Summer is here, a time to relax, spend time with family, engage in fun/interesting activities, and … read! Here’s a list of 20 great books that we recommend for high school students:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s seminal coming-of-age story set in the fictional southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: racial injustice, moral and spiritual growth, courage and integrity, innocence and experience.

2. Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian future, not long after the Atomic Wars have reduced the geopolitical map to three superstates: Eurasia, Oceania, and Eastasia. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism and state power, surveillance, individual freedom, the nature of truth, the power of propaganda.

3. Lord of the Flies
William Golding’s tale of child castaways who establish a violent social order on a deserted island. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: civilization and governance, social and moral order, savagery and primitivism, cruelty, leadership, injustice.

4. Animal Farm
George Orwell’s allegory tracing the formation of Soviet Russia. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism and state power, individual freedom, the mutability of historical truth, the power of propaganda, the cult of personality.

5. Catcher in the Rye
The reclusive J.D. Salinger’s most popular novel, told through the eyes of the notoriously irreverent teenager Holden Caulfield. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: unreliable narrators, individuality and identity, social alienation and rebellion, social mores and rules.

6. The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic, which follows the travels of impoverished Dust Bowl refugees as they flee westward to California. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: wealth and poverty, injustice, social and political policy and governance, biblical themes such as judgment and redemption.

7. Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison’s meditation on the effects of race, told from the perspective of an African American narrator rendered invisible by his skin color. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: race and racial injustice, identity, ideology and belief systems.

8. The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho’s tale of a Spanish shepherd who hopes to find his destiny on a journey to Egypt. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: adventure and courage, hope, destiny.

9. Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut’s dark, absurdist comedy centered on the devastating firebombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: nonlinear narratives, unreliable narrators, existentialism and absurdism, the true nature of warfare.

10. The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel depicting the rise, in the United States, of a theocratic government dedicated to the oppression of women. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: totalitarianism, patriarchy and misogyny, surveillance, politics and governance, gender roles.

11. The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lyrical, Jazz Age novel about the idealist James Gatsby—and the nature of the American Dream. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: the Jazz Age, the American Dream, wealth and class, idealism.

12. The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison’s story of Pecola Breedlove, a young, often-abused African American girl who dreams of having blue eyes—a tangible sign of acceptance in a world dominated by white conceptions of beauty and belonging. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: identity, race and racial injustice, the effects of abuse, beauty and ugliness, insanity.

13. Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck’s story of an unlikely—and tragically fated—friendship between two men of remarkably different intellectual abilities. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: friendship and loyalty, character, cruelty and mercy.

14. Macbeth
Shakespeare’s portrait of an ambitious Scottish warrior who wants to be king—and is goaded to murder to achieve his goal. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: the nature of evil, power and ambition, insanity, chaos and disorder.

15. Brave New World
Aldous Huxley’s slim novel envisioning a future “utopia” with perverse qualities—as the human race succumbs to overdoses of pleasure, amusement, and hedonism. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: genetic manipulation, state power, drug use, individualism and society.

16. The Road
Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel about a boy and his father seeking safety in a post-apocalyptic world. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: good and evil, death, apocalypse, cruelty, hope and hopelessness.

17. Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston’s heavily vernacular novel depicting the life of Janie Crawford, an African American woman in the Jim Crow South at the turn of the 20th century. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: gender roles, race and racial injustice, the effects of abuse, the representation of American dialects, the nature of love.

18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky’s epistolary, coming-of-age novel about an introverted, emotionally scarred high school freshman named Charlie. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: introverts and extroverts, teen romance, alcohol and drug use, the effects of abuse.

19. Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, an autobiography that describes growing up in Tehran, Iran, during the era of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: graphic novels, Iranian culture, politics and religion, war.

20. Night
Elie Wiesel’s spare memoir-novel based on his experiences in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Primary themes of interest to high schoolers: good and evil, the Holocaust, faith and faithlessness, the Jewish experience.

Weil College Advising

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