English Major Starter Kit – 99 Essential Books All Aspiring English Majors Should Read

English Major checklist of must read books

Let’s get one fact straight right from the get go: no, reading these books will not make you a straight A student.

What it will do, however, is prep you for the kind of text you will not only be exposed to, but expected to read and dissect as an English major. While I read Jane Austen’s books and a few other classics on my own time in high school, it wasn’t enough to fully prepare me for the dense and often dull books I would be forced to read and study in university. (No, you won’t be reading Harry Potter. And if you are, I feel gypped!)

As an English Major (just like my book blogging buddy, Amber), I wish I had jumped on the Interwebs and looked for lists like this one. Mind you, I graduated high school in 2008 and had just got a Facebook account the year before, so I do give myself some slack on this account.

Nevertheless, we realize there are a TON of reading lists out there. What makes ours different is that this is a compilation of books we were actually required to read (in their entirety or excerpts from) through our four year post-secondary agony journey.

You can download our FREE English Major Starter Kit list here by subscribing to our email list.

99 Essential Books All Aspiring English Majors Should Read

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen 
  2. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen 
  3. Emma – Jane Austen 
  4. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen 
  5. Persuasion – Jane Austen 
  6. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
  8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  9. Villette – Charlotte Brontë
  10. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley 
  1. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  2. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  3. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  4. Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  5. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  6. The Legend Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving
  7. A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  8. Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  9. The Awakening – Kate Chopin 
  10. Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole 
Picture of classic books english majors needs to read
  1. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stephenson
  2. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe 
  3. Incidents In the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet Ann Jacobs 
  4. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolfe
  5. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolfe
  6. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway 
  7. That Summer in Paris – Morley Callaghan 
  8. Le Morte d’Arthur – Thomas Malory 
  9. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl  
  11. Beowulf  – Unknown
  12. Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri
  13. Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
  14. Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Philip K. Dick
  15. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  16. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  17. Clarissa – Samuel Richardson
  18. Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
  19. Songs of Innocence and Experience – William Blake
  20. Astrophil and Stella – Philip Sidney
  1. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald 
  2. Poetics – Aristotle
  3. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath 
  4. Ariel – Sylvia Plath 
  5. Tender Buttons – Gertrude Stein
  6. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  7. Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  8. Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare
  9. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  10. Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy 
  11. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Mary Wollstonecraft
  12. Utopia – Thomas Moore
  13. Everyman – Unknown
  14. Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  15. Love Poems – Ovid
  16. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
  17. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
  18. Wide Sargaso Sea – Jean Rhys
  19. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway 
  20. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammet 

Photo of Secret Garden List of Classics for English Majors
  1. Frannie and Zooey – J.D. Salinger
  2. Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  3. Iliad – Homer
  4. Odyssey – Homer
  5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
  6. Lyrical Ballads – William Wordsworth
  7. Selected Poems – Emily Dickinson
  8. The Complete Poems – John Keats
  9. The Fairie Queene – Edmund Spenser
  10. Songs and Sonnets – John Donne
  1. Little Women – Louisa Alcott
  2. Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
  3. Leaves of Grass – Mark Twain
  4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain 
  5. The Glass Menagerie – Tennesse Williams
  6. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell 
  7. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Daisy Miller – Henry James
  9. Howl – Allen Ginsberg
  10. Evelina – Frances Burney 

Pile of Must ReadClassic Books for English Majors
  1. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
  2. Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
  3. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert 
  4. Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
  5. Tess of the d’Ubervilles – Thomas Hardy 
  6. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift 
  7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Gawain Poet
  8. The Book of Margery Kempe – Margery Kempe
  9. Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
  10. Biographia Literaria – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  1. The Rights of Man – Thomas Paine
  2. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  3. The Lady of Shalott – Alfred Tennyson
  4. Walden – Henry James Thoreau
  5. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Henry James
  6. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  7. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy 
  8. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  9. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas 

Checklist of Must Read Books for English Majors

There’s a lot of books, so we made a printable PDF checklist of every must read book for English Majors. Hang it on your wall, your fridge, your bathroom mirror, wherever.

Subscribe to our email list for the full printable list. Click here!

If you are a current English Major, drop a comment below and let us know what kinds of books are on your syllabus! We would love to know how things have changed and add it to our current reading list.



7 thoughts on “English Major Starter Kit – 99 Essential Books All Aspiring English Majors Should Read

  1. I’m working on it 😅 Somehow as an English major I just ended up rereading the same, like, 10 books over and over. So that’s basically what my blog is about—reading what I should have already read by now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nice, that’s a great focus for your blog! That’s too bad you had to keep rereading the same ones. I’m curious,which books were you rereading? Despite having read quite a bit at school there are definitely some classics still on my list that I want to get through that I never got the chance to read. – Amber


      1. I had to read Heart of Darkness a few times, and I’m not a big fan of it, to be honest. Pride and Prejudice, The Age of Innocence, The Death of a Salesman, and The House of Mirth are others, but I did like them a lot and would recommend them if you haven’t gotten around to them yet.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I had to read Heart of Darkness once and it is probably my least favourite book. I’m so glad I didn’t have to read it more than once. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, but I haven’t read those other ones. I’ll definitely add them to my list of classics to read, thanks!


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