Book Recommendations from my Honors English Class to You


Over winter break, my classmates in Honors English all picked a novel by an English author to read and later analyze in a TedTalk style video. I organized this article into four different sections: WWII, Classics, Banned Books, and New and Popular. Scroll to whatever you’re most interested in and enjoy!


Mae Mae Landry: All the Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr

  • A (not cliché) World War II novel with dual narration that deviates from stereotypical war heroes. Mae Mae would recommend this book because, despite being gory and heart-breaking, it is fast-paced and does a great job of utilizing literary devices. 

Elizabeth Elliott: The Man in the High Castle By Phillip K Dick

  • This novel is set in an alternate universe where the Axis Powers won WWII and the Allied powers were turned into totalitarian states. The Man in the High Castle explores the butterfly effect and value shifts. Despite the interesting premise, the novel received mixed reviews because it focuses on an everyday narrative which can make it hard to read. Additionally, it was nearly banned in Germany for being used as Nazi Propaganda. It has been adapted into a show on Amazon Prime. 


Charlie Aucoin: The Old Man and the Sea By Ernest Hemingway

  • This novel is a timeless classic that explores themes of determination and the importance of companionship. Although it can be slow to read because it follows a pretty bare-bones plot about an old man going fishing, the underlying message is important and makes the book great to look back on. 

Mia Guill: My Ántonia By Willa Cather

  • Published in 1918, this novel is also considered a timeless classic that captures the Early American West. It follows the main character over many years which causes it to be slow at times and painfully realistic. 

Maggie Smith: Tender is the Night By F. Scott Fitzgerald 

  • Though significantly less famous than Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Maggie believes that Tender is the Night is actually his better work. An omniscient narrator tells the story of Dick Diver, Nicole Diver, and Rosemary on their vacation in the French Rivera. Instead of ending the story when their masks are taken off and the ugly truth about these aristocrats is revealed, the novel continues to explore what happens next. 

Colette Bu: Paradise By Toni Morrison 

  • Paradise is a story about two utopias in constant conflict with each other following WWII during the Vietnam era. This novel received lots of criticism because its circular narration is extremely confusing and the topics it explores are heavy. Toni Morrison did not receive lots of praise for it, and Colette found it somewhat hard to read. 


Clayton Murphy: American Psycho By Bret Easton Ellis

  • American Pyscho is a famous novel that is narrated by a self-absorbed, materialistic, and sociopathic New Yorker. It follows him throughout his daily routine, day after day, as he masquerades as a stock broker by day and a murderer by night. This book is a social commentary on capitalism and the ‘work hard, play hard’ American dream. Although Clayton enjoyed this book, he admits that the narration can be repetitive and unreliable. Additionally, this book was banned for offensive, gruesome, and sexual with some critics arguing that Ellis overdoes the racism. This novel was made into a movie. 

Grace Friedman & Alisia Houghtaling: The Catcher and the Rye By JD Salinger

  • This novel used to be on the ninth grade required reading list but has since been removed. It was banned for profane and sexual imagery. The Catcher and the Rye follows the protagonist who is kicked out of his high school in New York City. Alisia’s favorite thing about it was that reading it feels like a conversation. 

Christian Johnson: To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee

  • This novel is on the eighth grade required reading list at Newman. The narrator is a young girl named Scout and the novel explores ideas of racism and prejudice. Lee also wrote a sequel Go Set a Watchman. It was turned into a movie. 

Adelaide Jackson: Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut

  • This World War II novel takes place during the Dresden bombing while troops stay in a slaughterhouse for protection. The narrator is a time travel who was abducted by aliens and travels to different points in the war. Although the plot may sound confusing, Adelaide says that it is very well done and does a good job examining themes of WWII in a fictional way. This book was banned for explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language. 


Whitney Gamard: The Bean Trees By Barbara Kingsolver

  • Kingsolver wrote The Bean Trees about a topic very near and dear to her heart, traveling West as a single mother. The novel follows the protagonist as she flees from Kentucky to avoid having children. On her journey, she is given a child who she takes in and loves as her own. 

Amelia Aluise: American Dirt By Jeanine Cummins 

  • This novel follows a mother and son escaping cartel violence in Mexico and the people that they meet on their journey. Amelia loved this book because of the non-linear narration, mystery element, and the inability to put it down. American Dirt addresses issues of immigration and even sparked the Own Voices Movement when it was published. The response to it was mixed to say the least. Some praised it for humanizing immigrants and telling the story of cartel violence. However others criticize Cummins for writing it as a white woman. 

Sofia Gershanik: Gone Girl By Gillian Flynn 

  • This novel is dually narrated by a married couple following the disappearance of the wife, Amy. It begs you to choose a side and always has a mystery element. Nick and Amy both explore family dynamics as they both come from backgrounds of emotional abuse. Sofia would also recommend The Silent Patient by Michael Michaelides. A movie was produced. 

Brooke Lonseth: The Feast of Love By Charles Baxter

  • This novel is nonlinear and follows multiple narrators and their personal love stories. Baxter incorporates personal elements into the novel by including a book inside of the book. A movie was produced. 

Caitlin Estrada (me): The Song of Achilles By Madeline Miller

  • I absolutely loved this novel and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves mythology, historical fiction, or even star-crossed lovers. The narrator Patroclus, Achilles’s love interest, narrates his life from the time they are five to their bitter end. It explores the legend of Achilles with Madeline Miller’s personal twist on it. The narration is spectacular and draws real emotion out of the reader. Before reading this novel, it would be beneficial to read The Iliad, but it is not necessary. And it could be beneficial to read The Odyssey afterwards.