Books that High School Students Love: Suggestions from an English Teacher

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With so many books to read out there, how do you know which ones are best for your high school students/children? As an English teacher, I have assigned many summer reading lists with a variety of types of books. Through this, I have learned which books students love, and which they cannot stand and why. Here I illustrate what makes a high school student believe a book is a good book. Read on to hear about some great books for summer reading!

Books That Teens Can’t Put Down

Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls, is a very moving memoir. It is a detailed account of the tumultuous childhood of Ms. Walls. Her and her family, led by her vagabond father, spend years traversing the country and getting involved in various misadventures. Not for the faint of heart.

If you are having trouble getting your male teenager to read, try Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. This book details what fast food does to our bodies. So many teenagers eat McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. Are any of teens (or adults?) aware of what that food does to us? Reading this insightful book just may make teens think twice about eating fast food.

My all-time favorite book is Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (the extremely reclusive author recently died). Holden Caulfield, the main character, believes most people are phonies. The book follows his adventures as he drops out of school to spend a few weeks in New York City visiting nightclubs and prostitutes, among other things. The reason I love this book so much is because it is funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini is another amazing book. This fictional book is based on Conroy’s upbringing with a military dad who was as strict as they come. This may be a great pick for teens who have interest in joining the military or who are growing up in a military family. It is a good lesson on how not to parent.

Other Suggestions

As this school year was winding down, I gave my students and independent reading project in which they were allowed to pick the books that they wanted to read. I had several copies of Go Ask Alice, and I could not keep the books in my classroom (both the girls and boys enjoyed this book). Go Ask Alice is an epistolary novel based on the diaries of an anonymous young woman who gets involved in drugs and her subsequent downfall. Many teens can relate not only to the pressure of doing drugs, but also to the aching loneliness that sometimes accompanies being in high school. The tragic ending to the book serves as a strong warning on the dangers of drugs.

Another novel that my students would fight over is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Although a move version has recently come out, the book is so much better! The story is told through the voice of young Susie Salmon who was recently murdered. From her vantage point in heaven, she watches her family struggle with her murder as they try to figure out who could have done such a horrible act. Again, both my male and female students enjoyed this book.