When the College Board revised the SAT in 2016 it made the reading passages it tested not just more challenging but–we hate to admit it–better. Here are 101 things you can read that are actually really good and just might help you with the SAT.

Reading is the secret sauce of standardized tests. People who are “naturally” good at the SAT and ACT almost always turn out to have been big readers since they were in grade school.

This is no big surprise.

The SAT and ACT are, among other things, tests of reading speed and concentration. They ask people to sit in a chair and read a lot for hours at a time, just as books do. While it might be the case that the same characteristics that lead some kids to read voraciously might lead them to test well, it is also likely that reading widely and ambitiously cultivates abilities that pay off on standardized tests.

The redesigned SAT is clearly designed with this kind of reader in mind, the sort of student who enjoys Adam Smith and Zadie Smith. The texts on the Reading section are challenging, but they also tend to be interesting, which makes them a good source for students looking to raise their reading game and tackle sophisticated material. Figuring out what counts as a “complex text,” to use a favorite term of the College Board, can be a challenge in itself.  That’s why we made this list, so you don’t have to figure that part out.

We don’t expect anyone to read this whole list, but we recommend reading not just what appeals to you but unfamiliar genres as well. Don’t worry if some of the texts are difficult. Challenging yourself is good, and not just because you’ll be reading works like these in college. Don’t wait to start reading these works until junior year, either.  Ninth graders should be able to tackle a lot of them.

Keep in mind, too, that being able to comprehend complex texts will probably not be enough to ace the SAT. You’ve got to know how to work the questions as well. Don’t worry:  we’ve got you covered when it comes to the test itself!

The list includes short works and books, categorized by genre. The SAT reading section contains 6 passages. It always includes one fictional passage, two science passages, a social science passage, and an historical passage. One of these passages is short and paired with another passage. These paired passages are frequently historical, and they often capture some contentious debate in American history. Because they employ literary techniques that might be unfamiliar to contemporary students, historical passages are the most challenging for many students, which is why practice with them is important.

Whenever possible, we include a link to the shorter texts. Links do occasionally expire. Please let us know if they have. Some of the books and passages in this list, in red-type, come from released SAT exams. The rest of the texts are typical of the material that appears on the SAT.

[bg_sort_this_table pagination=1 perpage=50 showsearch=0 showinfo=0 responsive=1 lang=”en”]Author Title Genre
Richard Prum
The Evolution of Beauty Biology
Virgina Woolf Three Guineas Historical
Charlotte Bronte The Professor Fiction
Nicholas Carr The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains Technology
Taras Grescoe Strap Hangers:   Saving Our Cities From Ourselves Urban Studies
Thor Hanson Feathers Zoology
Mary Wollstonecraft A Vindication of the Rights of Women Historical
Richard Holmes
The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
History
Emily Anthes Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts Zoology
Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France Historical
Thomas Paine Rights of Man Historical
William Maxwell The Folded Leaf Fiction
Catherine Beecher Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism Historical
Angelina Grimke Letters to Catherine Beecher Historical
Joshua Foer Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Psychology
George Eliot Silas Marner Fiction
Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America, Vol 2 Historical
Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Angel’s Game Fiction
Daniel Chamowitz What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses Biology
Amit Chaudhuri A Strange and Sublime Address Fiction
Nicholas Epley Mindwise:   How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want Psychology
Philip Roth American Pastoral Fiction
Mary Robinson A Letter to the Women of England on the Injustice of Mental Subordination Historical
Amy Tan The Bonesetter’s Daughter Fiction
Marlene Zuk Paleofantasy:   What Evolution Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live Biology
Dinaw Mengestu The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears Fiction
Adam Alter Drunk Tank Pink and Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave Psychology
Charles Dickens American Notes for General Circulation Journalism
Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie Fiction
Giovanni Frazetto Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love: What Neuroscience Can–and Can’t–Tell Us About How We Feel Psychology
David Grimm “The genes that turned wildcats into kitty cats,” Science Zoology
Helen Shen “Stickleback genomes reveal path of evolution,” Nature Zoology
Brian Switek “The Origin of a Little Tyrant,” Smithsonian Dinosaurs
Jane Austen Persuasion Fiction
Julie Sedivy Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages,” Nautilus Psychology
Douglas Emlen Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle Zoology
Alexander Hamilton A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress Historical
Duke Ellington “We, Too, Sing America.” Historical
Jane Austen Mansfield Park Fiction
Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique Historical
Christine Dell’Amore Should We Save the Wolves of Isle Royale?National Geographic Zoology
Fenella Saunders Copper, Heal Thyself,” American Scientist Chemistry
Ayana Mathis Twelve Tribes of Hattie Fiction
Jenny Jennings Foerst Even Birdbrains Learn From Experience,” American Scientist Zoology
Shirley Chisholm Address to House of Representatives, 21 May 1969 Historical
Phyllis Schlafly What’s Wrong with Equal Rights for Women? Historical
Francie Diep Invasive Flower Adapted To Conquer, Study Finds,” Popular Science Botany
George Eliot Middlemarch Fiction
Isabel Allende Maya’s Notebook Fiction
Pam Frost Garder Look, something shiny! How color images can influence consumers Psychology
Phil McKenna Butterflies remember caterpillar experiences,New Scientist Zoology
Michael Pollan The Intelligent Plant,” The New Yorker Botany
James Kent Who Should Be Allowed to Vote? History
Joshua Greene Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them Psychology
Elizabeth Gilbert Stern Men Fiction
David Buel Who Should Be Allowed to Vote? History
Elizabeth Gamillo Why your pet rabbit is more docile than its wild relative,” Science Zoology
Jon Cohen Neanderthal ‘minibrains’ grown in dish,Science Biology
Matthew Hutson A.I. researchers allege that machine learning is alchemy,” Science Psychology
Michael Price Why monkeys can’t talk—and what they would sound like if they could,” Science Zoology
Erik Stokstad Why did a humpback whale just save this seal’s life?Science Zoology
Elizabeth Pennisi “Sea lions exposed to toxic algae fail memory test,Science Zoology
Eric Hand Ancient magma plumbing found buried below moon’s largest dark spot,” Science Astronomy
Robert F. Service Skyscrapers could soon generate their own power, thanks to see-through solar cells,” Science Technology
Sara Chodosh Labeling GMOs might not actually make them seem scarier,” Popular Science Sociology
Jane Addams Why Women Should Vote Historical
Amelia Earhart A Woman’s Place in Science Historical
Angelina Grimké Weld Speech in Pennsylvania Hall Historical
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Address on Woman’s Rights Historical
Lucy Stone Disappointment Is the Lot of Women Historical
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper “We Are All Bound Up Together Historical
Mary Church Terrell “The Progress of Colored Women Historical
Mary M. Bethune What Does American Democracy Mean to Me Historical
Gene Tracy Learning to See,American Scientist Anthropology
Jonathan Salerno, Lin Cassidy, Michael Drake, Joel Hartter Living in an Elephant Landscape,” American Scientist Ecology
Brian G. Southwell, Emily A. Thorson, Laura Sheble The Persistence and Peril of Misinformation,” American Scientist Psychology
Michelle Nijhuis How Climate Change is Helping Invasive Species Take Over,” Smithsonian Ecology
Jason Daley Our Galaxy Is Really Greasy and Smells of Mothballs,” Smithsonian Astronomy
Katherine J. Wu Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue,Smithsonian Evolution
Lindsay Grace The Original ‘Space Invaders’ Is a Meditation on 1970s America’s Deepest Fears,” Smithsonian Sociology
Robert Sapolsky Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Psychology
Robert Sapolsky Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Psychology
Lisa Feldman Barrett How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain Psychology
Lee Alan Dugatkin How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) Zoology
James Madison Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (on the Bill of Rights) Historical
Thomas Jefferson First Inaugural Address Historical
Ralph Waldo Emerson “Self-Reliance” Historical
Chinese-American Merchants “The Chinese Question from a Chinese Standpoint” Historical
Jack Woodfors and James G. Harbord “Radio:  A Blessing or a Curse?” Historical
George Marshall “The Marshall Plan” Historical
The Economist magazine Science and Technology and Arts and Books sections Science/Social Sciences
Nature journal Free “News” content Science
Dylan Selterman What a Simple Psychological Test Reveals About Climate Change,” National Geographic Ecology
National Geographic magazine Free Content Science/Social Sciences
Mohsin Hamid Exit West Fiction
Edith Wharton House of Mirth Fiction
Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Fiction
Marilynne Robinson Housekeeping Fiction
J. M. Coetzee Waiting for the Barbarians Fiction
Mary Shelley
Frankenstein Fiction

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