Top Ten Tuesdays #4 Top Ten(ish) Required Reads for Teens

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovelies at The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten theme is: 

TOP TEN Required Reads for Teenagers

Okay, I went from having a total brain freeze and being completely stumped by this question, to ending up with a list of twelve titles. I was going to try and cut it down, but y'know what? You can never have too many books. (This last point would be highly contested by my husband, who has growing concerns about the floor of my book room being able to take much more weight...)

The List
Synopses Taken From Goodreads and eNotes.

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel; a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice; but the weight of history will only tolerate so much. One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal). HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.
Sophie's Choice, by William Styron.

"[One morning] in the early spring, I woke up with the remembrance of a girl I'd once known, Sophie. It was a very vivid half-dream, half-revelation, and all of a sudden I realized that hers was a story I had to tell." That very day, William Styron began writing the first chapter ofSophie's Choice.
First published in 1979, this complex and ambitious novel opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. It leads us into his intellectual and emotional entanglement with his neighbors in a Brooklyn rooming house: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman whose wrist bears the grim tattoo of a concentration camp...and whose past is strewn with death that she alone survived.
"Sophie's Choice is a passionate, courageous book...a philosophical novel on the most important subject of the twentieth century," said novelist and critic John Gardner in The New York Times Book Review. "One of the reasons Styron succeeds so well in Sophie's Choice is that, like Shakespeare (I think the comparison is not too grand), Styron knows how to cut away from the darkness of his material, so that when he turns to it again it strikes with increasing force....Sophie's Choice is a thriller of the highest order, all the more thrilling for the fact that the dark, gloomy secrets we are unearthing one by one—sorting through lies and terrible misunderstandings like a hand groping for a golden nugget in a rattlesnake's nest—may be authentic secrets of history and our own human nature."

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne.

Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut.

Read the full short story here.

‘‘Harrison Bergeron’’ was first published in the October, 1961, issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was Vonnegut's third publication in a science fiction magazine following the drying up of the once-lucrative weekly family magazine market where he had published more than twenty stories between 1950 and 1961. The story did not receive any critical attention, however, until 1968 when it appeared in Vonnegut's collection Welcome to the Monkey House. Initial reviews of the collection generally were less than favorable, with even more positive reviewers, such as Mitchel Levitas in the New York Times and Charles Nicol in the Atlantic Monthly, commenting negatively on the commercial quality of many of the stories. By the late 1980s, however, ‘‘Harrison Bergeron’’ was being reprinted in high school and college literature anthologies. Popular aspects of the story include Vonnegut's satire of both enforced equality and the power of the Handicapper General, and the enervating effect television can have on viewers. "Harrison Bergeron’’ likely draws upon a controversial 1961 speech by then Federal Communications Commission chairman Newton Minow titled "The Vast Wasteland,’’ a reference to a supposed dearth of quality in television programming. Coincidentally, ‘‘Harrison Bergeron’’ also alludes to the George Burns and Gracie Allen television show, a weekly situation comedy and variety show popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Vonnegut has said that he learned most of what he believes about social and political idealism from junior civics class, as well as from the democratic institution of the public school itself. A futuristic story dealing with universal themes of equality, freedom, power and its abuses, and media influence, ‘‘Harrison Bergeron’’ continues to evoke thoughtful responses about equality and individual freedom in the United States

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

Huxley's vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World -- a world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class.

His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman.

In the epic trilogy His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to worlds parallel to our own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes--if it isn't destroyed first. The three books in Pullman's heroic fantasy series, published as trade paperbacks, are united here in one dazzling boxed set that includes The Golden Compass,The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. In these new editions, each chapter opens with artwork by Pullman himself, along with chapter quotations from the likes of Milton, Donne, Black, Byron, and the Bible that did not appear in earlier editions. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventure of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands. (Ages 13 and older)

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Fleeing the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their ancestral home, a band of rabbits encounters harrowing trials posed by predators and hostile warrens — driven only by their vision to create a perfect society in a mysterious promised land known to them as Watership Down. First published in 1972 to world-wide rave reviews and now a modern classic, this is a powerful tale about the destructive impact of our society on nature — written in the same vein as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo-alone and unaided-who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside . . .

This stirring adventure fantasy begins the tale of the hobbits that was continued by J.R.R. Tolkien in his bestselling epic The Lord of the Rings.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling.

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.­­­­


  1. Ahhh I absolutely LOVE some of these books. I considered putting HUNGER GAMES on my list as well but decided against it. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time is a very interesting book.

  2. Mark Haddon- great addition! Also love that you included the entire Harry Potter series. Awesome.

  3. I think the addition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time was wonderful. Great list!

    Shanan (new follower)

  4. This is a little off topic, but that is a great cover on Curious Incident. I see the commenter before me thought the same thing. I think that would be a great book for teens. I just read it this year.

    Come visit me at The Scarlet Letter.

  5. Fantastic list, some of my favourites are in there! I've been meaning to read The Colour Purple for awhile now. I've seen the film so it's only right that I read the book as well.

  6. Fantastic list. I think I have loved just about all of the titles you listed. Watership Down is the only one that I could never get into.

  7. I only read The Golden Compass and while I enjoyed it, I thought he gave too much away. I didn't feel the need to read the next one.
    Here's my Top Ten

  8. You've chosen some wonderful books :D TY great post

  9. I was a hair's breadth from putting Harry Potter on my list, but I went with the sort of things I would teach if I were prepping a student for college lit courses, and I figured Harry Potter would make its way into people's lives all on it's own.

    Great list!

  10. I think this is the best list I've read! Seriously - great choices. We have some overlap, but I didn't include "Harrison Bergeron" and I love that you did.

  11. +JMJ+

    Of all the books on your list, Brave New World and The Hobbit are my favourites. =)

    I'm just wondering why you picked The Hobbit instead of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. It can't just be the length, because you have two other trilogies and one seven-book series here. Thanks!

  12. Wow. Thanks for the great comments! Glad my list was such a success.

    @Lauren B - "Northern Lights" or "The Golden Compass" is the weakest book of the trilogy. I thoroughly recommend the others as they just get better and BETTER!

    @ Enbrethiliel - I love "The Lord of the Rings", but "The Hobbit" has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first books I ever read in a single day, when I was about 9 or 10. In many ways, I think it surpasses the more lengthy sequel! But then...I know I will probably be in the minority there!

    Thanks all!


  13. Great list! So much love for so many of these books!


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