20 books for your 10th grade reading list classics focused. Use this list to chose a novel for your high school students, as a honors reading list, or to get homeschool students prepared for the next year.  

Classic literature has been the foundation of English classrooms for generations. And for good reason. Classics are not only good books, but powerful teaching tools.

This list of classics takes readers through world literature and American history. Use this list of great classics to choose novels to teach or grab the full list as a classics reading list for your 10th graders.

collage of classic books

20 Books for Your 10th Grade Reading List Classics (High School)

1. Fahrenheit 451* Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 book cover

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Guy Montag lives in a dystopia where books are all but extinct, and TVs are everyone’s most prized possessions-even over other people. As a fireman, Guy’s job isn’t to stop fires; it’s to start them. Books and the homes they reside in must be burned, but after his wife attempts suicide and a young girl opens his eyes to what life could be, Guy’s perspective on books begins to change.

This site is reader-supported and may contain affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Thank you for supporting our site.

2. The Iliad Homer

the Iliad book cover

Genre: Folklore, Mythology

Homer’s Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode of the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his conflict with his leader Agamemnon. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover

Genre: Southern Gothic Fiction

During the Great Depression in Alabama, Tom Robinson, a black man, is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. White lawyer Atticus Finch represents Tom, despite the prejudice prevalent at the time. Atticus isn’t able to save Tom, but will his example teach his children- and the community– and lesson that can save the town’s recluse, Boo Radley?

4. 1984 George Orwell

1984 book cover

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching…

A startling and haunting novel, 1984 creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

5. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre book cover

Genre: Gothic Romance

The early 19th century left Jane Eyre with two options for her life: become a wife, or become a governess, and either one suits her if it allows her to escape from her current situation. When she becomes the governess in the home of Mr. Rochester, romance blooms and she is about to trade her title of governess for wife–so long as Mr. Rochester’s past doesn’t come back to haunt them.

6. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

Brave New World book cover

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Henry Ford’s assembly line is the inspiration for this dystopian world, where humans are created outside of the womb at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre to fit into certain classes in their social hierarchy, which provides efficiency and purpose for each group of people and eliminates the need for procreation. When the main character Bernard uncovers the long lost family of the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre living in a counter-cultural way, aside from the blatant and illegal procreation, the director resigns, and his family, Linda and John, are left to try and navigate this brave new world, which leads to tragedy.

7. All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front bookcover

Genre: Historical Fiction

This classic novel is one of few books that tackles the topic of World War I. Follow a German soldier, Paul Baumer, as he experiences the devastation that is trench warfare and Germany’s relentless pursuit of power.

As the war goes on and on, Paul begins to question the purpose of fighting for hate that causes war and death.

8. Julius Caesar William Shakespeare

Julius Ceasar bookcover

Genre: Historical Drama

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I come to bury Ceasar, not to praise him.” This play takes place during the time of Julius Ceasar and tells of the events leading up to and after his famous assassination. The country is left to the aftermath as others grasp for power.

You’ll enjoy the political intrigue in this famous historical play.

9. Animal Farm George Orwell

Animal Farm bookcover

Genre: Political Satire

When the pigs overthrow their human farmer, liberation appears to be at hand. But soon, the other animals find themselves as oppressed by the pigs as they were by the humans.

This political satire is a critique of totalitarianism. And shows that political corruption can be a dangerous problem no matter who rules.

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn bookcover

Genre: Historical Fiction

A nineteenth-century boy from a Mississippi River town recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave, encountering a family involved in a feud, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer’s aunt who mistakes him for Tom.

11. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

I know why the caged bird sings book cover

Genre: Poetry

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

12. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice book cover

Genre: English Romantic Literature

Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.

13. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas pere

The Count of Monte Cristo book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s.

14. Night Elie Wiesel

Night book cover

Genre: Narrative Non-fiction

Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.

15. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

Great Expectations book cover

Genre: English Literature, Historical Fiction

Great Expectations charts the progress of Pip from childhood through often painful experiences to adulthood, as he moves from the Kent marshes to busy, commercial London, encountering a variety of extraordinary characters ranging from Magwitch, the escaped convict, to Miss Havisham, locked up with her unhappy past and living with her ward, the arrogant, beautiful Estella.

Pip must discover his true self, and his own set of values and priorities. Whether such values allow one to prosper in the complex world of early Victorian England is the major question posed by Great Expectations, one of Dickens’s most fascinating, and disturbing, novels.

16. The Crucible Arthur Miller

The Crucible book cover

Genre: American Literature, Drama

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, “Political opposition… is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.”

17. Lord of the Flies William Golding

Lord of the Flies book cover

Genre: Allegory

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable novel about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.”

18. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath book cover

Genre: American Literature, Historical

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.

19. Moby Dick Herman Melville

Moby Dick book cover

Genre: Adventure

Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author’s lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

20. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Frankenstein book cover

When a young student of science, Victor Frankenstein, mistakingly creates a monster, he must face the consequences of his own creation.

Frankenstein’s monster haunts him throughout his life, relentlessly pursuing him as a reminder of his one dark mistake.

Shelly’s novel explores the all-important question of science and ethics–just because something is scientifically possible, should it be done?

Related: 10th Grade Summer Reading List

Check Out the Graphic Novels

Many classics have now been reimagined as graphic novels. Graphic novels are a great way to make a difficult text more accessible to struggling readers, can make classics more enjoyable for those who love comic books, and are perfect for independent reading. Check out these graphic novel versions of our list of 20 classics.

collage of book covers for classics in graphic novel format

Use this as your required reading list or simply as a recommended reading list. However you choose to use this list, I hope it’s helpful for you in your teaching journey and helps your high schoolers learn to love literature. If you’d like the full list in PDF format to share with your students, just pop in your email. As a bonus, you’ll be the first to access any new resources or content we publish.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *