As summer winds to a close, Sweet Maple Lane is getting ready to go back to school. My husband and I both teach high school English and are super lucky and grateful to spend the summer home with our kids. With two English teachers in the house, we do a lot of reading, both at school and at home. Here are 10 classic books that are pretty standard in high school English curriculum, but might be overlooked by adults. Even if you read these in high school, consider reading them again. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them as an adult! And — bonus! — many of these books have fantastic movie adaptations!
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Pulitzer Prize winning story of innocence and coming of age set in 1930s Alabama. The movie with Gregory Peck is also a classic and a must-watch.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A beautifully written story of friendship and tragedy set in 1930s California. The movie with Gary Sinise and John Malcovich is moving and fantastic as well.
The Great Gatsby
A love story, a tragedy, the American Dream, murder, infidelity, secrets, and the decadence of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald’s writing is beautiful, and the movie with Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing too.
Lord of the Flies
An enthralling story about human nature and what can happen when we are pushed to our limits. Fast-paced and full of symbolism, this one keeps you reading until the very last page.
Catcher in the Rye
A story about growing up, clinging to childhood, and dealing with loss. Holden, the protagonist, will remind you what it was really like to be a teenager.
A play about the Salem Witch Trials, but also about McCarthyism. And also about any other ‘witch hunt’ modern or historical. The movie with Daniel Day Lewis is great (because Daniel Day Lewis is great!)
A dystopian future where a fireman’s job is to burn books, not put out fires. A message about the power and the freedom of knowledge.
An allegory for the Russian Revolution, and a message about the perils of a totalitarian government.
This book makes me cry every single year. The author is a Holocaust survivor who was sent to the camps when he was 15. And don’t skip the introduction, preface, or Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech if your copy includes them.
I know, I know. Shakespeare is hard to understand. But here’s the thing: it’s so worth it! Just give it a try, even if it’s one sonnet, one scene, or a movie version! If you have the chance, see a live performance. The language is beautiful and rhythmic, and the stories vary from tragic to hysterical. Try it! Some recommendations: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth
Well, there you have it! Straight from an English teacher: 10 high school books to read again as an adult. Let me know what you think of these titles in the comments!