High School Summer Reading List
Yesterday I introduced my Middle School Summer Reading List. Here are some suggestions for those who don’t already have a High School Summer Reading List:
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol. This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement. Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, this is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – A book that transcends the genre of war fiction. Vietnam is still O’Brien’s theme in this book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. It is a classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, this book is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Juliet, a writer, begins a correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the German occupation had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake – In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn’t deliver it. This is a tale of two worlds-one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve-and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history’s tide, it examines how stories are told, and how the fact of war is borne even through everyday life.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Album – Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Dickens unfolds a masterpiece of drama, adventure, and courage featuring Charles Darnay, a man falsely accused of treason. He bears an uncanny resemblance to the dissolute, yet noble Sydney Carton — a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel culminates in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – A dashing young hero, Edmond Dantès, is betrayed by his enemies and thrown into a secret dungeon in the Chateau d’If — doomed to spend his life in a dank prison cell. The story of his long, intolerable years in captivity, his miraculous escape, and his carefully wrought revenge creates a dramatic tale of mystery and intrigue and paints a vision of France — a dazzling, dueling, exuberant France — that has become immortal.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This is the story of two 16-year-olds who meet at a cancer support group. Hazel is fascinated with a novel called An Imperial Affliction and longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to where Imperial’s author lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine – Eleven-year-old Fin and his glamorous, worldly, older half sister, Lady, have just been orphaned, and Lady, whom Fin hasn’t seen in six years, is now his legal guardian and his only hope. That means Fin is uprooted from a small dairy farm in rural Connecticut, landing in Greenwich Village in the middle of the Swinging Sixties. He soon learns that Lady—giddy, impulsive, and pursued by an ardent and dogged set of suitors—is as much his responsibility as he is hers.
Heft by Liz Moore – Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his difficult family life. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that shatters their isolation.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, this is a moving portrait of two women linked by the horrors of slavery. Sarah, daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, exhibits an independent spirit and strong belief in the equality of all. Thwarted from her dreams of becoming a lawyer, she struggles throughout life to find an outlet for her convictions. Handful, a slave in the Grimké household, displays a sharp intellect and brave, rebellious disposition. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters’ perspectives, as we follow their unlikely friendship from childhood to middle age. Both women strive to be set free—Sarah from the bonds of patriarchy and Southern bigotry, and Handful from the inhuman bonds of slavery.
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart – Born the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess, Myridden Emrys — or as he would later be known, Merlin — leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and visions. But destiny has great plans for this no-man’s-son, taking him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon . . . and the conception of Arthur — king for once and always.
An Hour Before Daylight by Jimmy Carter – Carter re-creates his Depression-era boyhood on a Georgia farm before the civil rights movement forever changed it and the country. He writes about the powerful rhythms of countryside and community in a sharecropping economy, offering an unforgettable portrait of his father, a brilliant farmer and a strict segregationist who treated black workers with respect and fairness; his strong-willed and well-read mother; and the five other people who shaped his early life, three of whom were black.
Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories of Rick Bragg – For twenty years, Bragg has focused his efforts on the common man. So while some of these stories are about people whose names we know most are people whose names we’ve never heard, people who have survived tornadoes and swamps, racism and bombs. In incisive, unadorned prose that is nonetheless strikingly beautiful, these pieces rise above journalism to become literature and show the triumph of the human spirit.
I think some of these are titles that are not necessarily found on every reading list for adolescents. Yet, I also found that my students usually loved many of these selections. Some are also recommendations from my friend, Kris. There are so many fabulous reads that I have a hard time not sharing more but I think this will get most young folks through the summer!
(All reviews were provided by readers at Amazon.com)