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Classic Books for Teens

Featuring some of the greatest books from the 18th through the 20th century, this list includes classics appropriate for teen readers, whether for class or for personal reading. Original publication dates are given in this list.

This booklist was contributed by Appleton Public Library Reference and Information Services Staff, 3/07 

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book jacket1984 by Geroge Orwell(1949)"Nineteen Eighty-Four" revealed George Orwell as one of the twentieth century's greatest mythmakers. While the totalitarian system that provoked him into writing it has since passed into oblivion, his harrowing cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate: its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade. In Winston Smith's desperate struggle to free himself from an all-encompassing, malevolent state, Orwell zeroed in on tendencies apparent in every modern society, and made vivid the universal predicament of the individual.

book jacketThe adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain(1884)Breezy, outrageous, thrilling from first page to last. Huckleberry Finn is the most widely read and universally loved work in American fiction. It is also the most imitated. "All modern American literature," according to Ernest Hemingway, "comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

book jacketThe adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain(1876)"The adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a boy's adventures growing up in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi river over a hundred years ago. The cheerful, adventurous hero plays truant to form a pirate band and, together with his best friend, Hucleberry Finn, finds fun and excitement, and buried treasure, along the shores of the great river"--

book jacketAlice's adventures in wonderland by Lewis Carroll(1865)A little girl falls down a rabbit hole and discovers a world of nonsensical and amusing characters.

book jacketAll quiet on the Western front by Erich Maria Remarque(1929)Through the eyes and mind of a German private, the reader shares life on the battlefield during World War I.

book jacketAnimal farm : a fairy story by Geroge Orwell(1945)A fairy tale about farmer Jone's domesticated animals, who, when they revolt against their cruel master are then taken over by the pigs, and soon find they have succeeded in exchanging one form of tyrrany for another, and once again are forced to unite in a common cause.

book jacketAround the world in eighty days by Jules Verne(1872)In 1872 Phileas Fogg wins a bet by traveling around the world in seventy-nine days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-seven minutes.

book jacketAs I lay dying : the corrected text by William Faulkner(1930)One of William Faulkner's finest novels, As I Lay Dying was originally published in 1930, and remains a captivating and stylistically innovative work. The story revolves around a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage, as Addie Bundren's family sets out to fulfill her last wish: to be buried in her native Jefferson, Mississippi, far from the miserable backwater surroundings of her married life. Told through multiple voices, it vividly brings to life Faulkner's imaginary South, one of the great invented landscapes in all of literature, and is replete with the poignant, impoverished, violent, and hypnotically fascinating characters that were his trademark. syndetics

book jacketBrave new world by Aldous Huxley(1932)Originally published in 1932, Huxley's terrifying vision of a controlled and emotionless future "Utopian" society is truly startling in its prediction of modern scientific and cultural phenomena, including test-tube babies and rampant drug abuse.syndetics

book jacketThe bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder(1927)Set in 18th century Lima, Peru, a rickety bridge which has spanned a deep gorge for ages suddenly breaks, and five people plunge to their deaths. A priest who is deeply affected by the catastrophe decides to make an investigative study of the lives of the victims to determine if he can find some clue to God's intention in casting five dis-associated mortals into eternity at precisely the same moment.

book jacketThe brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky(1880)A remarkable work showing the author's power to depict Russian character and his understanding of human nature. Driven by intense, uncontrollable emotions of rage and revenge, the four Karamazov brothers all become involved in the brutal murder of their despicable father.

book jacketThe call of the wild by Jack London(1903)This is the story of Buck, a dog abducted from his home and thrust into the merciless world of an Arctic north consumed by a quest for gold.

book jacketCandide, or, Optimism by Voltaire(1759)Social satire about a young man who believes, despite much evidence to the contrary, that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".syndetics

book jacketCatch-22 by Joseph Heller(1955)Yossarian, an WWII hero, has people trying to kill him.

book jacketThe catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger(1951)The hero-narrator of "The Catcher in the Rye" is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices -- but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

book jacketThe chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis(1950-1956)Tells the tales of Narnia, a magical, fantastic place where good and evil battle, children have adventures as kings and queens, and beasts and creatures can talk.

book jacketThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas(1844)Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, The Count of Monet Cristo recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal.syndetics

book jacketDaisy Miller by Henry James(1878)Originally published in "The Cornhill Magazine" in 1878 and in book form in 1879, "Daisy Miller" brought Henry James his first widespread commercial and critical success. The young Daisy Miller, an American on holiday with her mother on the shores of Switzerland's Lac Leman, is one of James's most vivid and tragic characters. Daisy's friendship with an American gentleman, Mr. Winterbourne, and her subsequent infatuation with a passionate but impoverished Italian bring to life the great Jamesian themes of Americans abroad, innocence versus experience, and the grip of fate. As Elizabeth Hardwick writes in her Introduction, Daisy Miller "lives on, a figure out of literature who has entered history as a name, a vision."syndetics

book jacketDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens(1850)The story of an abandoned waif who discovers life and love in an indifferent world, this classic tale of childhood is populated with a cast of eccentrics, innocents, and villains who number among the author's greatest creation.

book jacketDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson(1886)Henry Jekyll was the kindest, most respected man in England. Why then was the foul, brutal Hyde his sole heir? The answer to this was so shocking it could drive men mad.

book jacketDracula by Bram Stoker(1897)This is the classic, hypnotic story of the undead creatures of the night--and the human lives they touch--as they relentlessly seek to satiate an accursed craving for their only sustenance: human blood. A Gothic novel of immense proportions, "Dracula" has only strengthened its grip on the public over the course of the last century. Original.

book jacketEast of eden by John Steinbeck(1952)Adam and Charles Trask are raised by their stern father to become soldiers. But even as boys, they are at war. Adam's gentle passivity enrages the fiercely competitive Charles, who is sure his father favors Adam. Cathy Ames is beautiful but amoral; she uses the world to get what she wants. When Adam falls under her spell, she become a force that will poison both brothers and the future generations of two families.

book jacketEmma by Jane Austen(1816)Emma takes upon herself the organization of other people's emotions. Her forays into matchmaking are ill-judged and lead to misunderstanding, distress, and the annoyance of her eligible neighbor, Mr. Knightley.

book jacketFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury(1953)Guy Montag, a fire-fighter and book-burner for the State, discovers that in order to remain human he must preserve the books that attest to his humanity in this classic science fiction novel.

book jacketA farewell to arms by Ernest Hemingway(1929)By turns romantic and harshly realistic, Hemingway's story of a tragic romance set against the brutality and confusion of World War I cemented his fame as a stylist and as a writer of extraordinary literary power. A volunteer ambulance driver and a beautiful English nurse fall in love when he is wounded on the Italian front. The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway's frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto -- of lines of fired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized -- is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was 30 years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway.

book jacketThe fellowship of the ring : being the first part of The lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien(1954)First book in Lord of the Rings trilogy
The first volume in the trilogy, tells of the fateful ppower of the One ring. All the members of the fellowship, hobbits, elves and wizards, are plunged into a clash between good and evil.

book jacketFlowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes(1966)Oscar-winning film Charly starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom-a mentally challenged man receives an operation that turns him into a genius...and introduces him to heartache. syndetics

book jacketFrankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley(1818)A monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator.

book jacketThe giver by Lois Lowry(1993)Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.

book jacketGo ask Alice(1971)A fifteen-year-old drug user chronicles her daily struggle to escape the pull of the drug world.

book jacketGo tell it on the mountain by James Baldwin(1953)James Baldwin's portrayal of black people in Harlem caught up in a dramatic struggle, and of a society confronting inevitable change. syndetics

book jacketThe good earth by Pearl S. Buck(1931)This great modern classic depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power. Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life--its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and rewards. Includes biographical and historical information and more. syndetics

book jacketThe grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck(1939)Novel about the plight of American farmers who were forced off their farms by drought and foreclosure during the 1930's.

book jacketGreat expectations by Charles Dickens(1861)The orphan, Pip, and the convict, Magwitch, the beautiful Estella, and her guardian, the embittered and vengeful Miss Havisham, the ambitious lawyer, Mr. Jaggers -- all have a part to play in the mystery.

book jacketThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald(1925)Bathtub gin, flappers and house parties that last all week enliven Fitzgerald's classic tale. Stylish and engaging, "The Great Gatsby" is also a startling literate portrait of Gatsby's search for meaning in his opulent world.

book jacketGulliver's travels by Jonathan Swift(1726)The voyages of an Englishman carry him to such strange places as Lilliput, where people are six inches tall; Brobdingnag, a land of giants; an island of sorcerers; and a country ruled by horses.

book jacketThe Hobbit, or, There and back again by J.R.R. Tolkien(1937)Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.

book jacketThe hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo(1831)A retelling of the tale, set in medieval Paris, of Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, and his struggles to save the beautiful gypsy dancer Esmeralda from being unjustly executed.

book jacketI, robot by Isaac Asimov(1950)In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.

book jacketThe invisible man by H.G. Wells(1897)A quiet English country village is disturbed by the arrival of a mysterious stranger who keeps his face hidden and his back to everyone.

book jacketIvanhoe by Walter, Sir Scott(1819)Presents a recording of the novel concerning chivalry and romance in England during the 13th century. A brave knight comes from the Crusades to claim the Anglo-Saxon princess, Rowena, as his bride. But he becomes caught up in the feud between Prince John and his brother, Richard the Lionheart, who has returned to England incognito. Robin Hood and his outlaws also appear in a story with many interconnecting strands which meet in powerful scenes of tournaments, sieges, and courtly love.

book jacketJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontė(1847)In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with her employer who has a terrible secret.

book jacketThe jungle by Upton Sinclair(1906)Describes the conditions of the Chicago stockyards through the eyes of a young immigrant struggling in America.

book jacketKidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson(1886)Tensions run deep in ancient misunderstandings between Whig and Jacobite, Lowland rationalist and romantic Highlander. This story is told by David Balfour, a young Whig and Lowlander, who is tricked by his miserly uncle, and survives attempted murder, kidnap, and shipwreck. syndetcics

book jacketLittle women by Louisa May Alcott(1868)Tells about the sentimental and humorous adventures of the four March sisters as they grew up in the nineteenth century.

book jacketLord of the flies : a novel by William Golding(1954)A plane wreck deposits a group of boys, aged six to twelve, on an isolated tropical island. Their struggle to survive and impose order on their existence quickly evolves from a battle against nature into a battle against their own primitive instincts.

book jacketMain Street by Sinclair Lewis(1920)"This is America--a town of a few thousand, in a region of wheat and corn and dairies and little groves." So Sinclair Lewis--recipient of the Nobel Prize and rejecter of the Pulitzer--prefaces his novel "Main Street. Lewis is brutal in his depictions of the self-satisfied inhabitants of small-town America, a place which proves to be merely an assemblage of pretty surfaces, strung together and ultimately empty. sydetics

book jacketLes miserables by Victor Hugo(1862)Sensational, dramatic, packed with rich excitement and filled with the sweep and violence of human passions, LES MISERABLES is not only superb adventure but a powerful social document. The story of how the convict Jean-Valjean struggled to escape his past and reaffirm his humanity, in a world brutalized by poverty and ignorance, became the gospel of the poor and the oppressed.syndetics

book jacketMoby-Dick by Herman Melville(1851)Looking for adventure and a new life, Ishmael, the story's narrator, decides to find work on a whaling boat. On arriving at the Massachusetts harbour to begin his search, the only bed available is already half occupied by a "cannibal" named Queequeg. Although Queequeg has limited English, a friendship forms and the two men sign up for work together aboard the Pequod under the infamous Captain Ahab.

book jacketMy Antonia by Willa Cather(1918)Splendid early novel (1918) evokes the Nebraska prairie life of the author's childhood, and touchingly commemorates the spirit and courage of the immigrant pioneers who settled the land.syndetics

book jacketOf mice and men by John Steinbeck(1937)In depression-era California, two migrant workers dream of better days on a spread of their own until an act of unintentional violence leads to tragic consequences.

book jacketThe old man and the sea by Ernest Hemingway(1952)Hemingway's triumphant yet tragic story of an old Cuban fisherman and his relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream combines the simplicity of a fable, the significance of a parable, and the drama of an epic.

book jacketOliver Twist by Charles Dickens(1838) The adventures of an orphan boy who lives in the squalid surroundings of a nineteenth-century English workhouse until he becomes involved with a gang of thieves.

book jacketOne flew over the cuckoo's nest by Ken Kesey(1962)An inmate of a mental institution tries to find the freedom and independence denied him in the outside world. syndetics

book jacketThe outsiders by S.E. Hinton(1967)The struggle of three brothers to stay together after their parent's death and their quest for identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society.

book jacketThe phantom of the opera by Gaston Leroux(1910)The story of the Phantom of the Opera, a half-crazed musician hiding in the labyrinth of the famous Paris Opera House and creating a number of strange and mysterious events to further the career of a beautiful young singer, is today regarded as one of the most famous of all horror stories: widely mentioned in the same breath as Frankenstein and Dracula. Yet the fame of this novel is based almost entirely on the various film versions, while the original book has been largely ignored and is rarely in printsyndetics

book jacketThe picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde(1891)An exquisitely beautiful young man in Victorian England retains his youthful and innocent appearance over the years while his portrait reflects both his age and evil soul as he pursues a life of decadence and corruption. Illustrated sidebar notes provide historical background to the text.

book jacketPride and prejudice by Jane Austen(1813)Jane Austen's elegant novel reveals her complex view of the human condition. The story centers around the charming and vibrant Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters whose family circumstance dictates that they marry well, and the misunderstandings that can result--sometimes hilariously--from hasty judgementssyndetics

book jacketThe red badge of courage by Stephen Crane(1895)Meet Henry Fleming, a youth who dreams of glory as a Union Army soldier during the Civil War. In the middle of his first battle, Henry runs from the fighting in terror. He begins to grow up when he has to face his fellow soldiers, some of whom are wounded and dying. Now, Henry knwos that war is not as glorious as he thought. An another major battle begins, will Henry flee or find the courage to stay and fight? syndetics

book jacketThe return of the king by J.R.R. Tolkien(1955)Third book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Third volume in the epic saga of Middle-Earth, a full cast dramatization brings to life adventures from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

book jacketRobinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe(1719)During one of his several adventurous voyages in the 1600's an Englishman becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck and lives for nearly thirty years on a deserted island.

book jacketThe scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne(1850)Hester Prynne and her lover feel the effects of sin in Puritan New England.

book jacketThe sea-wolf by Jack London(1904)A young art critic is forced to endure the wrath of Wolf Larsen, captain of the sealing schooner which rescues him after a shipwreck.

book jacketSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse(1922)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.

book jacketSilas Marner by George Eliot(1861)"Here is a tale straight from the fireside. We are compelled to follow the humble and mysterious figure of the linen weaver Silas Marner, on his journey from solitude and exile to the warmth and joy of family life. His path is a strange one; when he loses his hoard of hard-earned coins all seems to be lost, but in place of the golden guineas come the golden curls of a child-and from desolate misery comes triumphant joy."

book jacketA tale of two cities by Charles Dickens(1859)After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the aging Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

book jacketTales of mystery and terror by Edgar Allan Poe(1838)For generations, readers have enjoyed classic literature. They have delighted in the romance of Jane Austen, thrilled at the adventures of Jules Verne, and pondered the lessons of Aesop. Introduce young readers to these familiar volumes with Great Illustrated Classics. In this series, literary masterworks have been adapted for young scholars. Large, easy-to-read type and charming pen-and-ink drawings enhance the text. Students are sure to enjoy becoming acquainted with traditional literature through these well-loved classics. syndetics

book jacketThe three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas(1844)In seventeenth-century France, young D'Artagnan initially quarrels with then befriends three musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and joins them in trying to outwit the enemies of the king and queen.

book jacketThe time machine by H.G. Wells(1888)A time traveler voyages into the year 802701 to discover that the world is divided into two groups, the Morlocks and the Eloi.

book jacketTo kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee(1960)A story about a lawyer in a small Alabama town in the 1930s whose defense of a Black man arouses the town's prejudice and hostility.

book jacketTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson(1883)While going through the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money, the mistress of the inn and her son find a treasure map that leads to a pirate fortune as well as great danger.

book jacketA tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith(1943)Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer. Late in the afternoon the sun slanted down into the mossy yard belonging to Francie Nolan's house, and warmed the worn wooden fence. Looking at the shafted sun, Francie had that same fine feeling that came when she recalled the poem they recited in school. This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld. The one tree in Francie's yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts

book jacketThe two towers : being the second part of The lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien(1954)Second book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy
In the second volume of the trilogy, the fellowship has been forced to split up in order to destroy the ring and fight the first battle of the War of the ring.

book jacketThe war of the worlds by H.G. Wells(1897)This edition of War of the Worlds includes a Introduction, Biographical Note, and Afterword by James Gunn. They came form outer space--Mars, to be exact. With deadly heat-rays and giant fighting machine they want to conquer Earth and keep humans as their slaves. Nothing seems to stop them as they spread terror and death across the planet. It is the start of the most important war in Earth's history. And Earth will never be the same. syndetics

book jacketWhere the red fern grows : the story of two dogs and a boy by Wilson Rawls(1961)A young boy living in the Ozarks achieves his heart's desire when he becomes the owner of two redbone hounds and teaches them to be champion hunters.

book jacketWhite Fang by Jack London(1906)In the desolate, frozen wilds of north-west Canada, a wolf-cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of the litter. Son of Kiche - half-wolf, half-dog - and the ageing wolf One Eye, he is thrust into a savage world where each day becomes a fight to stay alive.

book jacketWuthering Heights by Emily Brontė(1847)The story of the stormy relationship between the mysterious Heathcliff, the beautiful and stubborn Cathy, and the people who live at Wuthering Heights.

book jacketThe yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings(1938)A young boy living in the Florida backwoods is forced to decide the fate of a fawn he has lovingly raised as a pet.