20 Books From the Last 2 Decades That Made it Onto High School Reading Lists


High school reading lists have been forcing students to crack open classics since time immemorial. Both a tool to widen high school students’ horizons and a watermark of what is considered literature, reading lists are primarily composed of time-honored classics, but they have also seen some interesting changes over the last two decades.

Here are 20 books written during the last 20 years that have made it onto high school reading lists. Whether you are a high school student or just someone looking for a more sophisticated beach read, enjoy these recent reading innovations. Bonus: Many of them were also made into films, so next movie night, you can be the one complaining about how the book was so much better.

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)

Zookeeper's son Pi Patel finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, coexisting with the wild animal for 227 days.

2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003)

Set in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner is the story of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant.

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (2003)

This murder mystery is told by an autistic 15-year-old who is gifted in math but lacks the social skills needed to understand the people in his life.

4. Monster by Walter Dean Myer (1999)

A 16-year-old is accused of being a lookout in a Harlem drugstore robbery that results in murder.

5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)

Susie Salmon, the victim of a horrific murder, watches life on earth from heaven as her family and friends try to cope with their loss.

6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007)

A father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape.

7. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2009)

Percy Jackson learns he is a demi-god and sets off on his first quest.

8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1994)

The government breeds and trains brilliant children as soldiers, among them Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, who battles loneliness, fear and isolation as he fights to remake the world.

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006)

Liesel, a foster girl trying to survive in World War II Germany, steals books and learns to read.

10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)

An evangelical preacher takes his wife and four daughters on a mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

11. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

In this dystopian world, Katniss Everdeen enters the Hunger Games on her sister's behalf, battling her fellow Tributes in the ultimate survival competition.

12. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (2005)

In this book about thinking about the way we think, author Malcolm Gladwell revolutionizes our understanding of ourselves.

13. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1993)

The heir of a long line of Texas ranchers, John Grady Cole sets off a journey to Mexico with two friends.

14. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (2003)

This expose reveals how the fast food industry has widened the gap between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity and transformed food production throughout the world.

15. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)

Best friends Lia and Cassie compete to see who can be the thinnest, a deadly competition for which one pays the ultimate price.

16. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

Aspiring writer Skeeter defies social boundaries and takes risks to write a book about family maids in Jackson, Miss., in the 60s.

17. Room by Emma Donoghue (2010)

A mother and son have lived in a room for seven years. Her desperation and his curiosity build until the 11 by 11-foot space can't hold them any longer.

18. Into the Wild by John Krakauer (1996)

A young hitchhiker's body is found by a moose hunter.

19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006)

After losing everything, medical student Jacob joins the circus to discover a whole new world, including a forbidden love affair.

20. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2002)

Lily Owen struggles to overcome a neglected childhood as she comes of age in South Carolina in 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act.