Classic books, including 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee and 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë, on a shelf.

50 classics from (almost) everyone's high school reading list

Research shows that reading fiction encourages empathy . While more high school curriculums should include modern, diverse writers like Amy Tan and Malala Yousafzai, certain classics—like John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street"—endure. Some even make a comeback. George Orwell's "1984," a novel published in 1949 about a dystopian future where the government controls the truth, even surged to #6 on the bestseller list in January 2021, selling more than 24,000 copies following the insurrection in Washington D.C.

While books are ostensibly for anyone with a yearning to learn, sometimes parents, teachers, and school board officials disagree on what kids should or shouldn't read. The result of the push and pull between these groups then shapes the reading lists of millions across the country. According to Pen America , 1,648 different books were banned in schools across the United States between July 2021 and June 2022. These bans affected 138 school districts in 32 states, impacting the books an estimated 4 million students were allowed to read. The top three most frequently banned books were Maia Kobabe's "Gender Queer: A Memoir," George M. Johnson's "All Boys Aren't Blue," and Ashley Hope Pérez's "Out of Darkness."

Certain books deserve a first, second, or maybe even a third read. Using data from Goodreads released in January 2023, Stacker compiled a list of 50 timeless books, plays, and epic poems commonly found on high school reading lists. A total of 1,194 voters picked the most essential reading required for students. The final ranking is based on Goodreads' score, which considers multiple factors, including total votes each book received and how highly voters ranked each book.

Read on to see which classics made the list.

#50. Their Eyes Were Watching God

- Author: Zora Neale Hurston - Score: 4,143 - Average rating: 3.97 (based on 316,337 ratings)

A coming-of-age story set in early 1900s Florida, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" tackles a multitude of issues: racism, sexism, segregation, poverty, and gender roles, among others. Initially overlooked upon its release, Zora Neale Hurston's best-known work is now considered a modern American masterpiece thanks to work done in Black studies programs in the 1970s.

#49. Mythology

- Author: Edith Hamilton - Score: 4,148 - Average rating: 4.02 (based on 52,213 ratings)

Edith Hamilton's " Mythology " has been a standard of both reference and pleasure reading since its publication in 1942. The book was commissioned by an editor at the publisher Little, Brown and Company in 1939 to replace the outdated 1855 collection on the subject, " Bulfinch's Mythology ," and it remains a popular choice for educating students on the subject today. At nearly 500 pages, this hefty tome covers all the classic Greek, Roman, and Norse myths in one place, from the journeys of Odysseus and the Trojan War to Cupid and Psyche.

#48. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou's Autobiography, #1)

- Author: Maya Angelou - Score: 4,153 - Average rating: 4.28 (based on 492,982 ratings)

In the first of her seven memoirs, " I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ," Maya Angelou speaks of her early life growing up in the South, including the abuse and racism she faced. Before this, Angelou was known as a poet but was encouraged to try her hand at long-form writing following a party she attended with the legendary James Baldwin. This book sold 1 million copies, was nominated for a National Book Award, and spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

#47. Oedipus Rex (The Theban Plays, #1)

- Author: Sophocles - Score: 4,211 - Average rating: 3.72 (based on 200,721 ratings)

The tragic Greek play " Oedipus Rex " tells the shocking tale of King Oedipus, who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. The work of Sophocles has inspired many others across disciplines, including Igor Stravinsky's 1920s opera of the same name. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic concept of the Oedipus complex , a theory that children are sexually attracted to their opposite-sex parent, also derived from this work.

#46. Moby-Dick or, the Whale

- Author: Herman Melville - Score: 4,240 - Average rating: 3.53 (based on 528,908 ratings)

Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick or, the Whale"—the lengthy tale of a sea captain on the hunt for this great beast—was inspired by a real-life sperm whale attack that sank the Essex in 1820. Although the book sold less than 3,000 copies during Melville's lifetime, it is now considered an American classic. In September 2022, one collector paid a whopping $327,600 to obtain an 1853 edition of the novel.

#45. The Pearl

- Author: John Steinbeck - Score: 4,421 - Average rating: 3.51 (based on 218,730 ratings)

John Steinbeck's "The Pearl" tells the story of Kino, a poor diver trying to support his family by gathering pearls from gulf beds. He is only barely scraping by until he happens upon a giant pearl. Kino thinks this discovery will finally provide him with the financial comfort and security he has been seeking, but it ultimately brings disaster. The story addresses the reader's relationship to nature, the human need for connection, and the consequences of resisting injustice.

#44. The Importance of Being Earnest

- Author: Oscar Wilde - Score: 4,540 - Average rating: 4.18 (based on 345,903 ratings)

This comedic play by Oscar Wilde takes a satiric look at Victorian social values while following two men—Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff—as they tell lies to bring some excitement to their lives. "The Importance of Being Earnest" was Wilde's final play , and some consider it his masterpiece .

#43. The Red Badge of Courage

- Author: Stephen Crane - Score: 4,752 - Average rating: 3.28 (based on 99,854 ratings)

In "The Red Badge of Courage," Henry Fleming enlists in the Union Army, enticed by visions of glory. When the reality of war and battle sets in, Fleming retreats in fear. In the end, he faces his cowardice and rises to leadership. This American war novel was published in 1895 and is so authentic that it's easy to believe the author—born after the Civil War ended—was himself a veteran.

#42. The Taming of the Shrew

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 4,822 - Average rating: 3.77 (based on 164,742 ratings)

This five-act comedy tells the story of the courtship of the headstrong Katherine and the money-grubbing Petruchio, who is determined to subdue Katherine and make her his wife. After the wedding, Petruchio drags his new wife through the mud to their new home in the country. He proceeds to starve and deprive her of sleep to make his new bride submissive. The play, one of Shakespeare's most popular, has been both criticized for its abusive and misogynistic attitude toward women and praised as a challenging view of how women are supposed to behave.

#41. Slaughterhouse-Five

- Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Score: 4,858 - Average rating: 4.09 (based on 1,284,145 ratings)

In "Slaughterhouse-Five," Kurt Vonnegut tells the story of Billy Pilgrim—based on a real American soldier—who is "unstuck in time." He travels throughout the timeline of his life in a nonlinear fashion, forced to relive certain moments. He is first pulled out after he is drafted and captured in Germany during World War II. The book, which explores how humankind repeats history, has been banned or challenged in classrooms throughout the United States. It even landed in the Supreme Court in 1982 in Board of Education v. Pico , and the court held that banning the book violated the First Amendment.

#40. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

- Author: Mark Twain - Score: 5,170 - Average rating: 3.92 (based on 879,567 ratings)

"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" takes place in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, during the 1840s. Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck Finn witness a murder by Joe. After the boys stay silent, the wrong man is accused of the crime. When they flee, the whole town presumes them dead, and the boys end up attending their own funerals. Mark Twain's portrayal of Sawyer and Finn challenges the idyllic American view of childhood, instead showing children as fallible human beings with imperfections like anyone else.

#39. Crime and Punishment

- Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky - Score: 5,537 - Average rating: 4.25 (based on 798,073 ratings)

This Russian classic, published in 1886, tells the story of a former student named Rodion Raskolnikov, who is now impoverished and on the verge of mental instability. To get money—and to demonstrate his exceptionalness—he comes up with a murderous plan to kill a pawnbroker. Considered one of the first psychological novels , "Crime and Punishment" is also quite political as it explores the character's pull toward liberal views and his rebellion against them.

#38. A Separate Peace

- Author: John Knowles - Score: 5,561 - Average rating: 3.59 (based on 209,325 ratings)

In "A Separate Peace," John Knowles explores the friendship of two young men—the quiet, intellectual Gene Forrester and his extroverted, athletic friend Finny. Gene lives vicariously through Finny, but his jealousy ultimately ends in tragedy after he commits a subtle act of violence . The book examines themes of envy and the need to achieve.

#37. Death of a Salesman

- Author: Arthur Miller - Score: 6,178 - Average rating: 3.56 (based on 217,183 ratings)

Arthur Miller introduces readers to an aging Willy Loman , a traveling salesman nearing the end of his career. Loman decides he's tired of driving for work and asks for an office job in New York City, believing he is vital to the company. His boss ends up firing him. Loman is also faced with the fact that his son, Biff, is not as successful in life as he had hoped.

Ultimately, Loman takes his own life so his son can have the insurance money to jump-start a better life. After his death, only Loman's family attends his funeral. "Death of a Salesman" won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for drama.

#36. The Little Prince

- Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Score: 6,838 - Average rating: 4.32 (based on 1,871,036 ratings)

In "The Little Prince," a pilot whose plane has crashed in the Sahara desert meets a young boy from outer space. The boy is traveling from planet to planet in search of friendship. On the boy's home—an asteroid—he lived alone, accompanied only by a solitary rose. Once on Earth, the boy meets a wise fox who tells him he can only see clearly with his heart . The book's somber themes of imagination and adulthood have resonated with children and adults alike since it was published—it is now one of the most translated books of all time.

#35. The Old Man and the Sea

- Author: Ernest Hemingway - Score: 6,848 - Average rating: 3.80 (based on 1,036,482 ratings)

"The Old Man and the Sea" was Ernest Hemingway's final major work. The story follows an old man who catches a large fish, only to have it eaten by sharks before he can get it back to shore. Although many may see symbolism about life and aging in the book, Hemingway said there wasn't a deeper meaning in the prose.

#34. The Canterbury Tales

- Author: Geoffrey Chaucer - Score: 6,904 - Average rating: 3.52 (based on 211,378 ratings)

"The Canterbury Tales," written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, was one of the first major works of English literature. The story follows a group of pilgrims who tell tales during their journey from London to Canterbury Cathedral. The cast of characters—including a carpenter, cook, and knight, among others—paints a varied picture of 14th-century society. The stories  inspired the modern film "A Knight's Tale," starring Heath Ledger as a poor knight and Paul Bettany as Chaucer.

#33. Othello

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 6,966 - Average rating: 3.89 (based on 363,620 ratings)

Shakespeare wrote "Othello" in the early 17th century. The play tells the tragic story of Othello—a Moor and general in the Venetian army, and Iago—a traitorous low-ranking officer. Shakespeare tackles themes of racism, betrayal, and jealousy. While he refers to Othello as "Black," Shakespeare most likely meant he was darker-skinned than most Englishmen at the time and not necessarily of African descent.

#32. Flowers for Algernon

- Author: Daniel Keyes - Score: 7,235 - Average rating: 4.18 (based on 597,740 ratings)

The main character in "Flowers for Algernon" is Charlie Gordon, a man of low intelligence who becomes a genius after undergoing an experimental procedure. The experiment has already been performed on a lab mouse named Algernon. Gordon's intelligence opens his eyes to things he's never understood before, but he eventually loses his newly acquired knowledge. The mouse, who Gordon remembers fondly, dies. Daniel Keyes wrote the book after realizing his education was causing a rift between him and his loved ones, making him wonder what it would be like if someone's intelligence could be increased.

#31. Beowulf

- Author: Unknown - Score: 7,844 - Average rating: 3.47 (based on 283,839 ratings)

"Beowulf" is an epic poem —an original manuscript copy is housed in the British Library—of 3,000 lines. It was written in Old English somewhere between A.D. 700 and 1000 and tells the story of Beowulf, a nobleman and warrior in Sweden who is sent to Denmark to fight a swamp monster called Grendel.

#30. A Tale of Two Cities

- Author: Charles Dickens - Score: 8,085 - Average rating: 3.86 (based on 901,761 ratings)

"A Tale of Two Cities" famously starts: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…" Set in the late 1700s, Charles Dickens vividly writes about the time leading up to and during the French Revolution. The historical novel describes death and despair but also touches on themes of redemption.

#29. Wuthering Heights

- Author: Emily Brontë - Score: 8,214 - Average rating: 3.88 (based on 1,651,158 ratings)

"Wuthering Heights," published in 1847, was the first and only novel by Emily Brontë, who died a year later at 30. Brontë tells the tragic love story between Heathcliff, an orphan, and Catherine, his wealthy benefactor's daughter. Considered a classic in English literature, the novel shows readers how passionate and destructive love can be.

#28. The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings, #0)

- Author: J.R.R. Tolkien - Score: 8,552 - Average rating: 4.28 (based on 3,583,681 ratings)

" The Hobbit " is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who sets off on a journey through the fictional world of Middle-earth in search of adventure and treasure. J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote this book for his own kids, and it was an instant success in the children's book market. It also grew a keen following with older readers alongside the release of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in the 1960s, when it offered a great reprieve from the tumult of the times, and the big screen adaptation in the early 2000s.

#27. A Midsummer Night's Dream

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 8,974 - Average rating: 3.95 (based on 507,482 ratings)

Like many of Shakespeare's plays, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" explores the theme of love. This comedy shows the events that surround the marriage of Theseus, the duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, a former Amazon queen. The play also shares the stories of several other lovers influenced by the fairies who live in the forest near the wedding. The play is a favorite for actors and audiences, even today.

#26. The Grapes of Wrath

- Author: John Steinbeck - Score: 9,047 - Average rating: 3.99 (based on 852,960 ratings)

"The Grapes of Wrath" is considered a great American novel partly because it brought to light the destruction and despair caused by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The story follows Tom Joad after he is released from prison to find his family's Oklahoma farmstead empty and destroyed. Joad and his family later set off for a new life in California, only to face struggles along the way. The book, which focuses on hard work, won a  Pulitzer Prize  in 1940.

#25. Great Expectations

- Author: Charles Dickens - Score: 9,647 - Average rating: 3.79 (based on 751,833 ratings)

This Charles Dickens classic tells the story of Pip, an orphan who gets a chance at a better life through an anonymous benefactor. The plot mostly centers around Pip's regular visits to Miss Havisham, a wealthy recluse, and his love for her adopted daughter Estella, who is cold toward Pip until years later. Many consider the novel a great masterpiece .

#24. Frankenstein: The 1818 Text

- Author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley - Score: 10,277 - Average rating: 3.85 (based on 1,435,457 ratings)

At just 20 , Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley created what is often labeled as the first science fiction novel : "Frankenstein." While staying with a group of literary comrades, Lord Byron challenged his fellow writers to craft ghost stories. Shelley's story was sparked by a nightmare that ultimately became the classic novel about a mad scientist who created a monster from the body parts of corpses, then brought the creature to life.

#23. Julius Caesar

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 10,472 - Average rating: 3.70 (based on 191,622 ratings)

Shakespeare takes on history with "Julius Caesar," a tragic story of power and betrayal. Brutus, who worked closely with Caesar, joined his fellow conspirators to assassinate Caesar to save the republic from a tyrannical leader. The events had the opposite effect when, only two years later, Caesar's grandnephew was crowned the first emperor of Rome. The play marked a political shift in Shakespeare's writing.

#22. The Outsiders

- Author: S.E. Hinton - Score: 10,564 - Average rating: 4.12 (based on 1,193,939 ratings)

S.E. Hinton introduced readers to 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis in "The Outsiders," a novel she started to write when she was 16. The plot centers around two rival gangs: the lower-class Greasers and the well-off Socials. It touches on teen angst , including the frustrations young people have when they can't rely on adults to change things while also not knowing how to fix things themselves. Hinton's publishers encouraged her to publish under her initials because they didn't think the public would respect a book about teenage boys by someone with the feminine name of Susan Eloise Hinton.

#21. Brave New World

- Author: Aldous Huxley - Score: 10,853 - Average rating: 3.99 (based on 1,711,789 ratings)

In "Brave New World," published in 1932, Aldous Huxley paints a picture of a dystopian future where people consume pills called soma to get a sense of instant bliss without side effects. Emotions, individuality, and lasting relationships aren't allowed. A preordained class system is decided at the embryonic stage, with certain people getting hormones for peak mental and athletic fitness. Some historians believe the book's plot could represent the future in the next 100 years.

#20. Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)

- Author: Elie Wiesel - Score: 11,080 - Average rating: 4.36 (based on 1,150,070 ratings)

"Night," the first in a trilogy of books, is the most well-known of the more than 50 works Elie Wiesel produced in his lifetime. In just over 100 pages, Wiesel recounts his experiences at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during the Holocaust—a history he felt compelled to share, as he stated in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech , "Because, if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices." The impact of this book has only grown since its publication in 1956, with educators teaching the book in schools for decades and book sales soaring alongside current events, including Wiesel's death in July 2016.

#19. The Crucible

- Author: Arthur Miller - Score: 11,619 - Average rating: 3.60 (based on 380,466 ratings)

This 1953 play is a dramatized version of the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s. In the novel, a group of young girls are dancing in the forest; when caught, they fake illness and shift blame to avoid punishment. Their lies set off witchcraft accusations throughout the town. Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible" to protest the actions of Sen. Joseph McCarthy , who set up a committee in the early 1950s to investigate and prosecute the Communists he thought had infiltrated the government. It won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play.

#18. The Giver (The Giver, #1)

- Author: Lois Lowry - Score: 11,635 - Average rating: 4.13 (based on 2,238,142 ratings)

" The Giver " is the dystopian tale of a boy chosen to hold one of the most difficult and important professions in his community—the keeper of all memories from the time before, including the pain and difficulties that have been erased from the seemingly utopian world around them. In 1994, Lois Lowry was awarded the Newbery Medal —a prestigious award for children's literature in the United States—for the first installation of her book quartet. The book's complicated themes of racism, religion, and politics lend themselves more to older readers, creating rich discussion in high school classrooms.

#17. Jane Eyre

- Author: Charlotte Brontë - Score: 11,990 - Average rating: 4.14 (based on 1,941,542 ratings)

Charlotte Brontë—sister to Emily—speaks directly to the reader in "Jane Eyre." The Victorian novel follows the headstrong Jane, an orphan who lives with her aunt and cousins, on her quest to find her identity and true love. The novel, marketed as an autobiography and published in 1847 under the pen name Currer Bell, is written in the first person and introduces " the concept of the self " in writing.

#16. Fahrenheit 451

- Author: Ray Bradbury - Score: 12,468 - Average rating: 3.97 (based on 2,162,063 ratings)

Ray Bradbury describes a futuristic world where books are banned and burned. Guy Montag, one firefighter tasked with extinguishing the books, questions the practice. When Bradbury wrote the classic in the 1950s, television sets were becoming ubiquitous in American households. The theme of the book was a warning about how mass media could interfere with people's ability or desire to think critically, a theme that many think resonates with the social media-obsessed world of today.

#15. Pride and Prejudice

- Author: Jane Austen - Score: 13,486 - Average rating: 4.28 (based on 3,854,915 ratings)

Published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice" was Jane Austen's second novel. The story follows the will-they-won't-they relationship between the wealthy Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, who comes from meager means. Throughout the chapters, both change for the better as they fall in love. The book has inspired at least  a dozen or more  movie and television adaptations.

#14. The Odyssey

- Author: Homer - Score: 15,087 - Average rating: 3.79 (based on 1,001,633 ratings)

"The Odyssey," a Greek epic poem , follows Odysseus as he travels back to the island of Ithaca after fighting in the war at Troy—something addressed in Homer's poem "The Iliad." When he returns home, he and his son, Telemachus, kill all the men trying to marry Odysseus's wife, Penelope. In the end, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, victory, and war, intervenes. Like many Greek myths, it focuses on themes of love, courage, and revenge.

#13. The Diary of a Young Girl

- Author: Anne Frank - Score: 15,739 - Average rating: 4.18 (based on 3,425,782 ratings)

In 1944, a young Anne Frank recorded her thoughts and feelings as she and other Jewish citizens hid from the German Nazis during World War II. The coming-of-age diary, which chronicles Frank's time hiding in the Secret Annex while she became a young woman, has been translated into 70 languages. While she and most of her family were killed, her father survived and helped publish her work, making it possible for millions to learn her story.

#12. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

- Author: Mark Twain - Score: 16,638 - Average rating: 3.83 (based on 1,228,955 ratings)

Huckleberry Finn is the main character in this follow-up novel to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The book explores themes of racism as Huck Finn floats down the Mississippi River with a man escaping slavery. Like Huck at the end of his tale, Twain changed his views on slavery and rejected it as an institution.

- Author: George Orwell - Score: 17,337 - Average rating: 4.19 (based on 4,095,733 ratings)

George Orwell describes a dystopian future rife with war and one where the government—led by Big Brother—controls the truth and snuffs out individual thought. The protagonist, Winston Smith, becomes disillusioned with the Party, and he rebels against it. Although it was published in 1949, the novel had a resurgence in 2017.

#10. The Scarlet Letter

- Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne - Score: 17,684 - Average rating: 3.43 (based on 814,235 ratings)

Nathaniel Hawthorne published "The Scarlet Letter" in 1850. In the novel, based on historical events , readers follow the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who is forced to wear a red "A" on her clothes after she conceives a child out of wedlock. She bears the punishment alone when she refuses to name the baby's father. Her character marked one of the first where a strong woman was the protagonist . Hawthorne's novel also touches on themes of hypocrisy, shame, guilt, and love.

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 19,419 - Average rating: 4.03 (based on 875,058 ratings)

Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, becomes vengeful after attending his father's funeral, only to find his mother has remarried Claudius, his uncle. The stepfather crowns himself king, a role that should have gone to Hamlet. The prince finds out his father was murdered, after which he kills the new king. Ambiguity runs through the play and the character of Hamlet, whose visions of ghosts are up for interpretation—are they real or a figment of the troubled man's imagination? The tragedy, which launched the famous line "To be, or not to be… " shines a light on some of the worst traits of humanity . Some consider the play Shakespeare's greatest work .

#8. The Catcher in the Rye

- Author: J.D. Salinger - Score: 19,450 - Average rating: 3.81 (based on 3,262,066 ratings)

J.D. Salinger aptly captures teen angst in "The Catcher in the Rye" when the reader gets a look at three days in the life of its narrator, the 16-year-old Holden Caulfield. The book was an instant success, but some schools have banned it from their libraries and reading lists, citing vulgarity and sexual content.

#7. Of Mice and Men

- Author: John Steinbeck - Score: 19,958 - Average rating: 3.88 (based on 2,350,603 ratings)

"Of Mice and Men" tells the story of George and his simple-minded friend Lennie. The two have to get new jobs on a ranch because of some trouble in Lennie's past. The novel, set during the Great Depression, tackles topics of poverty, sexism, and racism .

#6. Macbeth

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 21,256 - Average rating: 3.90 (based on 822,057 ratings)

Another Shakespeare classic, "Macbeth" portrays the weakness of humanity. The character of Macbeth receives a prophecy that he will one day become king of Scotland. His unchecked ambition ends in murder; Macbeth kills King Duncan to steal the throne for himself. It shows the destructive influence of political ambition and pursuing power for its own sake.

#5. Animal Farm

- Author: George Orwell - Score: 22,478 - Average rating: 3.98 (based on 3,491,043 ratings)

A group of farm animals organizes a revolt after they realize their master, Mr. Jones, is mistreating them and offering them nothing in return for their work. When they challenge the leadership, they are disciplined for speaking out. This classic isn't about animal rights. It is a larger critique of Soviet Communism . Orwell wrote it as an attack against Stalinism in Russia .

#4. Lord of the Flies

- Author: William Golding - Score: 24,079 - Average rating: 3.69 (based on 2,692,219 ratings)

"Lord of the Flies" tells the alarming story of a group of young boys who survive a plane crash, only to descend into tribalism on the island where they landed. Two of the boys—Ralph and Jack—clash in their pursuit of leadership. The novel, which has been challenged in schools , shows how struggles for power based on fear and division can result in a collapse of social order, themes that might seem relevant in the current fraught political climate.

#3. The Great Gatsby

- Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald - Score: 29,912 - Average rating: 3.93 (based on 4,737,607 ratings)

Nick Carraway, a Midwest transplant and Yale graduate, moves to West Egg, Long Island, and enters a world of extravagance when he becomes entangled with millionaire Jay Gatsby and socialite Daisy Buchanan. The novel is viewed as a cautionary tale about achieving the American dream of wealth and excess.

#2. Romeo and Juliet

- Author: William Shakespeare - Score: 34,901 - Average rating: 3.74 (based on 2,430,511 ratings)

Two star-crossed lovers meet and perish in this tragedy. Juliet, a Capulet, falls in love with Romeo, a Montague. Because their families are rivals, they are forbidden to marry. They secretly wed before misfortune leads to their deaths. Losing their children inspires peace among the families. Some critics claim the play's childish view of love hasn't stood the test of time, but others think the story is multilayered and deserves its classic status.

#1. To Kill a Mockingbird

- Author: Harper Lee - Score: 44,390 - Average rating: 4.27 (based on 5,584,470 ratings)

Harper Lee's first novel, published in 1960, tackles issues of racial and social injustice in the South. Set in Alabama, it introduces readers to Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a Black man accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. The point-of-view comes from Atticcus' daughter, Scout, while Boo Radley, their reclusive neighbor, adds another dimension to this classic story of racism and childhood. Lee's work won her a Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Because of some racial language, the book has been challenged in many schools throughout America.

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Great Books from High School Summer Reading Lists

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  • Shakespeare
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  • Children's Books
  • B.A., English, Duke University

High school summer reading lists are legendary. Many of us, however, managed to make it out of high school without being assigned some essential summer reading titles. This summer, why not pick up a book from this list? These books are so entertaining, they will make you wonder why you ever dreaded summer reading assignments.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is set in Alabama in the 1930s and is told from a child's viewpoint. The story deals with race, outcasts and growing up. Popular on 9th-grade reading lists , it is a quick, well-written book that is easy to enjoy

'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a sensual novel about an African-American woman in rural Florida that was first published in 1937. While it is an important telling of the Black experience, it is also a story of love and strength with a voice that will draw you in and hook you

'1984' by George Orwell

Set in a grim dystopian future, 1984 is a gripping, terrifying and suspenseful novel that is as relevant today as when it was first written. This is definitely one of the best books I have ever read.

'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World and 1984 are often lumped together on reading lists, although they paint very different pictures of what the future may hold. Brave New World is funny, clever and will help you better understand a lot of cultural references.

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a short book about the American dream with great characters and descriptions of life (for the wealthy) in the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing underscores the decadence of a decade marked by opulence and bracketed with tragedy. 

'Dracula' by Bram Stoker

Read the book that has inspired countless other books, movies, and TV shows. Dracula is written through letters and diary entries and will make you feel like an intimate player in a foreign world.

'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo

Although I am normally not a fan of abridging novels, I admit that I first read an abridged translation of Les Miserables . Even abridged, it was a great book and became one of my all-time favorites. Whether you try the full 1,500 pages or take a 500-page version, this is a must-read the story of love, redemption, and revolution.

'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck

In high school, half my class loved The Grapes of Wrath and half hated it. I loved it. The Grapes of Wrath is the story of a family during the Great Depression, but the descriptions and symbolic imagery tell a much bigger tale. This is definitely a classic in American literature.

'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is a collection of short stories that creates a bigger story. O'Brien writes about the Vietnam War and how it affected a group of soldiers. The writing is excellent, and the book is powerful.

'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving

Although high school summer reading is often classics, great works of contemporary literature often make the cut as well. A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of those books. You will not be sorry if you add it to your summer reading list.

  • 10 Classic Novels for Teens
  • The Most Commonly Read Books in High School
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  • Top Conservative Novels
  • Why Was "The Great Gatsby" Banned?
  • The 10 Most-Banned Classic Novels
  • 5 Novel Setting Maps for Classic American Literature
  • 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Book Club Discussion Questions
  • 10th (or 11th) Grade Reading List: American Literature
  • 10th (or 11th) Grade Reading List
  • 49 Unforgettable F. Scott Fitzgerald Quotes
  • 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Quotes Explained
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  • Selected Quotes from The Grapes of Wrath
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High School Summer Reading List: The Top Books For Your Teen

High School Summer Reading List: The Top Books For Your Teen

Summer is a perfect season to encourage reading in your home. If you are looking for the best way to help your high school student develop a love of reading, this ultimate guide to summer reading is a great place to start!

The Ultimate Summer Reading List For High School School Students

In an effort to curate a list of the very best titles for teens, we asked Sonlight families to share their favorite summer book recommendations. The following list was crowd sourced from other like-minded parents, all passionate about finding the very best books for high school summer reading.

Take a look at all the amazing books we have on our list and download a printable PDF copy below!

Titles that are part of a series are indicated with an asterik (*). See below for the complete list of series recommended by Sonlight families.

Sonlight Titles Recommended By Parents For Summer Reading

We know that exposure to rich and engaging stories is one of the best ways to help high school learners expand their knowledge. That’s why it's no surprise that many of the titles parents recommended for summer reading are also a part of our literature based approach to high school learning. These wonderful books are woven into Sonlight's language arts programs, and are also available for summer reading options. 

  • Beyonders: A World Without Heroes *
  • Echo Mountain
  • The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hiding Place
  • The Thief *
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • The War that Saved My Life *
  • Till We Have Faces
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Number the Stars
  • Oliver Twist
  • Pay Attention Carter Jones

summer reading books high school

The Top Books Recommended By Parents Of High School Learners

This list of books includes the most highly recommended titles from parents homeschooling high schoolers. 

  • Absolutely Truly *
  • A Chance to Die
  • A Dangerous Toll
  • A River Runs Through it and Other Short Stories
  • A School for Unusual Girls *
  • Airborne at the End of the Earth
  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • And Then There Were None
  • Andy Catlett *
  • Between Shades of Gray
  • Book of a Thousand Days
  • Boys in the Boat
  • Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank *
  • Daddy Long Legs
  • Dragonfly Eyes
  • Friends and Foes *
  • Greensleeves
  • Gregor the Overlander *
  • Hawksmaid: The Untold True Story of Robin Hood and Maid Marion
  • Hope in the Mail
  • Howl's Moving Castle*
  • I am Malala
  • I Will Always Write Back
  • Little Women
  • Lost and Found *
  • Miss Buncles Book *
  • New of the World
  • Okay for Now
  • Once Upon A Wardrobe
  • Paul, Big, and Small
  • Peace Like a River
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball *
  • Sisters of Sword and Song
  • Sleeping Coconuts
  • Spindle's End *
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed
  • The Book of Lost Names
  • The Book Thief
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Young Reader's Edition)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Enchanted Sonata
  • The Faithful Spy
  • The False Prince *
  • The Goose Girl*
  • The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm
  • The Last Bookshop in London
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Merchant's Daughter *
  • The Scottish Chiefs
  • The Seven Tales of Trinket
  • The Spanish Brothers A Tale of the Sixteenth Century
  • The White Mountains *
  • These Happy Golden Years *
  • Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Virgil Wander
  • Watership Down
  • West with the Night
  • Winds of Skilak *

Books Series For High School Summer Reading

The best way to encourage a reading practice in your home is to find an author or storyline that interests your child and encourage them to read more of it! These top books series were recommended by parents as well.

  • Amelia Peabody (20 book series)
  • Beyonders (3 book series)
  • Books of Bayern (4 book series)
  • Boston Jane (3 book series)
  • Crispin (3 book series)
  • Doon (4 book series)
  • East (2 book series)
  • Fairy Tale Romance Series (11 book series)
  • Folktales Series (3 books)
  • Howl's Castle (3 book series)
  • Hunger Games (3 book series)
  • Little House on the Prairie (9 book series)
  • Micropowers (2 book series)
  • Miss Buncle (4 book series)
  • Port William (10 books)
  • Pumpkin Falls Mystery (4 book series)
  • Redwall (22 book series)
  • Stranje House (4 book series)
  • The Ascendance (5 book series)
  • The Inheritance Cycle (5 book series)
  • The Jonquil Brothers Series (6 book series)
  • The Lunar Chronicles (4 book series)
  • The Queen's Thief (7 book series)
  • The Tillerman Cycle (7 book series)
  • The Tripods (4 book series)
  • The Underland Chronicles (5 book series)
  • The War That Saved My Life Series (2 book series)
  • Twelve Dancing Princesses (3 book series)
  • Winds of Skilak (2 book series)

The Tillerman Cycle (7 book series)

Summer Reading Matters!

There are many benefits to summer reading for all ages, especially high schoolers. Here are just a few:

  • Minimize summer learning loss .  Studies show that there is a decline in academic skills when students don't read or participate in other learning activities during long breaks. Keeping your child engaged and active in well-written stories is a great way to help minimize summer learning loss.
  • Improve vocabulary.  A regular reading practice exposes learners to new words and vocabulary. Reading throughout the summer creates a language rich environment, increasing vocabulary skills. This is helpful across all subjects, all year long.
  • Foster a love of reading.  The lazy days of summer combined with an engrossing book are a perfect pairing for creating a love of reading.

Encouraging your high schooler to read throughout the summer is good for their academic achievement, to be sure. It is also a wonderful way to help them create their own lifelong passion for reading.

Looking for more than just high school books? Take a look at our complementary guides for elementary and middle school readers .

Track your summer reading progress with  Sonlight's FREE Summer Reading Challenge Kit  too!

summer reading books high school

Author: Shawna Wingert

summer reading books high school

The Ultimate Summer Reading List For Elementary Students

The Top Summer Reading List For Middle Schoolers

The Top Summer Reading List For Middle Schoolers

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Summer Reading List

With no homework or school to worry about, summer can be the perfect time for kids and teens to crack open a great book. And while beach reads can be a fun escape, sometimes they're more style than substance. That's why we've compiled this list of books frequently featured on teachers' summer reading lists. These must-read books are classics for a reason: They tell compelling stories with unforgettable characters. Whether they're in middle school or high school or just getting started on chapter books , kids, tweens, and teens can use this list to get a jump start on the year ahead. And parents can use it to learn more about the books teachers are assigning their kids over the summer and throughout the school year.

Charlotte's Web Poster Image

Charlotte's Web

Gentle, much-loved barnyard classic delights all ages.

The Wind in the Willows Poster Image

The Wind in the Willows

Timeless classic about Toad's adventures and his friends.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1 Poster Image

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1

Classic Narnia tale has exciting battles, Christian themes.

The Hobbit Poster Image

Brilliantly written, inventive pre-LOTR tale.

The Secret Garden Poster Image

The Secret Garden

Classic novel inspires love of nature.

A Wrinkle in Time Poster Image

A Wrinkle in Time

Classic sci-fi story still inspires and gets kids thinking.

Esperanza Rising Poster Image

Esperanza Rising

Historical fiction at its best in story of '30s farmworkers.

Treasure Island Poster Image

Treasure Island

Boy and pirates hunt buried treasure in thrilling adventure.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl Poster Image

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Inspiring wartime journal reveals teen's inner life.

The Red Badge of Courage Poster Image

The Red Badge of Courage

Compelling Civil War novel questions morality of battle.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Poster Image

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Compelling tale of family facing racism in '30s Mississippi.

Great Expectations Poster Image

Great Expectations

Fast-paced, moving Dickens classic of reversed fortune.

Lord of the Flies book cover: Title in white letters on red background with leaves and reaching light-skinned hands in the foreground and two light-skinned boys standing on either side of the red background

Lord of the Flies

Gripping story of marooned schoolboys and mob mentality.

My Antonia Poster Image

Writing shines in pioneer saga of friendship and struggle.

The Old Man and the Sea Poster Image

The Old Man and the Sea

Man vs. marlin story a challenging, introspective read.

The Outsiders Poster Image

The Outsiders

Story of ostracized kid a timeless fave of teens, preteens.

Animal Farm Poster Image

Animal Farm

Classic satirical allegory about the abuse of power.

Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe Poster Image

Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Collection highlights horror stories and romantic poems.

The House on Mango Street Poster Image

The House on Mango Street

Poetic coming-of-age story deals with abuse, sexual assault.

Jane Eyre Poster Image

Strength of character triumphs in Bronte's masterpiece.

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  • Classic Books for Kids
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The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Young Adults

Your teen won’t be able to put down these captivating page-turners.

These too-good-to-put-down titles will keep your teen reading all summer long ! Thought-provoking books are a great way to positively influence how the young adult in your life views books — and maybe even their perspective on life.

Reading books can be a grounding experience as teens explore their identity and values. For example,  Where You See Yourself  is a new novel that explores relatable topics for young adults — like graduating high school and navigating the college application process. Similarly, Change the Game  is a touching graphic novel that will help you spark important conversations with your teen about chasing their dreams and staying true to themselves.

Meanwhile, Sunshine  shares the sweet story of Jarrett J. Krosoczka, a high school student who was once a counselor at Camp Sunshine, a camp for ill kids and their families. In this follow-up to Hey, Kiddo , Jarrett returns to Camp Sunshine and introduces readers to the campers and fellow counselors who changed the course of his life and taught him about bravery, hope, and determination. 

Shop the top summer book picks for young adults below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store . 

Have a teen reader who loves suspense? Check out  The Hunger Games series ! Keep your child reading over the summer with expert tips and book recommendations (like this list of top BookTok titles ) from our  summer reading guide . 

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2023 Summer Reading List for Kids and Teens (140+ Books for Pre-K to Grade 12!)

There’s something here for every kind of reader!

Two book covers from the 2023 Summer Reading List: Evelyn Rey Is Moving Away and Lemon Trees.

When summer arrives, some kids see it as a chance to spend time reading new books as well as old favorites. Others would be happy if they didn’t see a book during their whole vacation. But summer reading is key to keeping skills fresh. During this time off from school, let them enjoy books of all kinds—it’s the reading that matters. Our summer reading list for 2023 has options for every kid, every reading level, and every interest. Bookmark this list for easy access!

Looking for even more suggestions? Check out our huge collection of book lists here .

(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)

Summer Reading List 2023

  • Picture Books
  • Easy Read/Early Chapter Books
  • Middle School
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  • Graphic Novels

Picture Books: Summer Reading List 2023

Looking to inspire little ones and new readers? This 2023 summer reading list for preschoolers and early elementary has selections that feature gorgeous illustrations and captivating stories. These books are perfect for story time, bedtime, or anytime!

We Are All Scientists/ Todos somos científicos by Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Book cover of We Are All Scientists/Todos somos científicos

Dr. Ochoa was the first Latina woman to go to space, and now she’s started a series of books to inspire others to do the same! We especially love that this selection has text in both English and Spanish.

Buy it: We Are All Scientists/Todos somos científicos at Amazon

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington

Book cover for Choosing Brave

This Caldecott Honor book celebrates the life of Emmett Till, whose murder sparked the Civil Rights Movement. But the story truly belongs to his mother, Mamie, who ensured her son’s sacrifice was for the greater good. Add this one to your second grade summer reading list and share this incredibly inspiring story with a new generation.

Buy it: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement at Amazon

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Book cover for Knight Owl

This little owl has just one wish—to become a knight! It’s not going to be easy, but in the end, he’s determined to prove his bravery.

Buy it: Knight Owl at Amazon

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

2022 Summer Reading List: Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

A little Asian girl notices her eyes look different than the other kids she knows, but they look just like those of her beloved mother, grandmother, and sister. This sweet tale about learning to know and love yourself for who you are is a great addition to a kindergarten summer reading list in 2023.

Buy it:  Eyes That Kiss in the Corners at Amazon

Bright Star by Yuyi Morales

Join a young fawn on a journey through the Sonoran Desert and the borderlands there. The images are stunning, the story inspiring. ( A Spanish edition is also available.)

Buy it:  Bright Star at Amazon

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman

2022 Summer Reading List: Change Sings

Amanda Gorman inspired the nation with her poem at the 2020 presidential inauguration ceremony. Her children’s book is just as stirring, with gorgeous illustrations kids will love.

Buy it:  Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem at Amazon

My Hair Is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

My Hair is a Garden book cover

A young girl learns that her hair’s natural beauty is meant to be treasured as much as the gorgeous plants blooming throughout her neighbor’s yard.

Buy it:  My Hair Is a Garden at Amazon

Floaty by John Himmelman

Floaty by John Himmelman

When someone leaves a mysterious basket on grouchy Mr. Raisin’s doorstep, the last thing he expects to be inside is a dog—especially one that floats! What will Mr. Raisin do when Floaty floats away? This is the perfect lighthearted read-aloud for your first grade summer reading list.

Buy it:  Floaty at Amazon

What If … by Samantha Berger and Mike Curato

What If... book cover

Gorgeous illustrations showcase the richness a vivid imagination can add to a child’s life. No matter what they take away from her, they can’t take away her ability to create.

Buy it:  What If … at Amazon

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Flashlight Night  by Matt Forrest Esenwine

One of the best parts of summer is staying up late! The nighttime adventure these children have will inspire students to click on their own flashlights—and their imaginations—and head out into the dark.

Buy it:  Flashlight Night at Amazon

Take a Hike, Miles and Spike! by Travis Foster and Ethan Long

Take a Hike, Miles and Spike! Travis Foster and Ethan Long

Two oblivious dogs pack for an outdoor adventure but have to revise their plans when the other animals call them out for being selfish. Catchy rhymes and Ethan Long’s signature, super-fun illustrations make this silly story a guaranteed hit for your kindergarten summer reading list.

Buy it:  Take a Hike, Miles and Spike! at Amazon

I Am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt

I Am Truly book cover

Princess Truly can do anything she sets her mind to, from taming lions to dancing on the stars! Be sure to check out the other Princess Truly books too.

Buy it:  I Am Truly at Amazon

Big Brown Bear’s Cave by Yuval Zommer

Big Brown Bear's Cave by Yuval Zommer

Working through every one of Yuval Zommer’s creative titles would be a great way for students to spend vacation! This one is especially perfect, though, for kids whose parents ask them to help clean out the garage (or attic or basement) during summer break. Based on his observations of humans’ “caves,” Big Brown Bear thinks he needs a lot more stuff to make his own home feel comfy—or does he?

Buy it:  Big Brown Bear’s Cave at Amazon

Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth and Priscilla Burris

Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth and Priscilla Burris

No one in Natsumi’s family appreciates her extra-energetic approach to preparing for the Japanese arts festival. Her grandfather knows just how to channel all that enthusiasm—through drumming! Inspire students to march to their own drum this summer.

Buy it:  Natsumi! at Amazon

Big Bunny by Rowboat Watkins

Bug Bunny by Rowboat Watkins

Big Bunny loves to eat carrots, along with … lots of other stuff. The zany plot twists will give kids the giggles. The unexpected ending is pure fun.

Buy it:  Big Bunny at Amazon

The Magician’s Secret by Zachary Hyman and Joe Bluhm

The Magician's Secret by Zachary Hyman and Joe Bluhm

Sleepovers at Grandpa’s are a highlight of many kids’ summers. When your grandfather is a retired magician with a magic story chest in his attic, though? Well, that’s a guaranteed adventure.

Buy it:  The Magician’s Secret at Amazon

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt and Amanda Strong

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock (Summer Reading List 2022)

Awâsis is a young Cree girl who’s about to embark on an adventure! Together with her woodland friends, she gathers the ingredients she needs to bake bannock, a traditional bread. This picture book includes Cree terminology and a delicious recipe to try too!

Buy it:  Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock at Amazon

Noodlephant by Jacob Kramer and K-Fai Steele

Book cover for Noodlephant

Noodlephant loves pasta—hence her nickname. When the kangaroos start making one unfair law after another, Noodlephant stands up for everyone’s right to enjoy pasta. Check out the seque, too: Okapi Tale.

Buy it:  Noodlephant at Amazon

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat Animal Book

There’s a pervasive dark cloud of grumpiness among the animal friends, until they start gifting hats to one another. Also check out follow-ups Hooray for Books! and Hooray for Today!

Buy it:  Hooray for Hat! at Amazon

Boxitects by Kim Smith

Boxitects STEAM Book

Boxitect. Blanketeer. Spaghetti-tect. Kids will want to be all of them! After you read, use the cardboard box creation inspiration to build some castles of your own.

Buy it:  Boxitects at Amazon

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Where by Jill Esbaum

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books of Where by Jill Esbaum

This medley of explanations will answer curious kids’ questions about the tallest mountains, the biggest rivers, and even fun facts like where ice cream was invented. Use it to take a vacation when you can’t leave home!

Buy it:  National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Where at Amazon

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Unique and detailed illustrations will sweep students back in time in this narrative nonfiction account of a lighthouse keeper’s year. What would it be like to live “on the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world”?

Buy it:  Hello Lighthouse at Amazon

Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant

Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant and Floyd Cooper

This story of the sisters that redefined expectations of what kids from a tough Los Angeles neighborhood can achieve is a summer inspiration that’s a perfect addition to your kindergarten summer reading list in 2023. Floyd Cooper’s illustrations are a delight.

Buy it:  Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams at Amazon

What if You Had an Animal Tail? by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam

What If You Had an Animal Tale? by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam

A perfect pairing for a summer outing to the zoo, this fun series will have kids laughing as they learn about animal adaptations and the human body. This one focuses on tails; read the others to learn about animal ears, hair, and more.

Buy it:  What if You Had an Animal Tail? at Amazon

A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui

A Different Pond (Summer Reading List)

Journey to another land with this Caldecott Honor book. Follow along as a father teaches his son about their native country, Vietnam.

Buy it:  A Different Pond at Amazon

Finding the Music/ En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres

Book cover for Finding the Music

When Reyna accidentally breaks her abuelito ‘s special instrument, a vihuela , she’s heartbroken—and determined to get it fixed. This touching title celebrates family bonds, mariachi music, and the power of community.

Buy it:  Finding the Music/ En pos de la música at Amazon

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes

Book cover for Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey as an example of social justice books for kids

In this true story, an Iraqi family brings their beloved family cat when they leave their home as refugees, only to have it get lost during the boat crossing to Greece. A worldwide reunification effort leads to a happy ending.

Buy it:  Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey at Amazon

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford

Book cover for The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop as an example of children's music books

This artful trip through musical history will fascinate kids (and adults too). Learn about how artists from so many domains—storytelling, poetry, funk, street art, break dancing, deejaying, and more—helped rap and hip-hop become what they are today.

Buy it:  The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop at Amazon

Easy Read/Early Chapter Books: Summer Reading List 2023

Chapter books give readers who are still mastering the skill even more practice. Our 2023 easy reader summer reading list choices are excellent for read-alouds too, whether it’s parents reading to kids or kids reading to parents (or kids reading to each other!).

Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends by Kaz Windness

Book cover for Worm and Caterpillar are Friends, a summer reading list 2023 selection

These best friends have always loved being so similar. But it turns out they’re actually pretty different—and that’s OK. We love this one for a lighthearted addition to a second grade summer reading list.

Buy it: Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends at Amazon

Evelyn Del Ray Is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Book cover for Evelyn Del Ray is Moving Away

When Daniela’s best friend Evelyn moves out of her apartment across the street, the two girls spend one last day playing together among the moving boxes. Even though they won’t be neighbors anymore, they know they’ll always be friends.

Buy it: Evelyn Del Ray Is Moving Away at Amazon

Search for a Giant Squid (Pick Your Path) by Amy Seto Forrester and Andy Chou Musser

Book cover for Search for a Giant Squid

This unique new STEM series for early readers lets kids choose their own adventure in the real world. Reluctant readers who enjoy nature will return to this one again and again.

Buy it: Search for a Giant Squid (Pick Your Path) at Amazon

Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants by Andrea Beaty

2022 Summer Reading List: Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons

Readers who loved Ada Twist’s picture book will love following her on her chapter book adventures! Pals Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck join her as she works to solve a mystery in her own backyard. This is a great choice for a third grade summer reading list.

Buy it: Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants at Amazon

She Persisted: Maria Tallchief by Christine Day

She Persisted: Maria Tallchief

Looking for inspiring stories of strong women? The She Persisted series is full of them. In this one, young readers learn about America’s first major prima ballerina, who was also a member of the Osage Nation.

Buy it:  She Persisted: Maria Tallchief at Amazon

Baby Monkey, Private Eye, by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Emergent readers will love the adorable young primate detective in this collection of five simple “mysteries.” Clever illustrations elevate the simple text.

Buy it:  Baby Monkey, Private Eye at Amazon

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

Donut Feed the Squirrels book cover

Norma and Belly are hungry squirrels who desperately want a nut—a donut! They’re foiled at every turn, though, and their silly adventure will keep kids giggling throughout this early-reader graphic novel.

Buy it:  Donut Feed the Squirrels at Amazon

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano

When Polly discovers that a magic book that appeared on her doorstep can make everything she writes actually happen, she wastes no time trying it out—with entertaining results. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out the sequel, Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair .

Buy it:  Polly Diamond and the Magic Book at Amazon

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley

Jo Jo Makoons book cover

Jo Jo Makoons lives on an Ojibwe reservation with her family, where her #1 best friend is her cat, Mimi. But her #1 human friend, Fern, doesn’t seem to want to be friends anymore. What will Jo Jo Makoons do?

Buy it:  Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend at Amazon

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

The Poet's Dog

Teddy, a dog who has recently lost his elderly owner, narrates this tender tale. Now alone in his owner’s cabin, he rescues two children caught in a winter storm and experiences the healing power of companionship. A perfect story for any young dog lover!

Buy it:  The Poet’s Dog at Amazon

Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds by Elise Gravel

Arlo and Pips Book One cover

Arlo the crow is smart, and he knows it. Fortunately, his little friend Pips isn’t afraid to put him in his place! This funny graphic novel includes plenty of true facts about crows mixed in with the story and is a fantastic book to put on your first or second grade summer reading list in 2023.

Buy it:  Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds at Amazon

Scaredy Bat and the Missing Jellyfish by Marina J. Bowman

Scaredy Bat and the Missing Jellyfish (Summer Reading List)

Mystery-loving kids will fall in love with Scaredy Bat! This detective series is filled with colorful graphics to help younger readers follow along as a child vampire attempts to solve mysteries with her pals. Try this one for a fourth grade summer reading list!

Buy:  Scaredy Bat and the Missing Jellyfish at Amazon

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli

Baloney and Friends book cover

Kids will get a kick out of reading about the adventures of Baloney and his friends Peanut, Bizz, and Krabbit! Plus, they can follow the tutorial at the end of the book to learn how to draw comics of their own.

Buy it:  Baloney and Friends at Amazon

Pick Your Own Quest: Dragon vs. Unicorn by Connor Hoover

Pick Your Own Quest: Dragon vs Unicorn

The Pick Your Own Quest series is what summer reading dreams are made of! Reminiscent of the beloved Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 1980s, these stories are different each time you read them. Find them all here.

Buy it:  Pick Your Own Quest: Dragon vs. Unicorn at Amazon

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Meet Yasmin! book cover

Yasmin is a sassy second grader from a Pakistani-American family. She tackles real-life challenges with spirit and imagination in a book filled with winning illustrations that bring the stories to life.

Buy it:  Meet Yasmin! at Amazon

Power Forward by Hena Khan

Power Forward by Hena Khan

Summer is the perfect time to get hooked on a new sports fiction series. This introduction to the Chasing the Dream series introduces Zayd Saleem, a likable fourth grader who’s also a basketball fanatic.

Buy it:  Power Forward at Amazon

Pizza and Taco: Who’s the Best? by Stephen Shaskan

Pizza and Taco book cover

What’s better, pizza or tacos? That’s the big question in this graphic novel for emergent readers—except Pizza and Taco have come to life!

Buy it:  Pizza and Taco at Amazon

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Maker Mischief by Liam O’Donnell

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Mischief (Summer Reading List)

This title is the second in a series starring Myron, a young sleuth who speaks frankly and positively about his autism. We love how his quirks play off those of his sidekicks as they work together to find a classmate’s stolen robot. The series is fantastic for a third grade summer reading list.

Buy it:  West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Maker Mischief at Amazon

Agent Moose by Mo O’Hara

Agent Moose book cover

Folks keep going missing on the South Shore in this graphic novel. No worries though—Agent Moose and his sidekick Owlfred are on the case!

Buy it:  Agent Moose at Amazon

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 (I Survived Series) by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 (Summer Reading List)

The heart-pounding adventure of these stories based on real-life events is sure to capture every kid’s imagination. Check out the whole series here.

Buy it:  I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 at Amazon

Bunbun & Bonbon: Fancy Friends by Jess Keating

BunBun and BonBon: Fancy Friends book cover

Bunbun is as cute as can be, but awfully lonely. Fortunately, fancy candy Bonbon is ready to step in! Their sweet adventures fill the pages of this easy-reader graphic novel.

Buy it:  Bunbun & Bonbon at Amazon

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

InvestiGators book cover

Welcome to the underground (literally!) world of Special Undercover Investigation Teams (S.U.I.T.). Gator agents Mango and Brash travel the sewers by toilet as they solve cases in this hilarious graphic novel for young readers.

Buy it:  InvestiGators at Amazon

Pea, Bee, & Jay: Stuck Together by Brian “Smitty” Smith

Pea, Bee, and Jay: Stuck Together book cover

Pea loves to roll and can’t resist a dare to roll right off the farm where he lives. But an unexpected storm sends him farther than he expected. Will his new friends Bee and Jay be able to help him find his way back home?

Buy it:  Pea, Bee, & Jay: Stuck Together at Amazon

Middle School Summer Reading List 2023

Middle grade readers are ready for longer books with more advanced vocabulary. We’ve picked a variety of genres for our middle school summer reading list for 2023, from historical fiction to mystery, fantasy adventures to realistic modern tales.

The Rhythm of Time by Questlove and S.A. Cosby

Book cover for The Rhythm of Time

This smart new time-travel tale carries kids back to Philadelphia in the 1990s. It’s not all that far back into the past, but things are just different enough to give Rahim and Kasia some serious adventures. This book is a great pick for a 2023 summer reading list for fifth or sixth grade.

Learn more: The Rhythm of Time at Amazon

Big Tree by Brian Selznick

Book cover for Big Tree, a middle school summer reading list 2023 pick

Part fantasy, part nature story, and entirely mesmerizing, this is one of those books that will enchant nature-lovers. Two sycamore tree seeds come alive as they tell their tale of adventure among dinosaurs, volcanoes, and other dangers. This book is unlike anything else kids have read, and it deserves a spot on the best middle school summer reading list picks of 2023.

Buy it: Big Tree at Amazon

Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd

Book cover for Hummingbird

Be inspired by the story of Olive, who’s determined not to let brittle bone disease stand in the way of her dreams. As she searches for a fabled wish-granting hummingbird, she makes friends and learns more about herself too.

Buy it: Hummingbird at Amazon

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

The Beatryce Property: 2022 Summer Reading List

This is one of the most popular books of the last few years, so put it on your middle school summer reading list for 2023 if you haven’t read it yet. Mysterious Beatryce might be the girl foretold in a prophecy, and it puts her life in danger. The magical medieval setting captures the imagination, as do the intriguing cast of characters.

Buy it:  The Beatryce Prophecy at Amazon

The Many Meanings of Meilan by Andrea Wang

2022 Summer Reading List: The Many Meanings of Meilan

At Meilan’s new school, the principal decides she should go by Melanie to make it easier for the other (White) students to pronounce. This sets Meilan off on a journey to find out more about her own name—and herself.

Buy it:  The Many Meanings of Meilan at Amazon

A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young

A Girl, A Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon (Summer Reading List)

Award-winning author Karen Romano Young spins a clever caper around a group of tweens trying to crack a case that may help them prevent their beloved local library from closing.

Buy it:  A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon at Amazon

Home Sweet Motel (Welcome to Wonderland #1) by Chris Grabenstein

Home Sweet Hotel book cover

In this offering from a favorite middle grade author, P.T. Wilkie and his friend Gloria try to save his family’s Wonderland motel—a kid’s paradise—from financial ruin. Readers will be cheering them on as they laugh at P.T.’s tendency to “embellish” stories, the pair’s crazy moneymaking strategies, and their wild attempts to solve an unexpected mystery that crops up. Read more of their adventures in the rest of the Welcome to Wonderland series .

Ellie, Engineer, by Jackson Pearce

Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce

Friends, creativity, and girl-powered STEM: A story about a neighborhood building project is a perfect summer read, especially when led by Ellie, armed with her trusty tool belt. There are two more Ellie books to enjoy too!

Buy it:  Ellie, Engineer at Amazon

Trapped in a Video Game by Dustin Brady

Trapped in a Video Game by Dustin Brady (Summer Reading List)

An unknown villain imprisons Jessie in his least favorite activity—a video game. And if he can’t figure out how to beat this mysterious culprit, he’ll be stuck in the virtual world. Love Jessie? There’s a whole series about him!

Buy it:  Trapped in a Video Game at Amazon

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Season of Styx Malone

Brothers Bobby Gene and Caleb were minding their own business in their small Indiana town when Styx Malone rolled in. Styx is older and wiser and teaches the boys how to pull off an escalator trade, getting better and better stuff until they get something incredible. This book is full of hilarious antics and sweet brotherly relationships.

Buy it:  The Season of Styx Malone at Amazon

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies book cover

Maria Merian was a brave and passionate scientific mind, well ahead of her time. Her story will inspire kids to head outside to look for butterflies and caterpillars in their own garden or nearby park.

Buy it:  The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science at Amazon

The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

The World According to Humphrey book cover

Humphrey is Room 26’s class pet: a lovable hamster! Follow his adventures as he gets to know his human companions. There’s a whole According to Humphrey series featuring this fluffy cutie too.

Buy it:  The World According to Humphrey at Amazon

Pony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber

Pony on the Twelfth Floor

Kizzy’s desire to own a horse gets the best of her in this humorous tale about trying to own—and hide—a pony in an apartment building.

Buy it:  Pony on the Twelfth Floor at Amazon

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. edited by Betsy Bird

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. book cover

What do you get when 25 of today’s funniest women children’s book writers combine their stories together in one book? A hilarious collection that will make you laugh until you cry! Bonus: A portion of the proceeds from this book goes to support WriteGirl , a nonprofit whose mission is to empower girls by promoting creativity and self-expression.

Buy it:  Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. at Amazon

Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Blended book cover

A biracial tween must split time equally living with each of her divorced parents (who are both now dating other people and have vastly different income levels). Many kids will see their own lives reflected in her lifestyle-switching tale. We love this one for a sixth grade summer reading list.

Buy it:  Blended at Amazon

Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs

Spy School Revolution by Stuart Gibbs

The latest book in this teacher-recommended series features superspy-in-training Ben Dash trying to prove his friend Erica is not a double agent. To do so, he’ll have to track down an insurgent group that dates back to colonial times. See the whole Spy School series here.

Buy it:  Spy School Revolution at Amazon

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

Kids who love historical fiction will enjoy this World War II story of life on the home front. Eleven-year-old Gusta moves from New York City to live with her grandmother in Maine, where there’s plenty of small-town drama. It’s a terrific option for a seventh grade summer reading list.

Buy it:  The Orphan Band of Springdale at Amazon

Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

Grump: The (Fairly True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

We love this author’s entertaining way of turning classic fairy tales on their heads for middle grade readers. A young dwarf is torn between the appeal of new friendship and a nagging suspicion that Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.) has dark intentions.

Buy it:  Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Amazon

Absolutely Truly (A Pumpkin Falls Mystery) by Heather Vogel Frederick

Absolutely Truly book cover

Truly Lovejoy’s family moved from Texas to a tiny town in New Hampshire to take over their family’s century-old bookstore. Left largely to her own devices, Truly finds herself chasing down clues found in old books. There are sequels, too: Yours Truly and Really Truly .

Buy it:  Absolutely Truly (A Pumpkin Falls Mystery) at Amazon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet  by David Barclay Moore

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Working with LEGO bricks provides Lolly with a creative and healing form of expression after his older brother is a victim of gang violence. This is a story about learning to throw away the directions and make your own way in the world. Put this one on your eighth grade summer reading list.

Buy it:  The Stars Beneath Our Feet at Amazon

The Creature of the Pines (The Unicorn Rescue Society) by Adam Gidwitz

The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly

A society for caring for mythical creatures is a surefire hook, but this series by a talented middle-grade author backs up its hype with compelling characters and clever plot twists. Love it? Here’s the rest of the series, currently up to six books.

Buy it:  The Creature of the Pines (The Unicorn Rescue Society) at Amazon

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Book Scavenger cover (Summer Reading List)

The Book Scavenger Series mystery tales all begin with clues found on Book Scavenger, a fictional geocaching-style game where participants hide books in public places and reveal the locations through encoded clues. Emily and James embark on three rollicking, heart-thumping adventures in and around San Francisco. Don’t be surprised if kids want to set up their own scavenger adventures after they read!

Buy it:  Book Scavenger at Amazon

Aline and the Blue Bottle by Carolina Ugaz-Morán

Aline and the Blue Bottle (Summer Reading List)

A Halloween birthday party turns into the beginning of a quest for a young girl who finds out she has magical powers and has to locate a hidden artifact.

Buy it:  Aline and the Blue Bottle at Amazon

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

The Sea in Winter book cover

Masie Cannon was a ballet dancer in training until a serious leg injury knocked her off her feet. Now she’s preparing for a winter road trip to the Native American community where her mother grew up, but she’s anything but excited. Can her family help heal her heart?

Buy it:  The Sea in Winter at Amazon

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Charlotte and Ben may only know each other through an online Scrabble game, but they’re both busy finding their way through middle school. Though they live far apart, their friendship grows in unexpected ways as they spend one eventful week supporting each other through family troubles and school challenges.

Buy it:  You Go First at Amazon

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

Hide and Seeker (Summer Reading List)

Beat the summer heat by sending chills down your spine! In this thriller, a group of tweens is drawn into waking versions of their own nightmares in a spooky game of hide-and-seek. It’s the perfect middle school summer reading list pick for reluctant readers.

Buy it:  Hide and Seeker at Amazon

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

The Mother Daughter Book Club cover (Summer Reading List)

Imagine your mom got together with a group of other moms and decided to form a book club, and you and your middle school acquaintances have no choice but to join. A group reading of  Little Women makes unlikely friends out of the four girls, leading to a whole Mother-Daughter Book Club series .

Buy it:  The Mother-Daughter Book Club at Amazon

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer book cover (Summer Reading List)

In the summer of 1968, the Gaither sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a few months with their mother. Much to their surprise, their mother isn’t exactly excited to see them and instead wants them to spend the summer at a Black Panther camp.

Buy it:  One Crazy Summer at Amazon

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

A puzzling letter sends Candice on a summer quest to find treasure and clear her grandmother’s name. Reviewers compare this historical mystery to Ellen Raskin’s classic  The Westing Game .

Buy it:  The Parker Inheritance at Amazon

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!  by Sarah Kapit

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! book cover (Summer Reading List)

Vivy Cohen has wanted to be a baseball pitcher ever since she met pro ballplayer VJ Capello. But things aren’t so simple for Vivy: She is autistic, and her mom says she can’t play baseball because she’s a girl. That doesn’t stop Vivy from being invited to join a Little League team. And when Vivy writes a letter to VJ, she’s surprised to get a reply.

Buy it:  Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! at Amazon

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Fagar

Fidelia Quail’s life assisting in her parents’ marine biology research is already unusual. But when they drown in a storm and she’s kidnapped by pirates, this story catapults into page-turning summer adventure territory.

Buy it:  Race to the Bottom of the Sea at Amazon

The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi

The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi

Summer is for compelling page-turners and characters that move you. Everything changes for Jason when he finds out that his Afghan mother, whom he thought was deported, is living illegally in the United States.

Buy it: The Sky at Our Feet at Amazon

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

The Shakespeare Stealer

Travel back in time to experience life backstage at the Globe Theatre. An orphan named Widge is tasked with stealing the script for Hamlet , but as he gets to know the actors and the great playwright himself, he must decide where his loyalty lies. If you enjoy it, there’s a follow-up book, Shakespeare’s Scribe .

Buy it:  The Shakespeare Stealer at Amazon

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Premeditated Myrtle (Summer Reading List)

The first book of the new Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries is a clever caper about a budding tween criminologist attempting to solve a local murder.

Buy it:  Premeditated Myrtle at Amazon

Hatchet (Brian’s Saga) by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

This classic survival novel now has four sequels, making up Brian’s Saga . Hatchet is the one that started it all: Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father when the plane crashes, killing the pilot. Brian is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present.

Buy it:  Hatchet (Brian’s Saga) at Amazon

Young Adult: Summer Reading List 2023

By this age, kids probably have some required summer reading to do. But when they just want to read for fun, our high school summer reading list 2023 suggestions give them a wide array of choices. They delve into topics relevant to teen life: bullying, first love, friendships, and more. And some of them are just pure escapist fun!

Throwback by Maurene Goo

Cover of Throwback, a high school summer reading list 2023 pick

Sam and her mom, Priscilla (a first-generation Korean American), just can’t seem to get along. But when Sam finds herself thrown back in time to the 1990s, attending high school alongside her much younger mother, she learns a few things that just might change their relationship forever.

Buy it: Throwback at Amazon

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

Book cover for As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow, a high school summer reading list 2023 pick

In war-torn Syria, Salama is determined to help her family escape before her sister-in-law gives birth. The challenge is so great that her fear manifests itself in an imaginary companion who’s constantly telling her she needs to get out. As she desperately tries to leave Syria behind, fate steps in and changes her views of everything happening around her. Add this book to your summer reading list for high schoolers.

Buy it: As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow at Amazon

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

Book cover for The Do-Over

Light romances are perfect for high school summer reading lists. This one is a cross between the movie Groundhog Day and a teen romance. After a disastrous Valentine’s Day with a cheating boyfriend, Emilie wakes up living the same day over and over again. Maybe the enigmatic Nick can help her find her way back to reality.

Buy it: The Do-Over at Amazon

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

2022 Summer Reading List: In the Wild Light

Best friends Cash and Delaney escape their difficult lives in a small town and head to an elite prep school in New England, where they’ve both earned scholarships. But do they really want to leave their pasts behind entirely? Their relationship evolves as they try to discover the answer.

Buy it: In the Wild Light at Amazon

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Gilded (Summer Reading List 2022)

Fairy tales are for little kids, right? Not this dark retelling of Rumpelstiltskin! Magic and mystery meet romance in this gripping tale.

Buy it: Gilded at Amazon

The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs

Summer Reading List 2022: The Desolations of Devil's Acre

If you’ve been following the saga of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children , you won’t want to miss the final novel in the series. If you missed the first five, summer is the perfect time to catch up!

Buy it: The Desolations of Devil’s Acre at Amazon

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea book cover

This fantasy novel set in an orphanage for unique, magical children is anything but childish. The characters, including a young gnome, a green blob, and Linus the child Antichrist, are surprisingly real, and their quest for acceptance in a nearby town is a charming allegory for tolerance in our own world. It deserves a place on every high school summer reading list.

Buy it: The House in the Cerulean Sea at Amazon

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani

All The Things We Never Knew book cover

Two teens fall in and out of love in this romance-centered YA book that’s just as much a love letter to basketball as to first love itself.

Buy it: All the Things We Never Knew at Amazon

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood Song (Summer Reading List)

A teen fiddler uses her secret ability to summon ghosts from their graves in order to help her brother. With an LGBTQ+ romance as a subplot, this high school summer reading list pick is fantastic for reluctant readers intrigued by the supernatural.

Buy it: Ghost Wood Song at Amazon

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

All of This Is True (Summer Reading List)

When four teens meet their favorite novelist, they’re thrilled at their new friendship. But then their deepest secrets appear in her next book, and the consequences are dire. This contemporary YA mystery is also available in Spanish —ideal for bilingual teens looking for a suspense-filled narrative in their native language.

Buy it: All of This Is True at Amazon

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise book cover (Summer Reading List)

Jasmine and Chelsea are ready to make changes for women at their high school. They use their literary talents to form a Women’s Rights Club, which soon goes viral. Online trolls lead to trouble, but these best friends are determined to triumph.

Buy it: Watch Us Rise at Amazon

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday's Not Coming (Summer Reading List)

When Monday Charles goes missing, her best friend Claudia is the only one who seems to even notice she’s missing. When no one can give her the answers she needs, Claudia goes on a quest to find them herself, no matter how difficult they may be to accept.

Buy it: Monday’s Not Coming at Amazon

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

The Best Lies (Summer Reading List)

When her best friend, Elise, shoots Remy’s boyfriend Jack, Remy is left to question the truth about what happened. Obsession is the driving force behind this fast-paced plot surrounding two besties’ warped connection.

Buy it: The Best Lies at Amazon

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

Where The Dead Sit Talking

This 2018 National Book Award Fiction finalist is a poignant tale about the bond two teenagers form in foster care while also trying to retain a connection to their shared Native American culture.

Buy it: Where the Dead Sit Talking at Amazon

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

The Black Veins book cover (Summer Reading List)

A teen barista must seek out six fellow magicians to help save her family in the first book of this fantasy series.

Buy it: The Black Veins at Amazon

If You’re Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser

If You're Out There (Summer Reading List)

Social media is the only lead two high schoolers have when they begin to investigate the disappearance of a friend who seems to have vanished. This light thriller is the perfect summer high school reading list choice.

Buy it: If You’re Out There at Amazon

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End book cover

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but for different reasons, they both want to make a new friend on their End Day. Luckily, there’s an app for that. It’s called The Last Friend. Through it, Rufus and Mateo meet up to try to live a lifetime in a single day.

Buy it: They Both Die at the End at Amazon

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

What happens when lifelong best friends are now ex-besties? Cleo and Layla’s friendship may be over, but the story doesn’t end there.

Buy it: When You Were Everything at Amazon

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

White Rabbit book cover

Ex-boyfriend drama ends up being the least of Rufus’ worries after he finds his sister at a crime scene—and has only one night to prove her innocence.

Buy it: White Rabbit at Amazon

The Sound of Stars  by Alechia Dow

Janelle “Ellie” Baker is a teen rebel stuck in an alien-controlled quadrant of New York City in this sci-fi adventure about living, and falling in love, on an Earth that humans no longer control.

Buy it: The Sound of Stars at Amazon

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall book cover

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his 18th birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

Buy it: Windfall at Amazon

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

If These Wings Could Fly book cover

Tens of thousands of crows have invaded Auburn, Pennsylvania. It’s an issue for everyone in town except 17-year-old Leighton Barnes. For Leighton, it’s no stranger than her house, which inexplicably repairs itself every time her father loses his temper and breaks things. Leighton’s senior year is filled with shades of the past and anticipation of the future, all while dealing with the confusing events of the present.

Buy it: If These Wings Could Fly at Amazon

Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages by Melissa de la Cruz

Because I Was a Girl book cover

This multicultural collection outlines the real-life struggles authors, chefs, and STEM professionals faced because of their female identity. Girls and boys alike can benefit from these true stories.

Buy it: Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages at Amazon

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue A Memoir-Manifesto

The author explores the intersectionality of being male, a person of color, and queer in contemporary society. It’s one of our favorite #OneVoices nonfiction books.

Buy it: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto at Amazon

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Kent State book cover

High school history fans will be riveted by this compelling account of the Kent State shootings of 1970, when American troops killed four college students who were protesting the Vietnam War. Multiple viewpoints recount the events of that terrifying weekend, with consequences that still resonate today.

Buy it: Kent State at Amazon

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

You’ve heard of Vincent van Gogh, but do you know about Theo? Heiligman chronicles the amazing and eccentric lives of the Van Gogh brothers, their relationship with each other, and their work.

Buy it: Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers at Amazon

Graphic Novels: Summer Reading List 2023

Graphic novels are a real boon for reluctant readers and visual learners. Today’s graphic lit has taken on a life of its own. These books draw kids in with beautiful art, then engage them with compelling narratives. That’s why graphic novels are a big part of our summer reading list for 2023, for kids of every age.

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! (Narwhal and Jelly #1) by Ben Clanton

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

You can’t help but smile at Narwhal’s enthusiasm in this graphic novel series opener about new friendship—he’s just so darn cheerful all the time. Plenty of quirky details will make kids chuckle, like Narwhal’s invitations to a mishmash of sea creatures to join his “pod of awesomeness” (and the cute horns he awards to each new member), or his and Jelly’s unlikely shared love of waffles. Dive into the whole series! (Grades K–3)

Buy it: Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! (Narwhal and Jelly #1) at Amazon

Monsters Beware! (The Chronicles of Claudette) by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado

Monsters Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre

This is the third installment of this engaging graphic novel series for the upper elementary audience. Claudette is desperate to compete in—and win—the annual Warrior Games. She’ll have to contend with monsters who reportedly eat the other competitors, though! (Grades 2–5)

Buy it: Monsters Beware! (The Chronicles of Claudette) at Amazon

I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005: The Graphic Novel by Lauren Tarshis and Alvin Epps

Book cover for I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005: A Graphic Novel, a 2023 summer reading list selection

The beloved I Survived series has a new addition: graphic novels! These are the perfect elementary summer reading list 2023 choice for reluctant readers and lovers of adventure. See the whole series here. (Grades 2–6)

Buy it: I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005: A Graphic Novel at Amazon

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu

Measuring Up: Summer Reading List 2022

Kids who love to watch cooking competitions will want to add this to their summer reading list for 2023. Cici needs to raise money to bring her grandmother from Taiwan to visit her in Seattle. Winning a cooking contest might just be the answer! (Grades 2–6)

Buy it: Measuring Up at Amazon

Blancaflor: The Hero With Secret Powers by Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez

Blancaflor (Summer Reading List 2022)

This retelling of a classic Latin American folktale has been popping up on “best of” lists everywhere, so of course we had to add it to our summer reading list for 2023. Celebrate the resourcefulness of women with this magical story that will really resonate with modern kids. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Blancaflor: The Hero With Secret Powers at Amazon

Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

Max & the Midnights (Summer Reading List)

Fast-paced and witty, this graphic novel stars wannabe knight Max and her band of buddies. Run-ins with a sorceress, wizards, dragons, and plenty more exaggerated action keep readers interested, and the plentiful quips keep them laughing too. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Max and the Midknights at Amazon

Act (A Click Graphic Novel) by Kayla Miller

Act (A Click Graphic Novel) book cover

Olive can’t wait for the sixth grade field trip, but it turns out an unjust school policy will keep some kids from attending. So Olive decides to run for student council and be the change she wants to see in the world! See other graphic novels in the Click series here. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Act (A Click Graphic Novel) at Amazon

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Book cover for When Stars Are Scattered

This graphic novel tells the story of two brothers from Somalia growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Based on the experiences of Somali refugee Omar Mohamed, this book will stay with readers long after they close it. (Grades 4–6)

Buy it: When Stars Are Scattered at Amazon

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Real Friends book cover

This relatable story is all about what it’s like when friendships grow and change when you’re not quite ready for it. It addresses issues like bullying and self-confidence and the complexities of navigating relationships. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Real Friends at Amazon

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Make-believe definitely isn’t just for little kids. This engaging graphic novel will inspire middle grade readers to spend summer break building and creating with friends. There’s a sequel too: Roar of the Beast . (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: The Cardboard Kingdom at Amazon

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity & Tallulah book cover (Summer Reading List)

Sanity and Tallulah live on a space station, which is enough to excite the imagination all on its own. But these irrepressible mad scientist tweens have plenty of mischief up their sleeves. Read the first book, then follow up with the others in the Sanity & Tallulah series . (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Sanity & Tallulah at Amazon

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Book cover of Class Act (Summer Reading List)

This is the illustrated sequel to Craft’s New Kid , which won the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. They both explore what it’s like to be one of the few students of color at a prestigious private school. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Class Act at Amazon

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

Book cover of Seance Tea Party (Summer Reading List)

This whimsical story explores the challenges of leaving childhood behind. Follow a girl still yearning for playtime while she slowly finds herself with only a ghost left as a friend. This bittersweet tale will really resound with middle grade readers. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Séance Tea Party at Amazon

Primer by Thomas Krajewski, Jennifer Muro, and Gretel Lusky

Primer book cover (Summer Reading List)

Ashley Rayburn has discovered body paints that turn her into a superhero! Now she has to decide whether to keep them (and her powers) or return them to the agency that made them. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Primer at Amazon

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy book cover (Summer Reading List)

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has a timeless appeal for many readers. This graphic novel modernizes the story with a blended family living in a walk-up in NYC. The characters have familiar personalities, even if their stories are a little different. (Grades 3–6)

Buy it: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy at Amazon

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Book cover for Swim Team, a fifth grade 2023 summer reading list selection

Lauded as one of the best books of the year, this graphic novel follows middle schooler Bree as she starts a new school and is forced to take Swim 101. An elderly neighbor coaches her along, leading Bree and her team to a victory they could never have imagined. (Grades 4–8)

Buy it: Swim Team at Amazon

Science Comics: Robots & Drones: Past, Present, and Future by Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot

Science Comics: Robots & Drones by Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot

The Science Comics series is awesome for motivating middle grade readers while teaching about high-interest topics. This title is excellent screen-free entertainment for tech-loving kids. (Grades 4–8)

Buy it: Science Comics: Robots & Drones: Past, Present, and Future at Amazon

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden! by Alexis Frederick-Frost

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden book cover

The Maker Comics series is a fantastic DIY collection for tweens and teens. Grow a Garden! seems like a great summer project, while other selections in the series include things like learning to draw a comic or fix a car. (Grades 4–8)

Buy it: Maker Comics: Grow a Garden! at Amazon

Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels by Serena Blasco

Book cover for Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels

Following in the wake of the incredible success of the Enola Holmes book series (now a Netflix film series!), these graphic novels retell the mystery tales with lush illustrations that perfectly capture the energy of the originals. See the whole series here. (Grades 4–8)

Buy it: Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels at Amazon

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This Was Our Pact book cover

Each year, Ben’s town turns out for the Autumn Equinox Festival and sends lighted lanterns floating off down the river. This year, Ben and his friends are determined to follow them wherever the path leads. (Grades 5–8)

Buy it: This Was Our Pact at Amazon

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano

Book cover of The Oracle Code (Summer Reading List)

Barbara Gordon’s entire life changes when a gunshot wound leaves her paralyzed from the waist down. During her time at a rehab center, she encounters a mystery: Patients keep going missing. As Barbara works to find the answers, she learns important truths about herself. (Grades 6–8)

Buy it: The Oracle Code at Amazon

Sunshine by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Book cover for Sunshine, a ninth grade summer reading list 2023 selection

Several years after his powerful graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo , author Krosoczka is back with new stories to tell of his young adulthood. His experiences working at summer camp for seriously ill children changed his views on life. Read about the kids and their families, and your views might change too. (Grades 8–12)

Buy it: Sunshine at Amazon

Poe: Stories and Poems (A Graphic Novel Adaptation) by Gareth Hinds

Poe: Stories and Poems book cover

Poe’s spooky works are the perfect basis for graphic storytelling. Horror-story fans will love this new take on classics like The Raven and The Cask of Amontillado . (Grades 8–12)

Buy it: Poe: Stories and Poems at Amazon

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Book cover for Heartstopper

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. This sweet graphic novel series has a huge following and has even become a Netflix series. (Grades 8–12)

Buy it: Heartstopper at Amazon

Himawari House by Harmony Becker

Himiwari House (Summer Reading List 2022)

Three foreign exchange students meet in Japan and forge a fast friendship as they navigate life in a new world. (Grades 9–12)

Buy it: Himawari House at Amazon

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Book Cover of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Frederica Riley’s relationship with popular girl Laura Dean is toxic—and maybe all too familiar to high schoolers. Freddy falls under her spell again and again until she finally learns what’s truly important in relationships, including friendships. (Grades 9–12)

Buy it: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me at Amazon

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops Book Cover

When Gene was growing up, his heroes were in comic books—not on the court or playing field. As a high school teacher, though, he starts to realize how important sports are to many of his students, and the basketball team’s journey to the state championship holds inspiring lessons for kids and adults alike. (Grades 9–12)

Buy it: Dragon Hoops at Amazon

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March: Book One book cover

The first installment of this graphic novel series recounts the late senator’s first encounters with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the beginning of the Nashville Student Movement as civil action to desegregate the South was steadily gaining traction. (Grades 9–12)

Buy it: March: Book One at Amazon

What books are on your summer reading list for 2023? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, learn why summer reading is so important for kids and get tools to help motivate them ., you might also like.

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summer reading books high school

The Ultimate YA Summer Reading List

By laurie espino.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! School is out, the days are longer, and it’s the perfect time for a new read. So, whether you’re craving a second-chance romance or a thrilling page-turner, here are the hottest new YA books to sink your teeth into. From far-away fantasy epics set in magical worlds to enemies-to-lovers romantic reads, find the best YA books for your teen’s summer reading.

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute

by Talia Hibbert

Once upon a time, Bradley and Celine were childhood best friends. Now they’re academic rivals competing for a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship. Begrudgingly, they work together, and the forced proximity has them revisiting old memories and wondering why things fell apart. New York Times bestselling author Talia Hibbert gives us a quirky enemies-to-lovers story you don’t want to miss!

Five Survive

Five Survive

by Holly Jackson

Red Kenny and her five friends are ready for the ultimate spring break road trip! Suddenly, their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, with no cell service available. Eight hours later, one of them is dead. Holly Jackson gives us another nail-biting, gripping, skillfully constructed thriller for true crime and mystery lovers.

I Must Betray You

I Must Betray You

by Ruta Sepetys

Attention history lovers, this one is for you! It’s 1989, and Cristian Florescu lives in Romania, ruled by the tyrant Nicolae Ceaușescu. When Cristian becomes an informer for the government against his will, he joins the revolution and shows the world the oppression in his country. With her masterful storytelling skills, #1 New York Times bestselling author Ruta Sepetys sheds light on the deprivation in communist Europe and the incredible grit and resilience of the Romanian people.

A Scatter of Light

A Scatter of Light

by Malinda Lo

This beckoning coming-of-age story of self-discovery follows Aria as she experiences an unexpected change of plans for the summer. Instead of her plan to spend her last summer before college with her friends at Martha's Vineyard, she is sent to spend her time with her artist grandmother. During her stay, Aria finds herself in a charming community that challenges her to reflect on her identity and aspirations. She meets Steph Nicholas, her grandmother's gardener, who changes her perspective on who she is and who she will become forever.

Stardust in Their Veins

Stardust in Their Veins

by Laura Sebastian

Triplets Daphne, Beatriz, and Sophronia may have been born princesses, but their mother, the empress, trained them as spies and assassins with missions to take over the neighboring nations. As they set off on their separate paths, they second-guess their mother’s schemes, even though it means their deaths. Immerse yourself into a world of magic, court scandals, family betrayals, and royal escapades in this exciting fantasy story.

Discover the princesses' beginnings in the prequel, Castles in Their Bones .

Viva Lola Espinoza

Viva Lola Espinoza

by Ella Cerón

Lose yourself in this charming Latinx coming-of-age story about the importance of family, finding first love, and discovering one’s identity in their culture. After Lola gets a C in Spanish, her parents send her to spend the summer with her grandmother in Mexico City so she can connect with her extended family and heritage. And that’s when Lola discovers a curse plaguing her family. She embarks on a quest to break the hex, and the summer becomes an unforgettable adventure.

Juliet Takes a Breath

Juliet Takes a Breath

by Gabby Rivera

After her plan to come out to her family goes awry, Juliet hopes her internship with beloved writer Harlowe Brisbane will mend the mishap and guide her in her next chapter. When Juliet realizes that Harlowe may not have all the answers and they are not the same, she must figure out how to navigate race, identity, and self-actualization in this fun and enthralling novel.

Snow & Poison

Snow & Poison

by Melissa de la Cruz

The #1 New York Times bestselling author is back with the second book in the Cinder & Glass series. Set in Bavaria in the 1600s, Lady Sophie, the daughter of the widowed Duke Maximilian, makes her society debut. She catches the eye of Prince Philip, heir to the Spanish throne. While the two fall in love, Prince Philip’s father, the king, demands that his son marry a princess and puts a hit on Sophie. Will Sophie survive? Enter a world full of magic, court intrigue, and romance in this captivating retelling of Snow White .

The Counselors

The Counselors

by Jessica Goodman

Goldie Easton calls Camp Alpine Lake home. This summer, she and her two besties, Ava and Imogen, are counselors. But then a camper dies by the lake, and it wasn’t an accident. Here’s the twist: Goldie went into the summer with a dark secret — but so did her friends. Can she trust Ava and Imogen? Perfect for fans of Holly Jackson and Karen M. McManus, this thrilling mystery novel needs to find a spot on your TBR list ASAP!

Chloe and the Kaishao Boys

Chloe and the Kaishao Boys

by Mae Coyiuto

Nosy family members, hilarious characters, and countless meet-cutes fill Mae Coyiuto’s enchanting debut novel! The summer before Chloe goes away to college, her family plans to throw her a huge send-off party. But when her father sets her up with blind dates to find the perfect escort, she knows something’s up. It turns out it’s all part of a plan to convince her to stay in town for college. Now she must decide whether to stick to her family’s plan to stay in Manila and study business management or follow her dreams of becoming an animator and attending school in the United States.

Royal Blood

Royal Blood

by Aimée Carter

Fancy a royal read? American Evan Bright is keeping a big secret — she is the illegitimate daughter of the King of England. After getting kicked out of boarding school (again), she’s sent to the UK to clean up her act. Things go awry when her identity gets leaked, and she becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. She’s innocent, but someone wants her to go down for the crime. Dangerously addictive with unforgettable characters, this riveting read follows a headstrong heroine you can’t help but root for.

The Isles of the Gods

The Isles of the Gods

by Amie Kaufman

Enter a fantasy world that perfectly blends mythology, magic, and romance. Selly is a brilliant young sailor. When her father abandons her at port, she jumps aboard another ship to follow him. Unfortunately, she chose the vessel of Prince Leander, a spoiled royal hiding from his enemies. What was supposed to be a simple journey turns deadly as betrayal, revenge, and unexpected romance collide. Through multiple perspective narration, New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman delivers a lush fantasy story so gripping you might finish it in one sitting.

Her Good Side

Her Good Side

by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Fake dating has never been so cute! Bethany Greene has zero experience with dating. Jacob Yeun has been dumped twice in just two months. To make the best of their (unfortunate) situations, they execute a fake-dating ploy. And it works! But when it’s time for their ruse to end, neither one wants to pull back. Can their fake relationship turn into a real one? Indulge in this endearing love story featuring diverse and relatable characters.

Stranger Danger

Stranger Danger

by Maren Stoffels

It was a good idea at first. Lotus, Nova, and Vin needed a distraction-free place to study for their upcoming exams. They rent an isolated farmhouse without phones, social media, or the Internet. And there is no way to call for help when they realize someone is stalking them, seeking revenge for their past misdeeds. Suddenly, a cabin in the middle of nowhere turns into the worst idea. Fast-paced and full of unexpected twists, this thriller novel will keep you hooked until the end.

The Future King

The Future King

by Robyn Schneider

Prince Arthur and Emry Merlin are back for another unforgettable adventure in Camelot! While Emry is (finally) advancing in her magic studies, her best friend, Prince Arthur, prepares for his arranged marriage to Princess Guinevere. For different reasons, the two head off to the French court, where scandal, betrayal, romance, and drama await them. Buckle up because this enchanting sequel is both wittingly charming and joyously funny.

Be sure to catch the adventure-filled prequel, The Other Merlin !

Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim

Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim

by Patricia Park

Alejandra Kim doesn’t know where she belongs. She’s ‘not Latinx’ enough for her Queens neighborhood and not white enough for her elite Manhattan prep school. Her strategy? Spend senior year lying low before escaping to college. But an unexpected event thrusts her into the spotlight (a place she never wanted to be in), and Alejandra must find the strength to face her fears. A poignant story with witty and relatable characters, Patricia Park’s debut novel sheds light on societal issues such as privilege, cultural expectations, and the importance of carving out a place for yourself in the world.

The Agathas

The Agathas

by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

Who are the Agathas? Alice Ogilvie and her tutor, Iris Adams, who, inspired by the detective novels of Agatha Christie, are trying to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan, Alice's best friend and fellow ex-girlfriend of the same guy. Told from two points of view from two beloved YA authors, "the mystery thrills and gratifies thanks to escalating stakes and devastating reveals," per Publishers Weekly . Dive into the latest An Agathas Mystery, The Night in Question , for a new murder case to solve.

Never Vacation with Your Ex

Never Vacation with Your Ex

by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Second-chance love has never been so sweet. Kaylee Jordan lives in the shadow of her mom, a three-time Olympic gold-medalist former volleyball player. And just like her mom, everyone expects Kaylee to go pro after high school. There’s just one thing she has to survive: a summer vacation with her ex, Dean, and his family. To get through the awkward trip, Kaylee enforces her “rules for getting over an ex.” But the rules get harder to follow the more time Dean and Kaylee spend together, and they both wonder if they should remain broken up. Forced proximity, a slow-burn romance, and childhood best friends turned lovers — this latest collaboration by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka has it all!

Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory

by Nic Stone

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Dear Justyce , Nic Stone, is back with another emotional rollercoaster! Shelbi is an academically gifted student with bipolar disorder. Andy is struggling with addiction. When their lives intertwine, they can’t help but fall for each other. But the demons of their pasts threaten to pull them apart. Spine-chilling, immensely personal, raw, and deeply compelling, Stone sheds light on heavy subjects like neurodivergence and substance abuse in beautiful prose.

Everything Leads to You

Everything Leads to You

by Nina LaCour

From the award-winning author of The Disenhanctments and We Are Okay comes a sweet coming-of-age romance, where Emi Price, a budding and talented set designer in the L.A. film scene has begun her career but longs for a love that's real off-screen. When an unsuspecting letter to an estate sale leads her to her only desire.

Nightbirds

by Kate J. Armstrong

Indulge in this fantasy novel that reads like The Great Gatsby with magic. Matilde, Æsa, and Sayer are trapped in the gilded cage of the Nightbird system. They can gift their magic to anyone with a kiss and must bestow gifts to well-paying clients. At the end of the season, they must breed a new generation of Nightbirds. But Matilde, Æsa, and Sayer are tired of being cogs of the system and are determined to break free. Set in a mystical underworld full of glamour, this fiercely feminist novel’s layered world-building and addictive storytelling will keep you glued to the page.

In Nightfall

In Nightfall

by Suzanne Young

Brothers Theo and Marco are trapped in the (very) small town of Nightfall, Oregon, for the summer with their grandmother, who only has one rule: be home before dark. They meet the mysterious Minnow and her friends, who are fun and gorgeous but a bit… peculiar. They soon learn why their grandmother enforces a strict curfew. New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young’s villainously delicious supernatural story overflows with smart characters, mystery-solving, and spooky fun.

Last Chance Dance

Last Chance Dance

by Lakita Wilson

When her high school boyfriend of four years unceremoniously dumps her right before graduation, Leila is devastated. But with the Last Chance Dance around the corner, Leila focuses on finding someone new and refuses to wallow in self-pity. But why is Tre Hillman, her chemistry partner and nemesis, suddenly determined to prove he’s the right choice? Laugh-out-loud humor, endearing characters, and a relatable protagonist make this contemporary love story a must-read.

Threads That Bind

Threads That Bind

by Kika Hatzopoulou

A Greek mythology retelling with a side of political intrigue, murder, mystery, and fated love? Yes, please! In the sunken city of Alante, Io uses her Fate-born abilities as a private investigator. Her latest gig involves solving a string of murders. When her prime suspect shows up with her estranged sister, things take a turn for the worse. Escape into a mythological world in this addictive high-stakes fantasy novel.

More Great Summer YA Reads:

Hotel Magnifique

Hotel Magnifique

by Emily J. Taylor

Flirting with Fate

Flirting with Fate

by J. C. Cervantes

The Noh Family

The Noh Family

by Grace K. Shim

Cinder & Glass

Cinder & Glass

Kiss & Tell

Kiss & Tell

by Adib Khorram

Beauty and the Besharam

Beauty and the Besharam

by Lillie Vale

Kings of B'More

Kings of B'More

by R. Eric Thomas

Melt With You

Melt With You

by Jennifer Dugan

Salaam, with Love

Salaam, with Love

by Sarah Sharaf Beg

The Fear

by Natasha Preston

A Night to Die For

A Night to Die For

by Lisa Schroeder

Family of Liars

Family of Liars

by E. Lockhart

Does My Body Offend You?

Does My Body Offend You?

by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt

The Matchbreaker Summer

The Matchbreaker Summer

by Annie Rains

Six Crimson Cranes

Six Crimson Cranes

by Elizabeth Lim

Castles in Their Bones

Castles in Their Bones

Skin of the Sea

Skin of the Sea

by Natasha Bowen

Looking for summer reading ideas for younger kids? Check out our 2023 lists for Kids Ages 3 – 5 , Ages 6 – 8 , and Ages 9 – 12 .

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Book Review

One summer, 73 books. No matter what you like — thrillers, audiobooks, cookbooks, historical fiction, music books, sci-fi, romance, horror, true crime, sports books, Hollywood tell-alls — we have recommendations for the perfect literary escape.

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Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

In her new memoir, “Splinters,” the essayist Leslie Jamison  recounts the birth of her child  and the end of her marriage.

The Oscar-nominated film “Poor Things” is based on a 1992 book by Alasdair Gray. Beloved by writers, it was never widely read  but is now ripe for reconsideration.

Even in countries where homophobia is pervasive and same-sex relationships are illegal, queer African writers are pushing boundaries , finding an audience and winning awards.

In Lucy Sante’s new memoir, “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition  in her late 60s.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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10 Best Modern Summer Reads for High School Students: An Updated Reading List

10 Best Modern Summer Reads for High School Students: An Updated Reading List

Tired of your teen talking on the phone all summer? Are text messages all they read during their days at the beach? Parents and teachers can team up and inspire teenagers to spend their summers reading and developing new interests in the world of fiction and non-fiction. The following 10 books will encourage students to continue to develop a love of reading that lasts all year long.

1. “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher

Our young protagonist, Clay Jensen, arrives home from school to find a package addressed to him on his steps. The package contains cassette tapes recorded by his crush, Hannah Baker. We learn from Clay that Hannah killed herself a few weeks earlier. These tapes made by Hannah in the weeks before her suicide tell the stories of the 13 people who, in one way or another, contributed to her depression and eventual death.

2. “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Set in Berlin in 1942, this book tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father has just been placed in charge of Auschwitz. Bruno is too young to understand what is happening in Germany and across the world. All he knows is that he has been moved to a new home with nobody to play with and nothing to occupy his time. Fascinated by a fence that runs the length of his property, he begins to wonder about the people on the other side and why they are always dressed in striped pajamas. Exploring the fence, Bruno makes a new friend on the other side. The friendship will end badly and break readers’ hearts.

3. “At Risk” by Alice Hoffman

At Risk

The story focuses on the Farrell family: mother, father, 8-year-old Charlie and 11-year-old Amanda, who is on her way to being a world-class gymnast in the mid-1980s before donated blood was tested. The family faces a harsh tragedy when Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion she received during an appendix operation. This novel, not a story of death but of how a family learns to live, cope, learn and love each other in the face of discrimination, is just as timely now as when it was first published.

4. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes

In an Illinois town, Halloween arrives one week early with the arrival of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show. The words “dark” and “pandemonium” are key to the name of this eerie and horrifying carnival, which is bent on collecting people’s souls to store forever. Only two boys, on the brink of young adulthood, can defeat the powers of Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark. Readers will speed through this spooky book to see if Will and Jim can indeed end the carnival’s reign of terror.

5. “Out of the Easy” by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy

Who could ask for a more interesting setting then the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950? This book dives right in with a wave of sultry southern air as we meet 17-year-old Josie, who dreams of attending an elite college. Standing in her way is not her grades, but her mother’s profession. Josie’s mom is a proud prostitute working in a French Quarter brothel. A page-turning mystery, this book will captivate readers from beginning to end.

6. “Autobiography of a Face” by Lucy Grealy

Autobiography of a Face

Lucy Grealy was nine years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. She managed to beat the almost always-terminal cancer and survive, but her survival came with quite a price. The removal of a third of her jaw left her disfigured for most of her school years. Grealy talks openly and honestly of her experiences, not only with cancer, but also with the never ending teasing she faced at the hands of her classmates for most of her life. This book will wipe out any thoughts of bullying your teen may have entertained and is all the more sad for the fact that Grealy killed herself as a young adult.

7. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown

The DaVinci Code

The book that was on the bestseller list for years is just as exciting and thrilling as it was when first released. Introduce a new generation to one of the most admirable and unlikely heroes of our time, symbologist Robert Langdon. It is impossible to say more about the book without giving away the secrets revealed on almost every page. Suffice to say, if your child will only read ONE book on this list, this should be it. Once they do, they will be hooked and go on to read other Langdon books such as “Inferno,” “The Lost Symbol” and “Angels and Demons.”

8. “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air

Subtitled “A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster,” this book presents Krakauer’s eyewitness account of the events that occurred on the top of Mt. Everest in May of 1996. This harrowing description of an adventure gone awry with a storm that claimed five lives and damaged many more forever is at times difficult to read, but will go down as one of the classic adventure novels of our time. All the more compelling because it is a true story told from the POV of a person who lived to tell the tale, this is a must-read for all students.

9. “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot

Go back to the early days of the master of horror and spend a few weeks in Salem’s Lot, which at first seems to be a sleepy little town in Maine. Stephen King spins a tale of vampiric horror that will leave students clutching their rosary beads and begging you to lock their windows in this Dracula story that out-scares even Stoker’s masterpiece. The scene at sunset in the morgue is, on its own, enough to make any brave reader run for cover.

10. “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted

This heartbreaking piece of non-fiction tells the firsthand account of the author’s two years in the teenage girl ward of a psychiatric hospital. She saw a doctor one time for fifteen minutes and was committed to the hospital for the next two years. Set in the 1960’s, this account of her life there is both a spirited memoir as well as an exposé on all the harsh and harrowing treatments and experiences Susanna was subjected to during her time at the hospital. Not a read for the faint of heart, it is nevertheless a wonderfully written book.

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A huge number of books exist out there, ready and waiting for you to read them. Whether you prefer manga or ancient, epic poems, reading is great for all sorts of reasons .

What follows is a list of highly beneficial books to read in high school (or after!). These are remarkable books— books that made history, books that challenge societal perceptions of the world, and books that are quite simply interesting and moving. The books are presented in alphabetical order, and a short description is given for each book, as well an explanation of why it is worth reading.

Why Is Reading Important?

Why should you read these books? Why should you read at all for that matter? Reading is essential to communication, especially in an era of emails and texting. Beyond even that, though, reading has an array of crucial purposes. It will help improve your grades and test scores. You'll learn about other places, other times, and other cultures. You'll encounter issues you can relate to—issues that speak to you and challenge you to think and feel in new ways. You will grow, empathetically and intellectually. Plus, you'll understand more of the references that crop up all the time in pop culture.

Below are 31 books to read in high school that will help you prepare for college and beyond.

1984 (George Orwell)

This dystopian novel by George Orwell was written 35 years before the date referenced by the title. In this book, Orwell tells a story that warns readers about the possible consequences of complacency in the face of rising dictators (think Hitler and Stalin) and burgeoning technology ripe for misuse. He describes a world where everything is monitored, right down to citizens’ thoughts, and where any opposition to the ruling class is punishable by extreme measures. The oft-encountered quote, "Big Brother is watching," finds its origin in this novel.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)

This sequel to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is much graver in nature than its predecessor. There are still plenty of good antics worthy of a laugh, but it concerns itself largely with a young boy’s attempt to escape severe family dysfunction and the moral implications of his taking an escaped slave as a companion on his adventure down the Mississippi River. Readers should be warned that the " n -word" is used liberally throughout the novel, which tends to be jarring to many a modern ear.

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Mark Twain wants you to read his novel(s).

The Awakening (Kate Chopin)

Set in the Creole culture of the late 1800s, this novel by Kate Chopin details one woman’s process of becoming aware of herself. At the time, women were essentially property, and they were expected to act in demure and socially acceptable ways. As the protagonist "awakens" to her emotional and sexual needs, as well as the ultimate truth of her own independence , all sorts of problems ensue. The novel examines the balance between self-respect and selfishness.

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)

This autobiographical novel by poet Sylvia Plath explores the deep, dark reality of mental illness. The protagonist, Esther, a stand-in for Plath herself, is a college student exploring her talents, interests, and sexuality as she descends into an unsettling spiral of mental instability. It is essential for students to understand the seriousness of mental illness as it is so earnestly portrayed in this book.

Black Rain (Masuji Ibuse)

Black Rain , by Masuji Ibuse, is about the very immediate, human consequences of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It follows a small family of survivors, detailing what happened to them during the days of the bombing and what the effects are some years later. The book adopts a gentle, subtle tone, and yet it is not afraid to delve into very explicit and challenging topics related to the bombings.

Bless Me, Ultima (Rudolfo Anaya)

This semi-autobiographical novel by Rudolfo Anaya contains a healthy dose of magical realism and is considered a staple of Chicano literature. It combines Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences, showing openly the ways in which these forces within the protagonist’s life come into conflict. Young Antonio is growing up in a world that leaves him with more questions than answers: major questions about life and death, good and evil, and so on. These issues seem too big for his six-year-old mind, and yet he grapples with them valiantly through the end of the novel.

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Antonio has lots of questions surrounding his faith traditions.

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

In Brave New World , Aldous Huxley explores themes similar to those found in Orwell’s 1984 . Huxley wrote this novel earlier than Orwell wrote his, and yet both deal with dystopian concepts. In particular, Huxley balances utopian and dystopian interpretations of a world that is highly controlled, easily manipulated, and extremely dysfunctional, ready to fall apart at any provocation. There are insiders of and outsiders to this world, and each character views and interacts with the society in a different light.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Dee Brown)

Dee Brown covers a lot of historical ground in this book. In it, Brown describes the history of European Americans as they interact with (and slaughter) the Native Americans who already inhabit what they claim as their country. It’s an infuriating and accurate tale of mistreatments and abuses, as well as the unfortunate decline of a noble people trying to defend their established way of life. It’s essential for students to understand this part of United States history.

The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)

This bold and controversial novel by J. D. Salinger centers around ideas including adolescent sexuality and relationships. The protagonist is constantly bouncing around from person to person, place to place, activity to activity. Critics were greatly offended by Salinger’s frank discussions of sexual matters and his generally very casual style. This book is an important read in part because of its direct relevance to struggling adolescents and the issues they face.

The Crucible (Arthur Miller)

Arthur Miller wrote this tragic play in the early 1950s. While it is somewhat loosely based on the Salem witch trials of 1692, and while it is likely intended as an allegory to McCarthy’s rooting out of suspected Communists at the time of the play’s writing, the issues it touches on are much more broadly applicable. This is an important dramatic work on how hysteria, cruelty, and ignorant gullibility destroy communities.

Bonus: Studying The Crucible for school and struggling? Check out our The Crucible study guides here !

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There are lots of accusations of creepy stuff in The Crucible.

The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

Anne Frank’s published diary is different from a typical literary work. It’s a true account of the life of one Jewish girl during the Holocaust, and, while Anne Frank wrote some passages with publication in mind, others she did not. When the book was first published, many passages that her father, Otto Frank, found too long, unflattering, or inappropriate were excluded. Today, the book is available with all material included. Gaining some understanding of this horrific genocide is crucial to students.

Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

Books are on trial in this astounding work by Ray Bradbury. Set in yet another dystopian future where firemen are employed to burn books and the houses that contain them, Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a fireman who begins to wonder what books have to offer. This novel is an ode to literacy, and, while it has its tragic moments, it ultimately leaves readers with a message of hope.

Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes)

Daniel Keyes writes a very warm and human form of science fiction in Flowers for Algernon . The novel tells the story of a man considered mentally retarded who is selected for an intelligence-enhancing surgery. The book follows the effects, both positive and negative, that come from the sudden change in his I.Q. This is a moving read for students who wish to understand how intelligence plays into our humanity.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (Ntozake Shange)

In For Colored Girls… , Ntozake Shange creates choreopoetry (poetry meant to be performed with movement and dance) that covers important themes of race, gender, abuse, and perseverance. It’s largely a deep and dark poem, but it contains a message of hope. This is an awesome opportunity for readers to get exposure to poetry in a very relevant and theatrical form.

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The rainbow contains all sorts of symbolism.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

First off, let’s all be clear: as some will already know, Frankenstein is not a monster. Rather, the very human Victor Frankenstein is responsible for creating what we recognize as the monster from the story; the creature itself is nameless. Mary Shelley wrote this Gothic thriller in the early 1800s, and yet we remain fascinated by this tale of playing God and facing the consequences. It’s an eerie tale with themes that run deep.

The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

John Steinbeck’s masterful The Grapes of Wrath centers around the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in American history. It’s a story of hope and despair, moving from one to the other and back again seamlessly throughout the novel. While loaded with biblical allusions, it is not heavy-handed with them, and the writing is often praised as realistic and beautiful.

Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

Great Expectations , by Charles Dickens, is a staple of English literature. It’s one of his most autobiographical works; it tells the story of a young boy, orphaned and poor, who ultimately experiences a drastic change in his fortunes. In addition, he learns much about love, trust, and relationships in this coming-of-age novel. As the title suggests, the novel also contains discussions of hope, disappointment, and expectations.

The Great Gatbsy (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby a novel that in many ways closely reflected his own experience. The decadence of the Jazz Age was, as is revealed in the novel, both enticing for many and revolting for some. The Great Gatsby follows the quest of a wealthy young man to win back the love of his life by extravagant displays of riches and social connections. As the plot builds to its climax, readers, along with Gatsby's simpler, humbler friend and neighbor, are left to ponder the passing of an era in American history.

BONUS: Reading The Great Gatsby for school but finding it hard to keep track of all the characters? We have several study guides that might be able to help, including our guide to all the characters in The Great Gatsby .

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The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)

Amy Tan’s novel, The Joy Luck Club , deals with intergenerational and intercultural questions. Tan seeks to represent the Chinese-American experience while also representing issues of mother-daughter relationships and the passage of time. The book focuses on four mother and four daughters across four sections of the novel for a total of sixteen stories that come together to complete this total work.

Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies speaks to the evil and degenerate potential that lurks within each human. It can be interpreted religiously, politically, psychoanalytically, or any number of other ways, but the basic premise is that a group of schoolboys stranded on an island descend into grotesque savagery. It’s a disturbing story, to be sure, but one that is important to be familiar with in a world where savage instinct too often presents itself today.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)

As with any work, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they’re hugely rewarding pleasure reading for too many fans to count. Tolkien’s masterpieces are more than just pleasure reading, though; the trilogy covers major themes of the epic struggle between good and evil, the necessity of persevering through immensely difficult ordeals, and how to apply mercy. Tolkien asks major questions about those who are evil versus those who are misguided and what we should do when our paths intertwine with any such individuals. The Hobbit is lighter and more kid-focused, but still addresses important themes.

The Odyssey (Homer)

The Odyssey is an epic poem nearly three thousand years old that’s attributed to the blind poet Homer. It tells the story of a war hero’s ten-year quest to return to his home, wife, and son. He encounters a number of varied setbacks along the way, and the trouble isn’t over when he gets home. The Odyssey deals with human interactions with the gods, bringing up questions of righteousness, wrongdoing, and pride as well as ideas of faithfulness and patience.

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Oedipus Rex (Sophocles)

This play by Greek dramatist Sophocles is about a man who inadvertently kills his father and marries his mother. It’s dark subject matter, and nothing good comes of it, as you may well suspect. This another example, as in The Odyssey , of the divine tinkering with human lives and the great sin of pride.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Ken Kesey)

Ken Kesey documents in this work the darkest side of mental health care as it existed in the 1960s. While certainly not all mental health care was like what’s described in the book, nor is it all like that today, audiences of the novel are aghast that any care might even vaguely resemble the horrors discussed. Despite how disturbing the storyline is, it’s important for readers to recognize the vulnerability of this too often overlooked segment of society.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice follows a family with five daughters, all unwed, and all, due to English customs of the late 1700s and early 1800s, in need of wedding. Of the five daughters, Elizabeth is the focus of the novel, though the others are discussed aplenty. While marriage is one of the central ideas in the novel, there are plenty of other themes to be picked apart, including ones that touch on pride, prejudice, first impressions, love, misunderstanding, and manipulation. This is, all around, a classic piece of literature, and one with which to be familiar.

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Next up: one of my favorites, William Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is familiar to most people on some level: two teenagers from feuding families fall in love and ultimately sacrifice their lives to their passion. Of all of Shakespeare’s works, it's a particularly popular one to read in high school for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it deals explicitly with teenaged love, and, for another, it’s a relatively simple plot that’s nonetheless action-packed. It also opens with a shameless series of very witty dirty jokes, and such humor is scattered throughout the rest of the show. Then there’s the thematic material, which includes obedience, fate, and rash decisions, among others.

For those who don’t wish to read about teenagers mooning for each other to the point of suicide, there’s always Hamlet . This story follows a Danish prince whose father has died and whose mother has almost instantly married the father’s brother. When Hamlet discovers, via an appearance of his father’s ghost, that his uncle murdered his father, all sorts of interesting events ensue. There’s madness (real and feigned), murder, suicide, treason, and a lot of waffling over the right course of action.

As an added bonus, those who read Hamlet may wish to read Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead . It follows the events of Hamlet from the perspective of two minor and typically much-maligned characters. It’s also hilarious, if absolutely weird.

Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

Slaughterhouse-Five is a fictional account of events in some ways very similar to what the author himself experienced as a prisoner of war in WWII. He writes about the atrocities humans commit upon each other, and he also mixes in a number of other concerns, some heavy, some light, such as death, aliens, and the ability to see other points in time, past or future.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)

The novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston has been much criticized over the course of its history, and yet it stands as one of the great classics of American literature. It tells the story of a black woman who is full of zest and passion and who is passed from man to man as she goes through life. With her first husband, she is absolutely miserable; with her second husband, it’s more bearable, for a time; and with her third man, she finds happiness. The trials and tribulations she undergoes with all three make for an interesting examination of what it takes for Janie to free the strong, confident woman within.

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(Not an actual representation of Janie. Same approach to life, though.)

Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart , readers encounter a complex and beautifully rendered examination of life with the Igbo tribe in Africa, both before and after the white man’s interference. Okonkwo is the protagonist, and he goes through a number of difficulties that put him in the position of making distasteful decisions. Readers are left to wonder whether things are falling apart because that’s simply the way of the world or whether different decisions could have kept them together. The inevitability of change is neatly demonstrated.

To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird deals with elements of racism, courage, sympathy, understanding, and hope. It tells the story of a small town where a black man has been falsely accused of raping a white woman. The daughter of the lawyer defending the accused is the main protagonist, and another aspect of the story is her journey from bemused mockery to gentle understanding with regard to an eccentric man in the town. To Kill a Mockingbird rose to prominence during the Civil Rights Movement and remains as potent today as it ever was.

The Ugly American (Eugene Burdick and William Lederer)

The Ugly American by Burdick and Lederer is a denouncement of the American practice of sending insensitive diplomatic figures into foreign countries. Through a series of vignettes, it demonstrates American inefficiency overseas. It so impressed John F. Kennedy while he was a Democratic senator that he sent a copy to each and every one of his Senate colleagues. It can be an uncomfortable read, but a worthwhile one.

If you can read through these 30-odd books before you graduate high school, you'll be in a good shape, from a literary perspective.

Even if you can't read all of them, picking a few would not be a bad place to start. You might start with those that simply sound the most interesting to you, or you could look for themes in the books that relate to what you're learning in school. If you're studying McCarthyism, for instance, maybe try The Crucible ; if you're studying the Holocaust, maybe try The Diary of a Young Girl .

These stories are immensely powerful. Some are newer, having instantly won their place in the pantheon of classics, while others have proven themselves by withstanding the test of time.

Readers will find that they resonate with some books more than others, and that's fine; the point is that all of these books have important messages to communicate, and I encourage readers to be open to finding out what those messages are.

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Open a book, and you'll find all sorts of messages! Usually not in bottles, though.

What's Next?

A lot of these books may be read or referenced in AP English Lit classes. Check out our guide to AP Literature for tips on preparing for the exam. If you're not sure whether to take AP English Language or AP English Literature, allow us to provide you with some thoughts on the topic .

While we're on the topic of literature, why don't you take a moment to read some recommendations on which English classes you should take during your high school career?

Are you both a reader and interested in becoming a doctor ? Then you should definitely take a look at our list of books to read as a pre-med student .

And as a reminder, if you decide to read The Great Gatsby or The Crucible , you can check out our analyses of each to help you along the way!

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High School Summer Reading Lists for 2013

20 books today's students are diving into — and why you may want to read them, too.

A high school girl from the past and the present holding books. (Hunstock, Inc./ClassicStock/Alamy)

If you were 16 again and ordered by teachers to read this summer, what titles would you be unlocking on your Kindle or Nook?

Think The Hunger Games , not The Great Gatsby , and The Help , not The Odyssey . Today's high school reading lists lean toward popular contemporary books and away from the canonical titles that are more likely to be studied during the academic year. Summer reading was mostly a voluntary pursuit when people who are now 50+ were whiling away summers. (See page 3 for more about high school reads circa 1963.) These days, however, summer reading is an assignment.

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Lists of suggested titles and requirements vary widely according to school, grade and course level, but there is a common goal: to cultivate a lifelong love of books. As Steven Heller, communication arts teacher at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., put it: "If you require the old classics over the summer, you'll drive kids to SparkNotes."

We studied reading lists from around the country and found the following books among the most common inclusions. There's a good chance your child or grandchild will be cracking one of them open this summer, so why not read along? A good read is a good read, no matter what your age.

The Book Thief , by Markus Zusak (2006)

A young girl living in Nazi Germany during World War II steals books and shares them with neighbors as well as with the Jewish refugee hiding in her foster family's basement.

The Poisonwood Bible , by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)

A Baptist family travels to the Belgian Congo in 1959 for missionary work, kicking off this sprawling story told over three decades in Africa.

The Things They Carried , by Tim O'Brien (1990)

Vietnam veteran O'Brien based this stirring collection of intertwined short stories on his own war experience.

The Joy Luck Club , by Amy Tan (1989)

In San Francisco, a close-knit group of women — four Chinese immigrants and their American-born daughters — gathers for a regular game of mah-jongg over a span of 40 years.

The Lovely Bones , by Alice Sebold (2002)

A murdered teenager watches from the afterlife as her family struggles to deal with her death and her father hunts for her killer.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , by Mark Haddon (2003)

The novel's 15-year-old narrator with an autism spectrum condition is also its protagonist, searching to unravel the mysterious death of a neighborhood pup.

The Kite Runner , by Khaled Hosseini (2003)

A young boy in Kabul lives through a tumultuous period in Afghan history, from the fall of the monarchy to the rise of the Taliban. Hosseini's follow-up, 2007's  A Thousand Splendid Suns,  is also a popular summer reading list choice.

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The Hunger Games , by Suzanne Collins (2008)

The dystopian, futuristic tale of a 16-year-old girl competing in a televised battle to the death in what was once North America.

Blink , by Malcolm Gladwell (2005)

The pop scientist examines the wisdom of spontaneous decisions.

All the Pretty Horses , by Cormac McCarthy (1992)

The first novel in McCarthy's Border Trilogy follows a young Texas cowboy who drifts across the Mexican border after his father's death.

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Friday Night Lights , by H.G. Bissinger (1990)

A year in the life of the Permian Panthers high school football team illuminates the lives of residents in a tiny, football-obsessed Texas town.

Fast Food Nation , by Eric Schlosser (2003)

An unflinching piece of long-form investigative journalism examines the practices and proliferation of the American fast food industry.

Wintergirls , by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)

A teenage girl comes to terms with her eating disorder and the resulting strained relationships with family and friends after her best friend dies of bulimia.

The Help , by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

Racial fissures of the early 1960s in the Deep South are revealed and explored in this story of African American maids in Mississippi and the privileged white women for whom they work.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson , by John Green and David Levithan (2010)

This novel of two identically named teenagers living parallel, briefly intertwining lives explores themes of identity, sexuality and friendship.

Into the Wild , by Jon Krakauer (1996)

The true story of Christopher McCandless, an idealistic young college grad who hiked on his own into the frozen Alaskan wilderness, with deadly consequences.

Water for Elephants , by Sara Gruen (2006)

An elderly man living out his days in a nursing home recalls his life as a veterinarian for a traveling circus in a story about the human heart, and the bond it can develop with animals and people alike .

Life of Pi , by Yann Martel (2001)

After a cargo ship full of zoo animals sinks at sea, an Indian boy is trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger — or is he? A meditation on, among other things, religion and spirituality and how they fit into modern life. Winner of the 2002 Booker Prize.

The Secret Life of Bees , by Sue Monk Kidd (2002)

During the civil rights movement of the mid-'60s, a young white Southern girl goes on the lam with her family's African American housekeeper, hoping to solve the mystery of the mother who abandoned her.

Room , by Emma Donoghue (2010)

A woman and her 5-year-old son are held captive in a tiny room in which young Jack, who narrates the story, has lived his entire life.

Flashback: The Most Frequently Taught Novels in 1963

Teens in front of high school in 1963. (ClassicStock/Alamy)

Fifty years ago, summer reading lists were rare.

But if you were a high school student at the time, you probably pored over a few of these novels in English class — they were the most commonly studied works of literature in American high schools in 1963 and the books changed little through the next decade or two.

How many of these books were you assigned? How many did you actually read?

  • Macbeth , by William Shakespeare (1623)
  • Julius Caesar , by William Shakespeare (1623)
  • Silas Marner , by George Eliot (1861)
  • Our Town , by Thornton Wilder (1938)
  • Great Expectations , by Charles Dickens (1861)
  • Hamlet , by William Shakespeare (1603)
  • The Red Badge of Courage , by Stephen Crane (1895)
  • A Tale of Two Cities , by Charles Dickens (1859)
  • The Scarlet Letter , by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  • Pride and Prejudice , by Jane Austen (1813)
  • The Merchant of Venice , by William Shakespeare (1600)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , by Mark Twain (1884)
  • The Odyssey , by Homer (unknown, written approx. 700 B.C.)
  • Oedipus The King , by Sophocles (unknown, written approx. 430 B.C.)
  • Romeo and Juliet , by William Shakespeare (1597)
  • Return of the Native , by Thomas Hardy (1878)

AARP Facebook Fans Remember Their Summer Reads

We asked AARP Facebook followers to reminisce about the books they devoured as kids.

  • Many, like Christina Hutcheson Carson, remembered the Nancy Drew series. "We had a Bookmobile that drove up to our school … Couldn't wait to get my hands on Nancy Drew."
  • Carol Blum read Nancy Drew, too, but also a popular series about nurse Cherry Ames.
  • Karen Carlson White was among several who recalled The Secret Garden , the Louisa May Alcott books, and The Little House on the Prairie series.
  • Suzanne MacEwen added " The Bobbsey Twins series," and "every fairy tale I could get my hands on!"
  • Dave Morris recalled The Hound of the Baskervilles , The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , The Cross and the Switchblade and Great Expectations .
  • Lisa Schielke said, "Every Pippi Longstocking book."
  • Amy Richardson Mabry thinks fondly of Summer at Buckhorn because it "was read to us by our mom every summer."
  • Who could forget Lassie Come-Home ? Not Diane Sliger.
  • And who could forget The Red Pony ? Not Kathleen Katz.
  • Frances Hollifield Wilson reminded us of Raggedy Ann and Andy stories.
  • Rickey Garrett recalled The Borrowers and To Kill a Mockingbird .
  • Sherry Goodman Hughes must have read nonstop as she included Rifles for Watie , Red Sky at Morning , Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones and Abraham Lincoln biographies.
  • Charlotte Grace Gibson remembered The Pilgrim's Progress .
  • Pat Norton-White added The Black Stallion to our list.
  • Tim Loftus added The Lucky Starr series by Isaac Asimov.

Austin O'Connor writes on entertainment and lifestyle topics for AARP Media.

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30 Must Read Books For High School Students This Summer

30 Must Read Books For High School Students This Summer

It’s finally summer! If you’re like most students, you’re ready to put the textbooks away for a few months and take a break from the tests and papers. While you’ve definitely earned a well-deserved break, summer is also the perfect time to escape with a classic novel, crack open that book you didn’t get a chance to read during the school year, or dig deeper into books related to your future college major. Here are 30 books to consider adding into your reading list this summer!

Why Is Summer Reading Important?

While it might be tempting to put all books away for the summer or get lost in a fun beach read, consider using this uninterrupted time to dive into some of the world’s best literature and expand your learning beyond the classroom.

Reading over the summer has many benefits. One of the most important benefits of summer reading is that it helps you retain the information you learned during school . Daily reading helps maintain younger students’ literacy skills and increases their knowledge of the world around them. Middle and high students who read during the summer develop stronger critical thinking skills and typically score higher on their SAT, ACT, and AP Exams!

What Is The Summer Slide?

The loss of knowledge over the summer is commonly known as the “summer slide.” Teachers expect students to lose some knowledge they gained during the previous school year. To help negate this problem, teachers recommend reading over the summer. Statistics show that students who read over the summer gain an average of one month of reading proficiency!

Students who don’t read over the summer lose two to three months of proficiency. If this pattern continues over many summers, the loss can add up to years of proficiency loss. Once students reach high school, it’s estimated that ⅔ of the reading achievement gap is related to summer learning loss.

Here Are The Benefits of Summer Reading

  • Encourages a love of reading
  • Builds strong reading habits
  • Helps maintain reading/literacy skills
  • Increases knowledge base
  • Develops strong critical thinking skills (and higher test scores!)
  • Helps prevent summer learning loss
  • Helps students stay busy over the summer
  • Decreases stress and improves mental health

Summer Reading List For High School Students 

With so many quality books to read, it can be difficult to choose just a few each summer. It’s a great idea to diversify your summer reading list so you can gain more depth and breadth of knowledge.

Consider adding a literary classic, contemporary novel, self-help book, memoir, and even a graphic novel to your list. If you’re passionate about a particular topic or know what you want to study in college, consider diving deeper into that topic.

#1 Book You Must Read This Summer

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This book takes you behind the doors of the world's top college admissions offices, revealing the highly strategic selection processes applied by institutions whose reputations depend on the number of students they admit and the tens of thousands that they don't. Accepted! is the summer must-read guide to demystifying the increasingly competitive world of elite college admissions .

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30 Great Books To Add To Your Reading List This Summer

1. when breath becomes air.

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Biography, Medicine

Kalanithi wrote about his experiences with death while working in the ICU of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. He was struck by how often patients were diagnosed with terminal illness but had no idea they were dying. His book explores the way our brains deal with uncertainty and how this can be manipulated by doctors.

2. Atomic Habits

Author : James Clear

Genre : Self Development, Productivity

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear about how to achieve success through small changes in our daily lives. It's a great read if you're looking to improve yourself or just want to learn more about personal development.

3. How To Win Friends And Influence People

Author : Dale Carnegie

Genre : Self Development, Communication, Business

It's one thing to be able to influence people, but how can you actually win friends? This book was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936 and has sold more than 30 million copies since then. It's considered to be one of the best-selling books ever written.

4. The Hate U Give

Author : Angie Thomas

Genre : Race, Social Justice, Fiction

This book is about the story of Starr Carter, a black teenager who witnesses the shooting death of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of police officers. She decides to take matters into her own hands and exact revenge on the men who killed her friend.

5. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author : Ed Catmull

Genre : Self Development, Business, Leadership

Creativity Inc. follows the story of how Pixar was able to achieve such great success with their movies. It is also about how they were able to maintain this level of creativity throughout all of these years. They have been around since 1986, but they are still going strong today.

6. The Little Prince

Author : Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Genre : Classics, Philosophy

The Little Prince was written by French author Antoine de Saint- Exupery in 1943. It tells the story of a small boy who lives with his mother in a faraway planet. His father leaves them one day without warning. He meets a fox who gives him three roses. He then meets a grown-up prince who takes him to another planet where he learns about love, friendship, courage, kindness, and loyalty.

7. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Author : Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

Genre : Self Development, Career Development

If you want to live a happier life, you have to design it. This book provides a framework for designing a life that works for you. It's about finding out who you are and what you're good at, then building a career around those strengths.

8. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Author : Adam Grant

Genre : Leadership, Self Development

We all know that success doesn't come easy. It takes hard work and dedication. But what if there was another way? What if instead of working harder or being smarter, we could be more effective? What if we were able to harness our natural ability to give and take? This book explores how we can learn to become better givers and takers.

9. Don’t Think of An Elephant!

Author : George Lakoff

Genre : Political Science

We have all heard about the power of metaphors. But how can they be used to change our behavior or even our beliefs? This is where George Lakoff's work comes in. He has developed a model of metaphor, which he calls “metaphorical framing”. It explains why some people are more likely to accept certain ideas while others reject them.

Author : Angela Duckworth

Genre : Education

It's easy to dismiss grit as something only successful people have. But research suggests that grit can be learned. Angela Duckworth, author of 'Grit', says that grit is about passion and perseverance. She explains that this means having a strong sense of purpose and being able to see obstacles as challenges rather than roadblocks.

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11. How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs

Author : Guy Raz

Genre : Entrepreneurship

This is a book about how people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and many others have gone through different ways to succeed in their lives. It is also a story of how they overcame obstacles, failures and challenges to achieve their dreams.

12. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Author : Jenny Odell

It's time to stop doing things just because they are expected of us. We can't keep up with the pace of life if we try to keep up with all the demands on our attention. So we have to learn how to do nothing. And this means learning how to resist the attention economy.

13. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Author : Michel Foucault

Genre : History, Philosophy

Foucault's book explores the history of madness, particularly in Western culture. He argues that insanity has been a defining characteristic of human civilization since ancient times. His work also examines how this idea of insanity has changed throughout history, with some periods seeing more emphasis placed on mental health and others seeing more emphasis placed on the social stigma associated with being mentally ill.

14. Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds

Author : Carmine Gallo

Genre : Communication

If you want to be successful at public speaking, you have to understand how other people think. And if you want to understand how other people are thinking, you have to talk like them. That's where this book comes in. It contains nine secrets that top speakers share with their audiences.

15. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Author : Carol S. Dweck

Genre : Self Development, Growth Mindset

Dweck explains why people who believe they are smart or talented tend to perform better than those who think they are just lucky. She also discusses how our mindset affects our ability to learn new things.

16. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Author : Kim Malone Scott

Genre : Communication, Leadership

A lot of people are afraid to be direct with their employees because they fear losing their jobs or being labeled as “mean bosses.” But if you want to get things done at work, you have to be able to communicate clearly and directly. If you don’t, then no one will know how to help you move forward. This book will teach you how to be a kickass boss without losing your humanity.

17. Daily Rituals: Women at Work

Author : Mason Currey

Genre : Productivity, Career Development

The idea behind this book is simple: women are more likely to succeed if they have rituals at work. It's true! I've seen it time and time again. So, why don't more women have rituals at work? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is that most women aren't taught how to be successful at work. They're taught how to be good mothers, wives, daughters, friends, etc., but not how to be successful at their jobs.

18. A People’s History of the United States

Author : Howard Zinn

Genre : History, Politics, Social Justice

This book is about the history of the United States since 1776. It covers the American Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, World War I and II, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War III, Vietnam, Watergate, Reaganomics, Clintonism, Bushism, Obamaism, Trumpism, and more.

19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author : Stephen Chobsky

Genre : Fiction, Resilience, Inclusivity

It would be easy to say that this book was written with teenagers in mind. But I think it's more accurate to say that it was written with anyone who has ever felt different or isolated in their life. This novel is about Charlie, a teenager who feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. He's constantly being picked on at school, bullied online, and ignored by his family. His only friend is a girl named Sam, but she seems to have her own problems. Charlie decides to take matters into his own hands and write a letter to himself, explaining how things are going to change if he can just get through high school.

20. Persepolis

Author : Marjane Satrapi

Genre : Biography, History

This book is about life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi, who lived through this time period, uses her own experiences to tell the story of how she grew up during this tumultuous time.

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21. Their Eyes Were Watching God

Author : Zora Neale Hurston

Genre : Historical Fiction, Classics

The story follows Janie Crawford who is a free black woman living in Eatonville Florida during the late 1800's. She lives with her husband and children. Her husband has been unfaithful to her and she wants nothing more than to leave him. She decides to take matters into her own hands and runs off to live with another man. This novel was written in the form of letters between Janie and her lover. It is one of the first novels written about African Americans.

22. Brave New World

Author : Aldous Huxle

Genre : Science Fiction, Classics

This book is set in a future where people live in a society ruled by corporations. People are born with a genetic code that determines their role in life. Those who are intelligent and creative are given special privileges. But those who refuse to conform or rebel against the system are punished.

Author : Elie Wiesel

Genre : History

A Jewish boy born in Hungary, was deported to Auschwitz at age 14 with his family, where they were murdered. He survived and returned home after World War II. His book, “Night,” tells the story of his survival.

24. We Should All Be Feminists

Author : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre : Social Justice

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes about her experiences growing up in Nigeria and how she became aware of the problems facing women there. She also talks about the role of feminism in Africa today.

25. Can't Stop Won't Stop (YA edition)

Author : Jeff Chang

Genre : Music, History, Social Justice

The hip-hop generation is one of the most influential generations in American history. It has shaped culture, politics, entertainment, fashion, music, sports, technology, and even language. This book explores how this hip-hop came together and how they have influenced society.

26. 12 Years A Slave

Author : Solomon Northrup

Solomon Northup was born free but kidnapped and sold into slavery at a very young age. He escaped and eventually made his way back home to New York City, where he wrote this memoir about his experiences. It includes details of how he was captured and held captive, how he managed to escape, and the journey he had to make back home.

27. Go Tell It On The Mountain

Author : James Baldwin

Go Tell It On the Mountain is one of the best-known works of African American literature. Published in 1953, this novel tells the story of a young boy named John Grimes who leaves his home in North Carolina to live with relatives in Harlem, New York City. There he meets a group of black men who are trying to make their way in America during the Great Depression.

28. Into The Wild

Author : Jon Krakauer

Genre : Adventure, Outdoors

Into The Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, who left his home in Alaska in 1992 and hitchhiked across North America with nothing but $25 and a backpack.

29. The White Album

Author : Joan Didion

Genre : Cultural Critiques

The White Album was originally published in 1979 and consists of 24 essays written by Joan Didion between 1968 and 1969. It is considered one of her best works and has been described as “a masterpiece of American non-fiction”.

30. The 1619 Project

Author : Nikole Hannah-Jones

Genre : History, Social Justice

The 1619 Project is a book by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones about the history of slavery in America. The book contains a collection of essays and explores how enslaved Africans were forced to work on plantations across the South. It also looks at the role of white people in supporting the institution of slavery.

Final Thoughts

Summer is the perfect time to relax with a good book. Instead of picking up the next mindless beach read, consider reading some of the books in these lists. They’re not only compelling stories that are fun to read; they’re books that will improve your critical thinking skills, keep your mind fresh, and may even decrease stress and help prevent summer learning loss. 

If you’re interested in learning how Crimson can help you prepare for college, contact one of our academic advisors. They can provide countless resources, guides, and tips on the best ways to spend your high school summers, what to include in your college application, and how to get into your dream university.

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Imagination Soup

2023 Summer Reading Lists of Best Books For Kids

This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s time for summer reading lists, reading programs, and reading challenges! Get your kids, ages 5 to 18, reading with book recommendations from these up-to-date summer reading lists. These summer reading book lists are for every grade level, preschool, early elementary school , upper elementary school, middle school , and high school !!

Over the summer months, choose summer books from the grade level list the child will be entering in the fall. (Unless you know that your child needs modifications. Meaning– if your child is below or above grade level, check different grade level lists — lower or higher. The grade level isn’t as important as helping children read daily, so they grow in their reading skills. Just as long as their reading, am I right?)

Reading–lots and lots of reading–is the only way to keep kids growing as readers…unless a learning disability is interfering. But kids need lots of good books. That’s why I’ve made these summer reading book lists.

You’ll find both familiar favorites and newly published children’s books , as well as a variety of genres and subjects from which to choose. Not only that, many of these recommendations are books in series . (Because aren’t book series the best!?)

I’ve read all the books on the elementary and middle school lists — and recommend them based on my experience as a former teacher, a parent, and a book blogger. The lists do not include book reviews, but you can find all books with reviews elsewhere on Imagination Soup. Either search the title using the search bar on the top left side of Imagination Soup or search for the book to see which grade level list it’s on.

2023 Summer Reading List of Best Books For Kids

2023 Summer Reading Lists of Books for Kids

What are the best summer reads for your children or students to read during the long, hot days of June, July, and August? These summer reading lists include familiar favorites, newly published titles, and popular book series of the best books for kids organized by age, genre, and including a topic/theme label.

Summer Reading for Preschoolers (Ages 3, 4, and 5)

If you’re like me, you always want to read aloud new picture books to your preschool-age children– whether nonfiction or fiction. That’s why I’ve also made a summer book list with fun summer reads for your preschoolers . (And you! Because as the adult reading aloud the book, it helps so much if you love the book you’re reading.)

Get read aloud tips here .

Remember, young readers at this pre-reading stage can “read” the sequence of the story by retelling what happens in the pictures. This is an important literacy skill-building foundational strategy!

Picture Book List for Pre-Readers

Summer Reading for Kids in Elementary School Grades (Kindergarten, Grade 1 – 6)

These book lists for elementary school books share the most engaging chapter books and middle grade books for every reader, no matter what genre or interest they have.

When you visit each elementary school book list, you can download a printable list of books to read for each grade level. (Free!) NOTE: If you don’t see the printable sign up, clear your cache and try again.

Pre-Reader Book List

1st Grade Reading List (age 6 – 7)

2nd Grade Reading List (age 7 – 8)

3rd Grade Reading List (age 8 – 9)

4th Grade Reading List (age 9 – 10)

5th Grade Reading List (age 10 – 11)

6th Grade Reading List (age 11 – 12)

best summer reads for kids

Summer Reading for Middle School Kids and Students (Grades 7 and 8)

Download a list of books to read for your middle school children and students. These summer book recommendations range from realistic to graphic novels to historical fiction — with a variety so every reader has options.

7th Grade Reading List (age 12 – 13)

8th Grade Reading List (age 13 and up / teen)

P.S. Are you doing a summer reading program ? Find good summer reading programs through your local library, Scholastic, or Barnes and Noble. Some schools offer incentives for summer reading, as well! Click here to see the 2023 free summer reading programs .

Tips to Make Reading Reading Happen

summer reading boy picking out a book

Let your kids choose the books that they read. Simple as that.

KIDS NEED TO PICK OUT THEIR OWN BOOKS! Whether or not you think their choices are the best summer reads, PLEASE give your child choices of books. Picking out a chapter book or middle grade book will give the reader ownership and motivation. Use the list of books I’m providing you to allow your kids or students to pick what they want in their pile of summer books.

That being said, if your reader isn’t making book choices that are comprehensible, choose some just-right books for them from which they can decide. Maybe show them six books and ask them to pick the one they want to start with first.

summer reading at a bookstore

Fill your house with lots of books. More books = more chances for your children to find a fantastic, amazing, very good book that they can’t put down.

Recently, we set a new money-spent record at the bookstore. Gulp. I shouldn’t tell you, but it was well over $300. There’s something magical about your mom taking you to the bookstore where you can pick all the books you want to read. (Magically expensive. But worth it.)

Of course, we visit the library weekly, and it’s much more economical.

summer reading at the libary

Visit your local library as often as you can. Let your kids go WILD and check out lots of books! Bring a big book bag and fill it up. (Because why limit books?!)

Kids need chunks of time and opportunities for reading. So, make sure they’re not filling all their time with TV, video games, and iPad time.

summer reading on a tablet 2023 Summer Reading List of Best Books For Kids

5. TECHNOLOGY

Don’t forget about audiobooks, Kindles , iPads, and Nook reading. Ebooks and audiobooks count as reading, too. (See:  audiobooks for tweens  &  audiobooks for teens .)

6. READABILITY

Make sure your child is reading books that he or she can comprehend. When choosing a book, use the 5 finger test to decide if it’s a just-right book and not too hard or too easy. Ask your child to tell you a little about the story during and after reading. If you haven’t read the story, read the back cover blurb and ask questions related to that back cover summary. Make sure your child understands what he or she reads — and that he KNOWS IF HE DOESN’T. For more clarity about reading comprehension, visit this post about reading strategies or this post about reading comprehension .

2023 Summer Reading List of Best Books For Kids -- summer reading in a cozy tent

7. COZY READING SPACE

Kids LOVE a cozy book nook. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to involve the kids. Find a corner – those work best. Let your child help you to add pillows, lamps, books, stuffed animals, a headlamp, or flashlight, to create a special reading space.

Read more tips on how to make a kid-friendly book nook.

8. DOWNTIME

Kids need margins (time) just like we do. We all need unscheduled time to rest and relax. Kids especially.

Remember to make time during the day for rest and for summer reading. That means you’ll probably need to monitor screen time, so the screens don’t compete with books. (Unless your child is reading online books or in a book app.)

9. MORE SUMMER READING TIPS FROM AUTHORS, LIBRARIANS, & TEACHERS

NEXT STEPS FOR SUMMER READING

1. Go to your child’s grade level list. Order or check out as many books as you can!

2. Use the free printables on Imagination Soup to support your young readers’ summer reading.

summer reading

Download my free and fun Summer Reading PDF Printable Activity Packet!

summer reading books high school

Download the free Reading Bingo Challenge

summer reading books high school

Get my FREE printables to track summer learning here .

What else can you do for summer reading?

Try this Reading Bucket List . Add your own bucket list ideas in the notes section.

Or download a blank reading bucket list to fill in yourself.

If you want to get crafty, make homemade bookmarks .

2023 Summer Reading List of Best Books For Kids

More Summer Reading Book Lists by Genre and Topic

Adventure Books for Kids

Fantasy Books for Kids

Funny Books for Kids

Graphic Novels for Kids

Kindle Books for Kids

Magazines for Kids

Mystery Books for Kids

Nonfiction Books for Kids

Science Fiction Books for Kids

Short Middle Grade Books

Summer Vacation Themed Chapter Books 

Get your kids, ages 5 to 18, reading with book recommendations from these up-to-date summer reading lists. These summer reading book lists are for every grade level, preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school!!

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Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, former teacher & literacy trainer, and freelance education writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Penguin Random House's Brightly website, USA Today Health, Adobe Education, Colorado Parent, and Parenting. She is passionate about matching kids with books that they'll love.

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26 Comments

I would like to get your summer reading titles for K through 8th grade. Do I purchase them from you or can I download them?

They are all free and available on their respective grade level summer reading list pages. First grade list on the first grade page, for example.

Can I share your Summer Reading lists on our school’s Fb page and School’s website?

You may share on social media or share this link in a newsletter. You may not upload and publish it on your website. You may not rename it as your own. Thanks for asking, Sherry. Happy reading!

I love your point about downtime! Each day, when the baby sleeps, my big kids go down for “Read and Rest.” My daughter spends the entire two hours DAILY reading chapter books! I have to check out about 20 books a week from the library for her! My little three year old boy rests in his bed, listening to Winnie the Pooh on his Yoto player and turning pages of picture books. They all stay in their rooms for about 2 hours – giving me the time I need to recharge and do chores!

That sounds WONDERFUL, Whitney! Good for you for building up your children’s love of books…and stamina. 🙂

I have twin boys that have recently really taken off with their reading. This list will come in handy as I try to keep up with having new books on hand for them to read.

Happy to hear it!

So many great books! Pinning this for my kids this summer 🙂

summer reading books high school

Here Are The 2024 Summer Scares Titles For a Summer of Excellent Horror Reading

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Kelly Jensen

Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen .

View All posts by Kelly Jensen

summer scares logo 2024

This year, Summer Scares welcomes author Clay McLeod Chapman as the 2024 spokesperson. “Our bookshelves are getting haunted this summer!” exclaims Chapman. “Every last one of the books selected for this year’s Summer Scares is a beautiful little nightmare just waiting for the right reader to come along and crack it open. The outright honor of amassing this awesome roster of authors cannot be overstated. I love each and every last one of these books and I can’t wait to shout about how terrifying they are all summer long.”

Each year, three titles are selected in each of three categories: Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade. For 2024 the selected titles are:

collage of adult summer scares 2024 book covers

Adult Selections

  • Jackal by Erin E. Adams (Bantam, 2022)
  • Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison (Berkley, 2022)
  • This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno (MCD x FSG Originals, 2021)

summer scares cover collage for ya book titles

Young Adult Selections

  • All These Bodies by Kendare Blake (Quill Tree Books, 2021)
  • Dead Flip by Sara Farizan (Algonquin Young Readers, 2022)
  • #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil (Freeform, 2018)

summer scares middle grade book cover collage

Middle Grade Selections

  • Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray, 2021)
  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015)
  • My Aunt Is A Monster by Reimena Yee (Random House Graphic, 2022)

The goal of Summer Scares is to introduce Horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come. In addition to the annual list of recommended titles, the Summer Scares Programming Guide, created each year by the Springfield-Greene County (MO) Library — and free for libraries anywhere to access, is back with the tools libraries need to connect with their patrons.

“The 2024 guide is packed with ideas that library workers can use to engage their communities with these great titles, whether they’re putting up book displays, hosting author events, or planning an entire Summer Scares program series,” states Konrad Stump, co-creator of the programming guide. The guide will be available beginning March 1, 2024, on the Summer Scares Resource page at https://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html

Along with the guide, the Summer Scares committee will work with both the recommended list authors and Horror authors from all over the country to provide free programming to libraries. Any library looking to host horror-themed events any time of year is encouraged to email [email protected] to get started.

2024 summer scares book cover collage

Once again, Summer Scares will be included as part of iRead, a summer reading program that is used by libraries in the United States and across the globe by the Department of Defense for libraries on military bases. “While there is nothing scary about Summer Reading, there is no better time than summer to scare up some great books. iREAD is thrilled (and chilled!) to partner once again with Summer Scares to introduce Horror titles to school and public library workers in order to help them start conversations with readers that perfectly align with our mission to bridge the summer gap while inspiring literacy and life-long learning,” shares iREAD Content and Development Manager Becca Boland. “We look forward to working with Summer Scares to help people find their voice — even if it is to scream!”

Booklist is helping to kick off Summer Scares 2024 in March with a series of three free webinars with this year’s featured authors in conversation with the committee members:

  • Monday, March 11, 2024, at 4 p.m. Eastern, featuring our Middle Grade authors and moderated by Sarah Hunter
  • Thursday, March 21, 2024, at 2 p.m. Eastern, featuring our Young Adult authors and moderated by Yaika Sabat
  • Monday, March 25, 2024, at 2 p.m. Eastern, featuring our Adult authors and moderated by Clay McLeod Chapman

Each webinar lasts one hour. Anyone may register to participate for free at https://www.booklistonline.com/webinars . Recordings will be available for on-demand viewing after the live events at https://www.booklistonline.com/webinars-archive .

All are welcome to join the Summer Scares committee and featured authors at the HWA’s Librarians’ Day, taking place in person on May 31, 2024, in San Diego as part of StokerConⓇ. Details at: https://www.stokercon2024.com .

The HWA is a non-profit organization of writers and publishing professionals and the oldest organization dedicated to the Horror/Dark Fiction genre. One of the HWA’s missions is to foster an appreciation of reading through extensive programming and partnerships with libraries, schools, and literacy-based organizations.

The 2024 Summer Scares program committee consists of author Clay McLeod Chapman, HWA Library Committee Co-Chairs Becky Spratford and Konrad Stump, as well as Academic Librarian Carolyn Ciesla, Book Riot Editor and YA specialist Kelly Jensen, Booklist Editor and Middle Grade specialist Julia Smith, and Manager of Reader Services at NoveList Yaika Sabat.

For more information about the Summer Scares reading program, including committee member bios and how to obtain promotional materials and schedule events with the authors/committee members, please visit The Summer Scares Resource Page ( https://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html ) or email HWA Library Committee Co-Chairs Becky Spratford and Konrad Stump at [email protected].

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