College Prep Reading List

Looking BackwardAMERICAN LITERATURE

  • Bellamy, Edward Looking Backward: 2000-1887
    Written in 1887 about a young man who travels in time to a utopian year 2000, where economic security and a healthy moral environment have reduced crime.
  • Bradbury, Ray Fahrenheit 451
    Reading is a crime and firemen burn books in this futuristic society.
  • Cather, Willa My Antonia
    Immigrant pioneers strive to adapt to the Nebraska prairies.
  • Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
    A black man’s search for himself as an individual and as a member of his race and his society.
  • Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
    The Bundren family takes the ripening corpse of Addie, wife and mother, on a gruesomely comic journey.
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
    A young man corrupts himself and the American Dream to regain a lost love.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
    An adulterous Puritan woman keeps secret the identity of the father of her illegitimate child.
  • Heller, Joseph Catch-22
    A broad comedy about a WWII bombardier based in Italy and his efforts to avoid bombing missions.
  • Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
    During World War I, an American lieutenant runs away with the woman who nurses him back to health.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestKesey, Ken One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    A novel about a power struggle between the head nurse and one of the male patients in a mental institution.
  • Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
    At great peril to himself and his children, lawyer Atticus Finch defends an African-American man accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town.
  • Melville, Herman Moby Dick
    A complex novel about a mad sea captain’s pursuit of the White Whale.
  • Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
    The heartbreaking story of a talented young woman’s descent into madness.
  • Sinclair, Upton The Jungle
    The deplorable conditions of the Chicago stockyards are exposed in this turn-of-the-century novel.
  • Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
    The desperate flight of tenant farmers from Oklahoma during the Depression.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt Slaughterhouse-Five
    Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist from Ilium, New York, shuttles between World War II Dresden and a luxurious zoo on the planet Tralfamadore.
  • Walker, Alice The Color Purple
    A young woman sees herself as property until another woman teaches her to value herself.

WORLD LITERATURE

  • imageAchebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
    Okonkwo, a proud village leader, is driven to murder and suicide by European changes to his traditional Ibo society.
  • Allende, Isabel House of the Spirits
    The story of the Trueba family in Chile, from the turn of the century to the violent days of the overthrow of the Salvador Allende government in 1973.
  • Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice
    Love and marriage among the English country gentry of Austen’s day.
  • Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
    One of the masterpieces of English romanticism, this is a novel of Heathcliff and Catherine, love and revenge.
  • Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote
    An eccentric old gentleman sets out as a knight “tilting at windmills” to right the wrongs of the world.
  • Conrad, Joseph Tales of Land and Sea
    Includes Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s classic where the narrator journeys into the Congo and discovers the extent to which greed can corrupt a good man.
  • Dickens, Charles Great Expectations
    The moving story of the rise, fall, and rise again of a humbly-born young orphan.
  • Dostoevski, Feodor Crime and Punishment
    A psychological novel about a poor student who murders an old woman pawnbroker and her sister.
  • Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
    Maggie is miserable because her brother disapproves of her choices of romances.
  • Like Water for ChocolateEsquivel, Laura Like Water for Chocolate
    As the youngest of three daughters in a turn-of-the-century Mexican family, Tita may not marry but must remain at home to care for her mother.
  • Garcia Marquez, Gabriel One Hundred Years of Solitude
    A technique called magical realism is used in this portrait of seven generations in the lives of the Buendia family.
  • Grass, Gunter The Tin Drum
    Oskar describes the amoral conditions through which he has lived in Germany, both during and after the Hitler regime.
  • Hardy, Thomas Tess of the D’Urbervilles
    The happiness of Tess and her husband is destroyed when she confesses that she bore a child as the result of a forced sexual relationship with her employer’s son.
  • Hesse, Hermann Siddhartha
    Emerging from a kaleidoscope of experiences and pleasures, a young Brahmin ascends to a state of peace and mystic holiness.
  • Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    A novel about a young man growing up in Ireland and rebelling against family, country, and religion.
  • Orwell, George Animal Farm
    Animals turn the tables on their masters.
  • Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago
    An epic novel of Russia before and after the Bolshevik revolution.
  • Paton, Alan Cry, the Beloved Country
    A country Zulu pastor searches for his sick sister in Johannesburg, and discovers that she has become a prostitute and his son a murderer.
  • Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein
    A gothic tale of terror in which Franken-stein creates a monster from corpses.
  • Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels
    Gulliver encounters dwarfs and giants and has other strange adventures when his ship is wrecked in distant lands.
  • Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina
    Anna forsakes her husband for the dashing Count Vronsky and brief happiness.

BIOGRAPHY/HISTORY

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsAngelou, Maya I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
    An African-American writer traces her coming of age.
  • Brown, Dee Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
    A narrative of the white man’s conquest of the American land as the Indian victims experienced it.
  • Attenborough, David Life on Earth: A Natural History
  • Campbell, Joseph The Power of Myth
    Explores themes and symbols from world religions and their relevance to humankind’s spiritual journey today.
  • Carson, Rachel Silent Spring
    Carson’s original clarion call to environmental action sets the stage for saving our planet.
  • Cooke, Alistair Alistair Cooke’s America
    A history of the continent, with anecdotes and insight into what makes America work.
  • Darwin, Charles The Origin of Species
    The classic exposition of the theory of evolution by natural selection.
  • Frank, Anne The Diary of a Young Girl
    The story of a Jewish family forced by encroaching Nazis to live in hiding.
  • Franklin, Benjamin Benjamin Franklin: A Biography in His Own Words
    Considered one of the most interesting autobiographies in English.
  • Haley, Alex Roots
    Traces Haley’s search for the history of his family, from Africa through the era of slavery to the 20th century.
  • Hamilton, Alexander; Madison, James; Jay, John  The Federalist Papers
    The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. They were published serially between October 1787 and August 1788. The authors of The Federalist (as they were originally called) wanted both to influence the vote in favor of ratification and to shape future interpretations of the Constitution.
  • Hawking, Stephen A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes
    Cosmology becomes understandable as the author discusses the origin, evolution, and fate of our universe.
  • Kozol, Jonathan Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
    Kozol’s indictment of the public school system advocates equalizing per pupil public school expenditures.
  • Machiavelli, Niccolao The Prince
    A treatise giving the absolute ruler practical advice on ways to maintain a strong central government.
  • Malcom X, with Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcom X
    Traces the transformation of a controversial Black Muslim figure from street hustler to religious and national leader.
  • Marx, Karl The Communist Manifesto
    Expresses Marx’s belief in the inevitability of conflict between social classes and calls on the workers of the world to unite and revolt.
  • Plato The Republic
    Plato creates an ideal society where justice is equated with health and happiness in the state and the individual.
  • Thoreau, Henry David The Annotated Walden
    In the mid-19th century, Thoreau spends 26 months alone in the woods to “front the essential facts of life.”
  • Tocqueville, Alexis de Democracy in America
    This classic in political literature examines American society from the viewpoint of a leading French magistrate who visited the U.S. in 1831.

POETRY

  • Brooks, Gwendolyn Selected Poems
    Poetry focusing on the lives of African American residents of Northern urban ghettos, particularly women.
  • Cummings, E.E. Collected Poems, 1922-1933
  • Dickinson, Emily The Collected poems of Emily Dickinson
  • Donne, John The Complete Poetry and Selected prose.
    Poems distinguished by wit, profundity of thought, passion and subtlety.
  • The Waste LandEliot, T.S. The Waste Land
    A poem of despair by one of the most important modern poets in English.
  • Frost, Robert Complete Poems of Robert Frost
    Collected works reflecting both flashing insight and practical wisdom.
  • Hughes, Langston The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
    Poems selected by Hughes shortly before his death in 1967, representing work from his entire career.
  • Keats, John Complete Poems
    Among the greatest odes in English, written by a genius who died young.
  • Williams, William Carlos Selected Poems
    Williams’ poetry is firmly rooted in the commonplace details of American life.
  • Wordsworth, William Poems
    Poetry revealing the extraordinary beauty and significance of simple things.
  • Yeats, William Butler Selected Poems and Two Plays of William Butler Yeats
    Leading poet of the Irish Renaissance.