Reading Lists for College-Bound High School Students

Classics for Young Adults


                                        Classics for Young Adults 
                                          From Ancient Times to 
                                          the Twentieth Century

                                Compiled by Debra Lurie and Michelle Maes January 1996
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 Achebe, Chinua          Things Fall Apart.  (1958)

     One of the first novels to portray, vividly and passionately,
     the dehumanizing system of apartheid.


 Aeschylus               Oresteia. (458 B.C.)

     Repeated blood-vengeance within the family of Agamemnon escalates
     to envelop the universe and the gods - and leads to
     the rise of civilized law.


 Aristotle               Nicomachean Ethics.  (384-322 B.C.)

     The "middle way" of common sense, not as compromise, but as 
     hitting the bull's eye in thought and action.


 Austen, Jane            Pride and Prejudice.  (1813)

     Mrs. Bennet scrambles to find husbands for her five daughters
     in a gentle satire of the foibles and prejudices of human nature.


 Beckett, Samuel         Waiting for Godot.  (1952)

     A play that combines metaphor and metaphysics, by the Nobel Prize winning 
     playwright of the theater of the absurd.


 Beowulf. (8th century)

     Anglo-Saxon epic about a legendary hero's struggles for humanity
     in a savage world.


 Bronte, Charlotte       Jane Eyre. (1847)

     Oblivious of what's in store for her, a young governess goes to a house 
     shrouded in mystery and haunted by wild cries.


 Camus, Albert           The Stranger. (1946)

     A compelling story of the absurdity of life when man's aspirations 
     and values have no cosmic status.


 Cervantes, Miguel de    Don Quixote.  (1605-15)

     Inspired by books of chivalry, Don Quixote sets out in search of knightly 
     adventure and the fair lady Dulcinea, squired by Sancho Panza.


 Chaucer, Geoffrey       The Canterbury Tales.  (1387-1400)

     To pass the time on their way to Canterbury, pilgrims regale one another 
     with chivalric, farcical, bawdy and supernatural tales.


 Chekhov, Anton          The Cherry Orchard.  (1904)

     The passing of the old Russian aristocracy, as exemplified by the ineffectual 
     Ranevskys, to the accompanying sound of axes.


 Chopin, Kate            The Awakening. (1899)

     A pioneering novel about a woman whose independence and repudiation 
     of convention shocked the author's contemporaries.


 Dante Alighieri         The Divine Comedy.  (1300-21)

     This brilliantly imagined epic journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, 
     by one of the world's greatest poets, is a timeless story of faith and love.


 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor     Crime and Punishment.  (1866)

     A half-starved student murders two women as he tries, unsuccessfully, 
     to prove himself as extraordinary, indeed, a superman.

 Dumas, Alexandre        The Count of Monte Cristo. (1844)

     An exciting story that dramatizes French history with melodramatic
     romance and adventure.


 Elliott, George         Middlemarch. (1872)

     A penetrating analysis of Victorian provincial life, in which Dorothea 
     Brooke's splendid aspirations are defeated by her failure in self-knowledge and 
     ignorance of the limits set by her society on female behavior.


 Faulkner, William       The Sound and the Fury. (1929)

     A superb evocation of the decay and degeneration of a southern family. 


 Fitzgerald, F. Scott    The Great Gatsby.  (1925)

     A major scrutiny of American values during the Jazz Age through the 
     experience of a near-mythic hero and his grand though ill-fated masquerade.


 Flaubert, Gustave       Madame Bovary. (1857)

     Often called the first modern realistic novel.  Emma Bovary seeks vainly
     in a dull marriage the romance she has read and dreamed of.


 Garcia Marquez, Gabriel One Hundred Years of Solitude. (1970)

     A century-long history of a town and family, with subtle insights 
     into the psychology of the people and the mores of Colombia.


 Goethe, Johann von      Faust. (1808, 1832)

     Goethe worked for sixty years on this monumental two-part drama
     on the meaning of life.


 Hawthorne, Nathaniel    The Scarlet Letter.  (1850)

     Adultery can be a capital offense in Puritan New England, so when young 
     Hester Prynne conceives a child outside of her marriage, the entire village 
     plays a part in her cruel punishment.


 Homer                   The Odyssey. (750 B.C.?)

     An epic poem.  After the war on Troy, the wily hero Odysseus, beset for ten
     years by inimical gods and beautiful sorceresses, finally reaches home,
     to find his wife surrounded by feasting suitors and his son facing the trials
     of young manhood.


 Joyce, James            Ulysses. (1922)

     Ostensibly the record of a single day filtered through the consciousness 
     of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus; but more than that, a great
     comic-epic poem, a paradigm of modern man's search for values.


 Kafka, Franz            The Trial. (1937)

     Joseph K is up for trial.  But for what?  Is this a neurotic man's anxiety
     dream or a revelation for Everyman?


 Kawabata, Yasunari      Snow Country. (1969)

     The foremost work by Japan's 1968 Nobel laureate. 


 Kerouac, Jack           On The Road. (1957)

     This book defined the Beat Generation of the 1950's, following the adventures 
     of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they travel the America of that time.


 Machiavelli, Niccolo    The Prince. (1513)

     A brilliant and notorious analysis of the brutal realities 
     of getting power and keeping it. 


 Mann, Thomas            The Magic Mountain.  (1924)

     One of the most profound and provocative novels of our time, picturing a 
     mountaintop sanitarium as a symbol of humanity in a pathological universe.


 Melville, Herman        Moby Dick. (1851)

     A highly symbolic narrative that explores the deepest reaches of our moral 
     and metaphysical dilemma at the same time that it tells a gripping, 
     realistic sea story.


 Milton, John            Paradise Lost.  (1608-1674)

     The greatest epic poem in English. 


 Morrison, Toni          Beloved. (1987)

     Set in post-Civil War Ohio, this fascinating novel, filled with vivid imagery, 
     centers around a runaway slave who "cheats" her master out of his "property."


 Murasaki, Lady          The Tale of Genji.  (978-1031?)

     The world's first novel and still one of the greatest.
     The 1976 translation by  Edward G. Seidensticker is superb.


 O'Neill, Eugene         The Iceman Cometh.  (1946)

     An overwhelming tragic drama by the father of serious American theater.


 Orwell, George          1984. (1949)

     Originally published in 1949, this look into the "future" pictured a
     world of mind control, misinformation and an oppressive government
     known as "Big Brother."


 Proust, Marcel          Remembrance of Things Past. (1913-28)

     In recovering his past through the dedicated exercise of memory, Proust 
     lays bare a growing self, a changing age, a many-stranded philosophy.


 Rostand, Edmond         Cyrano de Bergerac.  (1897)

     A tour de force romantic drama about a real-life poet and playwright, 
     lover and swordsman in mid-17th century Paris.


 Shakespeare, William    Hamlet. (1605)

     The character of Hamlet has probably exerted a greater fascination, 
     and certainly  has been the subject of more discussion, than any other
     in the whole literature of the world.


 Shelley, Mary           Frankenstein. (1818)

     In this precursor of science fiction, an eight-foot monster is imbued 
     with life but seeks revenge on his maker when friendship and love
     are refused him by all.


 Steinbeck, John         The Grapes of Wrath.  (1939)

     Along with thousands of others like them, Tom Joad and his family leave 
     the "dust bowl" of Oklahoma for the agricultural fields of California,
     only to find heartache and hardship during the depression.


 Thoreau, Henry          Walden. (1854)

     Thoughtful reflections of life's meaning and man's place in the 
     universe, in essays written during a retreat.


 The Thousand and One Nights. (8th-15th cent.)

     The so-called "Arabian Nights" actually includes many stories of Persian 
     and even Indian origin.  Compiled in Egypt and translated from Arabic,
     the most popular English version is by Sir Richard Burton.


 Tolstoy, Leo            Anna Karenina. (1877)

     An engrossing story of adultery among the Russian nobility.


 Twain, Mark             The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (1885)

     Twain's imagination elevates this tale of a boy seeking freedom
     on a raft he shares with a runaway slave into a true comic epic
     of American life.


 Woolf, Virginia         To the Lighthouse.  (1927)

     From shifting centers of consciousness, this beautifully textured
     symbolic novel shows rather than describes Mrs. Ramsey and her widening
     effect (even after she has died) on the lives that touch hers.


 Wright, Richard         Native Son. (1940)

     The magnetic story of Bigger Thomas, a rebellious young Chicago black 
     man in a racist and capitalist environment.
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