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Suggested Summer Reading Guide 2023

Suggested Summer Reading Guide 2023: WHS Suggested Reading List


I am happy to share our 2023 Suggested Summer Reading list with you. This year, teachers were invited to contribute their book suggestions to the list. We think that you will find a book that will engage and teach you. Read one, read ten--it's up to you!

Happy reading!   --Mrs. Hanson

List of 2023 books


Recommended by Mrs. Hanson, Librarian


The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives​ by Dashka Slater
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the flatlands and attended a large public public school. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. A deep exploration of morality and the meaning of life


The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley.
Memoir. Grades 9-12.
“This book, more than any other I've read, opened my eyes to see how the innate racism in our country works and affects the people it is most sharply targeted at: African Americans. Malcolm X, as he points out, grew up in the "tolerant" North. His battle was not with lynch mobs and Jim Crow laws, but with the death-by-a-thousand-cuts brand of racism that, I would argue, now constitutes the mainstream dynamic between blacks and whites in this country.” (Wes Morgan, Goodreads) 


Silver, Sword and Stone: Three crucibles in the Latin American Story by Marie Arana
Nonfiction. Grades 10-12.
Arana writes about three contemporary people  (a miner, a soldier and a priest) to explore and explain three themes of Latin America: silver (wealth), sword (violence) and stone (religion). She uses clear and engaging prose, along with her balanced perspective of telling it like it is and deep feeling and respect for the people of Latin America. Arana does an excellent job of getting at the "why" and not just the "what" of the region's uniqueness, its diversity and unity, and its challenges.


A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World  by C.A. Fletcher
Science Fiction/Dystopian Fiction; Grades 9-12
In this post-apocalyptic landscape, we journey with Griz, a young boy who has led a sheltered life on a remote Scottish island with barely a glimpse of others or the world beyond; that is until his beloved dog Jess is stolen. This prompts Griz to venture outside for the first time in his life where he makes some truly shocking discoveries. Another book that gently explores philosophical questions.  


A Burning by Megha Majumdar 
Historical fiction. Grades 11-12. 
Set in India. Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.


Free Lunch by Rex Ogle 
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
In this emotional and honest memoir, Rex Ogle tells the story of his sixth grade year. He and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies. His mother and stepfather were abusive. Humiliated, Rex is desperate to keep secret from his schoolmates that he is on the free lunch program and living in government subsidized housing. A harsh, painfully realistic look at poverty through the eyes of a child who also has compassion and optimism. 


The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abe Dare
Fiction. Grades 10-12.
Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. As the only daughter of a broke father, she is a valuable commodity. Removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man, Adunni's life amounts to this: four goats, two bags of rice, some chickens and a new TV. When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a household in the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing. But Adunni won't be silenced. She is determined to find her voice - in a whisper, in song, in broken English - until she can speak for herself, for the girls like Rebecca who came before, and for all the girls who will follow.


How Long ‘til Black Future Month by M.K. Jemison
Science Fiction. Short Stories. Grades 9-12.  
In these science fiction stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Fiction; Grades 10-12
“Our narrator is Klara, a robot equipped with artificial intelligence, who is bought to support Josie, a sickly, lonely teenager. Set in a future - and how near that future actually is is one of the main questions of the book - where machines are programmed to understand and replace humans, and where humans are engineered to perform better, classism reigns and society gets more and more atomized.

There is something unnameable about the way Ishiguro’s books make me feel. I cannot explain it in words. They feel like a breath of fresh air on a crisp autumn day. Seeing an old friend after a long period of separation. That moment of complete silence in the early hours of the morning.

The writing was the author’s usual, simplistic style that never fails to captivate me. Full of subtle hints that leaves the reader desperate to figure out what our characters are going through. Pages rich with nuance and deeper meaning.”  (A, Goodreads)

Melissa by Alex Gino (previous title: George)
Fiction. Grades 9-12
A beautiful, gentle little book about a child named Melissa, born a boy and feels like a girl. This is about the moment in Melissa’s life where she has to communicate her truth to those closest to her.

It's written for grades 3­-6. I recommend it for grades 3­-12 and ages 8­-108. Teachers, administrators and parents should read it too to get an understanding of the perspective of a transgender kid and the importance of the school community in the lives of these children. When a transgender child enters our lives we'll be better equipped to understand and support. 


Parachutes by Kelly Yang
Fiction; Grades 9-12
​​”This book touches on so many things - it brings light to the unfair system that supports racism, wealth inequality, and lack of access to education for many people. It serves as a window or mirror for the racist words and actions faced by many Asian people in the U.S. AND, it shows a brutally honest portrayal of two teenagers reckoning with sexual harassment and misconduct from someone in a position of power, which is heartbreaking to read.”  (Cait, Goodreads)


The Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo 
Fiction. (Fiction in verse, like a long poem) Grades 9-12. 
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. 


Stamped!: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds
Nonfiction Grades 9-12. 
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
Nonfiction. Grades 10-12
In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.


A Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley 
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12. 
A work of history built from primary sources that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo, the city that became Tokyo—and a portrait of a great city starting to transition from the Shogunate (when the military ruled Tokyo) to the Meiji Era where Imperialism took hold of Japan. 

The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life. She ran away to make a life for herself in Edo.  Tsuneno had three marriages, one to a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture—and a portrait of woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.


Trust by Hernan Diaz
Historical fiction. Grades 10-12
Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.

Trust elegantly puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another—and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction.  A compelling story and a literary puzzle, Trust engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the deceptions that often live at the heart of personal relationships, the reality-warping force of capital, and the ease with which power can manipulate facts.


Victory. Stand!: Raising my Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith
Nonfiction. Graphic Novel. Grades 9-12
On October 16, 1968, during the medal ceremony at the Mexico City Olympics, Tommie Smith, the gold medal winner in the 200-meter sprint, and John Carlos, the bronze medal winner, stood on the podium in black socks and raised their black-gloved fists to protest racial injustice inflicted upon African Americans. Both men were forced to leave the Olympics, received death threats, and faced ostracism and continuing economic hardships.

In his first-ever memoir for young readers, Tommie Smith looks back on his childhood growing up in rural Texas through to his stellar athletic career, culminating in his historic victory and Olympic podium protest.


An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz.
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
 A history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.  For a shorter version, please see An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza.


Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stephenson
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, documents his work as an attorney fighting on behalf of prisoners on death row and the wrongly convicted, and explores how the United States' legacy of racial injustice led to the current inequities in the criminal justice system. For a shorter version, please see Just Mercy (adapted for young adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson



Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher


All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Historical Fiction. Grades 9-12. 
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, this beautifully written bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
It is 1939 in Nazi Germany. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.


Child 44 by Tom Robb Smith
Thriller. Grades 10-12.
​​MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken. He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be tortured. And then he is told to arrest his own wife. Leo understands how the State works: Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust. He faces a stark choice: his wife or his life. 


In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Berlin  by Erik Larson
Nonfiction. Grades 10-12.
1933. Berlin. William E. Dodd becomes America's first ambassador to Hitler's Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. 

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, this speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.


Night by Elie Wiesel 
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12. 
Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This is essential testimony to what happened in the camps and an unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.

I also recommend Dawn and Day, the other two books in the Night Trilogy.


The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
On Winston Churchill's first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally--and willing to fight to the end. Churchill taught the British people "the art of being fearless."  A story of political brinkmanship, a domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill's prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London.


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. A young lieutenant  struggled to a life raft and pulled  himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he discovered a talent in running that led him to the Berlin Olympics. When the war came, he became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight and a tiny raft.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean,  sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. 

For a shorter and less graphic version, please see Unbroken (Young adult adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand.



Recommended by Claire Schomp, English teacher


Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer 
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrates how all living things―from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen―provide us with gifts and lessons every day. She explains how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest inhabitants: the plants around us. 

For the longer, adult version please see Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, recommended by Ms. Gearan, below.


Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Historical fiction. Grades 9-12
Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.



Recommended by Ms. Gearan, School Adjustment Counselor


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12.
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. Kimmerer shows that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.

For a shorter version, please see Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (recommended above by Ms Schomp).


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Memoir. Grades 10-12
Michelle Zauner tells of growing up Korean American, one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.


Caste: The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
Nonfiction. Grades 10-12
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.



Recommended by Mr. Kelley, English teacher


Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Historical fiction. Grades 10-12. 
Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.


In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O'Brien
Historical fiction. Grades 10-12.
Everything in John Wade’s life seems as though it’s been filtered through a funhouse mirror. Everything is a distortion. His father was an abusive alcoholic who appeared to everyone else to be a wonderful guy. His mother (like his wife Kathy later on) survives through denial and justification. John performs magic tricks throughout his childhood, controlling and performing. He goes to Vietnam where the events are covered up, half-real, and like everything else, a contorted magic trick for the viewing public. The war, like his father, like his childhood and pretty much everything, is arranged to appear to the world to be something different. After the war, John goes into politics where yet again everything is choreographed to alter reality. Everything is an illusion. Everything we think we know is really just a product of the information we’re given. From our parents, to world events, to this stranger sleeping beside us year after year. How much of what we know to be true actually is true? John Wade spends his life manipulating and covering up. Look around you - he’s not the only one.


Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Drama. Grades 10-12
One night on the heath, the brave and respected general Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell that he will become king of Scotland. At first skeptical, he’s urged on by the ruthless, single-minded ambitions of Lady Macbeth, who suffers none of her husband’s doubt. But seeing the prophecy through to the bloody end leads them both spiraling into paranoia, tyranny, madness, and murder.

This shocking tragedy - a violent caution to those seeking power for its own sake - is, to this day, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and influential masterpieces.


Beartown by Frederik Backman
Fiction. Grades 10-12.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.



Recommended by Mr. Steinert, Special Education teacher


October Sky by Homer Hickham
Historical Fiction. Grades 9-12
It was 1957, the year Sputnik raced across the Appalachian sky, and the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, was slowly dying. Faced with an uncertain future, Sonny Hickam (aka Homer Hickam, Jr.) nurtured a dream: to learn how to build a rocket so he could work in the space business. The introspective son of Homer Hickam, the mine superintendent, and Elsie Lavender Hickam, a woman determined to get her sons out of Coalwood forever, Sonny gathered in five other boys and convinced them to help him. Along the way, the boys learn not only how to turn scraps of metal into sophisticated rockets but manage to give the people of Coalwood hope that the future will be brighter, at least for their children. As Sonny's parents fight in different ways to save their sons, and the people of Coalwood come together to help their Rocket Boys, Sonny and the Big Creek Missile Agency light up the sky with their flaming projectiles and dreams of glory.



Recommended by Ms. Lee, History teacher


Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World  by Michael Pollan.
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12
Demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a  reciprocal relationship. Pollan links human desires with the plants that satisfy them. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?


How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12
This is the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States: the islands, atolls and archipelagos around the world that the US has governed and inhabited. In crackling, fast-paced prose, Immerwahr reveals  episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century's most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.


The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, by Jamie Ford.
Historical Fiction. Magical Realism. Grades 10-12.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.

As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.



Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher


Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarity
Fiction. Mystery. Grades 10-12
The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. After fifty years of marriage, they’ve  sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives.  One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, injured. The Delaneys are more than happy to help her.  Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide.


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. Kimmerer shows that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. This book is also recommended by Ms. Gearan (if you are keeping score :)).

For a shorter version, please see Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (recommended by Ms Schomp).


The Circle by Dave Eggers (suicide)
Fiction. Grades 10-12
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.  What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.


If You Lived Here, You’d be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham
Nonfiction. Grades 9-12
The hilarious, charming, and candid story of writer Christopher Ingraham’s decision to uproot his life and move his family to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, population 1,400--the community he made famous as “the worst place to live in America” in a story he wrote for the Washington Post.


The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Fiction. Thriller. Grades 9-12
Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot. A psychologically suspenseful novel about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.


Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Fiction. Mystery. Grades 9-12
After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. Her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors--until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova's son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it's too late.


Sitting Pretty: The View from my Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig
Nonfiction. Memoir. Grades 9-12
A memoir-in-essays from disability advocate and creator of the Instagram account @sitting_pretty Rebekah Taussig, processing a lifetime of memories to paint a beautiful, nuanced portrait of a body that looks and moves differently than most. Growing up as a paralyzed girl during the 90s and early 2000s, Rebekah Taussig only saw disability depicted as something monstrous (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), inspirational (Helen Keller), or angelic (Forrest Gump). None of this felt right; and as she got older, she longed for more stories that allowed disability to be complex and ordinary, uncomfortable and fine, painful and fulfilling.


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Fiction. Mystery.  Grades 9-12
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it's too late?


We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel by Quan Barry
Fiction. Grades 10-12
Follows the Danvers (MA) High field hockey team as they discover that the dark impulses of their Salem forebears may be the key to a winning season. The 1989 Danvers  Falcons are on an unaccountable winning streak. Quan Barry weaves together the individual and collective journeys of this enchanted team as they storm their way to the state championship. Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza, whose bleached blond "Claw" sees and knows all, the DHS Falcons prove to be as wily and original as their North of Boston ancestors, flaunting society's stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Fiction. Mystery. Grades 10-12
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her. But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land. This book has beautiful writing about the natural world.


Recommended by Ms. Brisky, Special Education teacher

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy
Illustrated fiction. Ages 5-105
Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared millions of times online - perhaps you've seen them? They've also been recreated by children in schools and hung on hospital walls. They sometimes even appear on lamp posts and on cafe and bookshop windows. Perhaps you saw the boy and mole on the Comic Relief T-shirt, Love Wins? Here, you will find them together in this book of Charlie's most-loved drawings, adventuring into the Wild and exploring the thoughts and feelings that unite us all.



These books may include topics that are upsetting to you, or are sensitive to you or your family. The vast majority of literature does grapple with sensitive topics. One way to shop for a book is to look up book reviews so you can make the best choice for  you. 

If you want to know which sensitive topics are included in the books on this list, I made an annotated list for you here:

Content notes for Suggested Summer Reading 2023