Classic Works of Literature for a 9th Grade Reading List

20 enduring works that will whet young readers' appetites

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Although there has been debate over the past few decades about requiring high school students to read the classics, these works still appear on many 9th grade reading lists. Written at a level appropriate for most freshmen, they will nonetheless challenge students to develop stronger reading, writing, and analytical skills, and they also encourage discussion about many aspects of the human condition

'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Erich Maria Remarque

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This frankly told tale of the horrors of war was written by someone who lived it while fighting as a German soldier in World War I. The book is narrated by 20-year-old Paul Bäumer, whose experiences of the extreme mental and physical stress of soldiering—and the emotional detachment from civilian life once back home—spin a cautionary tale humanity has yet to heed.

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell

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Orwell's devastating satire of the move from tyranny to revolution and back to tyranny remains as relevant a tale of totalitarianism masquerading as equality today as it was when it was published in 1945, targeting the abuses of Soviet Russia.  

'Black Like Me' by John Howard Griffin

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In 1961, Griffin, a white journalist, set out to journey through the American South in the guise of a black man (he had his skin temporarily darkened) to report on the realities of life under segregation. Along the way, he confronts his own prejudices and bursts the myth that racism is more paranoia than reality.​

'The Good Earth' by Pearl S. Buck

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This novel is the first in Buck’s famous trilogy of life in China before World War I, some of it based on her own experiences. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, was instrumental in Buck’s winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, and was turned into a successful film. The book topped the bestseller lists once again in 2004 when it was chosen as the main selection of Oprah’s Book Club.

'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens

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A novel at once comedic and tragic, "Great Expectations" centers on a poor young man by the name of Pip, who is given the chance to make himself a gentleman by a mysterious benefactor. Dickens' classic presents a fascinating overview of class, money, and corruption during the Victorian Era.

'Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe' by Edgar Allan Poe

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He gave us some of the most memorable lines in all of American literature, some of them downright chilling, yet Poe was more than just a writer of horror. He was also a master of mystery, adventure, and often humor, all written with the same lyrical command of the English language. 

'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter' by Carson McCullers

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When McCullers published this, her first novel, at only 23 years of age, it became an instant sensation. Much about the book’s young heroine, Mick Kelly, will resonate with teenagers today, who may experience the same yearning for independence and self-expression.  

'Hound of the Baskervilles' by Arthur Conan Doyle

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The third of the famed mystery writer’s crime novels to feature Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle's book has long been a favorite of high school English teachers. Not only is it one of the reference texts for almost all detective fiction to follow, but it is also a model of how to craft character, build suspense, and bring action to a satisfying conclusion.

'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou

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The first in a series of seven autobiographical books written by Angelou, this book was first published in 1969. A searing portrait of Angelou’s transformation from a victim of rape and racism into a self-possessed, dignified young woman is a heartening example for anyone seeking to overcome oppression.

'The Iliad' by Homer

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"The Iliad" is an epic poem attributed to Homer and the oldest extant piece of European literature. Divided into 24 books, it's an adventure story set in the final years of the Trojan War that introduces readers to some of the most famous conflicts and characters in all of classic literature.

'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë

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"Jane Eyre" is on the surface a romance novel (one that no doubt established many conventions of the genre), but it is also a great piece of literature. In its heroine, Brontë's readers discover a remarkably resourceful and intelligent young woman who comes of age thanks to her inner strength and the redemptive power of love.

'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa M Alcott
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It has been called a proto-feminist novel for the way in which the March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—are written as fully rounded women with ideas, ambitions, and passions. Readers are likely to find inspiration in one or more of the sisters as they carve out lives for themselves despite the hardships of growing up in New England during the Civil War.

'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding

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The Guardian's breakdown of the 100 best novels of all time calls "Lord of the Flies "a brilliantly observed study of adolescents untethered from rules and conventions." Far from creating paradise on the island in which this group of English schoolboys has been stranded, they create a dystopian nightmare in which the impulse of savagery far outweighs that of civility.

'The Odyssey' by Homer

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This sequel to "The Iliad" tells of the 10-year journey back home taken by Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman mythology) after the fall of Troy. Like its predecessor, "The Odyssey" is an epic poem that imbues its main character with the experiences and qualities that we have come to identify with the heroic.

'Of Mice and Men' by John Steinbeck

Book Cover for Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
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Steinbeck packs quite a punch in this novella of two migrant workers, George and his friend Lennie, a man of imposing physicality but the mind of a child. The story takes place during the Great Depression and deals with themes of racism, sexism, and economic disparity.

'The Old Man and the Sea' by Ernest Hemingway

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More than just a simple tale of an old Cuban fisherman who catches an enormous fish only to lose it, Hemingway's story is a tale of bravery, heroism, and one man's battle with challenges both external and internal.

'A Separate Peace' by John Knowles

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Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, the novel centers on the friendship between introverted, intellectual Gene and handsome, athletic Finny. The friendship becomes in Gene's mind a tangle of supposed slights and possible treachery and how what results will reverberate through both of their lives.

'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' by Betty Smith

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Another coming-of-age story, this one chronicles the life of Francie Nolan, age 11 when the book begins, from 1902 to 1919. Big things blossom in Francie's small sphere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: love, loss, betrayal, shame, and, ultimately, hope.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Harper Lee's recently found edition of 'Go Set a Watchman' to be released on July 14 is exhibited along a new edition of ' To Kill a Mockingbird'
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Lee's book on racial inequality in the American South of the 1930s is probably the most-read book in American literature, and for good reason. The Pulitzer Prize-winner deals with heavy issues, yet as seen through the eyes of 6-year-old Scout Finch, it is a poignant reminder of the power of kindness and the quest for justice.

'The Yearling' by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

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An instant success when it was published in 1938, this tale of the care a young boy gives to a wild animal is as uplifting as it is heart-wrenching. The ultimate lesson is that within the harsh realities of life there is also beauty and purpose.