Essential Books for A College Bound Student

I homeschool my ninth grade son. I am trying to introduce him to a wide variety of literature. So far this year he has read The Red Badge of Courage and is just starting on the novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

My question is what books do you think are essential for a high school student to read before they go to college?

I am mainly looking for fictional books that aren’t offensive to our faith. If you could include the grade that you think that these novels should be read, I would appreciate it.

My kids are now in college, and beyond. But I teach a number of CCD classes so I’m still somewhat in touch with what most kids have and have not learned.

One thing that has become blindingly obvious to me lately is that most kids (perhaps not yours) have no clue about VIRTUE. If anything, they’ve learned exactly the opposite from TV and movies.

I’m not thinking of Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice. I’m thinking of more basic things like self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, faith, etc.

So that being said, I’d recommend “The Book of Virtues” by William Bennett. It has something for everybody, all age groups, all levels of intellect.

A local Episcopal school’s web site has this to say about its jr. high English program:

 Our literature choices emphasize—but are not limited to—the classics      of Western civilization, chiefly those written in English. We choose works      of proven and lasting value because we believe exposure to things that are      true, honest, pure, lovely, and of good report will help our students recognize      those things, or the lack of them, in whatever literature they encounter.      
Students learn to analyze these works for content, form, style, and theme.      In literary analysis, we insist on careful, thorough, open-minded reading,      and we insist that students produce evidence for their opinions from the text      itself, not from some disconnected imaginings.

and this to say about its high school English program:

English I
Study world myth and epic literature, including Greek and Roman mythology, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The Aeneid, Beowulf, various Arthurian texts, selections from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Huckleberry Finn. Study of these works enhances the understanding of later works that allude to these common origins.
Ninth graders also write a 2500-word research paper (a grade for both English and history), learning MLA style and format for parenthetical citations, and obtaining familiarity with the Reader’s Guide and other sources. Grammar and vocabulary enrichment continue.

 **Ninth Grade Literature:**
  *Mythology*, Bulfinch
  *The Odyssey*, Homer
  *Julius Caesar*, Shakespeare
  *Le Morte D'Arthur*, Malory
  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  Huckleberry Finn, *Twain*
  Adventures in Literature*
  *The Complete Works of Shakespeare* 
  Selections of *Divine Comedy*

English II
Study significant works by American authors to gain understanding and insight into the American voice and works of art by major American artists, because much of the American story is reflected in art.
Learn higher level thinking skills as well as continue to develop research skills. Improve communication skills through weekly vocabulary lessons, grammar exercises and tests.
Tenth Grade Literature:
The American Tradition in Literature, Perkins McGraw Hill
*The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, * Lawrence & Lee
*Daisy Miller, *Henry James
*The Great Gatsby, *F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne
Reader’s Guide to Scarlett Letter
Transcendental Wild Oats, Alcott
The Belle of Amherst, Luce
The Tempest, Shakespeare

English III
British Literature and St. Augustine’s On Free Choice of the Will stress two interrelated themes - the subordination of man’s will to God’s will and the nature of relationships in the Great Chain of Being.
Prepare for the English Language and Composition AP exam. In most marking periods, students write three essays, all done in MLA style:[LIST]
*]AP Write-up, usually done in class and timed
*]Thematic essays which employ various rhetorical devices
*]Usually an essay on the six weeks test, covering the material for that marking period.[/LIST]An argumentative research paper is due on May 1st. Continue work on poetry, vocabulary, and grammar.
Eleventh Grade Literature:
Norton Anthology of English Literature, M.H. Abrams et al., W.W. Norton J. Company
On Free Choice of the Will, St. Augustine of Hippo
Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis

The Canterbury Tales (selections),
*King Lear, *Shakespeare
Paradise Lost (selections), Milton
Perelandra, Lewis
Frankenstein, Shelley
Writing with a Thesis, Skwire

English IV
In all work, students prepare for the Literature and Composition AP Exam

Twelfth Grade Literature:
*Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, *Perrine & Arp
Thinking and Writing about Literature, Roberts
Reading Between the Lines, Veith
Utopia, More
Guilliver’s Travels, “A Voyage to Houyhnhnms”, Swift
A Man for All Seasons, Bolt
Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy
Pride and Prejudice - or - Emma, Austen
Till We Have Faces - or - That Hideous Strength, Lewis

Thank you both. Those were good choices.:thumbsup:

deb1 - my wife homeschool’s our third grader and has found a series of books. The one she has it “Making the Grade:Everything your Third Grader Needs to Know” by Micky Pflug. I think she has one through 12th grade.

I just called my wife and she has “Parents Guide to the Best Books for Children” by Eden Ross Lipson and believes it breaks it up by grade.

Good luck and feel free to PM.

Does your son intend to go to a Catholic college or a secular atheistic public state school??

I don’t know what he is going to study but if he isn’t going to become an English teacher, and if he is going to a state college, he’ll probably just have to take a writing class and maybe one literature course.

Most of this modern literature certainly isn’t Catholic, so if he isn’t going to a state or private secular university, I’d junk most of it. Probably the less of this stuff you have to read, the better person you’ll be, unless you want to become a modernist secular thinker.

Here’s the standard classics; even Chaucer and the touted Shakespeare (in The Merchant’s Tale, Banquo and Mercutio (?) could be interpreted as being homosexuals, but there is no overt homosexuality portrayed) have their bawdy moments (especially Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale and a few others), but they are the foundations of English Literature:



Plato’s Republic


Chaucer: Canterbury Tales

Dante: Divine Comedy (especially if he’s going to a Catholic college)

Milton: Paradise Lost

Utopia (especially if he’s going to a Catholic college)

Shakespeare: Tragedies; Comedies; Histories: Julius Caesar, Henry IV Part I, can’t go wrong reading Shakespeare, despite a few minor problems; it’s the greatest drama of the English language).

Great Gatsby: For whatever reason, this is considered the Great American novel, maybe tied with Melville’s Moby ****. (I guess the point of this book, although it doesn’t spell it out in black in white words, is that all the money in the world can’t buy you happiness; he seems to romanticize wealth but in the end he seems to be saying it can’t get you everything; the author who was an ex-Catholic basically died of his alcoholism).

The above is really all that anyone needs, unless their specializing in this area.

I’d forget Hawthorne, Twain, Thoreau, Hardy; They are not Catholics and were all hostile towards religion; the only one I might read is Huckleberry Finn only if he’s going to a state school and I doubt he’ll read it even then.

My understanding is that Huck at the very end says he isn’t a Christian because of slavery. Plus, Huck is a rebellious youth, and doesn’t like authority.

I don’t see any necessity to read any of those authors, and they shouldn’t be read without a Christian critique of their ideas.

I’m not saying you can’t read them; but unless you’re closely supervising your son’s reading and providing a Christian analysis of the ideas presented, I’d pass them.

Thank you. I will probably PM you later.:slight_smile:

The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, and How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, in addition to the Bible, the Catechism, and the complete works of Shakespeare.

Other than those, give him a library card and let him read whatever he wants. :slight_smile:

If your child is going to a secular college or not you can’t go wrong with these books (or any others) by G. K. Chesterton:

The Everlasting Man

Father Brown Mysteries
The Man Who was Thursday

Erich’s list was a good start. I’d also mention that as a history/polysci major, I was required to read a lot of fiction, along with our primary and secondary sources for history classes. However, I think I had a tendancy to pick professors that others avoided due to the large amount of reading they required. :shrug:

Yes, I was thinking of giving him some of Chesterton’s work.:slight_smile:

I think most high school freshman read Vonnegut (“Slaughterhouse Five”, probably). Also, “Animal Farm”, “Jane Eyre”, we read Austen, but I went to an all-girls school. Odyssey as mentioned…Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we read HP and saw the movie :), but I hate to open any HP discussions here.
Flannery O’Connor…A Good Man is Hard to Find.
Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
My Antonia
Scarlet Letter
A lot of mythology stuff.
These are all good background for future reading of any sort, since pretty much all authors know these stories and have them in their subconscious when they write their modern novels.

In college, I was an assistant for a basic lit course that was required for everyone. Here was the list:
The Death of Ivan Illych (Tolstoy)

Dang, I’m sure there were more, but I’m getting my college lit classes mixed up.

This is a pretty good (and long) list.


Take a look at any good PS district or private school website and see if you can find reading lists there. Most libraries will also carry a by age/grade suggestion list. I would make sure he reads at least a few of the classics (on the lists here) even if they aren’t by Catholics or about Catholics. Other than that a library card and a veto to you is a good way to go.

A wonderful homeschool curriculum you can look into (warning: they are not Catholic, but not anti-Catholic either) is Sonlight. They are literature based and the notes are terrific for the upper level courses.

There a lot of good books and suggestions here. However, almost all of them are about literature. For a college bound home schooler, a broader reading list is a good idea. Good books in history, science, current affairs, geography should be included, and this is tough without knowing your child. Still, I will take a stab at it. A **very important book **is Mortimore Adler’s classic How to Read a Book. It is, as the title says, how to read a book critically. I think it is a must have for any schooler. 9th grade and up. It is a bit old so it may be hard to find. I also recommend Thomas West’s Vindicating the Founders. It a book that will innoculate your child from the de-bunkers found among many college faculty. It is very sound and probably suitable for 11 or 12 graders. I also recommend Diane Ravitch’s The American Reader. It is a comprehensive collection of documents, songs, etc. about America. For 9th grade and up. Finally, I recommend Debunking 9/11 Myths published by Popular Science. A good (and important) example of scientific thinking in practice. 9th grade and higher. Hope this helps a bit.

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