The Best Books You’ll Read In High School English

The student-ranked top 10 books on the English curriculum


Brooke Huffman

Read below to find out which school required books students love most.

Brooke Huffman, Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Ledger

Classic novels don’t exactly have the best reputation- they’re known to be stuffy, boring and completely overanalyzed. This, of course, doesn’t excite many people for English: a class where you expect to read the most stuffy, the most boring and the most overanalyzed classic novels- the worst of the wost. However, most of these books are actually enjoyable. They open you up to new perspectives, inspire new ideas, and are occasionally fun to read. Below are the best books you’ll get the pleasure of reading in an English class, according to a student survey.

#10 The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (English Ⅰ)

A recent addition to the curriculum, this book gained popularity after the release of the movie adaptation in 2018. Thomas writes about protagonist Starr Carter’s experience with police brutality, and the clear divide between her mostly black neighborhood and mostly white prep school. This book tackles themes of racism, classism and identity, all very relevant topics in today’s society, making it a great read to analyze in class.

#9 Animal Farm by George Orwell (AP English Literature and Composition)

Though written in 1945 as an allegory for the Russian Revolution, the message behind Animal Farm stands the test of time- is complete equality achievable, or are we simply allowing another group of people to take power? This question isn’t answered, but is certainly discussed in AP Lit, where this book has remained a constant read in the class. It’s satirical, simple, and entertaining- the use of anthropomorphic animals makes it much easier to swallow the extreme events occuring.

#8 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (English Ⅰ)

Another newbie to Liberty’s English classes, this book explores struggles that are still very integral to today’s teenagers- depression, the inability to fit in and abuse in all forms- through it’s quirky cast of main characters. It’s easy to relate to them, they’re realistic and genuine, and you can find bits and pieces of yourself everywhere in this coming of age story. Fair warning, this book does contain sexual abuse (not vividly described but still present), and suicide, so please make sure you’re in an appropriate headspace before opting to read it.

#7 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (English Ⅲ & AP English Language and Composition)

This book is a literary classic- and no stranger to academic analysis. For years students have been mulling over the significance of Gatsby’s green light, and questioning the integrity of Nick’s narration. When reading, you’ll find yourself lost in the roaring 20’s, a decade of decadence and deception.

“The Great Gatsby is my favorite book that I’ve read in high school English. It’s all about the yearning and the theatrics. The entire book smells of cigarettes and expensive liquor and fine perfume. The violent love pulled me back into loving reading like I hadn’t in nearly a decade,” senior Emily Bohn said.

#6 Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Advanced English Ⅱ & English Ⅱ)

One of the oldest books on both this list and the syllabus, Julius Caesar is an ancient tale of betrayal that’s best known for Brutus’ rhetoric and Caesar’s classic death scene (it’s not a spoiler if it’s history, right?). This is also one of the only books accompanied by a filmed stage play rather than a movie, taught exactly the way Shakespeare would’ve wanted. The only thing it’s missing? Women that aren’t just the main characters’ wives.

“There’s something about Julius Caesar that makes me giggle. All those men and not a single one with a shred of logic,” junior Mollie Banstetter said.

#5 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Advanced EnglishⅡ, English Ⅱ & AP English Language and Composition)

It’s no secret that boomers are afraid of technology, but Bradbury takes this fear to new heights. Warning of an assimilated society that bans books and lives with eyes permanently glued to their screens, Fahrenheit 451 creates an eerily similar dystopia to the world we live in today. It offers each reader a choice- will you fall victim to the addictive nature of technology, prone to censorship and happily ignorant, or will you fight the system in pursuit of knowledge?

#4 The Crucible by Arthur Miller (English Ⅲ)

Known as one of the best plays ever written, The Crucible has been performed and read for centuries. It tells the story of a town ravaged by paranoia after witnessing a dancing ritual in the woods, said to be the work of witches. This book is a must read for those who are interested in the Salem witch trials, or anyone who wants to learn about how a tiny lie can burn an entire town. If you want to skip the reading and see the plot play on stage, don’t miss Liberty’s production of this show, which takes place in the theater in March 2021.

#3 Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Advanced English Ⅰ & English Ⅰ)

A classic love story filled with tragedy, before you even read the play you can already sum up its plot. However, after careful analysis, you can unearth a lot of hidden depth within the plot and its characters, and see that Shakespeare is satirizing young love rather than dramatizing it. Plus, who can forget about the movie adaptation with young Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes?

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Advanced English Ⅰ & English Ⅰ)

As the introduction to high school literature, of course this book is a beloved favorite. Tackling racial bias in the 1930’s era American south as well as childhood naivety, at the center of this book is a question of ethics and morals. Once again this book does contain many racial slurs as well as rape, so please take care of yourself before choosing to pick up this novel.

“Most of these I read on my own, but I think my favorite was definitely To Kill A Mockingbird because Atticus was just so amazing in my eyes, and I just loved his relationship and the plotline associated with Scout and Jem,” junior Elizabeth Hamby said.

#1 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Advanced English Ⅱ & English Ⅱ)

At the top of the list we have Of Mice and Men, a book that’s actually been banned quite a number of times by schools across the country. Though centered around the American Dream, this novel offers a variety of perspectives on topics such as racism, sexism and ableism. It’s hard not to care for the plights of the cast of characters, despite their many flaws, and of course, you’ll find yourself tearing up at the ending.

“My favorite would be Of Mice and Men, it honestly moved me to tears,” junior Chynna Yeh said.