High School Recommended Reads


  • Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. 1811. [also available on audio]
    Two sisters, one practical and conventional and the other emotional and sentimental, set their sights on men who will perfectly match their disparate personalities, with unexpected results. [Lexile: 1180]
  • Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. [also available on audio]
    Orphaned governess Jane falls in love with her employer, a brooding man with a terrible secret. [Lexile: 890]
  • Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1861. [also available on audio]
    The orphan, Pip, and the convict, Magwitch; the beautiful Estella and her guardian, Miss Havisham; and the ambitious lawyer, Mr. Jaggers— all have a part to play in the mystery. [Lexile: 860]
  • Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. [also available on audio]
    A young man gives his account of growing up in the Jim Crow South. The last line of the book speaks volumes: "Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" [Lexile: 950]
  • Forster, E.M. Howards End. 1910. [also available on audio]
    The disregard of a dying woman's bequest, a girl's attempt to help an impoverished clerk and the marriage of an idealist and a materialist all intersect at an estate called Howards End. [Lexile: 820]
  • Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. 1970. [also available on audio]
    The rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo is told through the history of the Buendia family.
  • Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1987. [also available on audio]
    An escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio is haunted by memories of the farm that enslaved her, and by the ghost of her dead baby girl whom she sacrificed. [Lexile: 870]
  • Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. 1948. [also available on audio]
    A novel depicting the racial ferment in the beautiful country of South Africa in 1948. [Lexile: 860]
  • Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. 1920. [also available on audio]
    Newland Archer begins to question the values the high society in Victorian New York when he finds himself torn between two very different women—his proper young fiancee and her exotic cousin. [Lexile: 1170]
  • Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. 1927.
    At their second home on the Isle of Skye, the Ramsay family surrounds itself with friends and colleagues. They contend with World War I, family deaths and hardships both spoken and unspoken. [Lexile: 1030]

Award winners

Alex Award

  • Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Creating fantastical role-playing games from his apartment, where he endures a life of solitude after a disfiguring injury, Sean is blamed for a disaster involving two high school student clients, an event that compels him to reevaluate his own past.
  • Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Set during World War II Europe, this novel is told through the alternating, parallel stories of Werner and Marie-Laure, and how their paths cross.
  • Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. So begins this debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. [Lexile: 870]
  • Weir, Andy. The Martian. 2014. [also available on audio]
    After a bad storm cuts his team's Mars mission short, injured astronaut Mark Watley is stranded. Now he's got to figure out how to survive without air, shelter, food or water on the harsh Martian landscape until the next manned mission in four years.

National Book Award

  • Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 2007. [also available on audio]
    Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. [Lexile: 600]
  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin. 2014. [also available on audio] [940.5453 SHE]
    The Port Chicago 50 presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who, after the deadly Port Chicago explosion, were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions. [Lexile: 950]
  • St. John Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven. 2014. [also available on audio]
    An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a catastrophic strain of flu changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? (Read a staff review of this title!)

Printz Award

  • Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. 2002. [also available on audio]
    In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patrón, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States. [Lexile: 660]
  • Nelson, Jandy. I'll Give You the Sun. 2014. [also available on audio]
    A story of first love, family, loss and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah. [Lexile: 740] (Read a staff review of this title!)
  • Tamaki, Mariko. This One Summer. 2014.
    Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. Her friend Windy is always there, too, but this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and Rose and Windy have gotten tangled up in a local tragedy-in-the-making. [Lexile: 300]
  • Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. 2006.
    All Jin Wang wants is to fit in, but when his family moves to a new neighborhood, he finds that he's the only Chinese American student at his school. [Lexile: 530]

Pulitzer Prize

  • Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. 2000. [also available on audio]
    In 1939 New York City, Joe Kavalier, a refugee from Hitler's Prague, joins forces with his Brooklyn-born cousin, Sammy Clay, to create comic-book superheroes inspired by their own fantasies, fears and dreams. [Lexile: 1170]
  • Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. 2007. [also available on audio]
    Living with an old-world mother and rebellious sister, an urban New Jersey misfit dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien, and believes that a long-standing family curse is thwarting his efforts to find love and happiness. [Lexile: 1010]
  • Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. 2002. [also available on audio]
    Calliope's friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparent's desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. 1999.
    Nine stories, imbued with the vibrant details of Indian culture, explore the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. [Lexile: 1050]
  • McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. 2006. [also available on audio]
    After an ecological disaster, a man and his son struggle to find a home in an American wasteland. [Lexile: 670]
  • Russell, Karen. Swamplandia! 2011. [also available on audio]
    A 13-year-old heroine, wise beyond her years, shares an adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park.
  • Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch. 2013. [also available on audio]
    A young boy in New York City miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life.

YA Picks

  • Kagawa, Julie. Talon. 2014. [also available on audio]
    In a world in which near-extinct dragons pass as humans to grow their numbers secretly, siblings Ember and Dante Hill prepare for destined positions in the world of Talon, only to be hunted by a dragon-slaying soldier.
  • Kantor, Melissa. Maybe One Day. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Zoe thought that being cut from her ballet program was the worst thing that could happen, but when her best friend Olivia is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, Zoe quickly learns that not being able to dance is the least of her problems. [Lexile: 770]
  • King, A.S. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. 2014. [also available on audio]
    As her high school graduation draws near, Glory O'Brien begins having powerful and terrifying visions of the future as she struggles with long-buried grief over her mother's suicide.
  • Levithan, David. Every Day. 2012. [also available on audio]
    Every morning A wakes in a different person's body, in a different person's life, learning over the years never to get too attached, until A wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon.
  • Lockhart, E. We Were Liars. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Spending the summers on her family's private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her family, teenaged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer. [Lexile: 600]
  • Lord, Emery. The Start of Me and You. 2015.
    It's been a year since Paige's first boyfriend died in an accident and she's finally ready for a second chance at high school...and she has a plan.
  • McGinnis, Mindy. In a Handful of Dust. 2014.
    In a barren land, teenage Lucy is taken away from the community she has grown up in and searches the vast countryside for a new home.
  • Oliver, Lauren. Vanishing Girls. 2015. [also available on audio]
    Two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident, a missing nine-year-old girl, and the shocking connection between them.
  • Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. 2014.
    Austin Szerba narrates the end of humanity as he and his best friend Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant, unstoppable bugs and uncover the secrets of a decades-old experiment gone terribly wrong. [Lexile: 910]
  • Wein, Elizabeth. Black Dove, White Raven. 2015. [also available on audio]
    Having moved to Ethopia to avoid the prejudices of 1930s America, Emilia Menotti, her black adoptive brother Teo and their mother Rhoda are devoted to their new country even after war with Italy looms, drawing the teens into the conflict. (Read a staff review of this title!)
  • Whaley, John Corey. Noggin. 2014. [also available on audio]
    After dying at age 16, Travis Coates' head was removed and frozen for five years before being attached to another body. Now the old Travis and the new must find a way to coexist while figuring out changes in his relationships. [Lexile: 760]
  • Wolitzer, Meg. Belzhar. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Unable to cope with the loss of boyfriend Reeve, 15-year-old Jam Gallahue is sent to a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, where a journal-writing assignment transports her to the magical realm of Belzhar, where she and Reeve can be together. [Lexile: 790]

Contemporary works

  • Carey, M.R. The Girl with All the Gifts. 2014. [also available on audio]
    Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. (Read a staff review of this title!)
  • Dashner, James. The Maze Runner. 2009. [also available on audio]
    Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze, realizing he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape. [Lexile: 770]
  • Macallister, Greer. The Magician's Lie. 2015. [also available on audio]
    The Amazing Arden, the most famous female illusionist of her day, is arrested for her husband's murder. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.
  • Moyes, Jojo. Me Before You. 2013. [also available on audio]
    Taking a job as an assistant to an extreme sports enthusiast, wheelchair-bound after a motorcycle accident, Louisa struggles with her employer's acerbic moods. After learning of his shocking plans, she decides to demonstrate to him that life is still worth living.
  • Shannon, Samantha. The Bone Season. 2013. [also available on audio]
    Paige Mahoney is a rare type of clairvoyant employed by the powerful criminal syndicate operating within a dystopian 21st-century London. When she's captured by government agents, Paige ends up in a prison camp where she will be trained for battle. First in a planned series.
  • Solomon, Asali. Disgruntled. 2015.
    Kenya Curtis is only eight years old, but she knows she's different, even if she can't put her finger on how or why. It's not that she's black, maybe it's the fact that her family celebrates Kwanzaa, or because she's forbidden from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?
  • Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread. 2015. [also available on audio]
    The lives of four generations of the Whitshanks family have unfolded in and around the sprawling Baltimore house that has always been their anchor. It has shared their tender moments, celebrations, disappointments and long-held secrets.


Social studies

  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. 1996. [also available on audio] [917.98 KRA]
    In April 1992, 24-year-old Chris McCandless left civilization behind and headed into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Four months later, his emaciated corpse was found at his campsite. Into the Wild explores clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless on his journey. [Lexile: 1270]
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. 2008. [also available on audio] [305.569 HER]
    In an attempt to understand the lives of Americans earning near-minimum wages, Ehrenreich works as a waitress in Florida, a cleaning woman in Maine and a sales clerk in Minnesota. [Lexile: 1340]
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson. 2013. [303.4833 THO]
    Thompson delves into how we use technology to better ourselves, our memories and our society more broadly.
  • Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon. 2013. [also available on audio] [302.34 BAZ]
    Bazelon defines what bullying is and isn't; explores when intervention is essential and when kids should be given the freedom to fend for themselves; dispels persistent myths; and takes readers into schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying and examines their strategies.
  • Uprising: A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother's Daughter by Sally Armstrong. 2014. [305.409 ARM]
    Armstrong, an award-winning humanitarian and journalist, shows us why empowering women and girls is the way to end poverty, violence and conflict, and she introduces us to females who are making change happen, from Nobel Prize winners to little girls suing for justice.
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. 2012. [also available on audio] [917.9 STR]
    A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.


  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. 2014. [also available on audio] [797.123 BRO]
    Brown's book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.
  • Brown, Pierce. Red Rising. 2014. [also available on audio]
    A tale set in a bleak future society torn by class divisions follows the experiences of secret revolutionary Darrow, who after witnessing his wife's execution by an oppressive government, joins a revolutionary cell and attempts to infiltrate an elite military academy.
  • The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell. 2014. [323.1196 MIT]
    Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Murders, this book traces the events surrounding the KKK lynching of three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African Americans to vote. [Lexile: 1130]
  • Laughing At My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw. 2014. [617.482 BUR]
    With acerbic wit, Burcaw describes the challenges he faces as a 21-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, he handles his situation with humor and a "you-only-live-once" perspective on life. [Lexile: 1110]

revised May 2015