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This list has its origins in the NPR list of books for teens. Our teens were unimpressed with some of the books voted most popular on the list. Their answer is the list below. It’s a list of books chosen by teens for teens in response to the NPR list on 100 Best Teen Novels Ever. So, join us for 100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20.
Criteria Used to Choose the 100 Books
As we made the list, I talked with my teens about how they were measuring up the books. What was going to give the books what it takes to be on the list? Here is the list they came up with:
- Novels Only– no plays, poems, short stories, etc
- Newbery Honors & Awards– many books on the list earned a Newbury recognition. If you don’t pay attention to those, now is the time!
- Lasting Titles– maybe we could say “classics” here. If it’s been in print a long time, chances are it’s worth the read.
- Provokes Discussion– do you have a teen at your house? They love a good discussion and if it’s over a book…all the better!
- Personal Favorites– they had to include books they love the most. Though, this mom exercised a veto right on a few Star Wars books. So, be aware there may be titles that don’t seem to fit and they are probably a personal choice by someone!
The other thing about this list is that it’s not a list entirely aimed at teens. It’s a list of books to be read by the time you are no longer a teen. You’ll find books for younger kids on here as well as for teens and young adults. It should be noted that any of the books on the list are well worth reading long beyond the age of 20.
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” ― CS Lewis
Top 10 of 100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20
These are the books our children chose for their top 10 out of 100 books. Keep in mind that some of these are actually books in a series and they count the whole series! Have you read these?
- The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
- The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
- Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Redwall by Brian Jacques
- The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White
- The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
- Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
Historical Fiction Books to Read before You Turn 20
This category includes books set in historical time periods which are about the life of that time. You’ll also find autobiographical fiction here, such at Little House on the Prairie.
- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Collier
- The Second Mrs. Giaconda by EL Konigsburg
- Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
- The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff
- Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
- Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride
- Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
- Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
- Hitty: The First Hundred Years by Dorothy Lathrop
- White Fang by Jack London
Fantasy Books to Read before You Turn 20
As you can see by the length of this category, fantasy is a favorite of ours. Both of my teens and our younger two boys adore fantasy. Fantasy includes elements of magic such as talking animals and have “other world” settings or plot items.
- The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
- The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
- The Inheritance Cycle by Christoper Paolini
- Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis
- The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
- The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
- The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
- The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan
- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
- The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks
- The Doll People by Ann M. Martin
- The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
- The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
- Dracula by Brahm Stoker
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
- Half Magic by Edward Eager
- Runt the Brave by Daniel Schwabauer
- Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Charlotte’s Web by EB White
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Gannet Stiles
- Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien
- The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- Wildwood by Colin Meloy
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
Science Fiction Books to Read by the Time You Turn 20
Science Fiction is sort of a sub-genre of fantasy and dystopian novels are included in this category. The “other world” element has to do with a scientific breakthrough or invention that “changes everything” we know about the world.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
- Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- The Time Machine by HG Wells
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
- The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Adventure Books to Enjoy before You Are 20
This category refers to the other general stories of adventure. You might disagree with some of the category references for the books, but this is how our teens chose to divide them up.
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Hercule Poirot Mysteries by Agatha Christie
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett
- Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
- Silas Marner by George Eliot
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Professor Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
- Robin Hood by Roger Green
- Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
- Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
- Hatchet by Gary Paulson
- Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
- Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
How to Grow Readers
So, how do you get to the point of enjoying all these books with your students? Here are a few posts to help making reading a priority in your home.
The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– This is a collection of resources and ideas to help you build a reading culture in your home for toddlers and preschoolers through high school.
Organizing Your Homeschool Library– How do you organize all those books you want on hand as a homeschooler? Click through for some practical tips on how to organize and store the books.
Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick– It’s never too early to think about how to challenge your kids this summer. Or perhaps you are looking for ways to challenge your kids’ reading habits right now. Here are some tried and true ideas for engaging students with books- without the reward systems common to reading challenges.
Get the Printable
This post has been so popular that when a reader suggested I make a printable list of the 100 Books, I thought it would be a fantastic idea! If you subscribe, you’ll get an ebook which describes the list, gives pointers on using the list and the books, and gives you a printable checklist of all the books. You’ll also get other subscriber freebies already available, plus free lessons, ideas, and homeschool high school support right in your inbox.
Subscribe for the Free eBook & Printable List
Take a look at this massive collection of 100 lists from the iHN!