The Top 7 Books to Read before You Graduate High School

Posted On March 31, 2021

Written by Dr. Keith Mathison, professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College

In our current age, it is evident that graduating high school students face many unique challenges. These students are entering a world that is itself in a state of rapid change, and the challenges they are facing are in constant motion.

When considering the list of books that I believe every student should read before graduating high school, I have to admit I was at something of a loss. The seven books I recommend today might not be the seven books I would have recommended five years ago, and neither list would be the same as the books I might recommend five years from now.

That said, the seven books I would recommend at the present time are those that might help students think more deeply about themselves, the changing world in which they find themselves, and their unchanging Creator.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

This book is older and somewhat dated, but I believe many of the major themes Postman addresses are still relevant. He examines the way in which television affected such things as education, politics, worship, and more. In many ways, television turned everything into a form of entertainment. I wish Postman had lived long enough to write a sequel on the impact of the Internet and social media on these same things, but his point remains valid. The medium does impact the message.

Nicholas Carr, The Shallows

In some ways, Carr’s book is related to Postman’s, but Carr focuses primarily on the way our use of the Internet has impacted the way we think. I’m not sure that most high schoolers today, who have never known life apart from the internet and social media, understand how it has changed things. Carr’s book helps us to begin thinking about these things.

Nancy Pearcy, Saving Leonardo

Pearcy has written a number of very helpful books, but I believe Saving Leonardo is the one that high schoolers most need to read. In it, she traces the impact that secular philosophies have had on science, art, music, painting, literature, film, etc. It’s an eye-opening and very helpful book.

Roland Bainton, Here I Stand

A biography of Martin Luther may seem like an odd choice for this list, but Luther’s life shows the kind of impact faithful actions by one person can have. We are not all called to be a Luther, but Luther’s life can be an inspiration for each of us to take a stand for truth, regardless of the personal cost.

Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity

Most Christians in the United States have some knowledge of the Reformation. And we may have some idea of where things stand today. But most Christians in America do not know how we got from there to here. I read Nathan Hatch’s book more than 25 years ago. It remains to this day one of the most helpful books I have ever read, and I recommend it whenever I get the chance. Here is my chance to recommend it to high schoolers. Know your history.

George Orwell, 1984

I recommend 1984 because tyranny of all kinds is a perennial threat in a fallen world. Orwell portrays the methods of one kind of tyranny particularly well, and we can see versions of some of these methods in the world around us today. Young men and women should be aware of these tactics when they encounter them.

John Owen, Communion with the Triune God

The biggest challenges faced by Christians of every generation are often not challenges that arise from the outside. The biggest challenges often arise from within our own hearts. John Owen is among the greatest of the English Puritan theologians, and this work is among the greatest of his works. I encourage high schoolers to consider this classic Christian work to remind them of the most important things. Regardless of the threats and challenges the world presents, those who are in communion with God always have reason to rejoice.


Dr. Keith Mathison is professor of systematic theology at Reformation Bible College.

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