Nostalgia Books That Defined Your Youth That You (Almost) Forgot About  

Lauren Slocum
3.7k votes 413 voters 27.8k views 25 items

List Rules Vote for the best books that you remember reading and that had an impact on you

Hey ‘80s and ‘90s kids: could you use a little refresher when it comes to the literature that lined the shelves of your academic career? Maybe you’re interested in revisiting some of the epic stories that you loved during your angsty teenage years? Check out this list of the best books you read in high school: popular books you read that pretty much convinced you that you are the deepest person ever. These books defined your youth and may even be the last books you actually read.

Maybe you loved reading! Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you were trying to rebel against the system by boycotting homework assignments. Either way, you'll still be able to appreciate the richness and the variety within these popular texts.

During a time when teachers, parents, and institutions were trying to mold our vulnerable young brains, much of the reading curriculum from our teenage years was weirdly rebellious and revolutionary. Self-discovery, dystopia, individualism, and revolution were just a few of the recurring themes in classic books like Animal Farm, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Outsiders, etc. The books listed here are timeless pieces that can be revisited and reevaluated at any time in your life, and we’re fortunate to have the exposure to these brilliant (and often controversial) authors.

So here is a list of some the greatest books (and plays) that should be familiar to you. If you’ve scanned the depths of your memory and cannot locate any of these titles, read the brief explanations for some concrete references. If you still cannot conjure any recollection, call Spark Notes and ask them about their return policy.
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Books That Defined Your Youth That You (Almost) Forgot About
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1 237 VOTES

To Kill a Mockingbird


At first, Boo Radley probably gave you the heebie-jeebies. You wanted to play with Scout, and you kind of wished Atticus Finch could be your dad. Along with these unforgettable characters, a story of the injustice of segregated 1930s Alabama unfolded, and you learned a lesson about false judgments and truth of character that you'll never forget. 

Also Ranked

#1 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#1 on 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Reading

#16 on Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines

#1 on The Greatest American Novels

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Books That Defined Your Youth That You (Almost) Forgot About
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Tom and Huck embark on adventures that most of us didn’t get to experience in our youths. They’re sneaky and mischievous, and they break all kinds of rules... no wonder we loved them! The also live with a sense of freedom and a spirit of uninhibited adventurism. Written in Vernacular English, this book remains a controversial part of education, earning more points for historical accuracy than grammatical accuracy.

Also Ranked

#33 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#5 on 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Reading

#7 on The Greatest American Novels

#76 on The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies

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The Harry Potter Series is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Books That Defined Your Youth That You (Almost) Forgot About
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Does it even need a description? I mean, really?! Because of our dear Harry, anyone with a scar on their forehead or round-framed glasses will forever fall victim to jokes about Hogwarts and Voldemort and Dementors. The series is extremely well-balanced, allowing the reader to identify with Harry on a broad (angsty) level, and creating a fantastic world of magic and wizards and captivating characters, making it one of the most memorable page-turners of our time.

Also Ranked

#2 on The Best Fantasy Book Series

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Romeo and Juliet is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Books That Defined Your Youth That You (Almost) Forgot About
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4 204 VOTES

Romeo and Juliet


The tale of “ancient grudge” that led to disastrous (and suicidal) "new mutiny." First there was Shakespeare, then there was Baz Luhrmann (and Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes... and that amazing soundtrack). 

These star-cross’d lovers did more than wrench our heart strings and instill an unrealistic expectation about love. They taught us all a lesson about ancient grudges. And, at the time, probably made us resent our parents even more.

Also Ranked

#48 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#2 on 35+ Books Everybody Lies About Reading

#26 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#22 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

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