Many of the books listed below could be read by preteens as well, but all should be read at some point. Since many of you are looking for books written during a particular time period, I have provided the original publication date for each book. I have also noted the lifespan of each author. There are three companies which publish materials for reading comprehension: Veritas Press, Teacher Created Materials, and Progeny Press. If you click on an author's name you will be taken to another article about that author. If you click on a title you will taken to a site where you can read that novel for free.
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888; American) - Rose's father has died leaving her an orphan. She goes to live with her Aunt Plenty and Aunt Rose. She is very lonely until she makes friends with a servant, Phoebe and then seven cousins, all boys, arrive. Life will never be the same. Publication 1875.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888; American) - This novel about Jo and her three sisters, Meg, Amy, and Beth, is set during the Civil War. Their father has gone off to fight. It is based upon the author's life and the lives of her three sisters. Publication 1868.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1816 - 1855; English) - This is an amazing love story. Jane, an poor orphan, grows up in the loveless home of a hate-filled aunt. Her close friend at school dies and cruel punishments are administered by the superintendent. As an adult, Jane falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. He is tormented by a terrible secret in his past. This is a true gothic tale of suspense, romance, insanity, and attempted murder. Publication 1847.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1818 - 1849; English) - The is the story of the tortured romantic relationship of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. The tale is set on the rugged moors of Yorkshire. Publication 1847.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1775 - 1817; English) - The courtship of proud Mr. Darcy and prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet is complicated by their persistent misunderstanding of each other's actions and feelings. There are many interesting characters. Mrs. Bennet is preoccupied with marrying off her five daughters. There is an impressive dowager aunt who intimidates everyone except Elizabeth. The amazingly conceited clergyman rehearses his speeches to young ladies. The story is set in the 18th century. Publication 1813.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1775 - 1817; English) - Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are two very different sisters. Elinor is sensible, while Marianne is sensitive and emotional. After the death of their father, the girls, their mother, and younger sister are forced to move to a small cottage in the country. The sisters fall in love with eligible bachelors, but problems arise. Publication 1811.
Emma by Jane Austen (1775 - 1817; English) - Emma Woodhouse is a young lady who is intent on matchmaking. After many complications Emma finds that her scheming has served to confuse matters and hurt other people's feelings. Publication 1815.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 - 1942; Canadian) - Orphaned red head Anne Shirley goes to live with an elderly brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. Anne is a bookish dreamer who needs to be loved. Publication 1908. Sequels include: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, and Anne of Ingleside.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1907 - 1989; English) - Wealthy Max de Winter remarries and his new bride quickly realizes something is wrong at Manderley. In the opinion of the housekeeper, who was devoted to Rebecca, the last mistress of Manderly, the new Mrs. de Winter is timid and nervous, nothing like Rebecca. The housekeeper becomes the new bride's enemy as a horrible mystery about Rebecca unfolds. Publication 1940.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864; American) - A young woman, Hester Prynne, is shunned in her community of New England Puritans and forced to wear a red "A" on her chest because of her sins with the local minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester's husband, Roger Chillingworth, is jealous and full of vengeance. Publication 1850.
My Antonia by Willa Cather (1873 - 1947; American) - Antonia Shimerda moves from Bohemia to a pioneer town in Nebraska. Mr. Shimerda is homesick and cannot make a living, so he commits suicide. Antonia is strong and determined. She makes friends with Jim Burden, who lives on a neighboring farm. They grow up on the Nebraska prairie along with wolves, brown earth-owls, and rattlesnakes, and gradually Jim learns to love Antonia. Publication 1918.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (1862 - 1910; American) - A young couple want to make Christmas special despite lack of funds. Each does what is necessary to buy just the right present for the other. The results are quite ironic. Publication 1906.
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson (1908 - 1973; American) - The old stray dog certainly is ugly and a thieving rascal, but out here on the Texas frontier a dog is a good companion, especially with Dad away on a cattle drive. Publication 1956.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1876 - 1916; American) - A domesticated dog, Buck, is kidnapped and sold to gold hunters. To survive he has to learn to listen to the call of the wild and learn the ways of his wolf ancestors. Eventually, he falls into the ownership of John Thornton, whose life Buck saves twice. Publication 1903.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1891 - 1968; American) - Johnny is an apprentice to a silversmith in Boston (not Paul Revere) in the days just prior to the American Revolution. An accident ends his apprenticeship. In the days following his accident he meets Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and many other men of history. Publication 1944.
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745; Anglo-Irish) - Lemuel Gulliver travels to a series of very unusual and heretofore unknown lands. In one place he is a giant compared to the Lilliputians. In another, he is the size of a mouse compared to the people he finds. He also finds a floating island and a place where intelligent horses are served by humanoids. Publication 1726. This was made into a movie starring Ted Danson.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1660 - 1731; English) - Crusoe finds himself stranded on an uncharted island off the coast of South America for nearly 30 years. He must find food, shelter, and clothing. He survives because of his faith in God. Many years after landing on the island, he saves a man named, Friday, who is about to be eaten by cannibals and Friday becomes Crusoe's faithful servant. Publication 1719.
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss (1743 - 1848; Swiss) - Fritz, Ernest, Jack, Franz, Mother, and Father survive a shipwreck and find themselves stranded on a deserted island near New Guinea. Being a religious family they offer thanks to God for all that he has provided. They salvage all that they can from the ship. They build a tree house for protection from wild animals, find food, make candles from berries, bread from roots, and a canoe from a tree. They face snakes, wolves, bears, and a lion, but are doing quite well until they discover a way to leave the island. Who will go? Who will stay? This was made into a movie a very long time ago. Publication 1812.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894; Scot) - Young Jim Hawkins, an innkeeper's son, finds a treasure map among the belongings of a dead seaman. Pirates seek that very map and Jim finds himself in quite a predicament. On board ship, Jim overhears Long John Silver's plans for mutiny. This has also been made into a movie. Publication 1883.
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1828 - 1905; French) - Phineas Fogg tries to make his way around the globe in 80 days in order to win a bet of 20,000 pounds. He is accompanied on his journey by a servant and they implore all sorts of modes of travel (elephant, sled, balloon, etc.). Publication 1873.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1828 - 1905; French) - Professor Aronnax leads an expedition attempting to destroy a giant sea monster. Their efforts with harpoons are futile and the men find themselves in the water. Later, they are captured by the enigmatic Captain Nemo on his underwater vessel, the Nautilus. Publication 1870. The movie starred a rather young Kirk Douglas.
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936; English) This has many wonderful tales including How the Leopard Got His Spots. Publication 1902.
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936; English) - Harvey Cheyne is a spoiled rich teenager who considers himself above the manual labor aboard the ship. Then he falls overboard and his rescued by a fisherman who insists he earn his keep. Publication 1897.
The Black Pearl by Scott O'Dell (1898 - 1989; American) - Ramon and his father seek pearls of the coast of Baja, California. Ramon dreams of finding a valuable black pearl, but he also thinks of the monster of the deep, Manta Diablo. When he does find a black pearl he is warned that to keep it risks the wrath of the monster. Publication 1967.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (1998 - 1989; American) - This is the true story of an Indian girl, Karana, who spent 18 years alone on an island off the coast of California. Publication 1960.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894; Scot) - Young David Balfour went to visit his uncle after his father's death. Uncle Ebenezer wants to steal the boy's inheritance and won't stop at murder. David is soon kidnapped and on board a ship facing a life of slavery. The story is set in 18th century Europe. Publication 1886.
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894; Scot) - This tale of adventure is set during the War of the Roses (15th century England). Dick Shelton is pursued by both sides and find refuge with a band of outlaws who seek revenge with their black arrows. Publication 1883.
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894; Scot) - A doctor changes from a respected, mild mannered London physician into a monster by drinking a potion. Publication 1886.
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896 - 1953; American) - This story is set in the backwoods of Florida in the 1860's. A twelve year old boy, Jody Baxter, raises an orphaned fawn, but as the animal grows problems arise and he must set it free. Publication 1939.
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green (1918 - 1987; English) - This is a folktale which began as a ballad during the Middle Ages. Robin and his band of outlaws hide in Sherwood Forest, stealing from the rich who pass by and giving to the poor in the neighborhood. Publication 1956.
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green (1918 - 1987; English) - This is the tale of King Arthur, his Queen Guinevere, Merlin, the magician, Lancelot, and the other knights of the Round Table. It is all about chivalry, bravery, honor, and loyalty. Publication 1950's.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1835 - 1910; American) - This story is set in Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens). You will hear about how Tom got lost in a cave. There are many in the area because of all the limestone. You will also learn how Tom managed to get out of painting the fence Aunt Polly told him to paint. Samuel Clemens said that the events in this book were true, though Tom was actually based upon the combination of traits and adventures of three different boys, Sam, John Briggs, and Will Bowen. Publication 1876.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1835 - 1910; American) - This book has been banned by some schools and libraries. It contains a word that we no longer use, but during the time Twain was writing the word was common. Rather than rewriting history, we should learn from it. Huck lives with Widow Douglas and Widow Watson, but can not tolerate their attempts to "sivilize" him. Jim, a slave, runs away with Huckleberry who has reasons of his own to flee. Together they have quite the adventure as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. They experience mistaken identity, practical jokes, narrow escapes, violence, and superstition. The character Huckleberry was based upon a childhood friend, Tom Blankenship. Publication 1885.
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (1835 - 1910; American) - Two boys of very unequal status, Prince Edward and a beggar named Tom Cantry, trade places. Accurately portrays the cruel laws and customs of mid-16th century England. Publication 1881.
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (1857 - 1924; Polish) - A young navy officer is found guilty of cowardice and stripped of his rank. For many years he lives with the guilt. Eventually, he becomes the ruler of a remote Malay village where he must face the pirate, Gentleman Brown, and his crew of cut-throats. Publication 1900.
The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas (1802 - 1870; French) - The year is 1625. A young D'Artagnan arrives in Paris and meets the three musketeers, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos, who work for Louis XIII of France. He immediately insults them. However, when the four are attacked by five of the Cardinal's guards, the young man acquits himself quite well with his fencing skills and the four become friends. They are off to many adventures. Publication 1844.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (1802 - 1870; French) - Count Edmond Dantes has been imprisoned for life. After 14 years in jail, he escapes, finds a hidden treasure, and becomes very wealthy. He then seeks revenge against his old enemies. Lots of drama, intrigue, and suspense in the days of the Napoleonic Empire. Publication 1845 - 1846.
Don Quixote of the Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (1547 - 1616; Spanish) - Don Quixote, the knight-errant, and his squire and traveling companion, Sancho, have many grand adventures. Where Quixote sees armies, castles, high-born ladies, and giants, Sancho sees sheep, inns, farm girls, and windmills. The first part was published in 1605 and the second in 1615.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870; English) - A orphaned boy in a workhouse creates quite a stir by asking for more food. He is sold as an apprentice to an undertaker and things continue to worsen. Then he meets up with a band of pickpockets lead by an old man named Fagin. Serialised between 1837 and 1839.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870; English) - This is a tale of two very different places, London and Paris, during the French Revolution. Dr. Manette, who had been a prisoner in the Bastille is released to his daughter Lucie. Then Lucie's husband, Charles Darnay, is tried for treason against the French government. He is acquitted and flees from France, but returns to free someone else, and is condemned to death. Publication 1859.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870; English) - A young boy is visits his parents' graves in a churchyard near some lonely marshes. A wretched looking convict starts up from the graves and grabs the boy by the throat. The convict threatens to kill the boy unless he does what he is told. This frightful errand is difficult for Pip. Publication 1860 -1861.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870; English) - This book is said to be somewhat autobiographical. David is sent at a young age to work in a factory. In London, he meets all sorts of characters: Mr. Micawber, an spendthrift, and Uriah Heep, an lawyer's clerk. It is said that this was Dickens favorite of his novels. Publication 1849.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1926 - ____; American) Publication 1960.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1911 - 1993; British) A group of school boys stranded on a deserted island attempt to self-govern with disastrous consequences. Publication 1954.