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  1. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury – In this strange story, the main character meets an unusual woman and ends up covering his body in tattoos. Each tattoo represents a different short story in the volume. Redemption is a strong theme throughout these strange, sci-fi tales.
  2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – In this unique cultural story set in Afghanistan during a volatile historical time, two women are married to the same man. The women form a strong bond, and this allows them to survive their miserable situation.
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – One of the first books of its kind, this book has a narrator with Asperger’s syndrome. Christopher sees the world differently and takes copious notes about his observations and the world around him, leading to some difficult realizations about people in his life.
  4. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – While slightly controversial, this novel from the 1950s follows Holden Caulfield, who has become an icon for complex teenage issues, such as rebellion, self-discovery, loss of innocence, and the desire to belong.
  5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – A middle-school favorite, The Outsiders chronicles the lives of two rival teen gangs in Oklahoma. Some characters strive to grow beyond the violent lifestyle, while others are not given the opportunity.
  6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – This beloved classic is set in Jazz Age New York and follows the tragic story of Jay Gatsby, a millionaire, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a mysterious and wealthy young woman. The lavish parties and romantic drama will entertain readers of all ages.
  7. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – The mischievous Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly and half-brother Sid in St. Petersburg, Missouri. The book follows his antics, such as skipping school and the lessons he learns from his choices.
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – This story narrated by Huck Finn is a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It chronicles the experiences of Huck when he is kidnapped by his drunken father, Pap, because he wants his money. (Note: This novel contains multiple uses of a racial slur, so be prepared to discuss that word’s history and current impact if you’re reading it with kids.)
  9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – In this story, George and Lennie, two homeless migrant ranch workers, frequently move as they look for work during the Great Depression.
  10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – After the Civil War, Jo and her sisters live in New York, where each of them takes a different journey, and they all experience a heartbreaking goodbye.
  11. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – When Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice in a small town, suddenly receives a fortune from a mysterious benefactor, he moves to London and joins high society where he receives a whole new type of education.
  12. The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway – An unlucky, aging fisherman, Santiago, has gone months without a catch. The story shares his attempts to catch a large marlin.
  13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – A World War 2 Bombardier Captain is stationed on the island of Pianosa. His Catch-22 is that he wants to protect his own life by going to the hospital, but Air Force regulations prevent him from being grounded for illness.
  14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – Narrated by Chief Bromden, this story follows Randle P. McMurphy, a new patient at the mental institution run by the abusive Nurse Ratched. Patients are subjected to electroconvulsive treatments, overmedication, and poor treatment, which McMurphy stubbornly fights until his bitter end.
  15. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne – When Professor Pierre M. Aronnax and his assistant are stranded in San Francisco due to reports of a giant sea monster, they are invited to join an expedition to find the creature. What they actually find is far more interesting.
  16. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – When young Liesel arrives at her new foster home, her kind foster father learns she cannot read and begins to teach her how, sparking a love for books that gives her an escape from the dangerous world of Nazi Germany.
  17. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – When an experimental surgery transforms mentally disabled 32-year-old Charlie, he becomes more intelligent, allowing the reader to understand better the ethical and moral themes surrounding the treatment of the mentally disabled.
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – In this story, young Celie is an African American girl in the South who suffers abuse at the hand of her father and bigotry from the town. She is married off to an even crueler man. Through it all, she continues to persevere and stay strong in the hopes of being reunited with her sister.
  19. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Another romantic Jane Austen tale that follows sisters and their relationships as their family’s finances are crippled.
  20. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – This gruesome tale tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, who is captured and imprisoned by the Germans during the last years of World War 2.
  21. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Through the stories of five Russian aristocratic families, readers experience the French invasion of Russian and the negative effects of the Napoleonic era.
  22. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Another slavery-era story, this one follows Uncle Tom, a slave who is being transported to an auction when he saves the life of Eva, which prompts Eva’s father to purchase Tom, a moment that will change the course of Tom and Eva’s lives.
  23. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – The first in a seven-book series, this story shares the early years of poet Maya Angelou, the lessons she learned, and the devastating assault that left her speechless for years.

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