This is the second section of my High School Literature List series. In the first one I covered American Literature. This one will cover World, including British literature choices for high school and beyond.
Please keep in mind that these are just suggestions and I have not even read all of these myself. When choosing books for your children to read it is a decision that is personal to each family. Be sure to screen books to be sure you are happy with the content.
Also keep in mind that not every book can be read. It is my suggestion that when choosing high school literature options you choose from a vast array of styles and genres to give your student a good cross section of literature as their base. Then after high school (or even during) they can move outward in whatever direction they would like to read, delving deeper into a particular style, author, or time period.
World Literature Suggestions
- A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen – One of the best-known, most frequently performed of modern plays, displaying Ibsen’s genius for realistic prose drama. A classic expression of women’s rights, the play builds to a climax in which the central character, Nora, rejects a smothering marriage and life in “a doll’s house.”
- Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll – On a day that begins like any other, Alice notices a rabbit—a rabbit with a pocket watch. She chases after it and stumbles down a hole… and keeps falling and falling and falling. That’s when things start to get weird. She encounters a bizarre cast of characters — the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, a pipe-smoking caterpillar, the Pigeon, a Duchess, the Cook, and the decapitation-happy Queen of Hearts. It’s an adventure of completely intolerable logic, as witty as it is completely insane.
- A Wrinkle in Time , by Madeleine L’Engle – It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. “Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.” A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time.
- Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne – For a bet, Phileas Fogg sets out with his servant Passeportout to achieve an incredible journey – from London to Paris, Brindisi, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York and back to London again, all in just eighty days. There are many alarms and surprises along the way – and a last minute setback that makes all the difference between winning and losing.
- Candide, by Voltaire – Caustic and hilarious, Candide has ranked as one of the world’s great satires since its first publication in 1759. It concerns the adventures of the youthful Candide, disciple of Dr. Pangloss, who was himself a disciple of Leibniz. In the course of his travels and adventures in Europe and South America, Candide saw and suffered such misfortune that it was difficult for him to believe this was “the best of all possible worlds” as Dr. Pangloss had assured him. Indeed, it seemed to be quite the opposite
- Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevski – Supreme masterpiece recounts in feverish, compelling tones the story of Raskolnikov, an impoverished student tormented by his own nihilism, and the struggle between good and evil. Believing that he is above the law, and convinced that humanitarian ends justify vile means, he brutally murders an old woman — a pawnbroker whom he regards as worthless. Overwhelmed afterwards by guilt and terror, Raskolnikov confesses to the crime and goes to prison. There he realizes that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering.
- Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote chronicles the adventures of the self-created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain.
- Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley – Obsessed by creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life by electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. This chilling gothic tale, begun when Mary Shelley was just nineteen years old, would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.
- Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels describes the four fantastic voyages of Lemuel Gulliver, a kindly ship’s surgeon. Swift portrays him as an observer, a reporter, and a victim of circumstance. His travels take him to Lilliput where he is a giant observing tiny people. In Brobdingnag, the tables are reversed and he is the tiny person in a land of giants where he is exhibited as a curiosity at markets and fairs. The flying island of Laputa is the scene of his next voyage. The people plan and plot as their country lies in ruins. It is a world of illusion and distorted values. The fourth and final voyage takes him to the home of the Houyhnhnms, gentle horses who rule the land. He also encounters Yahoos, filthy bestial creatures who resemble humans.
- Hiroshima, by John Hersey – On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey’s journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic that stirs the conscience of humanity.
- Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott – More than a century after the Norman Conquest, England remains a colony of foreign warlords. The dissolute Prince John plots to seize his brother’s crown, his barons terrorize the country, and the mysterious outlaw Robin Hood haunts the ancient greenwood. The secret return of King Richard and the disinherited Saxon knight, Ivanhoe, heralds the start of a splendid and tumultuous romance, featuring the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, the siege of Torquilstone, and the clash of wills
between the wicked Templar Bois-Guilbert and the sublime Jewess Rebecca.
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte – ane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage. She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester. However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.
- Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo – Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds.
- Lord of the Flies, by William Golding – William Golding’s classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, “the boy with fair hair,” and Piggy, Ralph’s chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island’s wild pig population. Soon Ralph’s rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: “He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet.” Golding’s gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.
- Oedipus the King, by Sophocles – The famed Athenian tragedy in which Oedipus’s own faults contribute to his tragic downfall.A great masterpiece on which Aristotle based his aesthetic theory of drama in the Poetics and from which Freud derived the Oedipus complex, King Oedipus puts out a sentence on the unknown murderer of his father Laius. By a gradual unfolding of incidents, Oedipus learns that he was the assassin and that Jocasta, his wife, is also his mother.
- Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe – Classic adventure story recounts struggles of an Englishman marooned on an uninhabited island for 24 years: his efforts to build a shelter and develop a food supply, his dramatic encounter with the native Friday, and their eventual escape and return to civilization.
- Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse – In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life — the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes , by Arthur Conan Doyle – Venture back in time to Victorian London to join literature’s greatest detective team — the brilliant Sherlock Holmes and his devoted assistant, Dr. Watson — as they investigate a dozen of their best-known cases.
- THE CANTERBURY TALES , by Geoffrey Chaucer – One spring day, the Narrator of The Canterbury Tales rents a room at the Tabard Inn before he recommences his journey to Canterbury. That evening, a group of people arrive at the inn, all of whom are also going to Canterbury to receive the blessings of “the holy blissful martyr,” St. Thomas à Becket. Calling themselves “pilgrims” because of their destination, they accept the Narrator into their company. The Narrator describes his newfound traveling companions.The Host at the inn, Harry Bailey, suggests that, to make the trip to Canterbury pass more pleasantly, each member of the party tell two tales on the journey to Canterbury and two more tales on the journey back. The person who tells the best story will be rewarded with a sumptuous dinner paid for by the other members of the party. The Host decides to accompany the pilgrims to Canterbury and serve as the judge of the tales.
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
, by Anne Frank – Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period.
- The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck – In The Good Earth Pearl S. Buck paints an indelible portrait of China in the 1920s, when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century.
- The Iliad , by Homer – Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War.
- Things Fall Apart (African Trilogy) by Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
- Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights is one of the world’s greatest tales of unrequited love, captivating readers with its intense passion and drama since its publication in 1847. Cathy Linton is a beautiful, high-spirited girl unaware of her parents’ history. Her farher is very protective of her and as a result she is constantly wanting to discover what lies beyond the confines of the Thrushcross Grange. Cathy takes advantage of her father’s absence to venture farther afield. She learns of Wuthering Heights and discovers she has not one, but two cousins…
Authors with Multiple Works:
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Three Musketeers
A Tale of Two Cities
A Christmas Carol
The Chronicles of Narnia
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
Lord of the Rings (trilogy)
War and Peace
Robert Lewis Stevenson
High School Literature List Series: