The Best High School Reading Book List

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If you’re looking for the best high school reading book list with books that are edgy, intriguing and full of information for your growing student or child, look no further.Reading is a journey which can be extremely rewarding for your high schooler for several reasons.Not only does it supply enjoyment, but it also helps you to expand your thinking ability and gain knowledge of the world. That is one of the reasons that the books on this list should be completed before he/she graduates. In this list, you’ll find some of the most popular books for high school age students as well as a brief description of the book itself. This reading list will aid students in not just getting through high school but in life itself. In short, if you’re looking for an enjoyable book for your high schooler, you will love this guide. Keep reading for more literary gems.

If you’re taking the SAT, building up your reading repertoire can be helpful for the essay section. After you’re done with this article, check out our list of 125 SAT tips here.

Recommended 9th Grade Reading ListRecommended 9th Grade Reading List

1. Stargirl By Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is a story themed around high school and the reality of popularity and celebrating our differences.After 15 years of homeschooling the main character, Stargirl, is thrust into the new world of high school and forced to deal with the fleeting world of popularity. This high school reading list book is perfect for the curious and blossoming high school freshman as it depicts the circumstances for many students entering high school.

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is the story of a high school freshman who believes that speaking up for yourself is the biggest lie of high school. She is a friendless outcast who becomes isolated from the world around her after being raped by an upperclassman at a high school party. This is an excellent read for the freshman as they deal with their changing emotions and those of their classmates.It takes you deep into the head of an outcast teen and how the actions of others directly affect her views of self and the people around her.

3. The Fault in Our Stars By John Green

Hazel Lancaster, a 16-year-old cancer patient, narrates the story of a group of teenagers who have one foot in the grave.The story follows Hazel to a cancer support group where she ultimately meets and falls in love with a teenage amputee and fellow cancer patient.The heart-wrenching story centers around the acceptance of our fate.This book is the perfect book for any 9th-grade reading list.

4. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye is the story of a painter, Elaine, who returns to her hometown and reminisces on her childhood concerning her art.Her most vivid memory is a trio of girls who taught her friendship, betrayal and even longing. In Cat’s Eye, Elaine must come to terms with her past and all her diverse identities.She must also seek to release herself from the trauma of her past. This book makes the high school reading list for its themes of friendship and identity all which run rampant through your high school years.

5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye is the story of a young African American girl named Pecola.Pecola dreams of having blue eyes so that she can be as loved and as beautiful as the blue-eyed children. It is a story of racial oppression and how European beauty standards are internalized and can ultimately distort the lives of the women obsessed with them.

6. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The novel sets in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century.It depicts the story of Edna, a married woman who struggles with her untraditional views on femininity, sexuality, and motherhood. As her views begin to grow more unorthodox, her life consequently becomes more disturbed. This story depicts self- respect, self-awareness and in some instances non-conformity.

Recommended 10th Grade Reading ListRecommended 10th Grade Reading List

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book makes the high school book list as an alternative for teaching the Holocaust outside of using traditional books like Night or the Diary of Anne Frank. Liesel is a foster child who learns to read and begins stealing books.She shares these books with her neighbors during bomb raids.One major theme in this book is the power of literacy, death, and grief.

8. The Circle by Dave Eggers

When Mae starts working for the Circle, she is intrigued by the parties, the clubs, brunches and all the other amenities they offer.However, even with strange interactions with her colleagues and her job becoming increasingly public she believes she has hit the jackpot.The Circle focuses in on privacy, and how to live with being so interconnected in the age of technology, a story perfect for our increasingly exposed society and the 10th Grade Reading List.

9. Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula is the story of 2 girls who grew up together but ultimately grew in two separate directions.Sula went off to live her dreams, and Nel stayed in the poor black Midwest and got married. When Sula returns, she is cast as a witch and a demon by her old friends and is forced to stand in her strength. Sula makes this list as a story of friendship and good versus evil.

10. Beowulf

Beowulfis the story of a warrior who must fight and defeat Grendel, a monster who is threatening Denmark.Loyalty is a significant theme in Beowulf; it is a story of valiancy, vengeance, and bravery.It is a classic read in high schools across the country.

11. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a futuristic American city which is home to firefighters who start fires rather than putting them out. It has been a controversial book that has garnered criticism for its plot centered around the banning and burning of books.This story is an excellent example of censorship and the importance of thought and literature.

12. Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

This novel follows Henry Pulling and his colorful Aunt Augusta whom he first meets at his mother’s funeral.Henry’s life takes a very different turn from his usual retired life as a bank manager.Aunt Augusta introduces him to a life of adventure, her past, and crime.This read is packed with social commentary.

Recommended 11th Grade Reading ListRecommended 11th Grade Reading List

13. Life of Pie by Yann Martel

Life of Pie is a story of survival.It is the story of Pi, a Tamil boy and zoo keeper’s son, who manages to survive 227 days at sea with a Bengal tiger after becoming shipwrecked.This novel is great for older teens as it explores notions of religion, cannibalism, and sexuality.

14. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth night is a comedy set around two separated twins, each believing the other to be dead.This is a romantic comedy about a poverty-stricken girl who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle. The significant themes present include love and desire.This is great for the 11th-grade book list due to its ideas and story.


This novel is centered around Maggie Tulliver who is brought up at the Dorlcote Mill.As a child, Maggie longed for acceptance from her parents but instead was faced with constant conflict for her passionate and fierce nature.The fight between her reality and expectations is brought to a head as she grows up and matures.She finds herself stuck between the three relationships which mean the most to her. This story contains themes ranging from the loss of innocence to the portrayal of sibling relationships.

16. The Guide by R. K. Narayan

This is the story of Raju, a famously corrupt tour guide, and his journey to becoming one of the greatest holy men in India. The novel details his transformation from tour guide to spiritual guide and beyond.The story forces readers to acknowledge the ability to transform and gain redemption from their past.Hypocrisy is also a significant theme present in the life of Raju.

17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn are a literary classic.It recounts the story of a young boy and his travels down the Mississippi River. This novel has been an influence on many American writers, and it is a must read for most high school students.

Recommended 12th Grade Reading ListRecommended 12th Grade Reading List

18. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

This is the story of 2 princesses, one seen as beautiful, Psyche and the other as unappealing, Orual.Orual loves Psyche to the point of obsession and harm.The story takes a turn when Orual finds out that Psyche is loved by Cupid.The story takes place in a pre-Christian society.The book contains themes of love, fear and ultimately the power of beauty. The book goes so far as to portray the beautiful characters as being worthier than the least attractive of love and general usefulness.

19. Dream on Monkey Mountain by Jhumpa Lahiri

This play details a vision by the main character, Makak, which it had during his stay in jail after a drunken night.The dream forces him to confront his own conflicted identities. Shortly after he is released with a new-found belief that he and his people can be truly free only if they s singular consciousness.The play focuses on the theme of self-identity.

20. Foe by Iain Reid

Foe is the story of Junior & Henrietta, two people who live a comfortable life alone on a farm.Everything shakes up when Junior is selected to travel far away.Henrietta who must stay at the farm, should not be alarmed as arrangements were made for her to have a constant companion, as Junior was. This Istory centered around domestic relationships and self-determination, perfect for the graduating senior and any summer reading list for high school.

21. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This autobiography style novel gives readers a glimpse into the dark reality of mental health.The main character, Esther is a brilliant and beautiful college student who through her journey of self-discovery finds herself on a downward spiral.This book takes readers through the darkness experienced in mental instability and gives a glimpse into the seriousness of mental illness.It also plays on the notion that mental issues have no face.

22. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This book was published in 1952 and is a story of the racial divide which takes place in New York. It brings to light the reality that African Americans faced daily. It also addresses many social issues including Marxism, questions of identity and black nationalism.This book is an exceptional read, and many have deemed it a masterpiece.

3 Best Fiction High School Books by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Read Before You GraduateThe 3 Best Fiction High School Books by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Read Before You Graduate

23. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This novel is set in the roaring ’20s and told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, neighbor to the main character Jay Gatsby.Gatsby, who is considered “new money,” longs to win back the love of Daisy Buchanan. The novel describes the differences between “old money,” families with generational wealth, and “new money” while depicting the declination of the American Dream.

24. Animal Farm by George Orwell

In this satirical novel, a farm gets overtaken by the mistreated and overworked animals whichinhabit it. Their overarching goal is to create a paradise. This includes equality and progress.However, the story can be used to depict the evolution from revolution to totalitarianism.

25. 1984 by George Orwell

1984 is a controversial novel which has been repeatedly banned in the past. It follows the storyof Oceania, a superstate ruled by “The Party.””The Party’s” job is to suppress any ideas or attempts at individualism and uninhibited thought.This sentiment is executed using an entity called the “Thought Police.”One of the main characters, Winston Smith, is a Party member who secretly despises the party and everything they stand for. His dreams of rebellion come true when he falls in love with his coworker, Julia.Censorship and nationalism are two significant themes within the book.

3 Best Non-Fiction High School Books to Read Before You GraduateThe 3 Best Non-Fiction High School Books to Read Before You Graduate

26. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Black Like Me is a must read.It is the biography of a white man, John Howard Griffin, portraying the Jim Crow south from the eyes of a “black man.” Griffin darkens his skin with the help of a dermatologist to analyze how he would be treated as a black man traveling through the south.Several themes are present in this book including identity, hypocrisy and of course, racial segregation with a critical takeaway being the ability to see life from someone else’s eyes.

27. Hidden Figures byMargot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures is the story of the black women who worked with NASA to solve the toughest of problems that stood in the way of helping America win the space race.These women were hidden in the shadows working to overcome racial and gender discrimination. Their story is a true testament to what it means to work hard, have confidence and succeed in a society that isn’t set up for you.This book belongs on every high school reading list.

28. Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner

This book is a hidden gem which can be helpful in the most unsuspecting manner.It provides guidance advice to teens who have experienced bullying in the past or who are currently experiencing these hardships.This would be an excellent book for required high school reading.

Absolute Must Read High School Books Before CollegeAbsolute Must Read High School Books Before College

29. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime and Punishment follow the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, an ex-student living in poverty who subsequently creates a plan to kill a pawnbroker.Rodion feels that killing the pawnbroker will aid him in getting rid of his life’ issues as he would be free from poverty and could go on to perform good deeds. However, his life after the murder is quite the opposite.He finds himself enduring mental anguish and disgust for his actions.Throughout the novel, he struggles with guilt as he must also face real consequences for his actions.This book forces readers to understand not just the consequences of their actions but the mental toil that is present with or choices.

30. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This novel can be deemed as a southern love story about Janie Crawford. Janie is independent and ever-changing as seen through her impoverished life, tribulations and three marriages.Janie is determined to be her own woman; something shunned upon in the 30s as a woman from the south.This book is a story of relationships, power, and even inequality.This book is another literary staple that will not disappoint its readers.

31. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

This American play tells the story of Blanche DuBois.Blanche who is deemed as a sexy and promiscuous southern bell’s life takes a turn when she moves in with her sister and brother in law.Her presence causes problems in her sister’s relationship as she tries to overcome her demons. Her sanity and credibility are continuously questioned as her relations begin to unravel around her.The book depicts a stark contrast between fantasy and reality that we must all face in our lives.

This best high school reading book list provides a variety of items with varying themes for all high school-aged students. The transition to high school can be hard.For some, it is the first time they are stepping outside of their comfort zones.This high school reading list is full of books to help get students through their high school years. This includes books which have themes that will resonate with freshman or that have ideas to aid them throughout life but fall at a more comfortable reading level. Growth, transformation and even dealing with censorship are all prevalent themes in this list as well as in the life of your growing teenager.Completing these books before graduating will not only supply a more profound sense of self but will hopefully reinforce a love for literature.

Did you find this helpful? You may find our other reading book lists helpful to check out.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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