Part 3: Ask and You Shall Receive ... Happy (Hard) Reading, Kids! (Expos 100)

Updated: May 2

The overwhelming question I receive as part under the broader "helpmykidsarestuckathome" hashtag: What books should my kids be reading?


Same criteria apply as in the prior posts: EWC's reading lists are only comprised of books that the our team had read at your child's age. And now that we covered the advanced reading for our Intro series, let's turn our attention to HIGH SCHOOL.

These are ALL classics:



  • 1984 by George Orwell - A MUST-read and another of my all-time favorites. A literary masterpiece, psychological thriller, and warning against totalitarianism and a surveillance state.

  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - Steinbeck's masterpiece set during the Great Depression. We follow the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers trapped in the "Dust Bowl," who look towards California for a better and brighter future.

  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - Stringing together a series of short stories about a platoon of American soliders during the Vietnam War, O'Brien draws on his own experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division. These experiences contribute to the book's VERISIMILITUDE.

  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau- One of the leaders of the American transcendentalist movement, Thoreau moves into a cabin near Walden Pond. The book details this social experiment of self-reliance and self-discovery.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I could've gone with Crime and Punishment (after all, we should all have at least a bit of dramatic 19th century Russians on this list). Considered one of the greatest works of literature ever, this 800-page magnum opus centers around an extramarrital affair between Anna and cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky in Imperial Russia.



  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The mysterious Jay Gatsby, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. West Egg, East Egg. Gatsby whisks us into the world of decadence in the Roaring Twenties.

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. A racially-charged novel that addresses black nationalism, Marxism, and individuality.

  • Paradise Lost by John Milton. An epic poem written in blank verse, Paradise Lost takes us back to the beginning: Adam and Eve, temptation, and the Fall of Man.

  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. One of the most powerful and influential autobiographies in American history. Also written by a former slave and abolitionist with no formal education.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. A cornerstone of the literary Latin American Boom in the 1960s, Marquez's magical realist novel spans seven generations of the Buendía family.


There are also three separate categories that I want to point out:


19th-Century English Literature

While no EWC reading list is complete without its namesake, Jane Eyre, I have to admit: Lizzy from Pride & Prejudice takes the cake here as my favorite female protagonist in English literature.

Yes, we have the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen, but can we really forget about Charles Dickens?




The Great American Plays

Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams are are staples in American playwriting. For these, I'd recommending watching them alongside the movies and plays themselves.

Who can forget this Marlon Brando scene from A Streetcar Named Desire:


And finally - SHAKESPEARE

You might've noticed that there was no SHAKESPEARE on any of my lists. It's all right - we've got you sorted here!


Note that in this case (progressing from left to right), these Shakespearean works go from easier reads to more difficult ones. Obviously, that's SUBJECTIVE, but for the most part, A Midsummer Night's Dream is read in late-middle school, whereas Othella and Hamlet are read later in high school. But regardless of where you are in your literary education, you need some Shakespeare!


I hope that you can take inspiration from this list! Happy reading, all!


-From the EWC Team

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