SAT reading lists can be quite long, and students are rarely expected to read every title. In recent years reading lists have also attempted to change in order to show a more diverse selection. The following is only an example of the more well-known/common names that appear on the majority of lists.

American Literature (Novels & Stories)

The American Literature section of school reading lists has, in the last half-century, attempted to move away from the traditional ‘literary canon’ (dominated by white men) in order to better represent the American school population. Whilst the big names are still on almost every list – and remain classic books – education boards often try be more inclusive.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

Beloved (Toni Morrison)

Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

The Awakening (Kate Chopin)

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)

The Time Machine (HG Wells)

The Color Purple (Alice Walker)

Slaughterhouse 5 (Kurt Vonnegut)

On the Road (Jack Kerouac)

White Fang (Jack London)

Almost any book by Mark Twain

Almost any book by Ernest Hemingway

Almost any story by Edgar Allan Poe

World Literature (Novels & Stories)

World literature sections are commonly dominated by European writers, mostly English, but efforts have been made to look into more South American, African and Asian works.

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

Animal Farm (George Orwell)

Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)

Madame Bovary (Gustav Flaubert)

Death in Venice (Thomas Mann)

Robinson Crusoe  (Daniel Defoe)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carrol)

A Passage to India (EM Forster)

Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)

All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)

Ulysses (James Joyce)

Portrait of a Young Artist (James Joyce)

The Trial (Franz Kafka)

Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Biographies / Political

Roots (Alex Haley)

Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

The Story of My Life (Helen Keller)

The Prince ( Niccolò Machiavelli)

Das Kapital (Karl Marx)

The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X)

Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville)


Science books are seen as important generally, although it is rare to have them in tests due to their difficulty. Knowledge of the ideas is important.

A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking)

Origin of Species (Charles Darwin)


Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)

Othello (William Shakespeare)

King Lear (William Shakespeare)

A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams)

Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw)

Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)

The Cherry Orchard (Anton Chekhov)

The Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen)

Faust (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’)

Dr. Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)

The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Unlike the novels section, schools generally look at the work of famous poets collectively, or as a movement. This makes choosing one poem difficult, and therefore this is a list of famous poets generally included; however Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’, Ginsberg ‘Howl’, and Kipling’s ‘If’ remain popular at schools and universities. Poems by ethnic minorities and non-English speakers have generally yet to have the same impact as novels.

TS Eliot

Allen Ginsberg

Robert Frost

Ezra Pound

William Shakespeare

William Wordsworth

William Carlos Williams

Rudyard Kipling

John Keats

W.B. Yeats

Wilfred Owen

Seamus Heaney