Freshmen & Sophomores

Excellent Reading for Freshmen

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The classic apocalyptic novel that stunned the nation with its vivid portrayal of a small town’s survival after nuclear holocaust devastates the country.

Catch-22

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

A cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy…

Brave New World

Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites. Now more than ever: Aldous Huxley’s enduring masterwork must be read and understood by anyone concerned with preserving the human spirit

Anthem

Anthem by Ayn Rand

They existed only to serve the state. They were conceived in controlled Palaces of Mating. They died in the Home of the Useless. From cradle to grave, the crowd was one—the great WE.

Animal Farm: 75th Anniversary Edition

Animal Farm by George Orwell

George Orwell’s timeless and timely allegorical novel—a scathing satire on a downtrodden society’s blind march towards totalitarianism.

Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare early in his career about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Freshman year is not going well for Melinda Sordino. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends—and even strangers—all hate her. So she stops trying, stops talking. She retreats into her head, and all the lies and hypocrisies of high school become magnified, leaving her with no desire to talk to anyone anyway. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either—there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. She can’t just go on like this forever. Eventually, she’s going to have to confront the thing she’s avoiding, the thing that happened at the party, the thing that nobody but her knows. She’s going to have to speak the truth.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast at the end of the nineteenth century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Both poignant and funny—about a boy with autism who sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor’s dog and discovers unexpected truths about himself and the world.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston

Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

In this classic novel, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor, and pathos.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Sockett

The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film—a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

It’s an ordinary Thursday morning for Arthur Dent… until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly after to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and Arthur’s best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. After that, things get much, much worse. With just a towel, a small yellow fish, and a book, Arthur has to navigate through a very hostile universe in the company of a gang of unreliable aliens. Luckily the fish is quite good at languages. And the book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… which helpfully has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large, friendly letters on its cover.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” ― Charles Dickens

Excellent Reading for Sophomores

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Asten

In a publishing career that spanned less than a decade, Jane Austen revolutionized the literary romance, using it as a stage from which to address issues of gender politics and class-consciousness rarely expressed in her day.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Read the cult-favorite coming-of-age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory.

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October
by Tom Clancy

The #1 New York Times bestseller that launched the phenomenal career of Tom Clancy—a gripping military thriller that introduced the world to his unforgettable hero, Jack Ryan—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses…

Unbroken

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand

Story of a former Olympian’s courage, cunning, and fortitude following his plane crash in enemy territory. This adaptation of Unbroken introduces a new generation to one of history’s most thrilling survival epics.

A Separate Peaceby John Knowles

A Separate Peace
by John Knowles

Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

“A thriller, a gripping tale . . . that you will not set down until it is finished. Steinbeck has touched the quick.” —The New York Times

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

Don Quixote

Don Quixote
by Miguel De Cervantes

Widely regarded as one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the adventures of the self-created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain. You haven’t experienced Don Quixote in English until you’ve read this masterful translation.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

Hard Times

Hard Times by Charles Dickson

‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.’

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
by John Green Miles

Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet François Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time.

1984 Mass Market

1984 by George Orwell

A startling and haunting novel, 1984 creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Up from Slavery

Up from Slavery
by Booker T. Washington

In this eloquently written book, he describes events in a remarkable life that began in bondage and culminated in worldwide recognition for his many accomplishments. In simply written yet stirring passages, he tells of his impoverished childhood and youth, the unrelenting struggle for an education, early teaching assignments, his selection in 1881 to head Tuskegee Institute, and more.

The Pearl

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security… A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.

PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post was inspired by Kristen Ivy and Reggie Joiner’s Parenting Your Ninth Grader and Parenting Your Tenth Grader available on www.parentcuestore.org and should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.

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