To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lee’s famous novel, published in 1960, has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. For all that it exposes the racial injustice of a particular time and place, it is timeless and universal, which makes it a good book to read. As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg wrote in Reader’s Digest, “Many people see To Kill a Mockingbird as a civil rights novel, but it transcends that issue. It is a novel about right and wrong, about kindness and meanness.” Here are some more high school English books worth a re-read.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac’s agent spent more than four years trying to find a publisher for this turbo-charged, road-trip novel about the postwar beat generation. Finally published in 1957, On the Road—written in a style at once breathless and disjointed—spoke to the deep restlessness of young people chafing at mainstream Cold War culture. Also give these best autobiographies ever written a read.
Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen
You might not have heard of Olsen, but her 1961 story collection Tell Me a Riddle was one of the first to intimately chronicle the lives of working-class women. One entry is plainly titled “I Stand Here Ironing,” and chronicles a mother’s regrets with wisdom, bravery, and not an ounce of self-pity. Olsen opened a window onto a world not often seen before in American literature and influenced a generation of women writers, including Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, and Alice Walker. Here are some great books for mothers and daughters to read together.