Posted by: Jacqui Murray | April 18, 2016

23 Books That Will Make You Sound Like an Intellect

pre-usna readingPerception is greater than reality. Give the impression to anyone paying attention that you are intellectual, even before you’re old enough to be one, and it becomes their reality about you. How do you do this if all you’ve got is a brief conversation?

Read the classics. I don’t mean Euripides or Voltaire, well, not only them. I mean the books that people quote, talk about, bring up in educated conversations and assume you have read. As you get ready for summer, here’s a starter list, compiled by teachers across the country:

  1. Shakespeare–pretty much anything he wrote, but Macbeth and Hamlet are a good start. In one study, 71% of people listed these two as must-reads for the well-rounded individual
  2. Any of the defining documents in US history–the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. 50% of people in the same study said these were critical.
  3. Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer–something by Mark Twain
  4. the Bible
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  7. Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card
  8. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn The quickest of Solzhenitsyn’s books, but Cancer Ward or any other is good, too.
  9. The Prince by Machiavelli (how else can you understand the term ‘Machiavellian’?)
  10. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov This and Solzhenitsyn are required to understand Russian culture.
  11. The Iliad or The Odyssey by Homer Our very concept of ‘odyssey’ comes from the latter, and there is no better account of the ever-popular Trojan War than the former.
  12. Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (think how often you’ve heard the analogy–It’s a tale of two ***)
  13. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (learn how tenuous is the fabric of western civilization)
  14. The Red Badge of Courage It will not take too many days in the ‘real world’ for your students to gain their own red badge of courage.
  15. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. Students will want a label for what happens when they are judged and found lacking by small-minded people
  17. Plato’s Republic, one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory
  18. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, rudimentary to American independence by focusing anger in a logical, well-reasoned manner
  19. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne There are more Pooh-isms in this book that will aptly describe your feelings, thoughts, worries, than in any book I’ve ever read.
  20. Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling (It’s a poem, but a must-read if for no other reason than the quote, ‘You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din’)
  21. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  22. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  23. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx A brilliant book about an ideal economic system that unfortunately doesn’t survive the harsh light of day or the realities of man’s selfish spirit.

A daunting list, yes, but you have four years. This is a win-win activity. Wherever you end up in life, be it the Naval Academy or some other after-high school endeavor, these books will lend their wisdom to your ongoing battles.

For more on Reading Lists, try this post by WordDreams called Forget Summer Reading Lists.

More reading for USNA: USMC Reading List–Be Prepared


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for TeachHUB and Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office with questions.

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