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Top Schools Think 7th and 8th Graders Should Be Able to Read These Books

Schools that use a classical curriculum have a reputation as being more rigorous than their peers.  

To see if this reputation is deserved, we conducted a survey of over 100 classical schools (both secular and religious) across the country to see what students were reading at each grade level. We were hoping our audiences could help us with the subsequent comparison portion.

Below are the 25 most common books assigned to 7th and 8th-graders at schools with a classical curriculum. Are these indeed more rigorous than the books you or your child read in middle school? Do you think middle school students should be able to read these texts?

1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

2. Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

3. Animal Farm, George Orwell

4. Beowulf, Rosemary Sutcliff/Seamus Heaney

5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, J.R.R. Tolkien

6. Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

8. The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

9. The Call of the Wild, Jack London

10. Macbeth, William Shakespeare

11. A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare

12. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

13. The Odyssey, Homer

14. Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

15. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

16. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

17. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

18. The Aeneid, Virgil/Penelope Lively

19. Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt

20. King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Roger Lancelyn Green/Howard Pyle

21. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

22. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

23. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

24. Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

25. Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

Jesse Bier is a professor of English at the University of Montana in Missoula.

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

Daniel Lattier

Daniel Lattier

Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at E-mail Dan

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Mama Bear
I homeschool with Ambleside Online, so these are books that my fifth grade son is either currently reading or is on his list that he will be reading in the next 2-3 years, with the possibility of reading different Shakespeare plays than those listed. I certainly read all but five of these listed books by the time I finished 8th grade even though they were not assigned reading.