The Best American Literature Books for High School of 2021

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Are you looking for the best American literature books for high school students? Are you struggling to keep up in class and need a bit of assistance? If you can answer yes to either of these questions, you have come to the right place. High school is already hard, but it is even harder when you are struggling in your studies. We want to make sure that’s not the case.

On this list, you will find some of the most recommended American literature textbooks and nonfiction books. All of which aimed at making sure that you are not only passing in American studies but doing exceptionally well. However, this list is more than just texts which will help you in class.

Within this list, you will also find information on choosing the best text for you and the factors you will need to look for when picking the perfect book. We have got you covered in all areas. Please keep reading to find a sample of the most recommended American literature authors and their works.

If you want to just get back to studying, get our top pick for American literature books for high school here.

Our Top Favorite
Fahrenheit 451
Our Top Runner Up
Invisible Man
Our Top Value Pick
Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
Book Title
Fahrenheit 451
Invisible Man
Great American Short Stories
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Favorite
Fahrenheit 451
Book Title
Fahrenheit 451
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Runner Up
Invisible Man
Book Title
Invisible Man
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
Book Title
Great American Short Stories
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-07-28

Our Favorites for Best American Literature Books for High School

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This Bradbury text is one that is among the many highly recommended American literature books for high schoolers. Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a futuristic American city that is home to firefighters who start fires rather than putting them out. It has been a controversial book that has garnered criticism for its plot centered around the banning and burning books. This story is an excellent example of censorship and the importance of thought and literature.

What Makes It Unique:

  • Within the text, Bradbury focuses on three main themes. These themes include freedom and censorship. Another prominent theme throughout the book is technology and how its advancements are limiting society.
  • This dystopian text follows the main character, Guy. Guy is a firefighter, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of putting out fires, Guy’s job is to set books on fire as they are banned in this society.
  • Ray Bradbury’s text reflected a post-war world and though fiction, presents imagery and angst which may be present in the world today.

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • Fahrenheit 451 can now be found on several American literature book lists for high school. The text has several underlying meanings and themes than what users may think. It is important to remember that this book was written long before things like the internet and Google existed.
  • What would happen if we censored society? What would happen if everything you read was controlled by one entity? Though a dramatic interpretation, this book answers those questions.
  • There are several themes in this text which high school students would benefit from reading and understanding today.
On Sale
Fahrenheit 451
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Ray Bradbury (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-28


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow is a newer text published in 2012 that shows the sad reality of the American society that we live in. The book was written by Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State University and a civil rights attorney. She has been an avid voice in the justice system’s racial disparities and launched major campaigns condemning racial profiling. This text held a place on the NY Times bestseller list for 250 weeks. It also aided in changing the conversations surrounding race in the criminal justice system.

What Makes It Unique:

  • Within the text, Alexander takes individuals on a journey to understand African Americans’ mass incarceration rates and the legal ways in which black and brown people are still being punished for their skin color today.
  • The text also goes in-depth about how the war on drugs is being used as an avenue to imprison a class of people and ultimately impart racial control.
  • The text provides several examples of individuals being held hostage by a system that was not built with them in mind. Instead of using color to discriminate against an individual, the author explains how labeling them as criminals or felons has become the new Jim Crow.

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • This book can be a challenging read for some but very eye-opening for others. The text is heavily researched and intended for individuals who want more knowledge of racial justice or who are already familiar with the topic.
  • Many readers feel that this is a book that should be read, studied, and understood. Statistics will prove that people of color are incarcerated at disproportionate rates, and this book will put evidence behind those statistics.
  • Many readers found that this book’s information may not be easy to accept, but it is the reality of this society. Alexander’s book is an excellent piece of modern literature for high school seniors.
On Sale
The New Jim Crow (Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - 10th Anniversary Edition)
  • Alexander, Michelle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 01/07/2020 (Publication Date) - NEW PRESS (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-28


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

When you think about American literary classics, it’s hard not to think about Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn is a text which is read in high schools across the country. It tells the story of one young boy’s travels down the Mississippi River. The book is entirely fictional but is based on real-world events.

What Makes It Unique:

  • There are several themes present with the text. These include racism, hypocrisy, and even guilt. These themes present themselves in the characters met along Huck Finn’s journey and even in himself.
  • This book can be difficult to read due to the dialect, but it is certainly worth the effort. The text provides an abundance of social commentary and is not a text for a high school freshman. However, this is an excellent read for someone at an advanced reading level or higher grade level.

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • Many readers feel that this book can teach young readers about the not so pretty version of history. It also introduces several life lessons that students may benefit from.
  • Some readers even found that the book showcases the immorality of slavery and the internal struggles that Huck faced when that was the norm.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Mark Twain (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/01/2008 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications, Inc. (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-28


Runner Ups for Best American Literature Books for High School

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Another staple in American Literature is Invisible Man. This text by Ralph Ellison illustrates what it was like growing up black and in the south. This growth includes much of the unfair treatment and social issues that African Americans faced. The book has received several literary awards and was a best seller for several weeks.

What Makes It Unique:

  • An unnamed narrator tells the story. The text follows the narrator’s journey’s from high school in the south to college in the north. The story also follows the narrator’s involvement with the Brotherhood, an organization that is by no means what they say they are.
  • All while remaining faceless, the narrator struggles to find his identity and the liberty that Amerca promises. Ellison addresses a controversial topic uniquely and innovatively.

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • The author vividly tells the story of a faceless man and his struggle to be “seen” in a white society. Readers consider this a must-read and, ultimately, a literary masterpiece.
  • The text accurately depicts what racism looks like in America. This story’s events are relevant and still resonate with many African Americans today though in a slightly different manner.
  • This book is continuously relevant in American society and would be an excellent coming of age read for high schoolers. Many young readers even say that though it was required reading, they found it heavily relatable and enjoyed the author’s poetic writing style.
On Sale
Invisible Man
  • Invisible Man
  • Ralph Ellison (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-28


The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is likely a text found on every high school reading list and is highly recommended by teachers and other students.

What Makes It Unique:

  • This text is established in the roaring 20s. At the opening of the book, you will meet the main character, Nick Carraway. Though told through Nick’s eyes, the story centers around his neighbor, Jay Gatsby.
  • Throughout the novel, students will be presented with themes of new and old money. Gatsby is depicted as “new money.” This notion means that he does not come from a family of wealth; however, he could acquire it in his adulthood. Gatsby’s goal is to have the love of Daisy Buchanan.
  • The novel describes the stark contrast between what it means to have “old money,” which describes families born into money, i.e., generational wealth and “new money.”

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • This is a novel that many readers said made them think deeply about life and the meaning of wealth. The importance of the text lies more profound than the obvious storyline.
  • This text is a recommended American literature book for high school students as it is full of social commentary, which can even be applied to the world around us today.
On Sale
The Great Gatsby
  • Great product!
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-28


Value Pick for Best American Literature Books for High School

Great American Short Stories by Paul Negri

Great American Short Stories is a collection of high school literature short stories. It includes works from several American Literary authors, including Mark Twain, F Scott Fitgerald, Henry James, and several others. This text is excellent for use outside or inside of the classroom.

What Makes It Unique:

  • The text includes 19 short stories that are considered some of the finest American literary works.
  • Negri’s book is highly affordable and makes literature accessible to students no matter their personal circumstances.
  • Stories within the text include Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell-Tale Heart and Bartleby by Herman Melville. These are only two of the infamous titles which students gain through reading this text.

Why Choose this Best American Literature Book:

  • Readers found this to be a substantial collection of stories that bring light to some of the period’s most famous works. The text also includes several authors introduced during high school literature.
Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 07/23/2002 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-28


How to Choose the Best American Literature Books for High School for You

Choosing textbooks can be challenging. However, it all depends on your personal preferences. Several characteristics make up American literature, and several authors are considered to be authors skilled in American Literature. These include authors like Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, F Scott Fitgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, and several more.

There are several characteristics of American literature. These characteristics include the tendency to reject authority, embodies American history, and places. Several themes are present, including coming of age, rebellion, and at times societal relationships. Choosing a specific theme is a great way to begin to narrow down your options. After selecting a theme, you can further narrow your choices by choosing an author; you are also interested in exploring.

You may use several other questions to gauge your interest in a specific novel; these questions can be found below.

What’s the Story Line of the Book?

The book’s storyline is one of the ultimate determining factors in deciding if a book is for you. Much like any other type of text, if the story piques your interest, it is often one that you will find easy and enjoyable to read. If you are fond of dystopian storylines, Fahrenheit 451 may be an excellent read for you.

Are You Looking for a Novel or Nonfiction Book?

Determining what type of novel you are looking for is also essential to pick a good text. These books can be either nonfiction or fiction. Nonfiction texts generally include things like memoirs, autobiographies, and historical accounts. Whereas, novels provide a storytelling approach to telling history.

What’s the Pacing of the Story?

The pace of the story all depends on the writer. Some writers may jump right into telling a compelling story, and others may choose to provide background information, which may give the story a slow start. The Adventures of Huck Fin can be a difficult read for the dialect, but many have said it has a slow start, though it is overall a compelling novel.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best American Literature Books for High School

Putting everything together, in this guide we reviewed the following:

Our Top Favorite
Fahrenheit 451
Our Top Runner Up
Invisible Man
Our Top Value Pick
Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
Book Title
Fahrenheit 451
Invisible Man
Great American Short Stories
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Favorite
Fahrenheit 451
Book Title
Fahrenheit 451
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Runner Up
Invisible Man
Book Title
Invisible Man
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)
Book Title
Great American Short Stories
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-07-28

This list contains several American literature authors and their works. These works are considered classics in their genres though some are more modern literature for high school students. Regardless of their publication dates, they contain invaluable information specific to American life.

One excellent read which depicts the struggle that many African Americans have faced in the past and even continues to meet today is Invisible Man. This creatively written book is a coming of age stories that brings light to the black battle to be seen in a white society.

Another excellent option on this list is the Great Gatsby. The book tackles the class issues held within the wealth system and how they affect the world around you. These are both excellent options to consider when looking for the best American literature books for high school students.

Overall, though many of these books come highly recommended, only you can determine what is best for you. It may be helpful to find themes or authors that you enjoy and explore texts from there. Regardless of what you choose, we are sure that you will find something perfect for you.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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