Power Ranking Every Book We’ve Read in High School


We have been in the same English class every year, meaning we have read the same exact books at the same exact time.  So, before we leave high school English for the last time, we decided to create a complete ranking of every single book we have read. We also disagree on a lot of things, and couldn’t come up with a single ranking, so we used a score system and averaged our scores to get the fairest representations where the books stand in this list. Here’s how the scoring system works: we ranked our books from 1 to 20 and assigned them a score that ranged from .5 (least favorite) to 10 (favorite).

Our rankings are accompanied by our personal opinions on why these books are placed where they are, but we made sure that the reviews are spoiler free!

20)  Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Honors English 9 with Ms. Lopez

Score: 0.5 

James’ Score: 0.5

Nina’s Score: 0.5

James’ Words: Nothing about this book works. I understand why the dialogue is barely decipherable, as that is its function in Honors 9 is to educate upon different dialects, but even when you decipher Shaw’s text the story it tells falls flat. The story does not flow naturally, and the enjoyability of the text is non-existent. 

Nina’s Words: Reading a play by yourself is not the same as reading a book.  Reading a play written about a set of very pretentious characters with the main character speaking in a cockney accent is not the same as reading a good play.  I don’t think I will ever pick up this book again.

19) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

AP Lang with Mr. Augello

Score: 1.25

James’ Score: 1.0

Nina’s Score: 1.5

James’ Words: This book starts boring and stays boring. Capote’s insistence on delaying the explicit details of what happened to the Clutter family is dully complemented by the lack of reveal of what truly happened to them. The book blends together in such a way that I no longer remember any of it. 

Nina’s Words: I didn’t mind this read, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite.  The style is very descriptive for no real reason, and there were many points where I couldn’t help but think “Why am I being told this information.”  A tragic story in a boring format can only keep you hooked for so long, and I barely remember the in betweens of the actual events of the Clutter family incident.  

18) “Initiation” by Sylvia Plath

Honors English 9 with Ms. Lopez

Score: 1.75

James’ Score: 2.5

Nina’s Score: 1.0

James’ Words: This short story is polarizing for me. In a large part, I’ve forgotten most of it. Yet, there’s elements of it that have been ingrained into my mind. Overall, I think Plath tells a very compelling story that doesn’t stand out in any significant way. 

Nina’s Words: Initiation” was one of the first stories we read in freshman year, so I don’t recall a lot of the details.  I do, however, remember the feeling this story left me with, and feel that this story had an interesting and slightly haunting narrative.  In general, this story was interesting, but somewhat forgettable.  

17) “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell

Honors English 9 with Ms. Lopez 

Score: 2.5

James’ Score: 3.0

Nina’s Score: 2.0

James’ Words: “St. Lucy’s” is one of those stories that has a really interesting concept and then refuses to make it interesting. So much of the story is left unsaid and instead of building out this world of wolves and humans both being prominent in society they leave most questions unanswered.

Nina’s Words: This short story is one of the few things that I think about when I think of freshman English class.  We analyzed this story so much.  Though the actual story is very interesting, and it’s a concept I wish was developed more, it ultimately ends up being the exact type of thing you’d expect to find in an English class.  

T-15) “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 3.5

James’ Score: 2.0

Nina’s Score: 4.5

James’ Words: This story again has a pretty interesting concept, but it executes it in such a clunky way. The mental disorder portrayed in “The Yellow Wallpaper” just doesn’t come across right in my opinion and works much better as a period piece commenting on the patriarchal ways of the time.

Nina’s Words:  I actually really enjoyed this story, and thought the concept was beautifully tragic and well thought out.  It was realistic and also horrifying, and I think the societal message about gender norms really shines through this story.  This was one of my favorite short stories that I have read throughout high school. 

T-15) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 3.25

James’ Score: 3.5

Nina’s Score: 3.0

James’ Words: This book goes back and forth between the story of the family of Henrietta Lacks and the advancement of stem cells in the medical field. The story part of the book is actually pretty good and very interesting. The science part of the book drags and makes the story as a whole unenjoyable.

Nina’s Words: Henrietta Lacks’ story is so compelling and important to the scientific community, so for this book to be as boring as it was was a total disappointment.  I really enjoyed learning about the familial relationships surrounding Henrietta, and wanted more about the actual legal conflict.  Instead, we get some of that mixed with scientific details that are too in depth for me to stay engaged with, so the story ends up being completely diluted.

14) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

AP Lang with Mr. Augello

Score: 3.75

James’ Score: 4.0

Nina’s Score: 3.5

James’ Words: Similar to Henrietta Lacks, when this book is talking about Chris McCandless it is very intriguing and makes you want to keep reading. When it talks about most of the other explorers, especially Krakuer himself, the book drags. I wish this book was exclusively the story about the man who walked into Alaska and never walked out.

Nina’s Words: A book about a true story should never end up being about the author.  Chris McCandless’ life story is straight out of a movie, and yet, Krakauer can’t help but chop the narrative up so much with details about completely different things.  I just wanted this book to be more about Chris himself rather than Krakauer’s feelings about Chris.  

13)  Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 4.0

James’ Score: 5.5

Nina’s Score: 2.5

James’ Words: While we only read a part of this book, I really enjoyed watching Louie Zamperini’s growth from a track and field Olympian to a WWII pilot. There was almost no part of this I didn’t enjoy, other than the fact that we did not read it cover to cover.

Nina’s Words: This book was largely forgettable to me, and I really have no problem with it.  I love WWII stories, and it was cool to read about the action from Zamperini’s perspective.  When thinking about the ranking however, it just got overshadowed by too many other stories in my opinion.

12) Antigone by Sophocles

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 4.25

James’ Score: 4.5

Nina’s Score: 4.0

James’ Words: I loved reading this story in class. It is a play, so everyone in class was assigned a part to read. What I didn’t love was the plot. The character’s motives, especially Antigone herself at the beginning, are often unclear and make the story itself confusing.

Nina’s Words:  This was a really fun read, especially since we got to read and act it out as a class.  The story was very typical of a stereotypical tragedy, and the ending was definitely tragic.  Sometimes though, characters in these kinds of stories just make silly decisions for silly reasons, and that is this play.

T-10) Othello by William Shakespeare

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 5.0

James’ Score: 5.0

Nina’s Score: 5.0

James’ Words: Another play, and another very similar experience with reading parts out loud. The reason I give it the edge over Antigone is that I much more enjoy the story Shakespeare tells and I think the third act is hilarious in the fact that… well you can read the book for yourself.

Nina’s Words:  This play was a lot of fun, again in part due to reading the parts aloud.  I think the story is once again typical of a Shakespearean play, but is still all the more interesting.  It’s hard to discuss this book without getting too far into the plot though, so all I’ll say is that this play embodies what it means to be at the middle of this list (that is to say I’m fairly impartial).

T-10) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 5.0

James’ Score: 1.5

Nina’s Score: 8.5

James’ Words: It is well documented how much I despise this “work” of literature. The phrase I keep going back to is that it is overly saturated with fancy diction. Oh, and the entire story is told in past tense through the form of letters, something that has zero bearing on the story. Just tell it in the present Mary, it’s a lot less confusing. The only interesting part of this entire story is when the monster first encounters humans. Everything before and after that is such a dreadful experience I have no idea how critically acclaimed and well renowned this book is. I cannot recommend this book at all.

Nina’s Words: I really enjoyed this book.  I think it has an excellent social commentary, and I thought that the way it was told, though sometimes confusing, made sense in the context of the story.  I’m not sure that I could disagree more with James here– it has such an important message in my eyes, and I think the story is tragic and beautiful.  I would read this again.  

9) Oedipus the King by Sophocles

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 5.75 

James’ Score: 6.0

Nina’s Score: 5.5

James’ Words: I really liked Oedipus. While it is sort of frustrating and wildly uncomfortable, part of the reason I love it is because it preludes Antigone and it is really interesting to see reasons for certain characters’ motivations. The reason it stays lower on this list is just because of how agonizing it is when the audience is clued in on the prophecy way before the characters, then having to watch them slowly unfold this mystery.

Nina’s Words:  I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I thought the plot was really interesting, and the characters were well thought out and their motivations made sense.  It was full of drama and the ending was once again, very typical of a tragedy.  In all honesty, many traditional stories end up blending together for me, especially when they connect to one another the way Oedipus and Antigone do.  

8) Hamlet by William Shakespeare

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 6.5

James’ Score: 6.5

Nina’s Score: 6.5

James’ Words: Hamlet is, for good reason, one of the most known Shakespearean plays of all time. Ironically, my least favorite character in the story is Hamlet. He spends a ton of time whining about his parents, and I feel the story is carried by some of the lesser characters such as Laertes, Horatio, and Polonius. The dynamic between Laertes, Ophelia, and Polonius is in my opinion what makes this story so enjoyable.

Nina’s Words:  This was the one Shakespeare story that we read which really stood out to me.  It’s like a normal Shakespearean tragedy on steroids.  Everything that happens throughout this story is as dramatic as it possibly could be, and it’s really an entertaining read.  I do agree with James in the sense that Hamlet could be a little annoying at times, but overall the whole story was really engaging.  

7) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 6.75

James’ Score: 7.5

Nina’s Score: 6.0

James’ Words: This story is all over the place in the best way possible. There are almost two entirely different stories in it, and as soon as the plot starts to drag they ramp it all the way back up again. Despite all of the tragedies you’ll read in high school, I think there’s an argument to be made that Janie has one of the saddest and most tragic stories you’ll read.

Nina’s Words:  This story was so sad because it felt so real.  I loved the way it felt like I was just listening to someone tell a story passed through their family, and how the characters were all so human.  The only thing I don’t enjoy about this book is the phonetic style of character dialogue.  It made this book pretty difficult to understand at times because I had to stop and figure out what the characters were even saying to one another– at some points it felt like I wasn’t even reading words.

6) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 7

James’ Score: 7

Nina’s Score: 7

James’ Words: This absurdist play is a non-canonical sequel to Hamlet. I like this play a lot better than its predecessor because it not only makes perfect logical sense along with Hamlet, but it is also wildly funny. It’s a little convoluted at times but it’s still a wildly enjoyable read.

Nina’s Words:  I was super excited to read this book, because I was so interested to see what an absurdist comedy was like.  Let’s just say I was not disappointed.  Anything random that can happen in this play will happen, and I think my favorite part is just how self-aware the whole thing is.  It will give you whiplash and I highly recommend.  

5) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 8.25

James’ Score: 8.5

Nina’s Score: 8

James’ Words: Gatsby is one of those stories that can appeal to anyone. The titular character is so extravagant yet intriguing that the pages almost turn themselves. My only gripe with this story is that I would have liked more, and it kind of ends abruptly just as all of the storylines are connecting. 

Nina’s Words:  This book was one of the ones that I read and enjoyed, but was a little disappointed in.  It had a lot of hype, and the story was fantastic.  The characters were intriguing, the action was believable and the ending was tragic.  I just wish there was more story.  It felt like there was a lot of description– I’m not sure anything happened in the first chapter at all.  I also thought it was an interesting choice to have Nick serve as the narrator.  I think it left a lot of questions and uncertainties, but in a good way.

T-3) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Honors English 9 with Ms. Lopez

Score: 8.5

James’ Score: 9.5

Nina’s Score: 7.5

James’ Words: This is one of the first books you read in Lopez’s classroom freshman year. It’s a wonderfully heartbreaking story that leaves you wanting more. The characterization is impeccable and the foreshadowing in it is unlike anything else you’ll read in high school. 

Nina’s Words:  I enjoyed this story, and thought it was just so genuinely sad.  There’s no other way to describe it.  I don’t even have any other commentary about this, simply because it’s just so heartbreaking and well-written.  

T-3) Night by Eli Wiesel 

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 8.5

James’ Score: 8

Nina’s Score: 9

James’ Words: I think Night is such a haunting book that it’s hard for me to say that I “like” it, that being said I definitely respect it. It’s such a compelling story that leaves you shattered from start to finish. I also love the follow up poem assignment Ms. Sachs has us do it.

Nina’s Words:  I absolutely love reading about WWII stories, and this book was no exception.  The horrific events of the holocaust told in this way was the most heartbreaking and devastating thing I think I have ever read.  This book is a treasure, and I feel such a deep sense of respect and overwhelming amount of grief for Eli Weisel.

2) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Honors English 10 with Ms. Sachs

Score: 9.25

James’ Score: 9

Nina’s Score: 9.5

James’ Words: Oh man, Lord of the Flies is such a captivating book that only leaves you wanting more. It’s got some absolutely wonderful commentary on the flaws of man, and during this book I learned something that’s stuck with me ever since: an author’s ending sentence of a story is so crucial, as it is the lasting impression to the audience. I also love the way the kids go about problem solving and constructing a society. This book really hits the nail on the head.

Nina’s Words: This story was captivating and engaging from the very beginning.  The characters are so dynamic and understandable, and I think the statements made by this book are absolutely gut wrenching.  The idea that these characters would ever do the things they do still twists my stomach.  It was a fantastic read and I genuinely enjoyed dissecting and understanding all the symbolism and literary techniques in this book.  

1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

AP Lit with Mrs. Hirsch

Score: 10

James’ Score: 10

Nina’s Score: 10 

James’ Words: While The Handmaid’s Tale was assigned to us, every day I was excited to go and read it. I’ve said earlier that other books’ pages have turned themselves, well this book’s pages practically flew by. Atwood did a fantastic job of world building and from the very beginning you have nothing but questions, and a good portion of them are answered. If you don’t plan on taking AP Lit, I highly recommend you still read this book.

Nina’s Words:  If I had to describe any book that we read in high school as perfect, it would be this one.  The Handmaid’s Tale was so horrifically beautiful, and I had fun reading it.  I looked forward to reading it.  I was rooting for the main character the entire time, and felt the tension and danger seeping through the page.  This dystopian world was so well-crafted and incredibly written.  This book was the easiest to rank simply because I knew it would be number one.  I cannot recommend it enough.