The New Year is just around the corner, and you know what that means: New Year’s resolutions. From exercising to eating healthier, many of the resolutions people make at the New Year have to do with physical benefits. These are great goals, and benefiting the body is extremely important to your overall health. However, we at Oxford Tutoring want to encourage you to take care of an often overlooked part of your being during 2016: your mind. One simple way to expand your mind is through reading. Reading will improve your vocabulary, your communication skills, your writing, your comprehension, and your ability to think deeper through analysis. So this upcoming New Year, pick up a new book while you jump on the treadmill or while you are eating your healthy lunch. Here is our recommended list of sixteen books that we think every teenager to take the time to read in 2016.
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A young girl of only 16 at the start of the bloodiest war in American History, Scarlett O’Hara is forced to be the sole caretaker of her family in order to survive the devastation in the south as a result of the Civil War. Learn about her difficulty to move forward with her life once she no longer has to struggle to live, and the choices she makes along the way.
Summary: Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.
In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “As God as my witness, as God as my witness, they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
by A. Scott Berg
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Go behind the scenes into the life of one of the most celebrated actresses in Hollywood with a career that spanned over seven decades. This biography allows you to see Katharine Hepburn through the eyes of her friend, author A. Scott Berg, and experience the glory days of Hollywood through the eyes of one of its brightest stars.
Summary: In addition to recording heretofore untold biographical details of her entire phenomenal career and her famous relationships with such men as Spencer Tracy and Howard Hughes, Kate Remembered also tells the amusing, often emotional story of one of the most touching friendships in her final years. Scott Berg provides his own memories of Katharine Hepburn offstage – quiet dinners in her town house in New York City, winter swims (she swam, he watched) in the Long Island Sound at Fenwick, her home in Connecticut, weekend visits with family members and dear friends…even some unusual appearances by the likes of Michael Jackson and Warren Beatty. Finally, Kate Remembered discusses the legendary actress’s moving farewell, during which her mighty personality surrendered at last to her failing body – all the while remaining true to her courageous character.
Kate Remembered is a book about love and friendship, family and career, Hollywood and Broadway – all punctuated by unforgettable lessons from an extraordinary life (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.”
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Zusak offers perspective on the side of the war rarely discussed through the life of Liesel and her adopted family during WWII in Germany. Liesel uses the power of words to make it through the difficult times of the war and to influence the life of a friend who would otherwise have died.
Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
The Horse and His Boy
by C.S. Lewis
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This novel details the events of two former slaves who face many dangers on their journey to Narnia in order to be free. With powerful life lessons for all ages, The Horse and His Boy is full of interesting characters and fascinating adventures.
Summary: On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.
The Horse and His Boy is the third book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages intoa magical land where horses talk and destiny awaits for over sixty years. This is a novel that stands on its own, but if you would like to explore more of Narnia, read Prince Caspian, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Narnia (Amazon).
Inspiring Quote: “‘Child,’said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.'”
by Ian McEwan
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A novel that takes the reader into the trenches of WWII and the loved ones who are waiting for them at home.
Summary: Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece (Goodreads).
Inspiring Quote: “A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”
by Kathryn Stockett
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Follow in the footsteps of Skeeter, the main character in The Help, as she learns about the importance of forming her own opinions and standing up for her beliefs and those who cannot speak for themselves, despite what society and even her own friends are telling her.
Summary: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, ‘Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?'”
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A wonderful adventure filled with colorful characters and exciting obstacles, the Hobbit is a great read for anyone looking to discover more about himself or herself, as Bilbo does on his perilous journey to do good.
Summary: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. The text in this 372-page paperback edition is based on that first published in Great Britain by Collins Modern Classics (1998), and includes a note on the text by Douglas A. Anderson (2001). Unforgettable! (Goodreads)
Memorable Quote: “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”
by Daphne Du Maurier
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Mysterious and exciting, Rebecca is beautifully written and details the drama that unfolds at the Gothic mansion Manderley. This novel depicts how to write a mystery beautifully and how to keep your readers hooked until the very last page.
Summary: The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.
First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.”
by Elizabeth Kostova
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Discover the hidden secrets of the ancient history of Dracula through this story that unfolds, layer by layer, and keeps the reader guessing until the very end.
Summary: Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil (Amazon).
Memorable Quote: “The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime.”
by Franz Kafka
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This book portrays the difficulties of trying to break into a system that refuses to bend the rules. It is a powerful example of how dangerous it can be for a group of people to stay set in their ways and refuse to be open to the opinions and ideas of others.
Summary: “Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” From its gripping first sentence onward, this novel exemplifies the term “”Kafkaesque.” Its darkly humorous narrative recounts a bank clerk’s entrapment — based on an undisclosed charge — in a maze of nonsensical rules and bureaucratic roadblocks.
Written in 1914 and published posthumously in 1925, Kafka’s engrossing parable about the human condition plunges an isolated individual into an impersonal, illogical system. Josef K.’s ordeals raise provocative, ever-relevant issues related to the role of government and the nature of justice. This inexpensive edition of one of the 20th century’s most important novels features an acclaimed translation by David Wyllie (Amazon).
Memorable Quote: “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.”
Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austin
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Sense and Sensibility juxtaposes two extreme ways of living: with the heart or with the mind. While Mariane runs headlong into events with her heart exposed, her sister Elinor takes a step back and considers her options before making a decision. This novel details the importance of having a balance rather than living by one extreme or the other.
Summary: Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”
by Arthur Miller
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A wonderful read for anyone wanting to learn more about theater and how to read or write plays. This play explores how the choices we make, to risk or to play it safe, can affect the rest of our lives.
Summary: Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity—and a play that compresses epic extremes of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room (Amazon).
Memorable Quote: “Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be . . . when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am.”
Call of the Wild
by Jack London
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: This book explores the idea of nature vs. nurture, and finding who we really are at our core, despite what others have told us that we are or forced us to be.
Summary: Buck, a sturdy crossbreed canine (half St. Bernard, half Shepard), is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit…
First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is regarded as Jack London’s masterpiece. Based on London’s experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time.”
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
by Terry Ryan
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: A story of overcoming great odds, perseverance, and the importance of making the best of what you have been given, this book is a must read for anyone looking for an example of beating the odds.
Summary: “Evelyn Ryan, wife of an alcoholic husband and mother of ten children, lived in a small town in a time and place when women did not seek jobs outside the home. When finances ran low, feeling desperate, she turned to her parish priest who suggested she “take in laundry.” Ryan had to laugh at the advice because she could barely keep up with her own family’s washing and ironing. A lesser woman might have succumbed to poverty, but she was determined to keep her family financially afloat and to teach her children that the life of the mind was important. In the early 1950s, Ryan started entering contests, composing her jingles, poems, and essays at the ironing board. She won household appliances, bikes, watches, clocks, and, occasionally, cash. She won a freezer, and several weeks later, she won a supermarket shopping-spree. When the family was faced with eviction, she received a $5000 first place check from the regional Western Auto Store. Ryan’s unconventionality and sense of humor triumphed over poverty, and her persistence makes the reader cheer her on (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “At that moment we knew that as long as we used our brains, we were not victims. By striking out to write our own ticket, we would grow up to be like our mother, winners.”
by Charlotte Bronte
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Through the character of Jane, readers can experience the value of making decisions for yourself, and doing what is right even if it is going to be painful.
Summary: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
by Alison Weir
Why Oxford Tutoring recommends this book: Go inside the mind of one of England’s fiercest and most iconic Queens, with this historical fiction piece while learning more about 16th century England.
Summary: Even at age two, Elizabeth is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as “Lady Princess” and now call her “the Lady Elizabeth.” Before she is three, she learns of the tragic fate that has befallen her mother, the enigmatic and seductive Anne Boleyn, and that she herself has been declared illegitimate, an injustice that will haunt her.
What comes next is a succession of stepmothers, bringing with them glimpses of love, fleeting security, tempestuous conflict, and tragedy. The death of her father puts the teenage Elizabeth in greater peril, leaving her at the mercy of ambitious and unscrupulous men. Like her mother two decades earlier she is imprisoned in the Tower of London–and fears she will also meet her mother’s grisly end. Power-driven politics, private scandal and public gossip, a disputed succession, and the grievous example of her sister, “Bloody” Queen Mary, all cement Elizabeth’s resolve in matters of statecraft and love, and set the stage for her transformation into the iconic Virgin Queen (Goodreads).
Memorable Quote: “But what use was the semblance of power without the substance?”
Do you agree with our list? What books would you recommend?
Disclaimer: Research these books to make sure you are comfortable with the subject matter of each book.
© Oxford Tutoring 2015
Meet the author: Julia Myres is an ELA instructor at Oxford Tutoring who has been working with students for over 10 years. She builds up her student’s confidence in the subjects they struggle with through encouragement and support. Striving to make her students ready to tackle even the most difficult concepts as they move up in their education, she motivates her students to take their education into their own hands and thrive.