#30 TRENDING IN Books & Writing 🔥

Why Schools Should Have Required Reading Lists & 7 Books to Include

Books & Writing

September 17, 2023

Some of you may dread reading, while some of you may adore it! Regardless of your relationship with reading, schools still require you to read a few books every year. When you read a book, you're in the protagonist's shoes, living through hardships and living through conflicts.

Through each conflict and hardship, the protagonist develops their character. This development yields themes and messages. Therefore, you can learn about courage, hope, love, and more by reading a book. Many teenagers see reading as useless, but it's a great way to learn new things! The following books are must-reads and essential additions to school reading lists.

1. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

The Alchemist is a fable-like story. It's a masterpiece, containing biblical allusions and mythological allusions. Santiago starts his journey as a humble shepherd, basking in the Andalusian sun. Through a dream, he learns about his true purpose and "Personal Legend," and embarks on a journey to fulfill it.

Santiago undergoes personal growth by meeting a crystal merchant, an introverted Englishman, and a mysterious alchemist (hence the title). He develops his identity through these encounters and learns about himself. As teenagers, we sometimes struggle with our identity and finding out who we are. This book is the perfect read for you if you're grappling with your identity and purpose.

"No reason is needed for loving."

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2. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Melody Brooks is different, and being different in this world is tough. Melody has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which means she can't walk or talk. Draper takes us through Melody's journey of joining a quiz team, only to reveal how unkind kids can be. She develops an "inner fire" and works tirelessly to achieve her quiz team goals.

After achieving her goals, Melody is no longer known as "the kid who can't walk or talk." She's recognized as Melody Brooks, the kid who excelled in the quiz bowl competition. Draper explores the themes of identity and individuality, making this the perfect book for high schoolers struggling with their own identities. It also advocates for kids with disabilities and proves that anyone can achieve anything, regardless of their background or who they are.

"I'm always amazed at how adults assume I can't hear."

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3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Guy Montag is compelled to burn books because "it was a pleasure to burn." Does this remind you of anything? It should. It's a satire of Nazi book burning and perhaps a commentary on cancel culture.

Guy Montag's job is more than just a job for him; it's personal. He seeks to fill a void in his heart and identity but finds himself unable to do so. Through an encounter with an English professor, he comes to realize that books carry a message beyond just telling a story.

"Fahrenheit 451" illustrates how conformity can oppress a society. Peer pressure and conformity can erode one's identity, and perhaps Montag's journey can help open your eyes to this ongoing issue. It's worth noting that many school districts have already banned books.

Censorship has never been more prevalent in society than it is right now. Reading "Fahrenheit 451" will open your eyes to the dangers of censorship.

"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon."

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4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

An innocent-looking plot and setting, yet one of the most disturbing plots in modern literature. It's the epitome of American literature and a coming-of-age masterpiece. Lee teaches us the values of innocence, prejudice, and inequality through a young girl, Scout.

Scout's father is a lawyer and is assigned to defend a black man accused of assault. Unfortunately, Scout witnesses the trial and the ensuing horrors. She loses her innocence but develops a new identity.

Inequality and prejudice persist in today's society, and we can learn from "To Kill a Mockingbird." As teenagers, we can learn from Scout. Sometimes, you may wish to be a child again, shielded from the horrors of the world. But sometimes it's crucial to learn about the world's horrors so that we can strive to be better than evil. Sometimes, we can't preserve our innocence, and that may be a good thing.

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

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5. Night by Elie Wiesel

Imagine being deported to a place designed to kill you. In the early 1940s, Nazi Germany constructed extermination camps with the sole purpose of annihilating Jews. Very few people survived, like Elie Wiesel.

He recounts his story—the tale of how he endured Auschwitz, a camp that claimed the lives of over a million Jews during the Second World War. He describes the hopelessness he experienced in his imprisonment: "One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live."

Memoirs are among the most powerful types of books for imparting life lessons. Perhaps we can learn the significance of hope through Wiesel's journey. Sometimes, we feel utterly powerless in our circumstances because there seems to be no way out.

However, Wiesel teaches us that in any situation, maintaining hope and faith is essential. Nothing is more potent than hope, especially in Wiesel's harrowing account.

"Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow." - Elie Wiesel

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6. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Gratz takes the reader on an adventure of escape through the stories of three refugees. Isabel is a refugee escaping the communist government of Cuba on a boat. Mahmoud attempts to escape the terrors of civil war which plagued Syria. Josef tries to escape the horrors of the Holocaust with his family and traumatized father.

Through all three stories, we can learn about the importance of family and staying together. We can also learn about the sad reality of refugees. Most people don't accept refugees as human beings. Reading Refugee opened my eyes to the truth of oppression and it's a must-read for high schoolers.

"We aren't criminals, we are refugees."

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7. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Imagine being trapped in a small room with seven other people. If you were to make a sound, you'd be caught and deported to a labour camp. If you trust the wrong person, you'll be killed within a matter of days.

Imagine being a 14-year-old, exposed to this. You don't have to imagine, because you can relive it through Anne Frank's diary. You can relive her two-year coming-of-age story through a diary. Anne Frank touches on sensitive topics regarding her sexuality and makes her story inadvertently relatable to teenagers.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read because it juxtaposes the concept of the Holocaust with her innocence and identity. Regardless of your situation, Anne Frank's lessons can help you get through whatever you're dealing with. Whether it be love or conflict within the family, she can teach you valuable lessons.

Although she succumbed to the brutalities of the Holocaust, her legacy still lives on in her diary. As human beings, we must preserve her story and the best way to do so is to include it in high school reading lists.

"I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains." - Anne Frank

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Books can teach you valuable lessons. Unfortunately, schools are banning all sorts of books, many of which are included in this list. Each book tells a story - whether it be a story of surviving Auschwitz, witnessing prejudice and inequality, or living with cerebral palsy, each story is necessary for humanity to learn about.

Humanity must be preserved through books and, whether you like reading or not, it's necessary to read these books. As teenagers, we are constantly exposed to the horrors of the world and we feel that there's no one there to help us. Sometimes, you just need a book to escape everything.

Dev Shah
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Writer since Sep, 2023 · 24 published articles

Dev Shah is a freshman at Palm Harbor University High School. He won the 2023 national spelling bee and now runs a coaching business and blog. In his free time, he loves to read, play the cello, write, and play tennis. He has essays published in the Washington Post and Tampa Bay Times.