Need a summer reading book? Use this page to browse the grade lists for summer reading, and use the online catalog to see which titles are available in print or digital format. The library sets up a display of all summer reading titles in May - don't forget that you may check out JBS library books for the entire summer vacation!
Also, we own many of the summer reading titles as unabridged audiobooks, which you can find using our online catalog, and we also have some titles in our Overdrive and OneClick Digital collections.
As always, please find a librarian if you need help tracking down a title!
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Sports fiction; novel in verse. 2014. Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Classics fiction. 1868. The four March sisters experience joys and sorrows as they grow into young women in nineteenth century New England.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. Historical fiction. 2002. In 1793 Philadelphia, sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, separated from her sick mother, learns about perseverance and self-reliance as she copes with the horrors of a yellow fever epidemic.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer. Realistic fiction. 2005. When sixteen-year-old Hope and the aunt who has raised her move from Brooklyn to Wisconsin in the Welcome Stairways diner, they become involved in a campaign to oust the town's corrupt mayor.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Science fiction. 1979. The first Earth people to attempt the colonization of Mars try to build their new world in the image of the civilization they left behind.
The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks. Sports fiction. 1984. A black basketball player and an emotionally trouble white shortstop in North Carolina form a precarious friendship.
Ender’s Game (alternative: Ender’s Shadow) by Orson Scott Card. Science fiction. 1985. Young Ender Wiggin discovers he is actually a genetically-engineered military genius being prepared to save his planet in its war with an alien enemy.
Boy by Roald Dahl. Creative nonfiction. 1984. Presents humorous anecdotes from the author's childhood, including his summer vacations in Norway and life at an English boarding school.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Mystery. 1902. Classic Sherlock Holmes story about a mysterious hound causing terror on the English moors.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Realistic fiction. 2010. Considered by many to be intellectually disabled, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Realistic fiction. 2011. At school, ten-year-old Caitlin struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school; at home she seeks closure by working on a project with her father.
The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game by John Feinstein. Sports fiction. 2010. Teen sportswriters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, assigned to cover Army-Navy football game, begin to suspect the President, an attendee, is in danger.
Inkheart (alternatives: Inkspell or Inkdeath) by Cornelia Funke. Fantasy. 2003. After twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father can "read" fictional characters to life, one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy. 2008. After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. Drama (historical). 1957. Helen Keller, who is blind and deaf, struggles to communicate with the world beyond herself until a new young teacher, Anne Sullivan, takes her on.
Snow in August by Pete Hamill. Historical fiction. 1999. Set in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in 1947, this poignant tale revolves around two characters: an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and a rabbi who is a refugee from Prague.
Flush by Carl Hiaasen. Adventure fiction. 2005. Noah Underwood and his younger sister, Abbey, must gather evidence that the owner of this floating casino is emptying his bilge tanks into the protected waters around their Florida Keys home.
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. Non-fiction, memoir. 1973. The true account of Jeanne Wakatsuki, who was sent at the age of seven with her family and many other Japanese-Americans to the Manzanar internment camp in California.
The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson. Historical fiction. 2004. After twelve-year-old Annika, an orphan in late-1800s Vienna, inherits a trunk of costume jewelry, a woman claiming to be her mother arrives and takes her to live in a mysterious mansion.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. Realistic fiction. 2017. Now that Amina’s in middle school, her friend is suddenly hanging out with one of the “cool” girls, and is even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Where does Amina fit?
The Boxer by Kathleen Karr. Sports fiction. 2000. Having learned how to box while in prison, fifteen-year-old Johnny sets out to discover if he can make a decent living as a fighter in late nineteenth-century New York City.
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. Non-fiction, memoir. 1887-1901 (published 1988). Through determination and the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller, who lost sight and hearing in infancy, learned to speak, read, and write.
B for Buster by Iain Lawrence. Historical fiction. 2004. In the spring of 1943, sixteen-year-old Kak, desperate to escape his home, lies about his age to enlist in the armed forces and soon becomes part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Fantasy. 1968. The tumultuous tale of how the restless youth Sparrowhawk survives many challenges to grow into Ged, the greatest wizard in Earthsea.
Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman. Realistic fiction. 2006. To be more like her best friend, eleven-year-old Justine decides to give up Judaism to try being Catholic for a while.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Adventure fiction. 1903. Abducted into the harsh life of a Klondike sled dog, Buck must learn to follow his primal instincts, and must ultimately decide whether or not to heed the call of the wild.
Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica. Sports fiction. 2009. When eighth-grade star quarterback Nate Brodie's family feels economic strain and his best friend Abby is going blind, he gets a chance to win a million dollars by completing a single pass.
Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. Historical fiction. 1986. A battered child learns to embrace life when he is adopted by an old man in the English countryside during World War II.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. Adventure fiction. 2002. After his anger erupts into violence, Cole agrees to participate in a sentencing alternative based on the Native American Circle Justice, and is sent to a remote Alaskan island.
One Bird by Kyoko Mori. Realistic fiction. 1996. Just when she feels that no one cares, fifteen-year-old Megumi meets veterinarian Dr. Mizutani, who offers Megumi a part-time job in her veterinary office helping her heal sick birds.
The River Between Us by Richard Peck. Historical fiction. 2003. During the early days of the Civil War, the Pruitt family takes in two mysterious young ladies who have fled New Orleans to come north to Illinois.
The Yearling by Marjorie K. Rawlings. Classic fiction. 1941. A young boy living in the Florida backwoods is forced to decide the fate of a fawn he has lovingly raised as a pet.
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. Adventure fiction. 2015. Lost in the Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and finds himself entwined in a prophecy that, decades later, catches three contemporary children its thread.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Historical fiction. 2007. When all his classmates go to either Catechism or Hebrew school, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood must stay in Mrs. Baker's classroom and read the plays of Shakespeare.
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Schusterman. Adventure fiction. 2004. A Brooklyn eighth-grader nicknamed Antsy befriends the Schwa, an "invisible-ish" boy who is tired of blending into his surroundings and going unnoticed by nearly everyone.
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai. Adventure fiction. 2010. Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.
Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal –The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Nonfiction, history. 2012 Examines the history of the atomic bomb and its impact on societies around the world.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Classic fiction. 1948. The prospects of Cassandra Mortmain, a young woman living on the edge of poverty in a crumbling castle with her eccentric family, begin to improve when new neighbors arrive from America.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Classic, adventure fiction. 1883. Among the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money, an innkeeper and her son find a treasure map that leads to a pirate fortune, as well as great danger.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Mystery. 2007. Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, all graduates of the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. embark on a scavenger hunt that turns into a search for the missing Mr. Benedict.
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan. Adventure fiction. 2013. A Tanzanian albino boy finds himself the ultimate outsider, hunted because of the color of his skin.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Classic fiction, fantasy. 1932. Bilbo Baggins, a respectable hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Classic fiction. 1875. A mischievous early-nineteenth-century Missouri boy embarks on a summer of adventures with his friends Huck and Becky after witnessing a shocking crime in the village graveyard.
SHARED READING: *Each student must read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian plus two other books chosen from this list. We encourage students to read The Absolutely True Diary... in August, as this will be the text for the first unit of study. Students must have a copy of this book for class (digital copies are acceptable). In addition to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, each student must pick TWO books from the list below:
Feed by M.T. Anderson. Science fiction. 2004. In a future where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment, a boy meets an unusual girl who is in serious trouble.
A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena. Realistic fiction. 2018. In Saudi Arabia, sixteen-year-old half-Hindu/half-Parsi Zarin, class troublemaker and rule-breaker, desperately wants to escape her aunt and uncle's house. Porus, a new friend, could help.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer. Realistic fiction. 2000. Sixteen-year-old Jenna gets a job driving the elderly owner of a chain of successful shoe stores from Chicago to Texas to confront the son who is trying to force the older woman to retire.
Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Beals. Nonfiction; history. 1994. Beals, a member of the Little Rock Nine, chronicles her harrowing junior year at Central High where she underwent segregationists' brutal organized campaign of terrorism. True story.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Mystery. 2009. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, must exonerate her father of murder; her investigation will lead her all the way to the King of England.
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier. Historical fiction. 2005. Chevalier recreates the Tragedy of Othello on Washington 6th grade schoolyard in the 1970s when a black boy, new to the school, develops a friendship with the most popular white girl in school.
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Sports fiction. 2001. Follows a group of misfits, the Cutter All Night Mermen, as they struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them.
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Historical fiction. 2008. A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata and relevant to today's war-torn world, this novel is half history, half myth, and wholly magical.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Science fiction. 2004. In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patron, the one-hundred-forty-two-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire.
A Group of One by Rachna Gilmore. Realistic fiction. 2001. Fifteen-year-old Tara, whom some don’t see as a “regular Canadian,” finds new cultural pride when she learns of her family’s activism in the anti-British Quit India movement of 1942.
Blood Red Horse by K. M. Grant. Historical fiction. 2006. Will has a small chestnut stallion with a white blaze in his brow. Ellie, a fair maiden, is supposed to marry Will’s older brother. And King Richard is calling for a Crusade to the Holy Land.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. Historical fiction. 2016. In 1943 Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, teenage Hanneke—a 'finder' of black-market goods—is tasked with finding a Jewish girl a customer had been hiding, who has seemingly vanished.
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. Nonfiction, memoir. 1997. Twelve-year-old Ji-li Jiang has a bright future. Then Mao Zedong launches China's Cultural Revolution. When Ji-li's family is accused of capitalist crimes, all of her beautiful dreams burst.
Obasan by Joy Kogawa. Historical fiction. 1994. This semi-autobiographical, award-winning novel tells the story of the evacuation, relocation, and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.
Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan. Adventure fiction. 2005. A fictionalized account of the adventures of eighteen-year-old Perce Blackborow, who stowed away on the 1914 Shackleton Antarctic expedition.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. Fantasy. 2011. When a friend’s father is kidnapped, 14-year-old Janie must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, and keep it out of the hands of Russian spies in 1950s London.
Trash by Andy Mulligan. Mystery. 2011. Fourteen-year-olds Raphael and Gardo team up with a younger boy, Rat, to figure out the mysteries surrounding a bag Raphael finds during their daily life of sorting through trash in a third-world country's dump.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Realistic fiction. 2008. While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script.
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Science fiction/Fantasy. 2004. Matt, a cabin boy aboard an airship, and Kate, a wealthy girl traveling with her chaperone, team up to search for the existence of mysterious winged creatures reportedly living aloft.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee. Realistic fiction. 2017. After a shoutout from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Tash Zelenka suddenly finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust in viral limelight.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Classic fiction. 1967. Classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share, Judaism, in the way that is best suited to each.
Jackaby by William Ritter. Fantasy. 2014. Newly arrived in 1892 New England, Abigail Rook becomes assistant to R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with the ability to see supernatural beings.
My Brother’s Shadow by Monika Schröder. Adventure fiction. 2011. In 1918 Berlin, sixteen-year-old Moritz struggles to do what is right in his relationships with his job, with his socialist mother and sister, and with his WWI veteran brother.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck. Classic fiction. 1947. Inspired by a Mexican folktale, this short novel tells the parable of a pearl diver, Kino, and explores man's nature as well as greed, defiance of societal norms, and evil.
Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber. Historical fiction. 2014. Lillian Firestone is Chinese, but the kids in her 1951 Kansas City high school can't separate her from the North Koreans that America is at war with. Frustrated, Lily searches for her birth mother.
Lucky Child by Loung Ung. Nonfiction: memoir. 2005. (Note: Text includes graphic violence). Ten-year-old Loung Ung was the "lucky child," chosen to accompany her eldest brother to America while her sister and brothers remained behind in Cambodia under the violent regime of the Khmer Rouge. In alternating chapters, she gives voice to Chou, the beloved older sister.
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. Realistic fiction. 2017. Jade, one of the few black girls at her private school, is singled out for mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. But Jade doesn't feel she’s "at-risk" at all; in fact, she may have a lot to teach.
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb. Mystery. 2007. With a passion for science and invention, Horatio Lyle teams up with a reformed pickpocket and a rebellious young gentleman to investigate a conspiracy.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Historical fiction. 2006. The character Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and storytelling help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding.
The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Realistic Fiction. 2017. Australian teen Michael's parents lead an anti-immigrant movement; Mina and her family Afghani immigrants. The pair’s mutual attraction provokes questions about family and identity.
The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander. Historical fiction. 2003. What did the Romanovs’ kitchen boy Leonka, whom the Bolsheviks mysteriously spared, see in those final days of the Imperial Family during the bloody Russian Revolution?
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Realistic Fiction. 2009. A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school, a year that brings her great struggle and, ultimately, growth.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Nonfiction; memoir; classic. 1969. Angelou chronicles her childhood in 1930s rural Arkansas, including trauma she endured and the strength she gained from her grandmother and other elders.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Nonfiction; memoir. 2007. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.
Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Adventure fiction. 2009. Cameron Smith, a disaffected sixteen-year-old, is diagnosed with “mad cow” disease and sets off on a road trip with a video gaming dwarf and a yard gnome in hopes of finding a cure.
The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. Historical fiction. 1998. In pre-WWII Vancouver, Liang, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, befriends a retired railroader who encourages her to tap dance, while her brothers also discover their identities.
My Losing Season: A Memoir by Pat Conroy. Nonfiction; memoir. 2002. The author reflects on his days at a South Carolina military college. He recalls his love of basketball and its value to him as a means of self-expression.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Historical fiction. 2003. In 1906, sixteen-year-old Mattie, determined to attend college and become a writer, takes a job at a summer inn where she discovers the truth about the death of a guest. Based on a true story.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Adventure fiction; classic. 1844. Edmond Dantes, a young sailor who is falsely imprisoned, escapes, and assumes a new identity on the island of Monte Cristo.
Spanish Fly by Will Ferguson. Mystery. 2008. Trying to survive during the American Dust Bowl, young Jack lives with his father and gets by thanks to a solid repertoire of cons. Things take a turn when new scammers come to town.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. Nonfiction; history. 2014. A poignant portrait both of the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia's peasants and urban workers and their uprising.
Infinite Sky by C. J. Flood. Realistic fiction. 2014. After her mother leaves and her brother and father grow increasingly distant, thirteen-year-old Iris finds solace and friendship in Trick, a fourteen-year-old traveler boy.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Nonfiction; memoir; classic. 1945. The journal of a Jewish girl describes the joys and torments of daily life through two years spent in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy. 2013. When a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England, for a funeral, he remembers eerie childhood events relating to the neighbor girl who promised to protect him.
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines. Historical Fiction. 1994. This novel explores the unlikely friendship and respect that arises between two African American men, one a teacher and the other an inmate on death row.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Realistic fiction. 2003. Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secrets about his mother.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Historical fiction. 1998. The story of the Prices, a missionary family who in 1959 move from the U.S. state of Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo, close to the Kwilu River.
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Realistic fiction. 2008. Told in alternating perspectives, this is the humorous and touching story of ninth-grade best friends T.C. and Augie’s most excellent year of friendship and discovery.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Nonfiction, memoir. 1997. A definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Mount Everest; a step by step journey from Kathmandu to the mountain's deadly summit.
Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott. Realistic fiction. 1997. 13-year-old competitive tennis player Rosie Ferguson, her mother, and her stepfather experience the joys and sorrows of everyday life, all magnified as Rosie finds herself in peril.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Mystery. 2014. Summering on her family's private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Nonfiction; sports. 2009. An outsider who befriends the Tarahumara Indians, leading to a running event between the tribesmen and American athletes, including a ultramarathoner, a surfer, and others.
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. Nonfiction. 2015. National Book Award Finalist. Naturalist Montgomery joyously recounts her adventures with octopuses and their wonders.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Realistic fiction. 2014. A story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah.
Run by Ann Patchett. Realistic fiction. 2007. Set over a period of twenty-four hours and exploring locations across Boston, Run explores the lives of a complex family and the lengths parents will go to keep their children safe.
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Classic fiction. 1972. When his uncle dies, orthodox Jew Asher Lev, a loner with artistic aspirations, must return to his native Brooklyn, where his art causes conflicts with his family and community.
Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Adventure fiction. 2002. In an alternative version of Victorian London, a seventeen-year-old Dodger, a cunning and cheeky street urchin, rises in life when he saves a mysterious girl, meets Charles Dickens, and foils Sweeney Todd.
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. Historical fiction. 2015. Recounts the childhood of civil rights leader Malcolm X to his imprisonment at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him towards activism and justice.
Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange. Historical fiction. 1985. Betsey is an African American seventh-grader growing up in St. Louis. This novel is based closely on the history of the school desegregation and Civil Rights movements in America.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Classic. 1943. A novel based in part on the author’s life, this book charts the coming-of-age of Francie in a hardscrabble part of Brooklyn where Francie struggles and grows.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Fantasy. 2011. Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Science fiction. 2012. Earth's rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life. How is young Julia supposed to know how to grow up facing such a harsh reality?
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Historical fiction. 2012. In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Nonfiction; memoir; graphic novel. 2006. Moves among interrelated stories of three Chinese American characters.
SHARED READING (for World Civ II): all students must read 1984 by George Orwell. Science fiction. 1948. Winston Smith, a worker at the Ministry of Truth in the future political entity of Oceania, puts his life on the line when he joins a covert brotherhood in rebelling against the Party that controls all human thought and action.
In addition to 1984, each student must read TWO books from the list below:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Science fiction/ dystopian. 1985. In what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, the ruling class reacts to social unrest and a declining birth rate with extremely repressive policies.
Emma by Jane Austen. Classic, humor. 1815. In the provincial world of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse plays matchmaker, sometimes with unintended consequences.
The Little Girls by Elizabeth Bowen. Adventure. 1964. In 1914, three eleven-year-old girls buried a box in a thicket on the coast of England shortly before World War I sent their lives on divergent paths. Nearly fifty years later, their paths cross again.
A Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. Nonfiction; memoir. 1933. Tells of the author's time as a nurse in the armed services during World War I, covering her work in London, Malta, and near France's Western Front.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Classic. 1847. Jane, a plain and penniless orphan in nineteenth-century England, accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with her melancholy employer, a man with a terrible secret. (Note: those who read Jane Eyre could consider reading its modern heir, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys afterwards; see below.)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Classic. 1848. The passionate love story of stubborn Cathy and wild-as-the-wind Heathcliff in the rugged land of the Yorkshire moors has been a favorite since its publication.
Possession by A.S. Byatt. Historical fiction; Mystery. 1990. Booker Prize winner. The tale of two young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets; a novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and a triumphant love story.
Jack Maggs by Peter Carey. Mystery. 1997. A boy who was deported to Australia for thieving, returns to London in 1837 as a grown man and becomes acquainted with an author who is fascinated by mesmerism and the criminal mind.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Fantasy. 2010. In 1806, most people believe magic to be dead in England--until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers, and another magician emerges: the young, daring Jonathan Strange.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Adventure; Classic. 1719. An Englishman becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck and lives for nearly thirty years on a deserted island.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Classic. 1859. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Thus begins the tale of Sydney Carton, a disreputable lawyer, and his involvement in the French Revolution.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Science fiction. 2008. In San Francisco, having been interrogated for days by officials of a police state that has emerged after a terrorist attack, seventeen-year-old Marcus decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.
Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. Historical fiction. 1995. Booker Prize winner. This witty and poignant novel charts the triumphs, indignities, and bewilderment of ten-year-old Paddy as he tries to make sense of things in 1968 in Ireland.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Classic; suspense. 1938. The second Mrs. de Winter narrates the haunting events surrounding her marriage to Maxim de Winter and her growing obsession with his mysterious first wife, the beautiful, now dead Rebecca.
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. Realistic fiction. 2011. Clara Purdy finds her predictable, middle-aged life shaken up when she tries to do the right thing by taking in a family after crashing their car and learning that the mother has late-stage cancer.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Fantasy; humor. 2001. Thursday Next works in Literary Detection in a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel and cloning are commonplace.
A Room With A View by E.M. Forster. Classic. 1908. A charming young English woman is at war with the snobbery of her own class and with her conflicting desires when she finds herself attracted to someone deemed unsuitable for her.
My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. Historical fiction. 1980. A semi-autobiographical novel of a hot-tempered girl growing up in Australia around 1900, who aspires to become a person of note despite the prejudices against women at that time.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Fantasy; humor. 1996. The world will come to an end on next Saturday. Except: a fast-living demon and a fussy angel have grown fond of Earth's mortals and decide to try to stop the Apocalypse.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Classic; humor. 1932. Flora Poste finds herself in a gloomy, overwrought world and proceeds to organize everyone out of their romantic tragedies and into the pleasures of modern life in the 1930s.
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. Adventure. 1958. A vacuum cleaner salesman who is short of money accepts an assignment as an M16 agent in Havana, where soon his faked intelligence reports start coming true.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Classic. 1990. Stevens, a butler at the end of three decades of service at Darlington Hall, recalls his career and tries to assure himself that he has served humanity by serving the "great gentleman," Lord Darlington.
A Certain Justice by P.D. James. Mystery. 1997. A lawyer is murdered soon after successfully defending her client who was on trial for murder. An investigator learns the client recently became engaged to the lawyer's daughter. Is there a connection?
Small Island by Andrea Levy. Realistic fiction. 2005. Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 hoping to start a new life with her husband, but they find themselves struggling to fit into the strange culture of their foreign “motherland.”
Master of Thin Air: Life and Death on the World’s Highest Peaks by Andrew Lock. Nonfiction; memoir. 2014. Opens with a fall down an almost vertical rock ramp, and recounts Lock’s sixteen-year journey to summit all of the world's eight-thousanders.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Science fiction. 2014. In a pandemic-ravaged society, actress Kirsten Raymonde travels with a troupe performing Shakespeare and finds herself in a community in which a prophet will not let anyone leave alive.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Nonfiction; memoir. 1996. The luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. Realistic fiction. 1997. After a chance meeting, Jed Perry begins to stalk author Joe Rose. Driven by religious zeal and misdirected love, the strange young man will slowly unravel each strand of Joe's life.
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. Historical fiction. 2006. Tracks a single year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor in a Worcestershire village in 1982 as the Cold War is coming near an end in England.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Fantasy. 2017. Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she discovers her latent magical powers and uses them to catch a serial killer.
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. Historical fiction. 2011. Michael, now an adult, recalls the three-week long sea voyage he took as a boy in the early 1950s. During the trip across the Indian Ocean the boy meets a variety of characters on board.
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. Mystery 2014. Sixteen-year-old Miranda struggles against the menacing haunted house she inhabits and a rare eating disease that causes her to eat non-edible substances.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Classic. 1948. A Zulu pastor and his son’s struggles under white rule in South Africa.
Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mal Peet. Historical Fiction. 2010. When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box of coded messages. Out of the past comes another Tamar a resistance fighter from Nazi-occupied Holland.
Nation by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy; alternate history. 2008. After a devastating tsunami destroys all that they have ever known, Mau, an island boy, and Daphne, an aristocratic English girl, set about rebuilding their community.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Adventure; classic. 1966. Postcolonial novel centered upon Bertha, the Jamaican madwoman in the attic in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, to which this novel could make an interesting follow-up read.
Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart. Nonfiction; history. 2013. Stuart uses her own family’s Caribbean story as the pivot for this epic tale of migration, colonialism, slavery, settlement, and survival.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Adventure; satire; classic. 1726. Recounts four remarkable journeys a ship's surgeon, Lemuel Gulliver, including one stay in a land of six-inch-high people and another in a land of giants.
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. Historical fiction; satire. 1948. Evelyn Waugh's biting satire about life in 1940s California and the American obsession with death and burial--and pets.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Classic. 1891. A handsome dissolute man who sells his soul for eternal youth is horrified to see the reflection of his degeneration in the distorted features of his portrait.
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Nonfiction; history. 2009. The Oxford English Dictionary took seventy years to complete, drawing from tens of thousands of brilliant minds. Hidden within the rituals of the OED’s creation is a fascinating and mysterious story.
Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse. Classic, humor. 1946. Bertie Wooster, dimwitted aristocrat with a heart of gold, is soon embroiled in a host of calamitous mishaps. Fortunately, Bertie's butler, Jeeves, is always nearby to perform a rescue.
Grade 11. Each student must read THREE books from the list below:
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. Nonfiction; personal essay. 1963. Baldwin’s powerful examination of the consequences of racial injustice to self and nation emerged in the early days of the civil rights movement (and later inspired Ta Nehisi Coates).
Before and After by Rosellen Brown. Mystery. 1992. When the chief of police comes looking for Jacob one evening to question him about the bludgeoning to death of his teenage girlfriend, the lives of the Reiser family are changed forever.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Nonfiction; journalism. 1966. An account of the murders of the four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959 by two drifters who fled to Mexico and were later arrested and executed for their crimes.
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. Realistic fiction. 2009. Missouri author. On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters.
Donald Duk by Frank Chin. Realistic fiction. 1991. Donald, the 12-year-old son of a Chinatown chef in San Francisco, hates his name (he isn’t a cartoon character); he loves tap dancing; and he struggles to feel comfortable with being Chinese.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. Historical fiction. 2015. Addie Baum is born in 1900 to immigrant parents who are suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. A story of the twentieth century through the life of one woman.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Historical fiction. 2014. A blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Wit: A Play by Margaret Edson. Drama; 1999. Vivian Bearing, a renowned English professor who has spent years studying and teaching poetry, takes an intellectual approach to her terminal cancer diagnosis for as long as she can.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Adventure fiction. 2012. When his mother slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, Joe Coutts, an Ojibwe teenager, sets out with his three friends to find the person that injured his family.
The Unvanquished by William Faulkner. Realistic fiction. 1938. Set in Mississippi during the Civil War and Reconstruction, this novel focuses on the Sartoris family and their code of personal responsibility and courage.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Classic; adventure. 1915. Three male explorers discover an advanced, all-female society in South America and have trouble understanding how it can work so well without men.
Grendel by John Gardner. Classic. 1971. Grendel, the monster, tells his side of the Beowulf story, and compares his values with the chief values of human beings.
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories by William Gass. Realistic fiction. 1965. Two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass's characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. Realistic fiction; courtroom. 1995. In 1954 in an island community north of Puget Sound, a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American citizen is charged with his murder.
The Last Child by John Hart. Mystery. 2009. After his twin sister disappears, thirteen-year-old Johnny Merrimon is determined to find her. When a second girl disappears from his rural North Carolina town, Johnny makes a shocking discovery.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Classic; satire. 1955. Set in the closing months of World War II, Catch-22 is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Classic; war. 1940. The Spanish Civil War is in full swing when one man's sense of duty confronts another's self-interest and weariness.
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard. Realistic fiction. 2014. Sent to an Amherst, Massachusetts, boarding school after her ex-boyfriend’s death, seventeen-year-old Emily expresses herself through poetry, copes with her guilt, and begins to heal.
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol. Nonfiction; journalism. 1991. An account of the author’s visits to schools in over 30 neighborhoods, including East St. Louis, Harlem, and Chicago and the inequities he found.
We Are Okay by Nina La Cour. Realistic fiction. 2017. Printz Award winner. The summer before college was filled with change for Marin--a changing relationship with her best friend, Mabel, and then a sudden bereavement. When Mabel flies coast-to-coast to visit Marin, the two must face the past together and try to move past it.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. Western. 1992. Presents a cowboy odyssey for modern times, and features the travels and toils of a 16 year old East Texan boy. The first volume of the author's Border trilogy.
Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. Realistic fiction. 1998. A young woman, cousin to the late Billy Lynch who has just died of alcoholism, traces the story of his lost love, discovering her own father's role in trying to keep the truth from Billy.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Western. 1985. Chronicles a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, and follows the lives of Gus and Call, the cowboys heading the drive, Gus's woman, Lorena, and Blue Duck, a sinister Native American renegade.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Classic. 1977. Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as she follows Milkman Dead from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins.
Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell. Nonfiction; politics. 2017. Assassinations, riots, old political machines, war resistance, and shifting loyalties...In the 1968 election is contained the essence of what makes America different, and how we got to where we are now.
Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead. Adventure. 2007. In the midst of the Civil War, Robey Child's mother sends him to the battlefield to find his father, and the fourteen-year-old is forced to become a man amidst the horrors of war.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Nonfiction; journalism. 2006. An ecological and anthropological study of eating offers insight into food production and consumption in the twenty-first century.
True Grit by Charles Portis. Historical fiction; western; humor. 1968. In the 1870s, when young Mattie Ross learns that her beloved father was gunned down, she convinces mean, one-eyed US Marshal "Rooster" Cogburn to help her seek vengeance.
Eve’s Apple by Jonathan Rosen. Realistic fiction. 1997. Joseph, a young man adrift in New York City, is anchored only by his love for the beautiful, enigmatic Ruth Simon and he becomes obsessed with her bulimia. A meditation on hunger and longing.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Nonfiction; journalism. 2001. The book inspires readers to look beneath the surface of our food system, consider its impact on society and, most of all, think for themselves.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Nonfiction; journalism. 1906. Sinclair worked undercover in the meatpacking Chicago stockyards to describe in true detail the horrific conditions among workers and the food they produced.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. Realistic fiction. 1991. Written by a JBS alum. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. Nonfiction; social commentary. 2014. Solnit humorously explores communication between men who wrongly assume they know things and/or wrongly assume women don't.
Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman. Graphic novels. 1997. A memoir about a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and about his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his story, and with history itself.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Science fiction. 1966. The story of Billy Pilgrim who has come unstuck in time and jumps back and forth from life on a distant planet to the horrors of the 1945 fire-bombing of Dresden.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Realistic fiction. 1983. Celie is a poor black woman in the South whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, from her endurance of abuse beginning at age 14 to her growth toward independence, creativity, and love.
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward. Nonfiction; memoir. 2014. In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life―to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why?
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Realistic fiction. 1946. All the King's Men traces the rise and fall of demagogue Willie Stark, a fictional character loosely based on Governor Huey ""Kingfish"" Long of Louisiana.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. Nonfiction; history. 2010. Chronicles the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled racial terror in the South and moved to northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.
Black Boy by Richard Wright. Nonfiction; memoir. 1945. Wright's unforgettable autobiography of growing up in the Jim Crow South offers an unsurpassed portrait of the struggles against the ingrained racism and poverty faced by African Americans.
SHARED READING: Each student must read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Fiction, 2011. Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil after the death of her colleague to take up his mission of finding Dr. Annick Swenson, a ruthless woman who has been conducting research among the Lakashi tribe on a reputed miracle drug, and refuses to let anything stand in her way. Please read State of Wonder late in the summer and bring a copy of it to the first days of class.
Each student must also read TWO books from the list below:
Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey. Nonfiction; memoir. 1968. Abbey’s story of his three seasons in the desert at Moab, Utah is a fascinating, sometimes raucous account of a place that has already disappeared but is worth remembering.
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. Realistic fiction. 1992. With this novel, Allison, who has been likened to Harper Lee, confronts race, class, gender, sexuality, and identity in the lives of poor whites in the South.
Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. Fiction; Short stories. 1965. By turns haunting, heartbreaking, and horrifying, these stories are informed by Baldwin's knowledge of the wounds racism has left in both its victims and its perpetrators.
Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard. Nonfiction, memoir. 2019. In twelve interconnected essays, the Bernard reflects upon the complexities and textures of her life as an African American daughter, professor, wife, mother, friend, and writer.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell. Nonfiction; journalism. 2012. Andrew Blackwell describes his travels to the most polluted places in the world.
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. Fiction, magical realism; short stories. 1962. More than forty short stories, parables, and essays in English translation. Stepping into the alternate universe of Borges is a wonderful, strange, magical adventure.
New England White by Stephen L. Carter. Mystery. 2007. Lemaster Carlyle, president of a small, prestigious New England university, and his wife Julia, dean of the university's divinity school, are put to the test when they discover a colleague’s body.
Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros. Realistic fiction, short stories. 1992. A collection of short stories giving voice to the vigorous and varied life on both sides of the United States-Mexican border.
Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen. Nonfiction, memoir. 2001. A memoir of growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Historical fiction; short stories. 1998. A trio of stories inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf, whose novel Mrs. Dalloway is also on this list.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Classic fiction. 1866. The poverty and hopelessness of pre-Revolutionary Russian society are tangible in this story of a student who murders two women and then tries to live with his crime.
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. Mystery. 2009. Saudi Arabian desert guide Nayir al-Sharqi is hired to find a girl. When she turns up dead, he forms an unexpected partnership with a female technician at the coroner's office to solve the case.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Historical fiction. 2002. An American college student sets out with his grandfather and the family dog to find the village where a Ukrainian woman may have saved the grandfather from Nazis.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Realistic fiction. 2008. One evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, a bearded Pakistani man called Changez, tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with America.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Science fiction. 2005. Three people, living in a world slightly different from our own, look back upon their time at a sheltered private school and begin to realize exactly what the purpose of this school was.
Waiting by Ha Jin. Historical fiction. 2000. Lin Kong, a man living in two worlds, is struggling with the conflicting claims of two utterly different women as he moves through the political minefields of a society designed to regulate his every move.
The Trial by Franz Kafka. Classic literature. 1925. Chilling tale of a respectable bank officer who is suddenly arrested and put on trial for a charge about which he can get no information. If you liked 1984, this is a good choice.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Nonfiction, memoir. 2016. While training as a neurosurgeon, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He reflects on being a medical expert, dying patient, and new father all at the same time.
The Geography of Nowhere by J.H. Kunstler. Nonfiction; journalism. 1994. The author traces America's evolution from a nation Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Realistic fiction. 2003. This novel follows the lives of an Indian couple who settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts and their attempts to assimilate into American culture, as well as the life of their son Gogol.
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. Realistic fiction. 2002. Tragic, funny, and unforgettable, this is a deceptively simple, shimmering novel about families, siblings, dreams, and redemption, set in a rural community in the wild terrain of Northern Ontario.
The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing. Dystopian fiction. 1974. In a near-future Britain where society has broken down due to an unspecified disaster, a middle-aged woman unexpectedly ends up with 'custody' of a teenage girl.
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin. Nonfiction; science. 2016. In 1916, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves: sounds without a material medium generated by the collision of black holes. Levin, herself an astrophysicist, recounts the surprising and fascinating story of the search, over the last fifty years, for these elusive waves.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Classic fiction. Magical Realism. 1967. The rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo as told through the history of the Buendia family.
The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart. Nonfiction; memoir. 2011. The subtitle of this book is “How three totally wired teenagers (and a mother who slept with her iPhone) pulled the plug on their technology and lived to tell the tale.”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Dystopian fiction. 2006. In a post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive while preserving the last remnants of their own humanity.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Nonfiction; memoir. 2003. Nafisi tells of two years in Iran and the study group she hosted of seven former female students who met every Thursday morning at her house to discuss forbidden Western literature.
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. Realistic fiction. 1997. The Mulvaneys are a fortunate clan, with good looks, abundant charisma, and boundless promise, but each of them endures some form of exile--physical or spiritual.
Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Realistic fiction. 2013. A Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on the shore of Vancouver Island. Inside are artifacts presenting a puzzle that when put together tell the vibrant story of the life of a Japanese teenager.
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin. Realistic fiction; short stories. 2009. A linked set of short stories set in the present day about characters in and connected to a sprawling cosmopolitan family from Lahore, Pakistan.
What I Was by Meg Rosoff. Realistic fiction. 2008. Finn was a beautiful orphan. H was a prep school misfit. They met on a beach on the coast of England where Finn lived alone in a hut. H recounts, in his old age, the story of their coming of age.
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco. Graphic novel; nonfiction. 2002. Sacco spent months in Bosnia in 1995-1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime. The book focuses on the besieged Muslim enclave of Gorazde.
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks. Nonfiction, science. 2008. Dr. Sacks, a neurologist, investigates the power of music to move us, to heal and to haunt us.
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago. Nonfiction, memoir. 1993. Magic, sexual tension, high comedy, and intense drama move through an enchanted yet harsh autobiography of a young girl who leaves rural Puerto Rico for New York.
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth. Realistic fiction. 1999. When violinist Michael Holme re-encounters his lost love, Julia McNicholl, on a London bus, their mutual passion flares anew.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Nonfiction, journalism. 2011. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells--cultured without her knowledge in 1951-- became one of the most important tools in medicine.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Nonfiction; journalism. 2015. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL reflects on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. Realistic fiction. 2004. A 16-year-old rebels against the conventions of her strict Mennonite community and struggles with the collapse of her family in this insightful, irreverent coming-of-age novel.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Historical fiction. 2009. Twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone come of age in Ethiopia, sharing a bond that helps them survive the loss of their parents and the country's political upheaval.
The Genius Plague by David Walton. Science fiction. 2017. What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In the Amazon, a disease is spreading. It grants enhanced brainpower--to those who survive.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Realistic fiction. 2017. National Book Award. Jojo struggles with his mother's addictions and his grandmother's cancer before the release of his father from prison prompts a dangerous, hopeful road trip.
Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey by Alison Wearing. Nonfiction; memoir. 2001. Journeying far off the beaten path in her trip to Iran, they author explored the country and got to know the people who live there.
Fences by August Wilson. Drama. 1986. Troy Maxson has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to a new spirit of liberation in the 60s.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. Nonfiction; memoir. 2012. In this memoir, Winterson, an award-winning British novelist, recounts her challenging coming-of-age as the gay daughter of a rigid adoptive mother.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Classic literature. 1925. Considered one of the most brilliant novels of its age, the story covers one day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway, but in that one day we see many of the threads that make up her life.
Native Son by Richard Wright. Fiction. Social realism. 1940. When a wealthy white family offers Bigger Thomas, a twenty-year-old black Chicagoan, a chauffeur's position, Bigger is torn between gratitude and resentment.