High School Back-to-School Reading Recommendations (2023)

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Summer reading is an essential activity for high school students since reading plays a significant role in cultivating your passion topics, gives you time to relax, or prepares you for the next school year. This back-to-school reading list will help you wrap up your summer with great book ideas and provide an opportunity to explore different viewpoints. Check out these ideas to fill in the rest of your summer break!

This list also offers a great chance to discover thrilling books from multiple genres. Whether you’re a fan of fantasy, romance, or historical fiction, there is something on the list that will pique your interest.

Overview of our high school back-to-school reading list

This list is an expansive collection of book recommendations that covers a variety of genres and topics, designed to appeal to all types of readers. Some of the genres featured on our back-to-school reading recommendation list include the following:

  • Classic literature
  • Contemporary fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Science fiction and fantasy
  • Mystery and thriller
  • Dystopian and post-apocalyptic
  • Young adult contemporary fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Cultural and global perspectives
  • Self-help and personal development

Reasons why back-to-school reading is important

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Reading before returning to school is paramount for a student’s academic, cognitive, emotional, and personal growth. Additionally, reading encourages the development of new abilities, broadens perspectives, and instills a passion for reading.

Some compelling reasons why reading over summer break and into the school year is essential are the following:

You maintain academic progress

New evidence indicates that when students do not read during the summer, their reading proficiency may diminish, leading to difficulty keeping up with schoolwork.

You build literacy and comprehension skills

Spending time to read during the summer months can be an excellent way for students to hone their literacy skills, such as enhancing their vocabulary, understanding of the text, and critical analysis abilities. Reading more also helps students become better writers and avoid common mistakes.

You improve memory retention

Reading not only aids in comprehension but also increases memory retention capacity, allowing students to remember information more efficiently. This skill can benefit them in both their academic and personal lives.

You enhance creativity

Reading over the summer benefits students, as it encourages creativity and imagination. By exploring various stories, readers can develop a sense of compassion towards different viewpoints, helping them to become more aware of the world and their role in it.

You develop a lifelong love of learning

Finally, participating in summer reading can cultivate a lifelong enthusiasm for learning, motivating students to investigate different areas and concepts outside of their school work.

Recommended books for each genre

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High school students can look forward to an enriching back-to-school reading experience with some book recommendations in different genres. These books include captivating stories, diverse perspectives, and thought-provoking themes to engage the reader. These include:

Classic literature

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • “1984” by George Orwell
  • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  • “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Contemporary Fiction

  • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  • “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng
  • “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman
  • “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Historical Fiction

  • “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill
  • “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
  • “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  • “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
  • “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • “Dune” by Frank Herbert
  • “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Mystery and Thriller

  • “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
  • “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides
  • “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty
  • “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic

  • “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
  • “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard
  • “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

  • “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
  • “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli
  • “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
  • “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson


  • “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
  • “Becoming” by Michelle Obama
  • “Educated” by Tara Westover
  • “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  • “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

Cultural and Global Perspectives

  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan
  • “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
  • “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

Self-help and Personal Development

  • “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
  • “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck
  • “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson
  • “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero
  • “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
  • “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma

Tips for staying motivated and finding time to read

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Finding motivation and creating time to read during the summer can be difficult, but you can make it happen with the proper techniques. Remember that reading should be a fun experience, so there is no need to stress over completing specific objectives. Find out what works for you, relish the joy of immersing yourself in captivating tales, and augment your summer with the enchantment of books.

Some tips students can use to stay motivated and find time to read during the summer include:

Prioritize reading

Carve out a certain amount of time to read a book every day. Try incorporating it into your morning schedule while you eat breakfast or right before you go to bed. Also, keep track of your summer reading progress.

Set a reading goal

Establishing a specific target for the number of books or pages to read can provide a feeling of success, breaking the task into more manageable and organized segments.

Carry a book

Consider always carrying a book to ensure you have enough time to read. This way, you can read during free moments throughout the day, such as while waiting for appointments, on breaks, or traveling.

Read outside

Take advantage of the gorgeous weather to get some fresh air and Vitamin D while you relax and enjoy a good book in the park or by the pool.

Find a reading partner

Reading with others is a great way to stay accountable and engage in meaningful discussions. Joining a book club or summer reading program your local library offers to foster a shared reading experience.

The big picture

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Students can read captivating books, hone their academic abilities, and foster personal development with our well-rounded back-to-school reading recommendations.

Furthermore, summer reading is essential for keeping up with the school curriculum and broadening students’ horizons, which can lead to greater empathy and originality.

Lastly, with all these great book options, you’ll have plenty of exciting stories to read and learn from into next year. So, don’t wait any longer and start reading today!

As we head into the school year, remember that Lessonpal tutors can help in over 900+ subjects! Check out our excellent pool of online tutors that can fit your learning needs and support your goals.

Frequently asked questions

What books are on the summer reading list for AP English students?

AP English students have a range of books to choose from for their summer reading list, depending on the district’s curriculum and guidelines. Generally, works such as Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” are included, alongside more modern pieces like Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In some cases, non-fiction works, or essays may also be featured on the list. This aims to expose students to various literary styles, genres, and periods while sharpening their reading skills for the upcoming school year.

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