Ten Books High Schoolers Should Read Before Graduation

By Faith Walessa

Accidie, n. Sloth, listlessness, apathy. From Late Latin accīdia, "torpor."

Whether personally, professionally, or as a trope in fiction, you’ve doubtless encountered writer’s block. But what about the lesser known and equally deadly reader’s block? Now, if you try to explain this phenomenon you may be met with some surprise. Reading is typically regarded as a passive, relaxing hobby, meaning there is nothing easier in the world than simply sitting down, opening up a book, and getting on with it. Right? Well, not really.

The truth is, there are a lot of barriers in the way of doing something you love like reading. To begin with, we live in a world with endless distractions and responsibilities, endless books we keep planning to read, and endless books that we really probably should read–and haven’t even heard of. Some of these problems are harder to fix than others, but there is one that we can help you with–knowing what to read.

Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.

If you’re in high school (or just someone looking for some good book recommendations), then we have great news for you. We asked our trusted CLT Staff what the most important books are for high school students to read before they graduate, and here’s what they said. We hope this provides the inspiration you need, and wish you some very happy reading!

  • Dante Alighieri, the Divine Comedy
  • St. Augustine, Confessions
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
  • C. S. Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength)
  • C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King)

Lastly, one honorable mention—a long essay rather than a fully-fledged book by itself, but none the less rich for that:

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-stories”

Faith Walessa is a rising senior from Ontario, Canada. She hopes to study English at Hillsdale College, write books, and someday travel to England. She loves fanciful poetry, theater, reading by flashlight, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

If you appreciated this piece, you can find further suggestions from our guests on the Anchored podcast here; or, looking back to our interview with Dr. Cornel West a couple of years back, we consolidated a list of just ten of the dozens of books he recommended to us. Thank you for reading the Journal, and happy Friday!

Published on 8th March, 2024. Page image of the cover design of the first edition of Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (design by Harold Jones), provided for under fair use.

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