Top 20 Classic Books for Teenagers

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Update: In January 2009, I added a Part 2 to this list with an additional 20 books Classic Books for Teenagers Part 2

With teenagers busy reading all the latest Young Adult book series, such as Gossip Girl and Twilight, they sometimes forget all the great classics that exist in libraries, bookstores and possibly their parent’s bookshelves. Classics are not just for the schoolroom. Both of my sons loved Catcher in the Rye when they were assigned it in school, but when I’ve tried to convince them to read other classic books on their own, I haven’t had much look.

I decided to make a list of the top 10 classic books for teenagers. However, I couldn’t narrow it down to 10 so I decided to make it a top 20 list.

  1. A Separate Peace – John Knowles
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  3. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  5. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  6. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  7. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  8. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  9. Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
  10. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  11. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  12. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
  13. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  14. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  15. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  16. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  17. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  18. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  19. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

I didn’t include anything so new that it hasn’t stood the test of time to be called a classic. That is why the Harry Potter series has not been included. Any other recommendations? Anything on here that shouldn’t be? Don’t forget, this is a top 20 list. If you think something else should be on here, then you have to recommend something coming off in its place.

See Also:
Teen and YA Book Lists for Holiday Gift Ideas
5 Scary New Books for Teens for Halloween
18 New YA Books for Teens in 2011
Best Books for Families
20 Coming of Age Novels for Teens
Books for teens – Great Websites for teens to find books

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  1. Great list – how about The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham?

  2. Its a good list,.. I really love ‘This Side of Paridise’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Great story about growing up

  3. I’d suggest “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton (much better than the movie) and the Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer.

  4. Thanks Mike. I’m very aware of both of them and would have definitely put them on, and toyed with putting on the Outsiders but my criteria was that the books had to be old enough to stand the test of time to be considered classics. The Outsiders already seems headed there. Twilight is way too new.

  5. The Secret Garden is a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1909. I have wonderful memories of that book.

  6. I would also add:
    Marjorie Morningstar, a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1955.
    Night, by Elie Weisel,published in 1960.
    Cat’s Cradle is a 1963 science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The Martian Chronicles is a 1950 science fiction story collection by Ray Bradbury.
    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1983)

  7. Thanks, Linda, for all these great suggestions. I know of the Secret Garden from the movie, I forgot about the book. I thought of “Are you there God?” but thought it was too new, although it clearly will be a classic. Didn’t even think of the others. Great choices.

  8. I’d put on “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” or “The Hound of The Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’d take off one of the two Austen books. She’s a great writer, but if I’m making a top 20 list, I want plenty of variety.

  9. Your probably right. I just love Jane Austen and I couldn’t pick which of the 2 books to include. Pride and Prejudice is generally considered her best, but Sense and Sensibility is my personal favorite.

  10. Veronica @ Toddled Dredge :

    The Education of Little Tree, Frankenstein, and King Solomon’s Mines.

  11. Geeks!!

  12. ok so in in the 7th grade at an academy so my reading level/maturity level is relativly high. We have to do book talk and the book we read cant have been turned into a movie. All the other kids are doin stupid books that are super girly or are about like, football. I really want to do a classic though. Do you have any ideas? thanks a bunch!!!

  13. That is a really tough assignment Claire bear, if you want to read a classic since most have been made into movies. I love Jane Austen and one of her books, Northanger Abbey, has never been made into a movie, although there were TV adaptations in the 1980s on BBC. Hopefully you can get away with that. It is not my favorite of her books or the most popular, but any book by Jane Austen is still fantastic.

  14. thanks so much! i REALLY wanted to read Jane Eyre but… its a movie Ill ask my english teacher if it is ok and thanks again. oh and by the way did you every consider putting up Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl? I read it last year and so far it is my favorite book. You might want to think about it.
    PS sorry about the comment I just posted. I didnt see my first one so I sent another. Your booklist is great!!!

  15. uh oh Northanger Abbey was just made into a movie. It comes out Jan. 20 But it is defiently on my books to read list… Do you have any more ideas maybe something by charlotte bronte

  16. Charlotte Bronte wrote 3 other books that were published. Why don’t you take a look at her Wikipedia page and see if any interest you. One was made into a silent movie in the 20s so should be okay, one had only tv adaptations and the other nothing.

  17. i cant seem to find any movie versions of The Professor so I think i will read that one thankyou so much for everythin today and in my opion you should make more book lists, you really know a lot about books. Thanks again Jennifer, you have been a huge help

  18. Your welcome and I will try. If you click on the word book in the labels section in the sidebar you will see other posts I’ve written about books. I haven’t written any other book lists though.

  19. Um i am in middle school at an academy too so as claire bear or who ever said my iq and maturity level are fairly high and i just wanted to say that although all of these books are great and i no i’ve read half of them, seriosly what teenage kid is going to sit down and actually read any of these books unless ordered to by a teacher, and if you think about it and on that one chance that maybe someone does sit down and read one i would be worried about theyre social life.

  20. I didn’t necessarily say that teens would want to read them on their own. I said these are books that they should read and if they did, they would enjoy them. Both of my sons loved Catcher in the Rye when assigned it in school, but would never have read it had it not been assigned.

    You are only in middle school. In a few years when you are in your late teens, you may change your mind and decide you love classics.

  21. dude, just because someone’s still in school doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy reading. I’m in high school and I love to read, especially half these classics. My social life is fine, but I can still find time in between classes and homework and stuff to read.

  22. uh How about Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger? I really enjoyed it.

  23. Catcher in the Rye is on the list.

  24. I would suggest The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and “1984” by George Orwell

  25. I REALLY like a lot of the books on here but Great Expectations? Dude, that book is a snoozefest.

  26. I suggest The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
    and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (it may be a little disturbing for some people though)
    also Slaughter House-5 by Kurt Vonnegut was a great read.
    By far though my favorite book I have read recently is Sunshine by Norma Klien.
    It’s such a wonderful yet sad book. I would recommend this book for anybody.

  27. A Tale of Two Cities (instead of another Dickens), Roots (instead of Gulliver’s Travels), Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (instead of Carroll’s Alice), The Scarlet Letter (instead of Little Women? Jane Eyre?), Johnny Tremain (instead of the other Dickens) , Captains Courageous (instead of Treasure Island), something by Jack London?

  28. The Call of the Wild by Jack London. (I could not remember the title.)

  29. Thanks for your wonderful suggestions Paul. It would have been much easier if I had just made it a longer list.

  30. Thanks for the kind words (and for your list). Other books in this category that have stayed with me include When the Legends Die by Hal Borland, One on One by Tabitha King, and Old and and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

  31. Looks a cool list, though of course it is hard to be undisputable on this.

    WebLiterature – – hosts most of the books you have listed here for free reading.

  32. hi jennifer… what about Anne Frank:Diary of a Young Girl? (loved it!!) i dont know what to take off though…

  33. That’s the problem. Its easy to make an unlimited list. Anne Frank is a great book, but when I decided to make the list 20, I had to narrow it down.

  34. I have to agree, Anne Frank is a brilliant book and a testament that will hopefully be passed down the ages, but it’s not what I would consider a literary classic. Perhaps this is just my narrow interpretation, but I think of classics as being fictional novels.

    The diary of Anne Frank is an autobiography (albeit not actually edited by her of course) so doesn’t fit into the classic category for me. That being said, I think it is definitely something that every teenager should be encouraged to read and think about…it’s just a shame that the only source that really gives teengaers literature is school which tends to ruin books by having to study them. I narrowly missed having to study To Kill a Mockingbird which I count as a great blessing because I think it would have ruined one of my favourites.

  35. Hello, i would like to say that the books on your list are fantastic! i havent read all of them yet but im planning on finishing the list before the end of this year!
    Also, I mite suggest “Catch-22” its a great book! A really good read. Of course it’s a satire, and can be used as a great example.

  36. Interesting list!

  37. i love all of the Darren Shan books, even though they arnt classics. Im in high school and we had to read ‘Animal Farm’. I LOVED it. we also had to read ‘Meryll of the Stones’, if we didnt have to annalyse it so much i would have really enjoyed it

  38. Also Piers Anthony’s Xanth series are REALLY good. My dad recommended them to me. They are full of funny puns.

  39. Caity, I read Animal Farm in high school and also loved it. It is also the best way to begin a lesson on the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalin.

  40. I had to read Animal Farm, Flowers for Algernon (so sad), and Great Expectations in school, and I liked all of them. I haven’t read any classics outside of school yet, but maybe I’ll try a couple over the summer. I have a friend that reads a classic every other book she reads and she likes a lot of them. She told me of some she likes that I see you don’t have on your list. She really liked Catch 22 and The Good Earth.

  41. How about The Great Gatsby?

  42. hi… im fifteen and love reading
    i have read 12 of the 20 you put up

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Trough the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
    Animal Farm – George Orwell
    Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
    Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
    Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
    The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
    Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
    Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
    Treasure Island – Robert Louis

    I think that seven little australians by Ethel Turner & Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren & 1984 by George Orwell should be on the list to but it is a good list im going to start reading all the books on the list that i have not read yet!!!

  43. Savannah, That’s great. If you haven’t already you should look at my second list. The link is at the very beginning of this article.

  44. You should put Watership Down by Richard Adams on there as well.

  45. of mice and men by John Steinbeck
    good good story

  46. Good collection, good list.

  47. ummmmm…

  48. i would say that the percy jackson series are a very good series and should be added.

  49. Animal farm is an awffuuulll book.
    i’m 16, we had to read it in english class, it’s boring and bland in my opinion. it is well written, tho

  50. lord of the flies is not good. i wouldn’t recommend it
    very uninteresting and canibalistic

  51. “My Brother Sam is dead”
    is a great book i had to read it in 7th grade and loved it but never admitted it
    books aren’t the thing in my school

  52. The Accessory Lady :

    How about Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. It’s such a great story and beautifully written. I think a lot of teens and young women would enjoy and relate.

  53. Thank you so much for this list (and part 2).
    My son has just turned thirteen and, although a very intelligent boy, he has reached the age when he is no longer reading. I’m hoping to try to engage him again with a few of these as many of them are already on my bookshelf.

    I’ve also been recommended the Ian Fleming James Bond books, which are supposed to be considerably better than the films.

  54. What a great list… My only recommendation would be to add something by Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). I know it was suggested by someone already, but I think it would really be enjoyed by people my age. Also, if this is a list for young adults, perhaps LOTR would be more suitable than The Hobbit? I still love the book, but it WAS written for children. 🙂

  55. Thanks, the make great points.

  56. Well I’m not sure how old or recent all these posts are but I didn’t see The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky. [If it is sorry in advance]
    This book changed my outlook on life throughout high school. I’m so glad I picked it up before that… It is such a fun and sad book. I’ve kept reading it even now as an “adult” [19] and will continue to recommend to teens.

  57. Henry Lawson Books :

    I wouldnt let a teenager read animal farm, it is too distressing.

  58. Henry,
    I remember reading Animal Farm in high school and I loved it. It taught me about the Russian Revolution and so much more. I think it should be required reading for all teens it is such an important book.

  59. Great list except for the fact that A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding are the three worst books I have ever read in my entire 15 years of existence.

  60. thats not true animal farm is a great book its not uplifting but it really opened my eyes

  61. yaaa i’ve read like half of these

  62. what about the vampire diaries

  63. I didn’t add The Vampire Diaries to the list because I don’t think they have been around long enough to be considered classics. Classics have to stand the test of time.

  64. I know that the books are too new to be on the list but I definetly recommend the Harry Potter series to everybody! It can be read by anybody, unlike Twilight.

  65. Hi how about The Chronicles of Narnia.I absolutely LOVED that series. Other than Harry Potter, it is my favorite.

  66. Oh also there is this awesome novel called Safely Home that is eye opening and I think its great.

  67. You’ve chosen some great books and I’m pleased to have read a lot of them. I have one substitution to suggest. Take off Pride and Prejudice (which I found profoundly boring) and replace it with Jane Austen’s Emma which I read twice!

    I would also suggest 2 more, if you ever increase it to a top 30 list, Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare.

  68. Good list of famous books. I read most of these books. Thanks for sharing this great list.

  69. great list. famous books. I have read five of them, 2 at school.

  70. Good list! Might add “Romeo & Juliet” by William Shakespeare and “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. Two of my favorite classics.

  71. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane

  72. My bookcase is expanding rapidly everyday. I recommend American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackarey, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, Utopia by Thomas More, The Aeneid by Virgil, The Complete Odes and Epodes by Horatius Quintus Flaccus, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, Ulysses by James Joyce, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Adolf Hitler, Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope and The Chouans by Honore de Balzac. And I’ve read half of these books

  73. Hey, yeah my dad have me this list and so far most of the books i have read on the list were my own choice, or from school. Why don’t u add the prince and the pauper by mark twain though?

  74. Great list probably say my favorite is gulliver’s travels by jonathan swift that is a true classic

  75. Sheila Watson
    Guliver’s travels great. I would like to recommend teen mums r’ us by carol azams. this book is amazing

  76. great list!! thx ! <33

  77. How about Kafaka’s “The Metamorphosis”?

  78. What about Old Yeller, White Fang, Call of the Wild?

  79. Good list! I noticed the other lists too … Any suggestions for multicultural books? For my ISP I need to read something from a different perspective than mine. Thanks!

  80. Brooke Anderson :

    Hi! I would like to suggest anything by Shakespeare. I love anything by him and have read almost all of his plays. My three favorites are probably Much Ado About Nothing , The Comedy of Errors , and a Midsummer Night’s Dream.(: And then of course the most famous classic Romeo and Juliet. (:


  1. […] is my combined list of classic book for teens from my old lists of 20 Classic Books for Teens and 20 Classic Books for Teens 2. […]

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