You might consider checking out the current and previous winners of the Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult Literature. This is a prestigious award, and all the titles have been chosen by a panel of critical judges. Here's the link:
I live and teach in Florida, where every year they have a list of books they recommend for teen readers. These are what I would call "fun reads" with a point. In other words, they aren't classics of literature, but they have something important to say. Here is the list of books for this year:
*Jay Asher - Thirteen Reasons Why
- A great book about a girl who commits suicide and the friends/classmates she leaves behind. It follows them as they try to piece together her life and death.
Meg Cabot - Avalon High
- A new take on the King Arthur legend, starring a modern-day Lady of the Lake as the narrator.
*Deb Caletti - The Nature of Jade
- Jade has a panic disorder that sometimes isolates her from other people, but draws her to animals (especially the elephants at the zoo). Then she meets a boy and his son, and begins to examine the difference between what feels right and what is right.
*Cassandra Clare - City of Bones
- The first in Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy; it follows Clary, a girl who has recently discovered a hidden world of demons and the warriors who hunt them.
*Chris Crutcher - Deadline
- If you only had one year to live, and it was your senior year of high school, how would you spend it? That's what Ben has to figure out.
Alane Ferguson - The Christopher Killer
- If you like CSI, NCIS, and other forensic-science mysteries, this book is for you. Cameryn is the daughter of a county coroner, and she becomes his assistant in order to further her interest in forensic science. She soon finds out, however, she's getting more than just career training out of the experience. WARNING: Includes some very graphic forensic details.
Gail Giles - What Happened to Cass McBride?
- Not for the faint of heart. Cass is buried alive, and she has to try to negotiate with her captor to get free before she runs out of oxygen.
Alice Hoffman - Incantation
- A historical fiction about two girls in an unusual friendship during the Spanish Inquisition.
Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns
- A book about growing up in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan; for mature readers. This is the author of The Kite Runner.
David Klass - Firestorm
- James Bond meets Al Gore in this environmental thriller about a boy named Jack, who discovers that he is really a long-lost prince and the only one who can save the planet from imminent destruction.
- Aislinn has always been able to see faeries, but she has tried her best to ignore them (these aren't Disney fairies, to be sure). Now, though, they seem to have a very keen interest in her, and pursue her until she can't ignore them any more.
Walter Dean Myers - Street Love
- A Romeo and Juliet story set in inner-city New York.
Susan Beth Pfeffer - Life as We Knew It
- If you like futuristic thrillers about the end of the world, this is the book for you. Warning, though: you may get pretty scared about your future after reading. This book was both gripping and disturbing at the same time. When an asteroid hits the moon, the citizens of Earth face disaster at every turn; how one family copes with those disasters is the central focus of the book.
Todd Strasser - Boot Camp
- Have you ever wondered what life is really like for juvenile detention camp residents? In this book, Garrett finds out first-hand that life is no picnic when you're a juvenile in boot camp.
Ishmael Beah - A Long Way Gone
- This one is also labeled for mature readers. It follows the author's experiences as a member of national army in Sierra Leone, starting at age 12 when he was kidnapped and forced into service.
I put a star next to my favorites on this list. Happy reading!
I think it depends on the goal.
Are you reading to develop a sense of literary history? Do you want to cover what I call literature with a capital L?
Are you interested in historical or cultural understanding? Are you looking for nonfiction?
If there isn't really a goal in mind and you just want to read books that grab you, here are some of my favorites:
--John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany
--Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
--Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
--Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
--Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye
These are all "fast reads" but they stay with you. Irving isn't really "literary" but it's a fascinating book. Fitz and Hem are classics, but I included them because despite their era they have an eerie resonance with modern times. Little has changed since the 20s in some respects. My students always loved Huxley and his take on consumerism and its effect on the future is fascinating. Morrison can be tough, but The Bluest Eye is always a student favorite.
Enjoy! There are so many great books out there--just start with an interest and go from there.
100 Must-read books:
I like this one: 1001 books to read before you die
What books to read (including social sites for book lovers, reviews, etc.)
College-bound reading list:
101 Great Books
There are lots of great choices out there. I usually am reading 6-7 at a time...the one I pick up depends on my mood and the circumstance (is it quiet, do I have to think too hard, am I sad and need a pick-me-up, am I ready for some cerebral heavy-lifting).
Good Luck, and Happy Reading!
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee - probably THE great American novel
"1984" and "Animal Farm" by George Orwell
"Frankenstein" by Mary W. Shelley
all the Bronte sisters
"The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair
the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury - a book about a society that dislikes books
"Ring Around the Sun" by Clifford D. Simak - a sci-fi book which is difficult to describe
"The Shockwave Rider" by John Brunner -an excellent sci-fi book about modern stress and and the structure of society