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Summer Reading List for High Schoolers

teen student working on laptop on the beach
Summer vacation is a great time to de-stress, enjoy the great outdoors and generally just be a kid. But it’s also a great time to read — for pleasure, as much as for any other reason. This list of 20 great summer novels for high school students is sure to keep kids turning pages and stretching their imaginations. It is geared more toward the contemporary than the classics, but it won’t fail to challenge students or open their minds to the possibilities of great literature.

Kids learn better when they’re engaged as more than just passive readers, so it helps students to participate in a summer reading program or discussion group, too. Most local libraries offer a free summer reading program for students to participate in. Another option is to encourage kids in your class who choose to read the same book to meet and discuss it over the summer. You could also encourage your students to join online discussions of the books.

Summer Reading List

1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A vision of the future where everyone — or almost everyone — is perfectly happy.

2. The Mute’s Soliloquy by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
One of Indonesia’s greatest novelists chronicles 11 years in a prison camp.

3. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The infamous five-dimensional novel about World War II — with aliens.

4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This epic of an America unseen in plain sight begins with a blindfolded boxing match.

5. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Novel in verse retelling the myth of Hercules and Geryon in the present day.

6. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
“That’s a true war story that never happened.”

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

8. The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
A noir mystery which doubles as a virtuoso exercise in style, pacing and character.

9. Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Nine short stories from every corner of contemporary Haitian life.

10. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
An exceptionally realistic picture of a world without parents.

11. Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
This Kenyan murder mystery caused such controversy that its author was imprisoned in 1977.

12. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
You’ve seen the movies. Go deeper into Middle Earth by reading the books.

13. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
This novel takes place in the course of one life-changing night, before the morning of an execution.

14. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
This novel traces the lives of six very different characters who all confide in a deaf-mute.

15. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
If you don’t believe the title now, you will after reading the book.

16. Song of Solomon by Tony Morrison
A ghost story set shortly after the end of the Civil War.

17. Blow Up and Other Stories by Julio Cortazar
These short stories invest the every day with symbolic power and make magic scarily real.

18. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
A young boy is sent to a space station to be trained as a future military commander.

19. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
A former football hero and his wife return to his family’s estate to prepare for his father’s death.

20. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
One of the first and best novels chronicling a young woman’s descent into mental illness.


Photo credit to Spree2010 via flickr.com