What Kids Should Read! Warning!

Recently John Barach, pastor and scholar and home schooling parent in Louisiana, asked this question to his Facebook friends:                           Give me a list of the top ten (or so) books you *wish* you’d read in your school years … or you wish your kids would read before they graduate. Fiction and especially non-fiction, please. And if there are ages or grades you think are best for these books to be read, I’d be glad if you’d add them.

I have tried to assemble all the suggested titles and will give them here with no comment from me, but I have included some of the contributors’ comments.

Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm,  Brave New World, 1984, That Hideous Strength.  This contributor noted that these books kept him from being drawn toward totalitarianism.  And A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (15+).

The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin.  This contributor says, “This book wasn’t out when I was a kid, but I have a feeling that it will have an impact on my life nonetheless. It is like Schaffer in muck-boots.  What Salatin lacks in strict, reformed orthodoxy he makes up for in hope-filled obedience.”
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Watership Down
Count of Mt Cristo
Canterbury Tales  (At least one contributor regreted reading this, and that led to a side discussion about why we read books.)
Works of Voltaire and Victor Hugo
David Howarth’s histories such as 1066 and Voyage of the Armada
Malcolm Gladwell’s books, such as Outliers and David and Goliath (ages 14-15)
John Paul Sartre-No Exit-high school. The contributor said that Sartre convinced her that God existed.
Augustine’s Confessions and an abridged City of God.
Dorothy Sayers’ Murder must Advertise-fasinating insights into reality.
Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon: great framework for understanding men and women, and issues of sexual sin.
T homas Sowell Basic Economics and Applied Economics, and also his Culture series.
McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy
Will and Ariel Durant’s  histories.
Nourishing Traditions ( highschool).
Taking Charge of Your Fertility – a fabulous look at how and why and when a woman’s body does what it does.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The contributor says that the author comes at it from a fairly liberal perspective, but her experiences and knowledge about how we get our food and the importance of supporting local food sources is fascinating. High school.
Robert Alter Art of Biblical Poetry and Art of Biblical Narrative.  The contributor writes, “These are all books I’d like my daughter to have read by the time she has graduated high school.”
V Philips Long, Art of Biblical History.
John Buchan’s books
Baroness Orczy’s works
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini! (All I would recommend for 12-plus.)
Anything by Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. At least the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.
Confessions by Augustine, Free Will by Rousseau, Penses by Pascal, and by Virginia Woolf 
Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin,
Bounty Trilogy by Nordhoff and Hall
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
Chosen by Chaim Potok
Children of the Promise by Randy Booth
Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard
Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
Praying Life by Paul Miller
Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
I Loved a Girl by Walter Trobisch.
Some odd duck by the name of Ben House said, “Here are the more popular books I assign during the Humanities and related classes: 

Beowulf, Song of Roland, The Fairie Queene, Paradise Lost, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Unvanquished, The Great Gatsby, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Hie to the Hunters. I have a few other favorites that are hard sells to the kids, such as The Deerslayer by James F. Cooper. I love Paul Johnson’s History of the American People and Ernle Bradford’s books such as The Great Siege (kids love it), Hannibal, and Thermopylae. He adds, “My guv’mint students usually enjoy Ayn Rand’s short work Anthem. I like using Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? with both the book and film series.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake, which the contributor says is a “way to frame the rest of my scientific education.”

Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home by Rupert Sheldrake
Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities
Isaac Watts’ Logic
Lord of the Rings (to be read every year from 6th grade on)
One contributor added these books “because music is such an important part of my child’s education”:
Understanding Music; Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung; Death Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde
The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifgovic
God’s Battalions and How the West Won by Rodney Stark (also perhaps others by him, very engaging).
Bill Bryson’s books. The writer says, “They have me snorting with laughter in airports and other places I’ve been reading them, but on a more serious note, they helped to increase my desire to travel and see other places….
Another wrote of the impact of reading Zane Grey’s books. “And we did travel to many of the places he mentioned in his books, and developed a love of the red rocks, deserts, canyons … and took you kids to many of those locations.
Henry Hazlit: Economics in 1 Lesson. Should be in every Sr. Year Curriculum.
Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Should be required reading by Grade 10 at least.
It is good, and reminds me of another book my kids need to read around age 17…a book that recommends S&W: On Writing by Stephen King.
Nancy Pearsey’s Finding Truth, not so much to teach new ideas, but give a strategy to organize thoughts to reach people with the truth.
One contributor wrote, “I think it is important to read Dickens before you turn 18. I’ve found that the people who don’t like him read him in college or later when they have “more sophisticated” ideas of literature. Tale of Two Cities is fine, but Hard Times, Bleak House, and OLiver Twist were formative.

John Barach responded, “I’m a big fan of The Pickwick Papers.  Oliver Twist wasn’t my favorite. Somewhere I remember reading C. S. Lewis saying that he had recently (re?)read Oliver Twist and didn’t think he would do so again.

The same contributor who spoke of Dickens also said, “As for things I wish I read (or could’ve read) earlier: Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Circus Days and Nights by Robert Lax, and for 11th/12th: David Dark’s Everyday Apocalypse. Annie Dillard, and Figures of Speech by Arthur Quinn.

On Food and Cooking (McGee), Home Comforts (Mendelson)

Prodigal God by Tim Keller and Supper of the Lamb by Robert Capon
Island of the World by O’Brien….very heavy, so likely not til 12th gr,
The Aubrey/Maturin series  by Patrick O’Brian, also not until 11/12th.

Madeleine L’Engle’s series starting with A Wrinkle in Time

Ideas Have Consequences-Richard Weaver

Til We Have Faces-Lewis
Jayber Crow– Wendell Berry
City of God-Augustine
The Quest for Community-Robert Nisbet
Knowing God-J.I. Packer
One contributor said, “I read a bunch of Stephen King in Middle & High School. Though I can’t recommend all of it due to some of its sexual raunchiness, there are few writers I’ve found who match King’s ability to evoke childhood horror. It wasn’t out when I was in High-school but Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes close yet holds hope close to the reader & an powerful but silent appreciation for society, culture, & tradition. I’d recommend this for Junior or Seniors. I think this would be a great read in concert with teaching on Original Sin.
John Locke’s Second Treatise in Government (for high school)
The Federalist Papers
Writings of the Anti-Federalists (should be read along with the Federalists)
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (high school)
Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman.
A Disquisition on Government by John C. Calhoun.
Religion and the Rise of Western Culture by Christopher Dawson.
How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol.
Ben Hur by Lew Wallace.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Has good chapters on listening and on self-management.

Bruchko – adventurous missionary story.

How To Speed Read (The contributor said, “I’ve forgotten the title, but the book was very influential for me.”)

Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
Aeschylus, The Oresteia: Agamemnon / The Libation Bearers / The Eumenides
Dante, Divine Comedy
Athanasius, On the Incarnation
Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot
Georges Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest
Bonaventure, The Journey of the Mind to God
Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson
George Mackay Brown, Magnus
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday
Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
John Donne, Complete Poems
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
John Milton, Paradise Lost
John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Erwin Panofsky, Meaning In the Visual Arts
Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History
Tacitus, The Annals of imperial Rome
Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis
Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
John P. White, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space
Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America
A list of genre books for precocious readers between the ages of 10 and 20:
Brian Aldiss, Frankenstein Unbound; Hothouse; Cryptozoic!
J.G. Ballard, The Crystal World
Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination, The Demolished Man; Golem100
James Blish, Cities in Flight; A Case of Conscience; Black Easter; The Day After Judgement
Ray Bradbury, The Golden Apples of the Sun; The Illustrated Man; The Martian Chronicles; A Medicine for Melancholy; Fahrenheit 451; R is for Rocket; Dandelion Wine
Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours
John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar; The Squares of the City; The Jagged Orbit; The Shockwave Rider; The Sheep Look Up
Algis Budrys, Who?; Michaelmas; Rogue Moon
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; A Princess of Mars
James Branch Cabell, Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice
Karel Čapek, War with the Newts
Robert W. Chambers, The King In Yellow
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep; The Lady in the Lake; Farewell, My Lovely; Killer in the Rain; The Long Goodbye
Avram Davidson, The Phoenix and the Mirror
Samuel R. Delany, Nova; Babel 17; The Ballad of Beta-2; The Einstein Intersection
Philip K. Dick, The Divine Invasion; A Maze of Death; Radio Free Albemuth; Martian Time-slip; VALIS; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; The Transmigration of Timothy Archer; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; We Can Build You; Ubik; Now Wait for Last Year; The Man in the High Castle
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Lord Dunsany, At the Edge of the World
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest; The Thin Man; The Maltese Falcon; The Dain Curse; The Glass Key
Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit-Will Travel; Time For The Stars; The Star Beast; The Door into Summer; Double Star; Red Planet; Starman Jones; Citizen of the Galaxy
Frank Herbert, Dune
William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood
Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane
Elmer Kelton, The Good Old Boys; The Time It Never Rained; Massacre at Goliad; Llano River
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; A Wind in the Door
R.A. Lafferty, 900 Grandmothers; Reefs of Earth; Past Master; Ringing Changes;
Through Elegant Eyes: Stories of Austro and Men Who Know Everything; Golden Gate and Other Stories; Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?; Strange Doings; Iron Tears
John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; The Honourable Schoolboy; Smiley’s People
Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; The Lathe Of Heaven
Elmore Leonard, Hombre; Valdez Is Coming; The Law at Randado
Ross Macdonald, The Underground Man; The Barbarous Coast; The Galton Case; The Goodbye Look; The Zebra-Striped Hearse; The Ivory Grin; The Way Some People Die; The Far Side of the Dollar; Blue Hammer; Black Money
Richard Matheson, I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man
Walter. M. Miller, A Canticle For Leibowitz
Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné; The Sailor on the Seas of Fate; The Weird of the White Wolf; The Sleeping Sorceress; The Bane of the Black Sword; Stormbringer
Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome
Keith Roberts, The Chalk Giants
Robert Silverberg, Son of Man; Thorns; The Man in the Maze
Clifford D. Simak, City
Isaac Bashevis Singer, A Crown of Feathers; Gimpel the Fool; In My Fathers Court; The Spinoza of Market Street
Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique; Hyperborea; Xiccarph; Poseidonis; The City of the Singing Flame; The Last Incantation; The Monster of the Prophecy
Cordwainer Smith, The Best of Cordwainer Smith; The Instrumentality of Mankind
Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
Jack Vance, The Gray Prince; The Narrow Land; To Live Forever; Showboat World; The Dying Earth; The Blue World; The Languages of Pao
Kate Wilhelm; Fault Lines; Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang; Juniper Time; Margaret and I
Gene Wolfe, The Fifth Head of Cerberus; The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories; The Shadow of the Torturer; The Sword of the Lictor; The Claw of the Conciliator; The Citadel of the Autarch
Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness; Lord of Light; Isle of the Dead; My Name is Legion; Roadmarks
Peace Shall Destroy Many – Rudy Weibe
The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
The Accursed Kings – Maurice Drouin (awesome historical novel series)
Mere Christianity – CS Lewis
Brave New World – Huxley
America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and baking book, as well as The Food Lab, if you want your children to understand the “why” of the way things are best prepared.

4 thoughts on “What Kids Should Read! Warning!

  1. I think we should have a K-12 National Recommend Reading List. But just listing books isn’t enough. Every book should have a paragraph or 2 explaining why it qualifies. I found this page by searching on Citizen of the Galaxy and Home Schooling. Because it happens in that book.

    • I almost always give some and maybe too much explanation for why I like particular books. But I compiled this list from a number of other people. Thanks for commenting.

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