Wednesday, March 4, 2009

List: College Board's Top 101

Leave it to the College Board -- creator of the PSAT, the SAT, etc. -- to come up with a list of books guaranteed to make almost every reader humble. Not that these are not excellent choices for a solid grounding in Western culture, but to suggest that students should read all "101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers" while they are still in high school is setting the bar mighty high.

Just reading through this list and realizing how many of these books I read long after high school, and how many I still have to read, is sure to inspire that nightmare where I am back in college as an adult, trying to take an exam for a class I never attended.

So much for my English Lit major -- I have only read 79 of the books on this list. Those I have read are in red, with a little notation about when I actually read the book. Those currently (or maybe I should say "still") on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Beowulf (college and adult)

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (adult)

A Death in the Family by James Agee (adult)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (college)

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (adult)

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (college)

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (adult) (reviewed here)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (high school)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (high school)

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (adult)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (college)

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (college)

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad (high school)

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane (adult)

Inferno by Dante (college)

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (high school)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (adult)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (college)

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (adult)

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (adult)

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (adult)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (adult)

Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (high school)

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (college)

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (adult) (reviewed here)

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (high school)

Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert (adult)

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (adult)

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (college)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (adult)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (college)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (high school)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (adult)

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway (adult)

The Iliad by Homer (college)

The Odyssey by Homer (college)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (college and adult)

Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley (high school)

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (adult)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (adult)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (adult) (reviewed here)

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (high school)

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee (adult)

by Sinclair Lewis (adult)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (adult)

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (adult)

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville (high school)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (adult) (reviewed here)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (high school)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (college)

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor (adult)

Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill

Animal Farm by George Orwell (adult)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (adult) (reviewed here)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (adult)

Selected Tales by Edgar Allen Poe (high school)

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (college)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (adult)

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Call it Sleep by Henry Roth

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (high school)

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (high school)

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (college)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (college)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (high school)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (college)

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Antigone by Sophocles (high school)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (high school)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (high school)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (adult)

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (adult) (reviewed here)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (college)

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (high school)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (high school)

Candide by Voltaire (adult)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult) (reviewed here)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (college)

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (adult)

Collected Stories by Eudora Welty

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (high school)

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (high school)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (college)

Native Son by Richard Wright (adult)


Rebecca Reads
The Bluestocking Society
Word Lily

If anyone else adopts this list, please let me know in a comment and I will add your link.


Last updated on August 7, 2015.


  1. Wow. Very humbling. I've read about 30 from this list and I probably didn't get nearly as much out of them as I should have!

  2. I've read quite a few, but have so many still to go! I once won a bet for my boss by having read more books on the Radcliff list than anyone else present, but I've missed more than a few good ones.

    Hope the move was low-stress and you're enjoying your new digs.

  3. awesome list. I've read less than 40 of them, and I agree it's a pretty high bar to expect high schoolers to read all of those while in high school. I'm all for expecting a lot of kids but let's not scare them away!

    Adding these books to my "I should read these" list.

  4. Wow, this is quite an ambitious list, and it is very humbling, especially when you're someone who loves to read and considers yourself fairly well read. You have done GREAT to have read so many of these! Those of us who were journalism majors missed the boat ;) I really enjoyed one that looks like you're not planning to read -- Robinson Crusoe. I read it as an adult, but it was a quick read and as I recall I liked it a lot. Happy reading!

  5. Hi Lynn! Thanks for visiting!

    Actually, I intend to read them all -- that's the "compulsive" part in my blog description. :) I just put in blue those that are physically on my TBR shelf right now. But someday I will get to all of them.

    And I am looking forward to Robinson Crusoe in particular. I read it as a child, but I didn't count it because I can't remember and think it might have been a condensed, kids' version.

  6. I just started reading Robinson Crusoe. I really like it!

  7. Darn, because of that extra 1, I am just below the 50% mark. Darn it. Who knew I went to such a progressive college. I had whole English classes that knocked NO books off this list. Sigh.

  8. Carin -- Well, at least you only have to read one more before it's all downhill!


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