Classic reads for teenagers (and adults)

To order this or any of the books below, please click on any of the book covers to come to the Amazon order site.

  Before browsing in some of the all-time-great novels below, I would like to recommend The Third Culture Kid Experience to all parents of children who have lived or will live abroad for a year or more. It is very relevant also to teenagers and young adults with experience from outside Norway.

Classics set in the USA


Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots
by Adeline Yen Mah

The story of a Chinese woman and how she suffered appalling emotional deprivation and rejection by her family as a child growing up in China and Hong Kong. She tells of the consequences in her adult life, above which she rose to make a happy marriage and become a successful doctor in the USA. This is suitable for both teenagers and adults.




The Tortilla Curtain

T. Coraghessan Boyle

This book is set in Los Angeles and focuses strongly on two couples from totally different social and economical backgrounds. Kyra and Delaney Mossbacher are the upper class Americans; while Candido and America Rincon are illegal immigrants from South of the border.....Mexico.


To Kill a Mocking Bird

Harper Lee

The Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the violent, intolerant, eccentric, humorous and prejudiced Deep South, seen through the eyes of children in the 1930s. Scout and Jem Finch lose their innocence when their lawyer father defends a Negro charged with the rape of a white girl.



Summer of My German Soldier (Puffin Teenage Books)
by Bette Greene

When Patty Bergen sold a red pencil-sharpener to the German prisoner in her father's store, a friendship was started that was to bring her much unhappiness, but also the greatest joy she'd ever known. This is an unusual and moving story set in wartime Arkansas.


Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck

The USA during the Great Depression


Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

A seminal work of American literature that still commands deep praise and elicits controversy, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul.



Classics from Asia, Australia and New Zealand




Margaret Mahy

This is a beautifully written, emotionally complex novel with a clattering narrative-drive and a charismatic rogue of a hero. Set in New Zealand but relevant to people living everywhere.

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy

This is Mahy's latest novel and like her others, once you begin reading it, you just want to read on. I'm not sure why, but it reminds me of the Harry Potter books in a way. There's the supernatural and the completely normal world of school all blended together in a sort of eery way... It's NOT the same as Potter but maybe if you like Potter, then you'll enjoy this too.

Memoirs of a Geisha (Vintage) by Arthur Golden

Covering more than 20 years of Japan's most dramatic history, the geisha's story uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. It moves from a small fishing village in 1929 to the glamorous and decadent Kyoto of the 30s and on to postwar New York. This is most suitable for older teenagers and grown-ups and will help give a more balanced view of the geisha traditions before going to Japan.



Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter (Puffin Teenage Books)
by Adeline Yen Mah

The story of a Chinese girl during the second World War and the Chinese Revolution. She grew up unwanted by her family in China and Hong Kong. This is especially suitable for teenagers but I read it before reading Falling Leaves and found it absolutely fascinating.

Classics set in Africa


No Turning Back

Beverly Naidoo

Escaping from his violent stepfather, Sipho heads for Johannesburg, where he has heard that gangs of children live on the streets. But Sipho has to learn who to trust in the "new" South Africa. This is another highly recommended book by my own Norwegian pupils in Upper Secondary School, foundation class. (videregående grunnkurs)



Things Fall Apart


First published in 1958, this is the story of a "strong" man whose life is dominated by fear and anger. It is also a social document, recounting the impact of colonialism and Christianity on the life of an African tribe - the Ibo - in turn-of-the-century Nigeria.


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith

The Tears of the Giraffe, The Kalahari Typing School for Men and several other novels are all set in Botswana. Apart from being great fun to read, they give you a genuine feel of Africa. The author is a Scot but has lived many years in Africa and knows what daily life is like there.



The River Between


This is about life on the Makuyu and Kameno ridges of Kenya in the early days of white settlement. Faced with an alluring, new religion and 'magical' customs, the Gikuyu people are torn between those who fear the unknown and those who see beyond it. Very highly recommended and relevant also to today's western world in many ways.



Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Alexandra Fuller

Set in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, this is a remarkable description of how life has been for a white family in this and other former colonial African countries.


The Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

Marlow voyages into the wildness and jungle of the Belgian Congo to meet Kurtz, a company agent, and having found him, realizes that Kurtz has won supremacy over the natives through unrestrained violence. The story explores the workings of the subconscious, and addresses political imperialism.


Classics often popular with girls:



Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

and / or any of her other 5 masterpieces




Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë

Mystery, suspense, love, horror, sorrow …



Margaret Atwood

A young divorcee returns to the remote island of her childhood in Northern Canada to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she is gradually drawn back into her past as the wild island exerts its elemental hold.

Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939. She is Canada's most eminent novelist.


Great novels everyone should read


Animal Farm
George Orwell

Since its publication in 1946, George Orwell's fable of a workers' revolution gone wrong has been recognized as a classic of modern political satire.




Brave New World
Aldous Huxley

This novel is Huxley's nightmare vision of the future. Test tube babies, drugs and all the rest. Has his future reached us?


Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell

Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities. And this is where you learn where Big Brother originally came from...




The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway

This is THE fishing story !



Lord of the Flies

William Golding

This is the classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island. It is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954.




This is a reading of "Metamorphosis" ("Transformation"), a parable about a humble, industrious man, who on waking one morning finds himself transformed into a gigantic insect. In addition, "The Judgement" tells of a man who continues to love his father, despite mental torture.





The Nation's Favourite Poems

In 1995 BBC Television's "Bookworm" programme conducted a poll amongst viewers to determine their favourite poems. The top 100 are presented in this book. They include the winner, Kipling's "If", and many other classics, as well as modern verse by writers such as Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. This book may not contain all your favourites, but there's a good chance that you'll find many of them there - as well as some that are new to you.



Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorise
John Hollander (Editor)

This is another invaluable collection, including poems by Matthew Arnold, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Langston Hughes, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost.



The School Bag
Seamus Heaney (Editor), Ted Hughes (Editor)

Hughes is recently dead, Heaney absolutely still alive! Together they created this wonderful anthology of poetry.



Electric Light

By Seamus Heaney

If you love Heaney's poetry, or if you simply want to read some of the finest poetry written today, then here is the latest volume of Heaney's work.

  Finally - a MUST for everyone who travels

How to Travel with a Salmon and other essays

By Umberto Eco

This is a dazzling compendium of advice offering the correct answers to all sorts of questions. He tackles topics as diverse as the coffee pot from hell, eating on an aeroplane, how not to use a cellular phone and recognising porn movies, and all through Umberto Eco guides us with all his customary wit and brilliance through the complexities of the modern world.