UNrequired Reading

teen books, teen reading, book recommendations, reading list

Catherine is a 15 year-old from California. She loves reading novels and her favorite subject is English.



“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Everyone refers to Disneyland as “the happiest place on Earth,” but my own “happiest place on Earth” happens to be Barnes and Noble. My love for books and reading has significantly increased ever since I entered high school, as reading allows me to wander off into new worlds when I want to escape from reality for a few minutes. But even though I love reading, I have to admit that some of the required reading at school isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I enjoyed reading The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Les Miserables. Yet while reading some, including Huckleberry Finn, I literally almost fell asleep while reading them. Recently, I have read several books I believe would be interesting to have as school reading. They may also benefit students by providing new perspectives on various issues and not bore them to tears (or rather, sleep) by being more “modern or contemporary.”

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

First up, we have The Help, which centers on three unique women in the early 1960s while segregation between whites and blacks was still prevalent throughout the South. The novel takes place in Jackson, Mississippi and is told from the three distinct perspectives of Minny, Abileen, and Ms. Skeeter. Minny and Abileen have been servants of white families for many years, but both women have become weary over the years of their situation in life. Meanwhile, Ms. Skeeter, a white socialite, begins to question the society she has grown up in and whether it is time for change. Together, these three women embark on a journey that will not only alter the lives, but their entire community, and define the times they live in. This novel was extremely moving and inspiring, and I found it incredible the risks that these characters underwent in order to set the harsh truth of segregation free.

Matched by Ally Condie

For teens, dystopian novels seem to be all the rage now, especially since The Hunger Games. However, after reading The Hunger Games, I craved for even more dystopian societies, and luckily I came upon Matched. Matched tells the story of a love triangle (what teen story doesn’t these days?) between Cassia, Xander, and Ky. In a society where officials decide who you love, where you work, and when you die, Cassia must decide whether to submit, or rebel against her society and find true love in the process. This was a riveting read, and honestly, even though I love The Hunger Games, I believe the writing in Matched was better. Students could benefit from this book by reflecting on the society in the book, and see how they would behave in such a situation, and just their thoughts in general.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yes, I am aware that in most schools, this is already part of the curriculum. But in my school it wasn’t until AP Literature was introduced for the coming year, and I believe it should have been required in the past anyways. If you don’t know, Pride and Prejudice centers on English society. During this time period, most of the mothers’ main concerns were their daughters being well married. This novel was extremely witty and fun to read. As a bonus, it’s also a classic! I highly recommend this book since the writing style is a bit different from what we have now, so it could help with one’s writing too!

The Diary of Anne Frank

I have actually read this book several times, and I never get tired of it. This novel is the actual diary of one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. I love reading novels about the Holocaust, even though they are depressing, but it helps one gain so much insight into what the Jewish had to suffer through. This novel emphasizes that even though Anne lived in hiding for the remainder of her life, she still wished for a normal teenage life.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Well, if you haven’t noticed, I have mentioned this book a lot in my previous articles. But I seriously think it’s a book everyone, well mostly everyone, should read. This is a highly controversial book, so I doubt schools will actually make this required reading, but you should read it on your own if you’d like. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in a series of letters from a boy named Charlie, who is just starting his freshmen year in high school. This book focuses on the awkwardness of our teenage years, and all the confusion of “finding ourselves” during our high school years. If all this isn’t already enough to persuade you, the film adaptation is coming out in September with Emma Watson and Logan Lerman!


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