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List of Classic Books to Read Before You Die

Updated on May 11, 2016

Joined: 7 years agoFollowers: 72Articles: 9

My daughter came home from school with a list of books considered to be “classics”. Her teacher said everyone should read these books before they die.

I found this list fascinating and have had much fun crossing off books I have already read and hitting the library, my favorite local bookstore or Amazon.com to pick up those I have not. Some on the list surprised me. For example, I love “Cold Sassy Tree”, but had never heard it referred to as a classic. And three books by Virginia Hamilton? I have never read her before.

I am sure you will find some of your favorites missing although it is a fairly complete list. See what you think and let me know.  

Many thanks to my daughter's Reading teacher, Mrs. Kayser, for providing the list. What would the world be without fabulous, caring, inspiring teachers?

Happy reading!

Classic Books Organzied by Author's Last Name

  • A Death in the Family James Agee
  • Little Women Louisa May Alcott
  • Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
  • The Fantastic Voyage Isaac Asimov
  • Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
  • Light a Single Candle B. Balter
  • Cold Sassy Tree Olive Ann Barnes
  • When the Legends Die Hal Borland
  • Dandelion Wine Ray Bradbury
  • Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
  • To Sir with Love E.R. Braithwaite
  • Home Before Dark Sue Ellen Bridger
  • Notes for Another Life Sue Ellen Bridger
  • Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
  • The Big Wave Pearl Buck
  • The Good Earth Pearl Buck
  • The Stranger Albert Camus
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  • My Antonia Willa Cather
  • The Cherry Orchard Anton Chekhov
  • Ten Little Indians Agatha Christie
  • Where the Lilies Bloom Vera and Bill Cleaver
  • Molly’s Pilgrim Barbara Cohen
  • War Comes to Willie Freeman J.H. Collier
  • The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
  • Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane
  • I Heard the Owl Call my Name Margaret Craven
  • David Copperfield Charles Dickens
  • Great Expectations Charles Dickens
  • A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • Ragtime E.L. Doctorow
  • Adventures of Sherlock Homes Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Silas Marner George Eliot
  • Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
  • April Morning Howard Fast
  • The Portable Faulkner William Faulkner
  • The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
  • Johnny Tremaine Esther Forbes
  • The Slave Dancer Paula Fox
  • Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman Ernest J. Gaines
  • Julie of the Wolves Jean C. George
  • Old Yeller Fred Gipson
  • Lord of the Flies William Golding
  • Summer of my German Soldier Bette Greene
  • Death be not Proud John Gunther
  • The House of Dies Drear Virginia Hamilton
  • Zeely Virginia Hamilton
  • M.C. Higgins the Great Virginia Hamilton
  • A Raisin in the Sun Lorraine Hansberry
  • The Return of the Native Thomas Hardy
  • The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
  • The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
  • All Creatures Great and Small James Herriot
  • Outsiders S.E. Hinton
  • Tex S. E. Hinton
  • Brave New World Aldous Huxley
  • A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce
  • The Story of my Life Helen Keller
  • Gentlehands M.E. Kerr
  • Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes
  • Stride toward Freedom Martin Luther King Jr.
  • A Separate Peace John Knowles
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
  • Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis
  • Main Street Sinclair Lewis
  • Call of the Wild Jack London

  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
  • The Member of the Wedding Carson McCullers
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar, a Poet to Remember P. McKissack
  • Moby Dick Herman Melville
  • The Crucible Arthur Miller
  • Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller
  • Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers
  • Scorpions Walter Dean Myers
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins Scott O'Dell
  • Animal Farm George Orwell
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
  • Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson
  • Jacob Have I Loved Katherine Paterson
  • Summer of the Swans Katherine Paterson
  • Cry, the Beloved Country Alan Paton
  • Hatchet Gary Paulsen
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die Richard Peck
  • The Chosen Chaim Potok
  • The Yearling Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  • Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls
  • All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque
  • The King Must Die Mary Renault
  • A Light in the Forest Conrad Richter
  • Cyrano de Bergerac Edmond Rosmond
  • The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
  • Hamlet William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth William Shakespeare
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream William Shakespeare
  • Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion George Bernard Shaw
  • The Rivals Richard B. Sheridan
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Antigone Sophocles
  • Sign of the Beaver Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Witch of Black Bird Pond Elizabeth George Speare
  • East of Eden John Steinbeck
  • The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
  • Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
  • The Pearl John Steinbeck
  • The Red Pony John Steinbeck
  • Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor
  • The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
  • Rabbit, Run John Updyke
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne
  • Dicey's Song Cynthia Volght
  • Ethan Frome Edith Wharton
  • Once and Future King T.H. White
  • The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde
  • Little House in the Big Woods (series) Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey Thornton Wilder
  • The Matchmaker Thornton Wilder
  • Our Town Thornton Wilder
  • The Glass Menagerie Tennessee Williams
  • Native Son Richard Wright

Comments

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    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      What a super list this is! I have read some but by no means all! Thanks for this - I gotta get reading!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks tonymac04! I have started referring to this list before I choose a book to read and the result has been lots of joy. Happy reading to you and thanks for stopping by.

    • fiona_33 profile image

      fiona_33 6 years ago from UK

      Interesting list of books. I agree with almost all of them. Thanks.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks for stopping by fiona_33. Happy reading. I'll stop by your hubs and do some reading of my own.

    • emily thomas 6 years ago

      I love this list and was wondering if you ever got around to posting M-Z? I couldn't find it.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      emily thomas, you are my inspiration for finally completing the M-Z Hub. Sorry it took so long. It is now available!

    • JILLY! 6 years ago

      wait i found it! I'm relieved :)

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Jilly! I'm so glad! My fav Dickens is A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times It was the worst of times." Thanks for stopping by!

    • iloveBOOKS profile image

      iloveBOOKS 6 years ago

      Wow interesting list! My favorites are actually there the The Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and To Kill a Mocking bird. Thanks for sharing :) http://bookcreak.com

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      I also love To Kill a Mockingbird, iloveBOOKS. I think I'll put it on my "time to re-read list". Thanks for stopping by.

    • FloBe profile image

      FloBe 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      wow, there are so many I have not read and many I never knew were "classics"--perhaps I'm older than they are? :) Anyway, I'm going to check on the list to see which books I'd like to read next.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      I agree with you FloBe! I've been having a great time lining up my "must reads" from this list.

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image

      Anaya M. Baker 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Great list! Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is a good one too... I think everyone should read that book at least once!

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Oooo....good one Anaya M. Baker. And one I haven't read! I will definitely add Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning to my personal "must read" list. Thanks!

    • Lalita Daikoku 6 years ago

      Thanks for the list. Saw quite a few favorites there. You may like to add Mrs Arris goes to Paris and the others in the series by Paul Gallico.

      Eternal City by Hall Caine is a must.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      I've never read Gallico or Caine. I'll pick up your suggestions soon for my personal reading, Lalita. That's one of the best things about this list...coming across other books that should be one it! Thanks for stopping by.

    • ANN L. profile image

      ANN L. 6 years ago

      a great list! couldn't even longer :)

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks Ann! Thanks for stopping by.

    • gulnazahmad profile image

      gulnazahmad 6 years ago from Pakistan

      You forgot to include Tess of the durbervilles. It is one of the finest classic novel. The list is really good and well thought out.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks gulnazahmad! Tess of the D'Urbervilles...another good one I agree!

    • Sunnybunny 6 years ago

      What grade is your daughter in that he teacher gave her this list?

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      At the time she was in 8th grade, Sunnybunny.

    • MehreenM profile image

      MehreenM 6 years ago from Pakistan

      A very fascinating list. Though I haven't read most of these books, I'd love to start on them. Thanks Pigfish.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      So many good books, so little time! Thanks for stopping by MehreenM!

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      No Somerset Maugham? I loved his work "Of Human Bondage" it is probably the one book I enjoyed above many many others. I am also a DH Lawrence Fan and a Theodore Dresier fan. His story "An American Tragedy" or " Sister Carrie" is another on my most important list. I do love the Victorians. Dickens choices are always too focused on his regulars. I loved "Dombey and Son" There are strong women in this work. I agree with "Madame Bovary" " The Stranger" and several others.

      The single most important book I have EVER read though is: "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. It is THE most amazing survival story.

      As you indicated in your original post, these are not classified as classics, must be the schools idea of classics. Of course literature teachers disagree with the old canon...represented by "Dead white men."

      Don Quixote is also a terrific story, if you can read it in Spanish it is preferable, but it is funny nonetheless. I prefer teaching it over Shakespeare, who in my estimation is overrated!

      Yay to reading...! I have a kindle now, but STILL am a huge physical book lover too.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Why do I have the feeling you are a more avid reader than I am, Aley Martin. LOL! This list, like any I suppose, is limited. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments and suggestions.

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      :)

      I know, I just could not help myself! Thanks for your HUB, it is really good.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      Thanks fro the list, I'm going to print out and head tot he library. See if I can start ticking a few off. Useful hub, thanks

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      A trip to the library for a good book is an excellent way to start out the new year, parrster. I'm going myself later today. Thanks for stopping by.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      the beginner,with that webaddress of yours I'm surprised my list is missing only one fav author of yours. Haha! Glad you liked it anyway and welcome to Hubpages.

    • bugslady8949 profile image

      bugslady8949 5 years ago from The Bahamas

      I also am planning to read some classics I never read before. I think you did a great hub. Good luck to you and your daughter on finishing your book list.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you bugslady8949!!! We will keep chipping away at that book list. Oh happy day!

    • funky23 5 years ago from Deutschland

      thank you your post is interesting

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks for stopping by funky23!

    • reader 5 years ago

      Way to many English writers! What about Russian (Tolstoj, Dostoevski, Turgenev), French (Rousseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Proust) and German (Goethe, Schiller) writers?

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Remember where this list came from, "reader", a middle school teacher who wanted to challenge her students to read beyond their current levels. I don't think most of these kids were ready for the Russian and German authors you mentioned. Personally, I would add Hermann Hesse's Stephenwolf. Just last night, I enjoyed an intellectual conversation with my daughter about Steinbeck, Dickens, Ayn Rand and Shakespeare. I think the teacher did her job!

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 5 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Thanks for the list, very helpful for homeschooling moms like me.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      You are very welcome Anthea Carson! So glad you stopped by. Happy reading!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      Wow! I have read about a fourth of all the ones on your list-- this includes several of my favorites, but your list also has quite a few I've never heard of. The best thing a parent can do with a list like this and an avid reader for a child is to go through it and discuss it with questions applied to the text, like, "Is this true?" "Is there wisdom?" and my favorite, "What does the Bible say about this topic?"

      Thanks for this list!

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Oh, Jane Grey! I whole-heartedly agree! Your questions can lead to great conversations about being "in the world, but not of the world"...one we have had often with our kids.

    • jkhan profile image

      jkhan 5 years ago

      Extremely usefull. I always use to wonder where to start from. Now I know. Great list.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you jkhan. Glad you stopped by...happy reading!

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

      What a great list. You know, I may actually print this out and start tackling the ones I haven't read one by one. Thanks for sharing this! Voting up, interesting, awesome, and useful :)

    • Aaron Megquier profile image

      Aaron Megquier 5 years ago from Belfast, ME

      This is a fantastic list - thanks for sharing!

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      emichael, this list continues to keep me busy. Thanks for stopping by and especially for your kind words.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Aaron, happy reading! So glad you stopped by!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      What a great list, I have read many of them but still quite a few that I have never come across. I will be getting stuck in. These books are classics because they tell us something about ourselves and that's always interesting. Thanks for posting it and thanks to the teacher too.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Well said, momometer. And thank you for acknowledging the teacher!!!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      Thanks for the follow too. I hope you enjoyed my first hub as much as I had in writing it.

    • Written Word profile image

      Written Word 5 years ago from Wandering.

      Wow, awesome list and what wonderful gift from a teacher to a student. I will print this out and get about reading and re-reading. Thanks for providing it.

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

      So I actually did end up printing out this list and have started working my way through it. Feels a little like tending to a neglected piece of my soul :)

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      emichael, YAY!!! That is so cool! I keep the list in my purse so that I'm prepared everytime I go to the library. I have a feeling your soul is more than a little bit beautiful...

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

      You are kind :)

      I should probably visit the library more often. Seems a lot safer for a hopelessly compulsive book buying addict like myself than going to used bookstores almost every weekend :)

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Although the library doesn't have everything I am looking for, the library rocks! Can't beat "free" emichael. We have a new used book store nearby I am dying to visit.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      I have given this list to my adult children. It's never too late for a good read.

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Excellent idea molometer! Thanks for passing it on and happy reading to your "kids".

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Very good list. Read some and have others ready to read. I just need more time!

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      I know what you mean ithabise! I've been on a Steinbeck roll and am ready to start in on an author I've never read. Let's see...which one... Thanks for stopping by!

    • Rita Blackmar 3 years ago

      No one should ever, under any circumstances read Ethan form.

    • Johng419 2 years ago

      I think this is among the most significant info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things, The website style is wonderful, the articles is really great D. Good job, cheers gccedcegfabe

    • Shayla 22 months ago

      This is a nice list. Yet it is only a start most are modern classic and or juvenile classics with a few good ones that are at a moderate level. I would expect this list from an 8th grade teacher. It be something given to work to and entice for a while until a person discovers the harder to read classics.

    • Elizabeth 18 months ago

      Well rounded list to read.

    • Jess 14 months ago

      How is Catcher in the Rye and Gone with the Wind NOT on here?

    • pigfish profile image
      Author

      pigfish 14 months ago from Southwest Ohio

      Jess, dunno!!

    • Bonnie1 12 months ago

      Interesting list. Glad I came across it. Have read many and seen some movies made from some. Will surely read more of the listed books. Thanks for sharing.

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