SAT Recommended Reading List
For many students, the reading section of the SAT can be a formidable undertaking.
The passages might be on topics that the students are unfamiliar with, the vocabulary might be old-fashioned or above the student’s grade-level, and the syntax of the passages might be complex and confusing.
While taking practice tests and studying vocabulary can help students with the reading section, one of the best things a student can do is to become more familiar with these types of texts in general.
Think about it: the average SAT reading passage is only 750 words. The average number of words in a scientific article is 4,500-7,500 words. The average book is 70,000 to 120,000 words. You would have to take almost 100 SAT practice tests to get the exposure that one book will give you.
By reading longer works, such as full articles, historical essays, and even entire novels, you will be able to increase the ease with which you read and comprehend the SAT reading material. This will not only increase your accuracy with the questions, but it will also improve your time management, as you can spend less time struggling to get through the passage!
Here’s a reading list below to get you started. It’s divided by category based on the 4 types of SAT reading passages—Fiction, Natural Science, Social Science, and Founding (Historical) Documents—so that you can pick and choose a little of everything or focus on your biggest weakness. Don’t worry about reading them all! Go with what interests you.
But, remember, you don’t want to just read these texts; you want to comprehend them. To do this:
- Take note of any unfamiliar vocabulary and create your own vocabulary database.
- Utilize online resources to clarify parts of the texts you are unclear about.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (or any of Austen’s novels!)
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Native Son by Richard Wright
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Pearl by John Steinbeck (or any of Steinbeck’s novels!)
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Anna Karenina byLeo Tolstoy
- Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (or Remains of the Day)
- House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Short Stories or Novellas
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
- “The Dead” by James Joyce
- “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
- “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri
- “Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- “To Build a Fire” by Jack London
- The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
- Hyperspace by Michio Kaku
- Gravity in Reverse by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
- The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Trials by Oliver Sacks
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall
- Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski
- The Story of Science by Joy Hakim
- Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik
- This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
Magazines or Scientific Journals
- National Geographic
- Scientific American
- Science Magazine
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t by Nate Silver
- Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan
- Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
- Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan
- The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger by Matthew Yglesias
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
Magazines or Academic Journals
- The Atlantic
- The Economist
- Time Magazine
- The New Yorker
Founding (Historical) Documents
Books or Collections of Essays
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
- Society and Solitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule by Mahatma Gandhi
- Democracy in America by Alex de Tocqueville
- Second Treatise of Civil Government by John Locke
- Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
- By Any Means Necessary by Malcolm X
- The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- The Federalist Papers written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison
Individual Essays or Texts
- United States Declaration of Independence
- Declaration of Sentiments
- “On Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau
- “Letters from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X
- “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
- Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
- “I am the First Accused” speech by Nelson Mandela
- “Freedom or Death” speech by Emmeline Pankhurst
- George Washington’s Farewell Address
- “Ain’t I A Woman” speech by Sojourner Truth
- “The Man with the Muck-Rake” speech by Theodore Roosevelt
- “Quit India” speech by Mahatma Gandhi
- “Duties of American Citizenship” by Theodore Roosevelt
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