10 Recently Published Books That Should Be Required Reading In High School

Today I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for their weekly feature, Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s prompt is a freebie! That is, we’re supposed to make a back to school-themed top ten list of some sort – but aside from that, we can write about anything we choose! Inspired by Goodreads’ post about recently published books that high school teachers should assign, I decided to make my own list of ten books that should be required reading in high school.

Enjoy!

between the world and me1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended for: Seniors

Written in the form of a long letter to his teenage son, Between the World and Me is a powerful essay about what it means to grow up as a young black man in America. In addition to being one of many books on this list of mine that deals with social justice, its central idea is also beautifully argued and could be the subject of several lessons on the craft of writing!

bad feminist2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Recommended for: Juniors 

This collection of essays has something for everyone. Throughout the book, Gay explores not only feminism but racism, gender, and LGBTQ+ issues through the lens of TV, movies, books, current events, and her own experiences as a teenager and young adult. Hopefully this book prompts students to begin analyzing media in their day-to-day lives just as Gay does!

i am malala3. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Recommended for: Freshmen

In addition to teaching students about a culture and religion often misunderstood, this autobiography provides a glimpse of non-Western feminism and shows how much teenagers are capable of. I think this book would give students a better understanding of the idea that history isn’t confined to dusty old textbooks but is being made today, sometimes by people their own age.

fun home4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Recommended for: Seniors

This is actually a fairly complicated book to read, due to its linear structure and references to other literary works, so it would serve as an excellent introduction to the medium of the graphic novel.

saga volume one5. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Recommended for: Seniors

Because I recently finished volume six, I’ve fallen in love with this series for the sixth time! Saga is an ongoing series of graphic novels about a war between two planets, framed through the lens of a couple who are from opposite factions. Over the course of the series, their daughter grows up, is separated from her parents, and makes many strange friends along the way… this story has the outer space adventure appeal of Star Wars crossed with the sex and violence of Game of Thrones, so this definitely isn’t a book that would put students to sleep.

we should all be feminists6. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Recommended for: Freshmen

This is a startlingly brief book – Adichie wastes neither time nor words when making her argument, which is that feminism helps not just women but all genders. Like some of the books mentioned above, this is a great look at what it’s like to be a non-white and/or non-Western feminist.

the hunger games7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommended for: Freshmen

This trilogy is not only written very accessibly, but is full of social commentary as well! For this reason, I think it would be a great place for students to start learning how to analyze works that critique aspects of society. (Which is a recurring theme in this list, as you may have noticed.)

men explain things to me8. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

Recommended for: Sophomores

This essay collection is similar to Bad Feminist in that it is ostensibly about feminism, but touches upon numerous other subjects as well, such as that of LGBTQ+ equality. And like Between the World and Me, this writing should be studied in depth as well!

the miseducation of cameron post9. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth

Recommended for: Juniors

OH HUSH NOW. I know that you know that this is my favorite book! But the writing is gorgeous and complex! And it’s about LGBTQ+ teens! And it raises awareness about things that many people don’t take seriously enough, such as conversion therapy!

marbles10. Marbles by Ellen Forney

Recommended for: Sophomores

This is a graphic novel about the author’s own experience with bipolar disorder. I think this is an important book not only because it helps people to better understand and care for others, but because it’s not uncommon for high school students to struggle with poor mental health. In fact, one of the reasons I labeled it as a book for sophomores was that I think it should be read as soon as possible so they know that there are people out there who understand.

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As you can see, this list is is slanted towards diversity and social justice! Although I did not set out to write a list like this, this is a value very important to me and so I’m not surprised that my post ended up this way.

I think we don’t give high school students (or college students, for that matter – I think these books would work equally well there) enough credit and rarely challenge them. Some of these books are, admittedly, more difficult than others, but none are beyond the comprehension of teenagers and I think this reading list gives them a good foundation to talk about these subjects in college.

Which books do YOU think should be required reading for high school students? And why?!

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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5 Responses to 10 Recently Published Books That Should Be Required Reading In High School

  1. Cynthia says:

    AHHH I SHOULD READ THESE. Or bookmark this page. Or something. These sound amazingggggg.

  2. Mahima says:

    Hear hear! I’m curious about reading all of these books, hopefully! I’d recently finished Cameron Post (and blimmin’ loved it to bits) and definitely agree with everything you’ve said about it. Having read the book though I see where your love of Carmilla comes from (I had no idea that lesbian vampirism is actually a thing) and 100% would have loved it if I had access to these books (or books like these) now and going through my education!

  3. Shanti says:

    Aaah I have to read Fun home and Cameron Post. I’ve seen them hanging around in our reading room and library. I really want better ‘required reading’ for everything–YA never gets enough credit… which leads to me many rants. I like your list. I would add Anathem by Neal Stephenson, which is so long and has so much going on that you could actually do it over a year (and i acutually did read it for world lit a while ago as an optional text). the most interesting/contemporary book I’ve had to read for school was the White Tiger for AP lit this year which I have a lot of feelings about( and luckily I can write them all down in essays haha), and Atonement was crazy-weird-good too. I think there’s a lot to talk about in A World Without You, and a Tamora Pierce unit would be awesome– you could talk about lots of sexuality, race, and gender issues, depending on which texts you picked. Also a non YA pick: Water for Elephants has lots of textual stuff that is analyse-able as well as a very interesting setting and storytelling structure.

  4. Heather says:

    These are some very interesting choices. I AM MALALA would definitely be good for Freshman; I mean, it is a powerful book but it lacks a lot of nuance, in my opinion, so I think that would be something to build upon with more difficult texts as students get over. I’m afraid I can’t agree on THE HUNGER GAMES, since it is against my beliefs to assign high school students boring books. If they want to read it, fine, but requiring it? *shudders* High school didn’t need help making my eyes glaze over, thanks. I think BAD FEMINIST and WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS have their merits, so I could totally see those functioning… especially in something like AP Lang, which focuses on rhetoric and whatnot. FUN HOME seems like a good idea, but I actually just started it yesterday, so I should probably finish it before I go waving about opinions and whatnot. 😄 I do wonder about SAGA, though. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love, love, love, love SAGA. But even if I love it, and it somehow managed to be approved by a school board, I think it would actually really bother a lot of students to read SAGA. Not all of them, of course, but my friends—purveyors of sexual innuendo and violent, dark humor on the best of days—have seemed a little squeamish when I’ve mentioned Saga to them. I always agree that high school students should be challenged, but, then, especially for many students who will come from a background where the content in SAGA might not be considered appropriate or perhaps very, very graphic, it seems like it would be something of a baptism by fire. It’s usually easier to take these things in text form than graphic, so if it were me I’d probably recommend SAGA to people, but use a different book in class for our discussions.

    And I realize that you are just mentioning books you really liked and whatnot and that you are not a school board but then I also feel the need to say these things because it makes me feel better to know that I have argued on behalf of the squeamish people.

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