The Ultimate Reading List for English Majors: Books Every Student Should Read

If you’re an English major, then congratulations! You’re one of the privileged few who know how to communicate effectively through writing. But, as any educated person knows, reading is just as important as writing. That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate reading list for English majors like yourself.

Classic Novels

As an English major, you can’t go wrong with classic novels. These books are renowned for their complex characters, their deep themes and their beautiful language. Here are a few that should be on every English student’s shelf:

  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville – This epic novel about obsession and revenge will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – A gripping coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of racial prejudice in the American South.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – A timeless tale of love and marriage in Regency-era England.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – An atmospheric Gothic novel about a young governess who falls in love with her employer while uncovering dark secrets within his household.

Poetry Collections

Poetry is another key component of any well-rounded education in literature. Even if poetry isn’t your favorite style of writing, give it another chance! Modern-day poems can turn heads too! If you want something different than Shakespearean tragedies or Victorian epics (and we promise they’ll still make quite appearances), here are some collections worth checking out:

  • Leaves Of Grass By Walt Whitman: Known simply known among authors circles as ‘Grass’, this book revolutionized American poetry when it was published back 1855 due to its raw energy(WIIILDD!!) unabashed sexuality (More Wild!!!) lavish praise (Even WILDER!!!) for the American landscape.
  • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot: This modernist masterpiece famously begins with the line, “April is the cruellest month.” Including allusions to everything from Greek mythology to Shakespearean plays, this poem absolutely fascinating!!!
  • Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy – A collection of love poems that explore themes such as desire, passion and loss. Warning: May contain some explicit content (Wink,Wink,Nudge Nudge)


Plays offers realistic portrayal of society , whose performances can showcase a story in a very entertaining way. English students are often required to study tragedies so brace yourself!

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare – The shortest tragedy ever written; depicts political consequences when one allows their ambition ‘To bubble and boil like a cauldron’.
  • Look Back In Anger By John Osborne- Considered revolutionary in its time frame (1956) due to its inherent social critique over post-world war two Britain- Capturing the intense struggle of youthful angst against political institutions & gender roles(Slim Shady??) were two sides of same coin (Now that’s deep!!)


Memoirs & Autobiographies provide unique insight into individual perspectives or life experiences. While these books vary widely in topic and tone but they come together creating an exceptional display of humanity.(Get your tissue box out!).

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, By Maya Angelou :An exquisite memoir detailing author’s journey through an emotionally turbulent childhood marked racial discrimination(& Strength), abandonment & exploration within own identity.( Sniff sniff )
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi:Brought vividly alive through graphic illustrated black-and-white comics about her childhoods spent under Islamic Revolution regime’s oppression.

Contemporary Fiction:

Contemporary fiction is perfect when you’re looking for something modern and relevant to read. These are some of the best books that have been published in recent years:

  • The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins :Set in a dystopian future, where teenagers must fight each other to death on an annual basis, the book deals with themes such as survivalism ( #RealTalk) ,governmental corruption & individual power.
  • A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara: Multiple award winner book following four young men through their lives post-college while dealing with trauma, sexuality(Brace yourself!)& friendships along the way.


Non-fiction isn’t just about reading boring textbooks! Take notes because these books below should be on your bedside table- Topics range from scientific explanations over time warps to personal development lessons- we got yo back!

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain:A thought-provoking analysis behind commonly held perspective regarding introversion; exploring strengths of keeping quite around extroverted individuals.(Shhhhhh)

Short Story Collection-

Short story collections offer quick escape into stories -without committing too much time(Perfect for Subway travels). They often touch upon contemporary or past issues distilled impeccably by authors within limited words length) Check out!

– ​Interpreter Of Maladies
The collection explores Indian-American experience largely centered around middle-aged second generation immigrants trying to keep their both cultural identities &new sense belonging (Or so they hope!). A humorously poignant memoir experienced through many different lenses

And there you have it folks!! With this ultimate reading list for English majors, you’ll be able which can provide enriching yet mind-bendingly-written books worth your commitment(Downright Essential)Perhaps even redefine our very own reality!. So what are waiting for? Go forth and read!!!

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