Being a high school English teacher, you knew this post had to be coming eventually. I’ve read so many books and there are so many ones I’ve been blessed to be exposed to and it’s always my goal to expose my students to as many of my favorites as possible to hopefully foster a love or reading and literature in their own lives.
As part of my New Year’s Resolution, I’m looking forward to doing some more reading and while I was making my list for the year, I came across a few I wanted to reread. That’s what inspired me to make this post of my ten favorite books and share with you guys! Hopefully it might help you find something to your own reading list or if you’ve read them, maybe we can discuss out opinions. And, of course, I’d love to hear what suggestion y’all have as well, so be sure to leave those in the comments below. Let’s get started.
Honestly, I had a hard time making this list, but not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t so much the narrowing down of books, but trying to decide which ones I felt truly changed my life and have influenced me in some way was quite a challenge. When I made this list, it was originally for my students and I wanted to make sure I was exposing them to the pieces of literature that really resonated with me.
So this list isn’t a guilty pleasure one, but one about the books that have played an important part in my life for one reason or another.
Also, the part that was the biggest struggle for me was what order to put them in. And while my favorites fluctuate depending on my moods and feelings, I think I’m pretty happy with the way this list turned out. Of course, ask me on another day and I might tell you a different story. Regardless, just know I love all these books and they’re truly worth a read.
10. The Outsiders
By: S.E. Hinton
Summary: Ponyboy Curtis lives in a world of Greasers who hate the Socs. His tale is one of turf wars, gangs, and juvenile delinquents. It’s a coming of age story full of action, drama, and heart-felt relationships.
Why I Love It: The reason I love this one is actually very selfish, but I can’t help it. I never read this book until I became a teacher, but I did so because I recommended it to a student who absolutely hated to read. I made a deal with him that I would read it along with him (we set our page numbers for nightly reading) and we’d discuss it every day.
Guys, he loved this book so much that, five years later, he’s still an avid reader. This kid was failing my class, never did his work, could not care less about school, was waiting to drop out, and this book sincerely changed his life. He loved the characters. He loved the story. And that, in turn, made me love the story. His love rubbed off on me and this classic has become a staple in my recommendations list.
Buy your own copy here.
By: George Orwell
Summary: In a futuristic society, Winston Smith struggles under an oppressive government which watches its citizens every moves. When he pursues a forbidden relationship with Julia, he tests his safety within the country which demands all citizens play by the rules.
Why I Love It: I read this book for the first time in junior high and I remember being so shocked by the end that I reread the last twenty pages over and over because I couldn’t believe ho wit all came together. My dad actually recommended this book to me (and he’s read all of two books in his entire life, this being one of them). To me, this is the epitome of dystopian and it’s just so fascinating and well written that I love recommending it.
Grab your own copy here.
By: Elie Wiesel
Summary: Elie Wiesel details his experience in Concentration camps during World War II in this striking, gut wrenching memoir.
Why I Love It: I read this memoir every year with my students. It’s emotional and heart breaking. I love the writing style and I think it’s a really powerful account of a real world experience that was so grotesque and horrifying that it has stuck with me for years. It’s why I teach this. It resonates with students and it’s something they come back to me years later and tell me they appreciated reading.
Check it out on Amazon here.
7. Tuck Everlasting
By: Natalie Babbitt
Summary: Winnie Foster meets the Tucks in the woods behind her house. She soon learns their hiding a secret that is coveted and while it is seen as a blessing to others, the Tucks find it to be a curse they can’t escape.
Why I Love It: I read this as a young girl with my mother and we loved the story so much. When it became a movie, we rushed out and bought it and we still watch it at least once a year. It’s just a beautiful story that’s wonderfully written. There is the perfect mixture of magic, romance, and reality that makes this one that will touch the hearts of young and old alike.
Purchase your own copy here.
6. A Separate Peace
By: John Knowles
Summary: Main character Gene Forrester recounts his time at his old prep school, Devon during World War II. While there he has an interesting relationship with his friends, especially his best friend Phineas, Finny. However an accident raises questions and no one is prepared for their answers.
Why I Love It: This book I read as a Sophomore in High School. I was so infatuated with the setting and the characters. It was one of the first classics I studied that I truly enjoyed the story line behind. And I remember the ending kept me up the night I read it pondering the story. It was a delight to read.
Buy your own copy here.
5. The Great Gatsby
By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Summary: Set in the roaring ’20’s, main character Nick Caraway tells the story of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, who is pining for his lost love Daisy, Nick’s cousin who lives just across the water. The story has many twists and turns involving infidelity, lavish parties, and accidents that leave the characters reeling.
Why I Love It: When I read this as a Junior, I went into it knowing I would love it because my teacher loved it so much (an I thought she was adorable). While some people criticize it for being slow, I’m a huge fan of Fitzgerald’s writing style, so I actually thought it moved at a great pace. It also had some twists and turns that always keep me hooked.
Pick up your own here.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Harper Lee
Summary: Scout Finch details growing up in the racially segregated south when her father takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. She must deal with growing up, friendships, and hatred and she must learn to face her own fears.
Why I Love It: Again, another book I read my Sophomore year, but this one, I’ve actually had the opportunity to teach and that made me love it so much more. Not only is it well written–I absolutely love Scout’s personality and the way she frames the story–but it also has several powerful messages packed in it. Even though we had to force our way through the book last year to get it done in time for testing, my kiddos still adored it too.
Buy this classic here.
3. The Green Mile
By: Stephen King
Summary: Paul Edgecomb, commanding officer of death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, tells the story of John Coffee a black man accused of raping and killing two white twin girls. However, there is much more to Coffee and his story than what originally meets the eye.
Why I Love It: I actually left a detailed review you can read here, but basically, this is Southern Gothic (aka may favorite genre ever) at it’s finest. Not only does it combine the weird, magical realism that King is known for with a great basis of reality, but it’s got just the right feel and style to make it one of those stories that will haunt you.
Pick up your copy here.
2. Into the Wild
By: Jon Krakauer
Summary: In 1922 Christopher McCandless donated all his money to charity, abandoned his family, friends, and car, and ventured into the wilderness. A few short months later, his body was found by hunters. Jon Krakauer tries to piece together the mystery of his death by interviewing those closest to him in order to find out why he left and what happened to the young man.
Why I Love It: You can read my review here, but as a love of memoirs, biographies, and adventures, this one is a real treat. There were a few moments where I got bored of the author’s self inserts, but overall, this is a book I’m excited to get to teach again, because it’s not only fascinating, but it’s beautifully written.
Add this to your library here.
1. The Things they Carried
By: Tim O’Brien
Summary: Tim O’Brien creates a fictionalized account of the Vietnam War based on his own experience. The characters must venture through a way that tests them mentally and physically and leaves the carrying more than just their gear as the ghosts of their friends and loved ones continually haunt them.
Why I Love It: I did a review of this one back in November last year and as I mentioned there, I got to meet Tim O’Brien and he’s just as amazing in person as he is on paper. This is a heart breaking tale that really helped me try to slip into the mind of a soldier at this time. It not only shattered me, but it helped piece me back together again.
Buy your copy here.
So these are my top ten favorite books. As I said, I would highly recommend these to anyone. If you’ve read them and you want to talk about them, I would love to discuss! And please leave your own suggestions of your own favorite books in the comment blow. Also, be sure to follow my blog for more reading content.
Until our next adventure, stay curious.