High School Books About the Working Class

Labor, Philosophy, and Literature.

Now that’s a powerhouse trio!

high school books about the working class

High School Books About the Working Class

High School students are ready to think deeply about work. They are getting close to choosing their first steps on a career path and the labor associated with making their own way in the world and caring for their own homes. They are ready to think about the ideas behind people’s decisions, to explore the philosophies that shape societies and to determine for themselves what is sound and what is unsound in the prevailing thought of this age. They are ready to read challenging books, too.

Consider choosing some high school books about the working class. For an interesting study with your high schoolers, why not explore Plato’s Republic? The reading is demanding, but the ideas will make for fascinating discussion!

In Book II of Republic, Socrates (Plato’s main character) expounds on the idea that society should have a division of labor, and that the distribution of jobs should be based on a specialization of workers. Each man should determine what he does best, and then he should do it — and NO other job — for the good of himself and society.

Fishermen should fish. Builders should build. Farmers should farm. Weavers should weave. Poets should…write poetry!

As teens become old enough to work a part-time job, and as they begin to contemplate full-time employment in adulthood, it’s good for them to think about the underlying philosophy behind labor and vocation. God designed us for work (Gen. 2:15), and it is during the teen years that we can really do our kids a service by encouraging them to think about, understand, and pursue a healthy attitude toward work. Many suburban families in particular find it difficult to instill a healthy work ethic in their kids, as this article points out (it also offers some great ideas for making strides in this area if your family is struggling).

From the underlying philosophy, teens can move on to personal career exploration. Take a look at Vicki Tillman’s Career Exploration workbook in our ebookstore for practical and wise exercises to help a young person uncover God’s design for him or her as a worker here on earth.

Career Exploration Workbook

You can encourage your student to take note of the workers in various pieces of literature you read. Ask simple questions like:

Does this character have a good work ethic? How can you tell?

Does this person define himself by his work? Is that a good or bad thing?

Do you think this unstable character would benefit from more work or from more rest? Or does her work even matter to her stability?

For more high school books about the working class, check out these titles.

Books like these offer rich examples of characters for whom work is key:

You can find our no-busywork study guides to accompany these books by clicking the links above. 


If you have reluctant readers, Kym’s short video below offers some encouragement for helping them read good books in high school: When Homeschool High Schoolers Don’t Like to Read. 

High School Books About the Working Class

Sabrina Justison

20+ year homeschool mom and curriculum developer for 7SistersHomeschool.com. Fred's wife. Writing, drama, music, blogs, kids, shoes, coffee, & books in varying orders on various days. He is God, He is good & He loves me.

2 Replies to “High School Books About the Working Class”

  1. Thanks for sharing those terrific insights, Will! The pressure to turn every person into a knowledge worker sure does result in a lot of college debt for some folks who scratch their heads and wonder just how they accumulated it. We can all find our brains stirred by Plato and The Republic!

  2. Marvelous suggestion! Plato’s Republic, to my reading, is a book about vocation. People are called to a specific kind of work by one part of their soul, and Plato’s assertion is a bit startling today- he reckons the vast majority will be responding to their appetite. Not just farmers, but definitely an impulse to work with the things of this world- artisans, craftsmen, cooks, who would still use reason (to design a beautiful pot) and their will (to stay up late doing it), but in the service of their desire to literally make something of this world.
    What a strong message today, when everyone is supposed to be a knowledge worker and therefore vying to be a philosopher-king! There’s a difference between being personally guided by reason and deploying that reasoning power to guide society. Maybe we have enough chiefs, and not enough Indians?
    My experience with students reading The Republic- granted they were honors- was extremely positive. Several declared it would be their “desert island” book, which is curious because in that situation there wouldn’t be a kingdom to build!

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