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Suggested Summer Reading 2024

Suggested Summer Reading 2024




While we don’t require summer reading, we enthusiastically recommend that you read something of your choice. Browse this list for suggestions from the WHS community, including students and staff. Read one book or twenty--it's your choice!



Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Mr. Kelley, English teacher. 

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. 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. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.


Backman, Frederik. Beartown.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Mr. Kelley, English teacher. 

People say the tiny community of Beartown is finished. 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.


Doerr, Anthony. All the Light we Cannot See.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher.

A beautifully written novel 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.



Eggers, Dave. The Circle.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher. 

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. (Content note: suicide)


Fletcher, C.A. A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by your librarian.

In this post-apocalyptic landscape, we journey with Griz, a young boy who has led a sheltered life on a remote Scottish island with no knowledge of the outside world. When his beloved dog Jess is stolen, Griz decides to venture off the island to search for him, making shocking discoveries along the way.  Simple but powerful, this emotionally involving tale hinges on the love we all have for our furry companions. What I loved the most were the philosophical questions posed and the way these challenges were raised in the story and explored in an accessible fashion. This provides plenty of food for thought for readers. (8stitches 9lives, Goodreads)


Ford, Jamie. The Many Daughters of Afong Moy.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Ms. Lee, History teacher. 

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; Zoe Moy, a student in England; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive; 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, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.


Gino, Alex. Melissa.
Grades 3-12. Recommended by your librarian.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. (Publisher’s description)


Gratz, Alan. Prisoner B-3807.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by your librarian.

Yanek Gruener is ten years old, Jewish, and living in Poland in the late 1930's. One day, the Nazis take over his town and Yanek's journey through the Jewish ghetto and ten different concentration camps begins. Yanek watches as everything  and everyone he loves is taken away from him. There's no escape -- only survival. Every time Yanek barely escapes death, every time he watches the Nazi's brutally murder those around them, he pledges to fight by living to carry on the memory of those who were lost. 

The afterward explains the story of the real Yanek Gruener and his real experiences that are included in the novel. (Tara Gold, Goodreads)


Hickham, Homer. October Sky.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Mr. Steinert, Learning Assistant

It is 1957, the year Sputnik raced across the 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. 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 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. (Publisher’s description)


Owens, Delia. Where the Crawdads Sing.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher.

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.


Mackesy, Charles. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.
Ages 1-100. Recommended by Ms. Briskey, Special education teacher. 

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? 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. (Publisher’s description)


Miller, Madeline. Circe.
Grades 10-12. WHS student favorite.

Part beautifully-written literary fantasy and part divine Greek soap opera. This strange combination makes for a book that is extremely quotable, rich in description and detail, and also a page turner. It moves seamlessly between the broader scope of the world and its many gods and monsters, to the more narrow focus of the nymph-turned-witch, Circe, and her daily life before and after she is exiled to the island Aeaea. (Emily May, Goodreads)


Miller, Madeline. Song of Achilles.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Schomp, English teacher. 

Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," 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. (Publisher’s description)


O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Mr. Kelley, English teacher. 

Everything in John Wade’s life seems as though it’s been filtered through a funhouse mirror. His father was an abusive alcoholic who appeared to everyone else to be a wonderful guy. His mother 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. John Wade spends his life manipulating and covering up. Look around you - he’s not the only one.


Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Ministry for the Future.
Grade 10-12; Recommended by your librarian.

​​Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us—and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. (Publisher’s description)


Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Mr. Kelley, English teacher. 

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. 


Van Pelt, Shelby. Remarkably Bright Creatures.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher. 

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.


Zuzak, Marcus. The Book Thief.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher. 

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.




Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People: The only book you need to lead you to success. 
Grades 9-12. WHS student favorite. 

Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 30 million copies. Dale Carnegie's first book is a timeless bestseller, packed with rock-solid advice that has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie's principles endure, and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age. Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment. (Publisher’s description)


Greene, Robert. The 48 Laws of Power.
Grades 10-12. A WHS student favorite.

Three thousand years of the history of power are distilled into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.

Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law 1: Never Outshine the Master”), others teach the value of confidence (“Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness”), and many recommend absolute self-preservation (“Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally”). Every law, though, has one thing in common: an interest in total domination. In a bold and arresting two-color package, The 48 Laws of Power is ideal whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game. (Publisher’s description)


Hale, Kathleen. Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls
Grades 10-12. Recommended by your librarian.

An expertly researched account of a true crime that stunned people worldwide. In 2014, twelve year old Bella Lerner was nearly stabbed to death in Wisconsin by her supposed best friends, Morgan and Anissa. Hale traces the history of family mental illness/early onset childhood schizophrenia and unmonitored online activity that fostered the delusions of Morgan and Anissa. Both girls were obsessed with the fictional horror online character meme “Slenderman”, ( whom they believed stalked them and required a sacrificial offering.

The public was supportive of the “adult crime/adult time” approach and Judge Bohren’s decision to try the girls as adults. Morgan was declared unfit to stand trial or participate in her own defense. After two years in custody, her need for psychiatric treatment was obvious. While most people with mental illness are not violent, Hale reminds readers that violence can still occur, and that the need for universal healthcare and juvenile justice reform has never been greater.  (Michelle, Goodreads)


Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher. 

In 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. 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 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. 

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini answered 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.


Immerwahr, Daniel. How to Hide an Empire: A history of the greater United States.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Lee, History teacher.

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. (Publisher’s description)


Ingraham, Christopher. If You Lived Here, You’d be Home by Now.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher. 

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.


James, Kendra. Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School
Grades 9-12. Recommended by your librarian. 

A sharp-witted and deeply insightful look into the storied world of elite prep schools from the first African-American legacy student to graduate from The Taft School.


Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Gearan, School adjustment counselor, and Ms. Schomp, English teacher.

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.


Larson, Erik. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Berlin.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher. 

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.

Dodd brings along his wife, son, and daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by  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, 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 explores why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe until it was too late. 


Ogle, Rex. Free Lunch.
Grades 7-12. WHS student favorite. 

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. (Publisher’s description)


Pollan, Michael. Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Lee, History teacher. 

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? (Publisher’s description)


Taussig, Rebekah. Sitting Pretty: The View from my Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Ms. Collins, English teacher. 

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.


Wiesel, Elie. Night.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by Mr. Benson, History teacher.

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.


Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins of our Discontent.
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Ms. Gearan, school adjustment counselor.

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 and  baseball’s Satchel Paige, —she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She points forward to ways America can move toward hope in our common humanity. (Publisher’s description)


X, Malcolm. Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Grades 10-12. WHS student favorite. 

Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential civil rights figures and thinkers of the 20th century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his journey to becoming a Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself "the angriest Black man in America" relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind.

An established classic of modern America, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X"  has transformed Malcolm X's life into his legacy. The strength of his words, and the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared. (Publisher’s description)


Zamora, Javier. Solito.
Grades 9-12. Recommended by your librarian.

A young poet tells the story of his harrowing migration from El Salvador to the United States at the age of nine in this memoir. "Trip. My parents started using that word about a year ago--'one day, you'll take a trip to be with us. Like an adventure.' "

Javier's adventure is a three-thousand-mile journey from his small town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and across the U.S. border to reunite with a mother who left four years ago and a father he barely remembers. Javier's trip is supposed to last two short weeks, but those two weeks will expand into two life-altering months alongside a group of strangers who will come to encircle him like an unexpected family. (Publisher’s description)


Zauner, Michelle. Crying in H Mart. 
Grades 10-12. Recommended by Ms. Gearan, School adjustment counselor. 

Michelle Zauner tells of growing up Korean American, one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Oregon; of struggling with her mother's expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent at her grandmother's Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, 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 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. 



These books may include topics that are upsetting or sensitive to you or your family. Most literature explores different kinds of sensitive topics. One way to learn about a book is to look up reviews so you can make the best choice for you.