The Top 20 Most Read School Books

Hey guys! 
I apologise for vanishing recently. Exam season is well underway, but, there’s only one English exam left. There’s nothing much else I can do on that front, but I am avoiding the fact that I have a 12 mile sponsored walk on Friday… So, whilst I had a spare five minutes I stumbled across this list of the Top 20 Most Read School Books. I saw this on the Independent website. (Top 20 Most Read School Books) This is a really interesting list. 

2000 adults were asked their favourite books from school. Thus, this list was created. 

As an English teacher, these sorts of lists really interest me. Also, there’s always a lot of talk about specific texts that all children should be reading and studying at school. In the UK everything has changed again recently regarding what should be studied for GCSE and A Level and there are new texts that we need to cover. I only wonder what this list will be like in 5 or 10 years time. 

I wanted to take this time to discuss these books and when I first experienced them. I’m really interested to see your relationships with these books too. 


The Top 20 Most Read School Books:

1. Animal Farm – George Orwell

I first read Animal Farm 3 years ago and wondered what it was really all about. I didn’t get it. I studied Russian history for A Level and that truly confused me. There were so many names to remember! But, on my next reading I saw what the fuss was really about. It’s a gripping and quite a challenging read. It’s a book that makes me feel so sad actually. 



2. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Oh boy I love this book. I love love love it. It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s also slightly heartbreaking. It contains some of the most prolific characters in fiction. I have no idea when I first read this, but I always recommend it for people to read. 

3. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Confession time… I’ve never read this book. It is on my TBR pile (along with 54298274657 others…) However, I have a feeling I’ll need to read this book this summer as its on our Year 7 schemes of work! I also have to confess I don’t know too much about it. *hangs head in shame*

4. To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

This has to be one of my favourite books ever. I’ve loved teaching it earlier this year as well. It’s a huge shame that it’s been cut from all of the GCSE specifications. I genuinely believe that this is one of those books that everyone needs to read. You learn something from it each time you read it. I first read this as a fresh faced 15 year old at school. I can remember how I felt at the time. I can’t believe this book has been a part of my life for 10 years. 

5. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontè

Now I came to read this book as an A level student and my mind was blown. I found it really difficult to understand who was narrating when. I had to write it at the top of every chapter. Once you get past the complexity, you get carried away with the plot. I can never think of this book without thinking of Kate Bush…

6. Macbeth – William Shakespeare

I’m on a bit of a Macbeth overload at the minute because I’m teaching it to 3 classes! But, there is a reason as to why it is so popular. It’s just as popular today as it was in Shakespearean times. Lady Macbeth is one of my favourite all time female characters. She’s absolutely fascinating. 

7. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare 

Ahhh Rom & Jules. My year 11s had their exam on this today. Just like them, this was a text I studied for my GCSEs. Everyone wants to meet their great love in their lives. I certainly did when I first read this. The Leonardo Di Caprio film certainly helped! I’m not sure on this great love thing now. Hmmm. Anyway, another classic that will probably outlive us all. 

8. A Midsummer’s Night Dream – William Shakespeare

I’m loving the amount of Shakespeare here. I realise it’s not everyone’s cup of tea though. However, this play is a lot of fun. It’s one that I came to much later in life, probably around 3 years ago. I saw a production in Stratford and it was magical. It contains one of my favourite quotes too: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” 

9. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck 

Another amazing novel and also the second part to my lovely year 11s exam today. It’s utterly devastating. It’s exploration of hope and dreams, friendship and trials it’s so detailed for such a little novel. The ending always makes me cry. Emotional times right there…

10. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

I remember reading this as a little girl. I picked it up in a book shop because it had my name on it. However, I remember feeling ridiculously scared when the spider came along. Varied memories for this one really! I was young though and I’ve not read it since. I do think I’ll read this again someday. It’s an interesting one on the list I think! 

11. Dracula – Bram Stoker 

Oh dear. I’m really not so good with scary books and for me this was terrifying! I read it for the first time last year (avoided it at university) as I was teaching it! It was awful. Thankfully my class were amazing and listened to my nightmares based on this book. They seemed to enjoy it though which is the main thing. It just isn’t my kind of book. I really don’t want to teach or read this again! 

12. An Inspector Calls – J.B. Priestley

Oh wow this little play is absolutely cracking. I LOVE it. I really need to see it on stage. I only discovered this a few years ago and it just left me thinking “WHAT?!” So I read it again. I’ve loved teaching it as well. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. It will literally keep you on the edge of your seat. 

13. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Frankenstein was on one of my reading lists at university. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even heard of it! But, what I find fascinating is that this is written by a woman during a very masculine era. Again, I would say this is quite scary because of what it stands for. I’ll be teaching this next year so I need to re-read this again! 

14. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy 

Now… Another confession. I’ve never completely read all of this book. I’ve tried a number of times but it’s always defeated me! I’m a huge Hardy fan. It takes me back to my A levels, but this one just may be a little out of my zone. I will get there one day. I just think you have to be in a particular mood to read this. Maybe I’m just not smart enough! Haha. 

15. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Another book I’ve started and not finished. I think I started this athe wrong time. Not got too much to say, but maybe I’ll read it? I could do with knowing more about it really! Let me know what it’s about if you know. 

16. The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

Oh I love this book. It’s one of my all time favourites. It’s amazing. If I’m ever in a bit of a reading slump I always turn to this book. It’s a healer. It makes me feel a whole host of emotions from love to rage and everything in between. I love the closing lines too: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” You just can’t beat it. 

17. Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare 

I’m loving the amount of Shakespeare on this list I have to say. This isn’t one of the plays that stands out as being most popular to me really, but, it has its own merits of course. It’s not my favourite and it isn’t one I’d rush to see. I’ve read it but I can’t remember too much about it. I guess that says it all really…



18. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker 

Oh this upsets me so much. I’ve never been able to finish it. I’ve tried to read this so many time and I’ve always failed. I just find it so sad. It’s a really sensitive novel by a fantastic writer. I do feel like a bit of a failure for not finishing it. I genuinely will try to at some point in my life. 

19. Journey’s End – R.C. Sherrif 

Another book I’ve never read, but my best friend has. The other English group to mine when I was in school studied this book and my group studied TKAM. I remember her complaining…but all teenagers do! The war setting will probably make me very emotional, but I will give it a go one day. Again, anyone who knows anything about this, let me know! 



20. Others – miscellaneous. 

‘Others’ got 20.7% of the vote, yet it’s not exactly specified which book that is. I’ve no idea what this means! I wish we were told… There could be a number of options here. What about Hamlet? Or a more modern text: Holes? I guess this one is up to us! 

In summary:

  • I’ve read 14 out of the 20 
  • I’ve attempted 3 out of the 20
  • I plan to read the remaining 5

What about you? What did you love when you were at school? I feel so lucky that some of these books have been a part of my life for 10 or more years. It’s really unbelievable. Yet, I’ve learned there’s always something to be read. The TBR list really is never ending. 

Have a great evening all! 

Big love xx

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33 Comments

Filed under Books, Literature

33 responses to “The Top 20 Most Read School Books

  1. Of Mice and Men was a classic!

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  2. I love lists like this. I have not read Great Expectations. I never even heard of the Sheriff one. But overall great choices.
    x The Captain

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  3. Love the amount of Shakespeare favorites too. My confession, I think I’ve read less than you did from this list.

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  4. dreamingthroughliterature

    I’m so glad you made this post! It was fascinating to read your experiences with these books. Crazily enough, the only books on this list I actually read in school were Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird yet I’ve read 10 of these books. I always found it so strange how I bypassed so many of these books, but that hasn’t stopped me from seeking them out and loving most of them. (Except The Catcher in the Rye. I did finish it, but I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. I found it mostly following a whiney boy who swears a lot, but I also read it on my own, so I didn’t have anyone to discuss it with. I’m not sure if that would have swayed my opinion about it.) Anyway, great post 🙂

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    • It’s taken me ages. I swear I’m the worst blogger in the world at times.
      Ohhh it’s funny isn’t it? It just depends what texts schools seem to pick. Some are more favourable than others!
      Ohh I’m kidding myself about reading Catcher. It just won’t happen. I know it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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      • dreamingthroughliterature

        It is crazy how different your reading experience can be based on where you are and what school’s you’re at. I know how you feel about Catcher! I keep telling myself that maybe if I reread it I’ll understand all the praise around it, but I’ve been telling myself that for like 4 years now, so I doubt I’ll get back around to it. And of course; I always love stopping by your blog! 😀

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      • I know! And to be honest it’s these teachers who shape your reading experience. If you don’t enjoy what you’re reading, you’re less likely to read for your own personal pleasure. Aww thanks for saying that! So kind.

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  5. I’ve only read two of these books (Dracula and Charlotte’s Web) and none of them were in school 😅 I definitely plan on reading a few more of these though like The Catcher in the Rye and Frankenstein 🙂

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  6. I just finished the kite runner for school and it’s honestly my favorite book that I’ve read for school, though frankenstein and to kill a mockingbird were great too

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  7. Of the list above, I only really read three of them in school (Charlottes Web, Macbeth and Animal Farm). Unfortunately I don’t think I really appreciated them at the time and have been considering re reading. The stories I probably most remember are Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon and The Crucible by Arthur Miller both of which are really great stories.

    Our other Shakespeare text was the Merchant of Venice and having been made to memorize it more than 20 years ago I can still repeat almost verbatim “the quality of mercy” passage 🙂

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    • Ohhh I’ve never studied the Merchant of Venice but I’ve briefly read it. It’s just fascinating to know what people have studied and what we remember or take away from it. I loved the Crucible. The witch trials are always scary/fun to research.

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  8. I’m at 14 too! Never read Dracula, Great Expectations, Journey’s End or An Inspector Calls. I only recently read Frankenstein and thought it was excellent! And I read Charlotte’s Web as an adult and thought it was wonderful!

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    • Aww you must give Great Expectations a go. It’s fabulous. Also, I LOVE An Inspector Calls. You will genuinely be hooked. I promise!

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      • I did like A Tale of Two Cities – it was a big commitment to read though! We read an abridged version of Great Expectations. Wish I had more time to read!

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      • Ohhh I’ve started Tale but never finished it! I’ve got a poster of the quote ‘it was the best of times it was the worst of times’ in my classroom as well!
        I know what you mean. I haven’t read half as much as I’d like to this year. 😦

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  9. I love love love LOVE Great Expectations! When I read it in my English class during my senior year of high school most of my peers hated it, but that didn’t stop me haha 🙂 I just love Pip so much ❤

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  10. it looks like Polish schools have a totally different book list. I had to read maybe 3 of these, I’d gladly read two others from the list, but well…

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  11. So many timeless classics – I may have to re-read some of them now!

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    • I love lists that bring books back into the front of your memory. The problem is, finding the time to read them! Thanks for stopping by. I’m following your blog now so we can keep in touch 🙂

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