Top Books of 2021

The 25 Books Most Assigned by High School Teachers

Here's our annual rundown of the vocabulary lists that teachers assigned most frequently over the past year. How many of these great books have you read?
  • Romeo and JulietWilliam Shakespeare
    Sparks fly when Romeo and Juliet first meet, but their families are sworn enemies locked in an ancient feud. Learn these words from Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed love.
  • The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald
    Nick Carraway rents a summer house in Long Island where he befriends his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who hides behind an extravagant and decadent lifestyle. Read the full text here.
  • The CrucibleArthur Miller
    This scathing dramatization of the Salem Witch Trials is also an allegory of Senator Joseph McCarthy's pursuit of Communists in the 1950s.
  • To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee
    In this classic coming-of-age story, Scout Finch recounts her childhood in Maycomb, Alabama. When Scout's father is appointed to defend a black man in a high-profile trial, racial tensions in the small town come to a head.
  • Of Mice and MenJohn Steinbeck
    Set during the Great Depression, Steinbeck's classic novel tells the story of shrewd, scheming George and loyal, childlike Lennie. The two farm workers dream of owning their own land but must struggle merely to survive.
  • NightElie Wiesel
    In this unflinching memoir, Elie Wiesel describes his experience as a young man imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
  • Animal FarmGeorge Orwell
    What would happen if the Russian Revolution of 1917 took place on a small English farm? This provocative novella blends fable, satire, and allegory while grappling with some of the twentieth-century's most consequential political ideas.
  • The OutsidersS.E. Hinton
    In the 1960s, tensions between two rival gangs separated along economic lines reach a violent breaking point.
  • Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding
    When they are marooned on a deserted island, a group of schoolboys attempts to form a new society.
  • The Tragedy of MacbethWilliam Shakespeare
    In this tragedy, Macbeth's belief in a prophecy and his ambition to become king lead to murder and madness. Read the full text of the play here.
  • Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
    In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagines a dystopian future in which firemen burn banned books and people are constantly bombarded with mindless entertainment. This classic novel is as powerful and relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1953.
  • The GiverLois Lowry
    Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a regimented community that is free from pain and suffering — but also free from joy, independence, and even color. When he is appointed the community's Receiver of Memory, Jonas begins to question everything he has been taught.
  • FrankensteinMary Shelley
    In this groundbreaking novel, Dr. Victor Frankenstein works feverishly to bring an inanimate creature to life — but when he finally succeeds, he is horrified by what he has unleashed. Read the full text here.
  • Stories of Ourselves
    This anthology of short stories is used for the Cambridge Literature in English courses.
  • A Raisin in the SunLorraine Hansberry
    In the 1940s, a working class African-American family in Chicago must decide how to best spend a ten-thousand dollar insurance payout.
  • Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe
    Centered around Okonkwo, an Igbo leader who is banished from his community, this novel explores the tension between white missionaries and tribal culture in Nigeria.
  • The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne
    After having a child out of wedlock, Hester Prynne is shunned by her Puritan community and forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing — but Hester is not the only one who has transgressed. This classic novel explores guilt, sin, and hypocrisy.
  • The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of DenmarkWilliam Shakespeare
    Shakespeare's famous tragedy tells the story of a Danish prince who must decide whether or not to avenge his father's death. Read the full text here.
  • 1984George Orwell
    Published in 1949, this dystopian classic imagines a future of perpetual war, militaristic propaganda, and total government surveillance.
  • The Hate U GiveAngie Thomas
    In this best-selling novel, sixteen-year-old Starr's life is turned upside down when she witnesses the death of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.
  • Julius CaesarWilliam Shakespeare
    Brutus is a trusted confidant of the Roman general Julius Caesar, but when he becomes convinced that Caesar's ambitions are a threat to the republic, he plots his friend's assassination. Read the full text here.
  • The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger
    In J.D. Salinger's classic novel, Holden Caulfield leaves his prep school and experiences disillusionment and alienation while wandering around New York City.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianSherman Alexie
    Arnold Spirit, Jr., a young cartoonist who lives on the Spokane Indian reservation, decides to transfer to a school in which he will be the only American Indian student.
  • The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini
    Set in Afghanistan during a time of political and social upheaval, this novel traces the decades-long friendship of two boys from different social classes.
  • BeowulfSeamus Heaney
    Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney translates the Old English epic poem about a warrior's battles with a series of monsters.

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