15 Mammoth Books to Feed the Voracious Teen Reader

What if your teen devours books constantly and you’re having trouble keeping up with his or her appetite? The next time you go shopping, take this checklist of books with 500 or more pages:

  • Richard Adams – Watership Down: This book is hard to sell to teenagers, especially boys (“It’s about rabbits who take a long journey.” “Umm, I think I’ll pass.”). But if you can get them started on it, they’ll really enjoy it. You can appeal to fantasy readers by showing them the rabbit language glossary in the back.
  • Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote: One of the funniest books ever written, and two of the most endearing characters in all the world.
  • Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Historical Fiction, Horror and Fantasy all rolled into one. Winner of the Mythopoeic Award for fantay novels. A real treat.
  • James Clavell – Shogun: I loved this book when I was a teenager. Medieval Japan was fascinating to me: samurais, ninjas, the whole culture.
  • Charles Dickens – David Copperfield: Some people might recommend Great Expectations or Oliver Twist, but this is my favorite long Dickens novel.
  • Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World: If you want to introduce philosophy to your literate teen, this book is the place to begin. Part novel, part philosophy text, it asks a lot of questions and only begins to answer them. Great for homeschoolers.
  • Alex Haley – Roots: From slavery to freedom, the story of Alex Haley’s family is a classic of American storytelling.
  • Victor Hugo – Les Miserables: Year after year my eighth graders love this novel. Riots, romance, redemption–the perfect book for teenagers. I recommend the Pocketbooks abridgment, which is still over 500 pages.
  • Frank Herbert – Dune: Classic science fiction that still holds up today. Your teen will come away with a greater appreciation for water.
  • Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time Series: Every book in this Tolkien-esque series is over 500 pages long, and there are about eleven of them in all. Get your teen hooked on the first one, The Eye of the World, and you won’t have to worry about what books to buy for quite some time.
  • James Michener – The Source: A historical novel of the Holy Land, and of its turbulent history.
  • Margaret Mitchell – Gone with the Wind: Much better than the movie.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings: In case your teen has been living under a rock.
  • T.H. White – The Once and Future King: A classic retelling of the Arthurian legend, with a few anachronistic twists.
  • Herman Wouk – The Winds of War and War and Remembrance: World War II from beginning to end, seen through the eyes of one family. The father is a military diplomat stationed in central Europe, while one of his sons is stationed in London, the other in the Pacific. From Pearl Harbor to concentration camps, Wouk manages to cover it all. About as comprehensive as a novel can get.

Bonus–for the truly voracious:

  • Fyodor Dostoyevski – Crime and Punishment: A murder mystery that explores the self-devouring nature of guilt.
  • Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace: I couldn’t make a list of huge books and leave this one out. I don’t really recommend this for teens unless they have a great interest in history and are used to reading lengthy works of nonfiction as well as fiction.

You can also find a .pdf version of this checklist on the resources page.

2 Responses

  1. Maureen Gray says:

    Nick- I think this is the list you were talking about at our Writing seminar, correct? Or is there another lisst just for boys. I browsed around and couldn’t find a specific list.
    Nice website! I will add it to favorites.
    Maureen-St. Als

  2. Nick says:

    Maureen – There is another list just for boys here:
    http://literarycompass.blogspot.com/2007/05/literary-testosterone-30-must-read.html
    It’s listed on the resources page. Thanks for visiting!

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