Reading Suggestions for College Student and Middle Schooler Can anyone help with some reading suggestions for a college freshman and/or a middle schooler?  Both are females.  Thanks in advance!

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Since Thomas Hardy was a moralizer, I always think the first year of college is a good time to read Tess of the d'Ubervilles. It shows what terrible trouble innocence and beauty can stumble into if mixed with naivete and gullibility and if left without a commanding presence and with a leaning to be easily influenced. I dis-recommend (a coined word seems to be needed for emphasis here) Dostoevsky's's Crime and Punishment for college reading. Agreeing with Wayne Boothe's ethical literary criticism, as found in The Company We Keep, I think college students (and most certainly high school students) are too easily negatively impacted with the negative circumstances with which Dostoevsky sought to make a positive point. I like Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars for middle school reading, and I dis-recommend Hinton's The Outsiders for any reading other than college sociology, anthropology or cultural literature classes.

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For your middle schooler, I recommend:

Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper.  This fast reading novel really draws kids in, so much so that some of my worst non-readers were even unable to put it down. 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  This novel written in the 1960s still has so many coming of age themes that speak to middle school or high school students.  I read this novel every year with my middle school students and they often take it home and have it finished after the first week, because they cannot wait to see what happens.

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It is wonderful to have someone seeking to have worthwhile material. I, too, have taught both levels, so I have many suggestions to add to the repetoire of both students. 

For both students, these books should be read:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird 
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Any book by Jennifer Donnelly [She is a remarkable writer, particularly for girls and women.  Her books have intriguing women as main characters.  Start with a Northern Light first.]

All of the Harry Potter books--Their creativity, fascinating characters, and great plots are fabulous for any age.  I was sixty when I read them and  loved them.

 A major theme concerns destiny and choice. After Harry begs the Sorting Hat to avoid Slytherin, it places him in Gryffindor. Harry is told by Dumbledore, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Harry’s decision in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to spare the life of Peter Pettigrew is one such choice. Another is Voldemort’s assumption that the prophecy in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix concerns Harry, not Neville Longbottom.

This quotation explains one of the themes that runs throughout the series. 

  • Jane Eyre-These are two of the great books in literature written by    two different Bronte sisters. 
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Frank Yerby Books--These are Civil War Romances, and they are delicious reading.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather-Wonderful story and characters
  • All of the Little Women series--Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, Eight Little Cousins.  They are great reading with fun characters. 
  • A book of Emily Dickinson poetry--The best of all the American women poets
  • Lord of the Flies--Good, interesting, reading
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe--Great reading about African tribe
  • The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction--This is a great book with short, short stories that are considered to be the best from various countries.  If all of the stories were read, you would be way ahead of the game. 

College Student--

  • Animal Farm
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sinclair Lewis books
  • The Good Earth
  • Ernest Hemingway-A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • John Steinbeck-The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, The Winter of our Discontent
  • Tennessee Williams-He wrote the fabulous plays: A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie



If a person has read the literature mentioned above, she would find that she has covered many of the books that are considered to be classic literature.  

Of course, this is just a drop in the bucket in great literature.  As a teacher who has taught from fifth grade through college sophomores, these are books that I know would make a difference in your learning. 


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It depends on if this is reading for pleasure or not.  One of the things I did between my last year of high school and my first year of college was get one of those lists of the books to read before college and read all of the titles I had not read, in order.  It was so much fun!  Here is such a list:


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The Bell Jar is a very good and readable novel. This Sylvia Plath book was once widely read. It's fallen off the radar and I'm not sure why. It is a well-written book dealing with very interesting themes and characters. There is a definite appeal for a college freshman, I would think as the protagonist is a female college student dealing with the pressures of that developmental/social moment.

The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby are two other books that, though might be read in high school, are appropriate also for a college freshman.

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An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles  This discussion has some good suggestions for a 13 year old girl. These have good suggestions also. 

Obviously this question has been asked before, but each time new titles appear.  As a former English teacher for 8th graders and college students as well, many of these suggestions have what you want.  I'm going to include a couple of authors your children may enjoy.  One is Sarah Dessen who is a good writer with many books from which to choose.  Another is Walter Dean Myers who is known as a black writer for boys; however, many of my 8th grade girls enjoyed his books, Fallen Angels, Monster, Shooter, and Harris and Me. As for the college student, I would look at the college canon on which books should be read by the time you finish college and see if suggestions there would work. Everyone should read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho which might be something your freshman has not read. 


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