These books are on the recommended reading lists of many colleges and universities, and many are listed as part of the "100 most-often-recommended works." It would be helpful if you have read at least some of them before you start college next fall.
All of them are fiction, and are either in your school library, or they can be requested to be sent to your home library.
Baldwin, James. Go tell it on the mountain.
This semi-autobiographical novel about a 14-year black youth’s religious conversion is based on Baldwin’s experience as a young storefront preacher in Harlem.
Bellow, Saul. Seize the day.
In this novella, a son grapples with his love and hate for an unworthy father. When he won the Nobel prize in 1976, Bellow was cited for "the human understanding and the analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering heights.
One of the masterpieces of English romanticism, this is a novel of love and revenge. The demonic passion of the hero-villain Heathcliff destroys his beloved Catherine, her family, and eventually himself.
Camus, Albert. The stranger.
In this novel a young man, observing life rather than participating in it, commits a senseless murder. While in prison awaiting execution, he comes to value life. Camus won the Nobel Prize in 1957.
Cather, Willa. My Antonia.
This is a realistic novel about immigrant pioneers as they strive to adapt to the Nebraska prairies. It is the story of the struggles of Antonia and other women who are strengthened by the harsh realities of life.
Cervantes, Miguel de. Don Quixote.
A novel in which an eccentric old gentleman setting out as a knight goes "tilting at windmills" to right the wrongs of the world. This work, made up of 12 stories, has been translated into many languages. It is the basis for the musical "Man of La Mancha."
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of darkness.
This is a novel that explores the darkness in the soul of each man. Conrad’s narrator Marlow makes a journey into the depths of the Congo where he discovers the extent to which greed can corrupt a good man.
Crane, Stephen. Red badge of courage.
This Civil War novel, which Crane called "the psychological portrayal of fear," reveals the grim aspects of war in the life of an ordinary soldier. Henry Fleming joins the army full of romantic visions of battle that are shattered by combat.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe.
Based on a true story, this novel is about the adventures of a man who spends 24 years on an isolated island. With the help of an islander whom he names Friday, Crusoe shows courage and ingenuity in meeting the challenges of his predicament.
Dostoevski, Feodor. Crime and punishment.
This is a novel about a poor student who murders an old woman pawnbroker and her sister. After the crime, his conscience bothers him
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible man.
"I am an invisible man," begins this novel of an unnamed black man’s search for identity as an individual and as a member of his race and his society. This story goes beyond one man’s search and chronicles every man’s struggle to find himself.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary.
In this realistic novel, a young wife is bored with her husband. She seeks unsuccessfully to find the emotional experiences she has read about in romantic novels.
Golding, William. Lord of the flies.
A group of English schoolboys, stranded on an island, become savages. This moral fable implies that defects in society are caused in part by defects in individuals.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their eyes were watching God.
This American classic is a haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in search of a happy life, whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave now world.
In this bitter satire about the future, Nobel prize-winner Huxley conceives a world controlled by advances in science and social changes. Individuals are no longer important, and their lives are planned out for them.
Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt.
This is a satirical novel about Babbitt, a middle-class businessman in an average Midwestern city. Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick.
This is a classic novel about a mad sea captain and his pursuit of the White Whale.
Orwell, George. Animal farm. (also 1984)
This is a classic satire of communism in which the pigs lead the farm animals in a revolution against the humans, setting up their own government.
Paton, Alan. Cry, the beloved country.
A black minister in South Africa goes in search of his children and finds them corrupted and destroyed by white society.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Great tales and poems.
Poe is considered the father of detective stories and a master of supernatural tales.
Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael.
This is an utterly unique environmental novel that has earned a large and passionate following among readers and critics alike. It is a well-loved, best-selling novel of spiritual adventure.
Salinger, J.D. The catcher in the rye.
A prep school dropout rejects the phoniness he sees all around him.
Steinback, John. The grapes of wrath.
This historical novel is about the desperate flight of tenant farmers from the Midwest during the depression.
Tolstoy, Leo. War and peace.
This historical novel about the Napoleonic Wars celebrates the Russian spirit and shows the effects of war and peace on every social call in Russian society.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse five.
This semi-autobiographical novel is about the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. In the story a time traveler, Billy Pilgrim, finds peace in a future world.
Some annotations are from the book Reading lists for college-bound students.