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Essential Literary Reads for the School Year

Posted on 22nd July 2021 by Anna Orhanen

Get ready for the year to come with evergreen titles that are always popular choices on reading lists for English Literature. Whether you are preparing for GCSE or A-levels, or just fancy a really cracking read, explore these fantastic novels and plays that will open doors to different worlds and return you to this one with your eyes more open.

If you are studying these texts for your GSCE or A-levels, please note that the editions featured here are not necessarily the ones required by your school.

You can find the York Notes study guides the texts featured in these blogs here.

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Unsurpassed in its influence on literary love stories, Shakespeare’s immortal play about two young Veronese lovers caught in the crossfire of a family feud and power games is an unfading meditation on desire, duty, loyalty and choice.
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Through Ebenezer Scrooge’s moral journey, Dickens’ evergreen novella about personal transformation and the grotesqueries of greed provides a feel-good festive tale of eternal popularity.
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A sizzling, lyrical landmark piece of American drama, Tennessee William’s New Orleans-set masterpiece explores sexual desire, conflict, power and the fragility of happiness through the story of a Southern belle on a collision course with her barbaric brother-in-law.

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J.B. Priestley’s famed play about a wealthy family visited by a Police Inspector wishing to question them in connection to a working-class girl’s suicide weaves an ingenious, slow-burning tale of inequality and guilt.
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Through the haunting story of a group of schoolboys stranded on an island, Golding’s ever-relevant tale of survival and power explores the fragility of moral and social codes, illuminating both the darkest corners of the human mind and its infinite aptitude for hope and compassion.
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Filled with cruel intentions and impending doom, Shakespeare’s famous Scottish play about the titular King, driven to murder and madness for the sake of power, charts the darkest waters of greed, treason and guilt.
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One of the undisputed jewels of American fiction, Fitzgerald’s dazzling critique of the superficiality of the Jazz Age captures the glamorous facade at the heart of the American Dream in devastating style.
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A master manipulator turns an African Venetian army general against his wife in Shakespeare's powerful tragedy that delivers a harrowing tale of jealousy, prejudice and the sinister price of manly honour.
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Both an unforgettable portrait of defiance and authoritarian rule and a devastatingly powerful exploration of female oppression, The Handmaid's Tale is a classic dystopian vision with an all-too chilling resonance for our times.
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Accompanied by Stevenson’s other stories brimming with Gothic unease, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is chilling slice of Victorian psychological horror, mining a rich seam of split personality, remorse and the nature of evil.
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