Before going into the article, we would like to say congratulations. You finally made it to high school! In high school, you will have to read so much more than in middle school, while balancing your academics with your extracurricular activities. These requirements are all in preparation for the long road ahead: college. Some might not want to read, because they are not good readers or don’t enjoy reading. However, reading can provide you with many benefits, from your personal life to your professional life, from learning how to express your range of emotions using literary words to constructing a concise email that delivers the point. Reading can give you perspectives about the past, the present, and the future. In addition, you will observe how novelists expressed their most profound thoughts of the period when the book was written, how our perspectives have changed drastically over time, and how similar/different our future can be compared to the past.
There are thousands of books out there being published every day, but which ones will benefit you and your future high school journey? Below are the top 12 summer reads for incoming first-year high school students!
1. Jane Eyre
Love versus Anatomy, Religion, Social Class, Gender Relations, Home & Belonging, Anxiety, and Uncertainty are the main overarching themes discussed in the novel. The Victorian Novel follows Jane, an orphan, in finding her identity and true love. Jane Eyre is the story of a quest to be loved: romantic love, a sense of belonging, and being valued without sacrifice and self-harm. Underlying a story of seeking love is the struggle to balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, the critical view of Victorian England’s strict social hierarchy, the fight for equality and oppression, and the struggle of anxiety and uncertainty surrounding Jane’s place in the world.
2. The Nickel Boys
Trauma, Racism, Sacrifice, Power, and Hope are the main themes discussed in the novel. The novel takes readers on the growing up journey of Elwood Curtis, a young African American boy in Florida during the Civil Rights area. The story sets a tone about racism and violence at a Florida reform school, and how people in positions of power often use fear to subjugate others. However, in light of the critical issues related to the Civil Rights movement, there rises a powering friendship and interpersonal support to people facing adversity and oppression.
3. Their Eyes Were Watching God
Speech & Silence, Power, and Conquest as means to fulfillment, Love and Relationships, Humanity Vs. Nature are the themes discussed in the novel. Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story, which Janie Crawford finds love, experience joy and sorrow, and peace. She finds a voice, with language as an instrument of injury and salvation, selfhood and empowerment, while attempting to achieve fulfillment through the exertion of power. With love, she learns to love herself and appreciate her independence. At the same time, the novel illustrates how no human pursuit can stand against the forces of nature.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird
The good, the evil, the morality, the inequality, and the prejudice. To Kill a Mockingbird illustrates the issue of rape and racial inequality through Harper Lee’s observations of her family, her neighbors, and past events. The book explores the moral nature of human beings through the perspective of children. The story is set at the heart of the discussion about prejudice and racism, in particular, that impact the overcomplicated social hierarchy.
5. Shakespeare’s Novels: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare’s novels are prominent and widespread throughout English classes during high school. Generally, high school students will read or perform at least one novel. Shakespeare represents one of the greatest writers, dramatists, and poets due to the rich language used, the complexity of characters, and resonating themes in the stories.
6. The Great Gatsby
The American Dream, The Hollowness of the Upper Class, and Love & Marriage are evident in the novel. The story takes us to the world of extravagance through the eyes of Carraway, when he becomes entangled with the millionaire Jay Gatsby and Gatsby’s mistress, Daisy Buchanan. On the surface, The Great Gatsby is about love and marriage, but the novel encompasses the American Dream of wealth and excess and how the new millionaires of the 1920s differed from and were similar to old millionaire families.
7. The Lord of the Flies
According to Wikipedia, the book “focuses on a group of British boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves.” Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. The central emphasis of the book is the conflict between two impulses: the instinct of civilization with the good and the instinct of savagery with evil.
8. George Orwell: Animal Farm, 1984
George Orwell is an English novelist, who was outspoken for democratic socialism and opposed to totalitarianism. Animal Farm and 1984 are two of his most famous novels that discuss dystopian and allegory non-fiction. Despite being published years ago, the two novels feel just as vital today.
9. The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter displays a story of Hester with her daughter, born through an affair, and her struggle to create a new life of repentance and dignity. The story explores identity and society, when Hester is publicly shamed and forced to wear a badge of humiliation. While she fights for her independence and lives against social expectations, the husband is tormented by guilt of the sinful act and fathering an illegitimate child.
10. The Handmaid's Tale
Similar to George Orwell’s 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale visually depicts a patriarchal, totalitarian state called Gilead, where a group known as “handmaid” are forcibly produced children for the commanders – the ruling class of men. In the story, the women’s bodies are treated as political instruments, where they are useful for reproduction in responding to Gilead’s low birth rates. Another theme discussed in the story is the role of power, where women aren’t allowed to have jobs and are being titled differently compared to men.
11. Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth in her growth journey. Besides being a love story between Darcy and Elizabeth, the story discusses social expectations on women’s behavior, the nature of life for the middle and upper class, and gender roles. Marriage is a pressing question for women to achieve economic stability, autonomy, and most importantly, reputation.
12. Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 is another excellent novel about a dystopian society, about a firefighter who is forced to burn books instead of putting out fires, because books are illegal to own in this society. The book concentrates on the theme of knowledge and ignorance, where people are encouraged to be ignorant for equality and sameness. The story discusses technology, the rise of new media like television and in-ear radios that create an addiction to this kind of instant entertainment rather than improving one’s knowledge through books.
These are the top 12 books incoming high school students should read before beginning their freshman year. Reading is proven to expand your knowledge in different areas and helps you become more empathetic and appreciative of varied people and subjects. If you prefer reading in a class context, Aralia is launching a new class “Introduction to English Literature,” to help incoming high-school students in developing critical reading and writing skills. More information is available below.
INTRO TO ENGLISH LITERATURE
Description:In this course, students will develop skills in critically reading literature. They will also practice writing skills, including how to write arguments to support claims about what they read. This class is ideal for any student who wishes to be prepared once school resumes in a high school English class.
Project time: Rolling enrollment throughout the year, one class every weekend, 1.5 hours per class