- Night by Elie Wiesel – Elie Wiesel shares his experience while in German concentration camps with his father from 1944-1945. They were in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II.
- Diary of Anne Frank – This is the actual diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl whose family hides in a small attic with another family to avoid being taken to concentration camps by the Nazis. She keeps a detailed log of their day-to-day activities, giving a poignant look at how people came together to protect one another and survive unthinkable times.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Written in 1813, this is a story about five daughters at the age of courtship. It shows an honest depiction of manners, marriage, and money in the Regency era in Great Britain. Readers are often drawn to the independent, stubborn Elizabeth and her flirtatious back-and-forth with Mr. Darcy.
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – This classic tale follows Alice in her journey to a magical wonderland with unusual experiences with colorful characters like the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and more.
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – When four siblings are sent to a country house to shelter them from the bombings in London, one sibling finds a magical wardrobe that transports them to a world called Narnia. What the four experience there changes their lives forever.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – A tale about the challenges of growing up poor in a small neighborhood. Some characters in the book do not speak English, and their feeling of powerlessness from their lack of ability to communicate is a worthwhile theme for all readers to explore.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Set in the Great Depression, this story is narrated by the sassy Scout as she watches her lawyer father defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Through Scout, readers are transported back in time and can feel the racial tensions and injustices while also enjoying Scout’s humor and learning from Atticus’ wisdom.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – Bored Milo has an unlikely adventure when he receives a magic tollbooth that allows him to travel to another kingdom to learn how fun learning can be.
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – Through the eyes of little Cassie, we see the ugliness of hatred and racism. We also learn the challenges of being African American during the Great Depression and Jim Crow era.
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London – Buck, the dog, lives an everyday dog life until he is stolen and sent to Canada to pull dog sleds. There he meets his new master, John Thornton, for who he will do anything. Themes of loyalty, love, and bravery will resonate with adventure lovers.
- 1984 by George Orwell – An eerie book to read now, as Orwell adeptly wrote a book set in the future that has, in many ways, already come to pass. Themes like the dangers of a totalitarian government and media manipulation to control people will especially appeal to today’s tech-obsessed generation.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell – Animal Farm is an allegorical novel about the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. The story is told through farm animals, such as Old Major, who inspires his fellow animals to revolt against their master, Mr. Jones.
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – When young sailor Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned by his friend who wants the beautiful Mercedes for himself, Edmond must strategize to get revenge.
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding – When a group of young boys is stranded on a deserted island, they must develop their own rules and roles in the group. But, without any accountability, their behavior quickly begins to regress into violence.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Bilbo Baggins and the other hobbits live a peaceful life until Gandalf, the wizard, convinces them to join a quest to take back the Kingdom of Erebor.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – In this dystopian society, books are illegal and burned. Guy Montag is a fireman in charge of book burning, and he is transformed when an older woman would rather die by being burned alive than allow her books to be burned.
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare – When Macbeth receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become the King of Scotland, he becomes obsessed with ambition. He murders King Duncan to take the throne, leading to consequences Macbeth could never have imagined.
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – Star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet are from two powerful families with a long grudge. Their inability to together change their families and their fates forever.
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare – When Hamlet receives a visit from his father’s ghost, the former King of Denmark, he is told to avenge his father’s murder. Hamlet starts to go mad with his plotting and his uncle, King Claudius, begins to plot against Hamlet as well.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – By far the most teen-friendly of the Shakespearean plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is so well-suited for being read aloud in character, your teens won’t be able to resist playing one of the love-struck characters who can’t stop falling in love with a different person. Shakespeare deftly communicates the theme of how fickle young love truly is.