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Living Books

If you want your child to grow up to be a successful lifelong learner, you must do one thing—teach him to love to read. And choosing the right books is half the battle.

I struggled to learn to read. It was laborious.

Who cares that C-A-T spells “cat”? Why does it matter that Sally and Ned jumped over a fence? Can I go outside and look for lizards and baby frogs now?

Perhaps your child can relate.

But my mom had a theory. She thought that if she taught us to read lots of living books—well-written, fascinating books that make knowledge “come alive”—we would grow to love to read and, thus, love to learn.

She was right.

She made each of us kids read hundreds of books during our homeschooling years—often 100 or more each year. We devoted several hours each day just to reading.

Some books were short and a breeze to read through. Others were difficult and forced us to work just above our reading level.

Fiction, expository works, spiritual helps, biographies, poetry—all of them changed my life and laid a foundation I could build on to become a lifelong learner. These books taught me about the world—and why we so desperately needed Jesus to come and rescue us.

I may have felt frustrated at times with my reading list. I might have had many “I don’t want to read this!” moments.

But I’m so grateful to my mom, because this discipline solidified a valuable habit in my life.

And while every book my mom had me read affected me for the better, here are a few of the books I think impacted me the most in middle school and high school:

49 Life-Changing Books for Middle School and High School

  1. The Bible
  2. Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy (For boys, try God’s Gift to Women by Eric Ludy.)
  3. Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot (For boys, try The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot.)
  4. David Brainerd: Man of Prayer, Oswald Smith
  5. The Aeneid by Virgil
  6. Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch
  7. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  8. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  9. The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
  10. The Iliad by Homer
  11. Wealth of the Nations by Adam Smith
  12. Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford
  13. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
    (This book let me see firsthand the intent behind communism and socialism—an intent devoid of God. The book prepared me for when I heard professors sing communism’s praises in college.)
  14. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  15. City of God by St. Augustine
  16. Confessions by St. Augustine
  17. I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
  18. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker
  19. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  20. This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti
  21. Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti
  22. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  23. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
  24. The Anti-Federalist Papers, edited by Ralph Ketcham
  25. The Constitution
  26. The Declaration of Independence
  27. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  28. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  29. The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson
  30. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
  31. Foxe’s Books of Martyrs by John Foxe
  32. God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis
  33. Devil’s Island by John Hagee
  34. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  35. Set-Apart Femininity by Leslie Ludy (For boys, try The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley.)
  36. Jane Austin’s books: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abby (For girls)
  37. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  38. The Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley (For girls)
  39. Little Women by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
  40. Little Men by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
  41. Eight Cousins by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
  42. Jo’s Boys by Luisa May Alcott (For girls)
  43. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (For girls)
  44. For an Audience of One by Mike Pilavachi
  45. The Odyssey by Homer
  46. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  47. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  48. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  49. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

This list is certainly incomplete. But it serves as a sample of the kinds of books I read—the kinds of books that taught me to love learning.


Jenny Rose Curtis is a homeschool grad. In 2014, she graduated from Stetson University with majors in Spanish and Communications. She works at Charisma Media as a copy editor and co-host of the “Charisma News” and “SpiritLed Woman” podcasts.

© 2014 Finish Well Conference
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