Catch an episode of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and you may find yourself drifting over to the bookshelf and searching for the Margaret Atwood novel upon which the series was based. Pull it out. Dust it off. Reconnect with your love of reading. While at it, consider diving into some old favorites from high school days — or some you ignored on reading lists — to recall how they impacted and shaped who you are today.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s dystopian novel takes place in the totalitarian state of Gilead that’s overthrown the US government. The story focuses on a handmaid, Offred, who’s been labeled an adultress for marrying a man with whom she had an affair. Atwood’s novel will have you question a woman’s role and independence in a patriarchal society.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In this three-part novel, Bradbury details a future American society where books are outlawed. His protagonist, Guy Montag, realizes he no longer wants to burn books or destroy knowledge. In turn, he becomes a rebel in the eyes of his government.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
After a plane crashes on a deserted island, a group of high schoolers must learn how to survive without rules or adults. Golding’s Lord of the Flies describes the circumstances that pit two high schoolers against each other in a fight for power.
1984 by George Orwell
Agreeably, Orwell was ahead of his time when he wrote 1984. In short, this mind-bending novel seemed so far from our scope of imaginations—or so we thought.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston’s coming-of-age novel will have you following the journey of Janie Crawford as she finds love and independence from her mother. Amid a whirlwind of emotions and natural disasters, Hurston reveals more complicated themes of gender, race and marriage.
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Narrated by 17-year-old Holden Caulfield after his discharge from a Southern California institution, Salinger’s novel follows the teen’s journey with descriptions of boarding school, his relationship with his history teacher and exploration of New York.
The Diary of Anne Frank
First published in Dutch, Frank’s story details her family’s experiences of living in hiding from the Nazis for two years.
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published in 1920, Fitzgerald’s debut novel tells the story of Amory Blaine, a Princeton student between relationships who gets shipped overseas to serve in the army. Fitzgerald’s novel is a take on post–World War I youth and their dissipating morality.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Captain John Yossarian, a World war II bombardier is stationed on the island of Pianosa. When Yossarian seeks protection from the effects of war, he flees to the hospital. To his misfortune, he cannot stay grounded for too long due to regulations under “catch-22,” so fakes symptoms to elongate his stay.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Morrison takes readers to post-Civil wartime period to tell us the story of Sethe, a former slave living with her 18-year-old daughter. Sethe’s sons recently ran away and she suspects it may be the presence of an abusive ghost that haunted their house.
Other Classics You Should Read Again
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This story follows the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo (or Igbo) leader who must compete with the quickly changing world as colonists and their religious traditions make their way through Nigeria.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This Fitzgerald novel takes us back to Long Island in the summer of 1922. Narrated by Nick Carraway, he describes the passion and obsession behind millionaire Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan. Carraway details the social changes of the Roaring Twenties and the demise of a young man’s American Dream.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s famous work of fiction tells Santiago’s story, a Cuban fisherman battling with aging and large Marlin off the coast of Cuba.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This Southern Gothic story, as told by six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, takes place during the Great Depression in Maycomb, Alabama. Lee introduces themes of rape and race through the famous character of Atticus Finch, the narrator’s lawyer father.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez details the seven generations of the Buendia family and their patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia, founder of the fictitious town of Macondo.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Plath’s only novel was originally published under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas” in 1963. The semi-autobiographical piece details her own experiences with clinical depression/bipolar II disorder through the character of Esther Greenwood.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, the young mad scientist whose experimentation created a hideous monster. Some readers might just consider it a love story…
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Sinclair’s 1906 novel highlights the plight of immigrant laborers in Chicago meatpacking district. He exposes the unjust working and sanitary conditions of the meat industry that caused an uproar among the people for health code violations.