Humbert Humbert has fallen in love with twelve year old Lolita Haze, so he marries Lolita's mother just to be close to her. Humbert Humbert then takes Lolita on a cross country trip.

  15. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (World Literature):  Siddhartha gives up all his worldly possessions to go on a spiritual journey with his best friend and ends up speaking with Buddha.
Were these books on your high school required reading list? If so, which ones did you love and which did you hate?

* My World Literature teacher deemed five weeks left in the semester was not enough time to read all of the books so we were split into five groups and assigned a book to read and present to the rest of the class. The book I was assigned was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and did not read the starred books. However, they are on my to read list.

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