I speak from personal experience when I say how incredibly hard it is to find suitable and enjoyable books to read for fun while in high school. As my mother has said for years, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” That statement applies to many things in life and that includes reading material. If you have avid readers at home who are in high school, this list of 10 novels will keep them occupied for the summer.
This list can be used as a teaching resource alongside our creative writing curriculum: Creative Writing with Jonathan Rogers. The video class can be used for both middle and high school but the books on this list are mainly for high school students.
1. Rebecca (My Cousin Rachel) – Daphne du Maurier
Starting off with a fairly well-known novel, Rebecca has been a bestseller since the beginning, selling 2.8 copies just between the years of 1938 (its publication) and 1965. The story is fantastic and mysterious, with just the right amount of intrigue. One of my favorite books, it is an easy, enjoyable read that boys and girls alike will greatly enjoy. If your kids are older than twelve, this could be a great read aloud if your family is looking for something new.
2. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell was a quiet, sweet Southern woman, dearly loved by everyone in her tiny Georgia town. She led a quiet life, living in the same state her entire life. And yet she was famous across the world. In 1936, she published her first and only novel: the coming of age story of a spoiled Southern belle whose whole world is destroyed when the Civil War breaks out when she is only sixteen.
A controversial book, Gone With the Wind is famous for a reason and should be read by everyone. It is incredibly well written with three dimensional characters, compelling plots, and an ending that will tear your heart out.
3. Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy Sayers
Dorothy Sayers is one of the most talented mystery writers of the twentieth century. Her well-known character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is beloved for his wit and intelligence. The Wimsey series contains eleven mystery novels , but one of her best is Murder Must Advertise. Incredibly well-written, the novel takes a unique look at a murder case in an advertising agency. It could also be a fun family read aloud if your kids are thirteen and up.
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
One of the more mature and obscure books on this list, this semi-autobiographical novel is incredibly touching and thought-provoking. Set during the first twenty years of the 1900s, the story follows a young girl from her childhood to early adulthood. Betty Smith is an excellent writer and brings Brooklyn to life in a way that will move every reader.
*Sex is mentioned frequently throughout the book. A young girl is almost raped, a single mother is abused by other neighborhood women, etc. This is definitely for kids ages sixteen and up. However, when sex is referenced, it is never callous or disturbingly graphic.
5. Sherlock Holmes (The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The character of Sherlock Holmes has received a lot of attention over the past thirty years in both film and literature. Yet most people have not read the original stories. The occasional short story is sometimes required in middle or high school, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliance shines in his longer stories. These three stories are his best, in my opinion. The Valley of Fear is a little rough, but nothing graphic.
6. Emma – Jane Austen
Jane Austen should be a staple author in every house. Obviously Pride and Prejudice is her most famous novel, but Emma has a certain charm and sweetness all its own. It was the last book Austen published during her lifetime and one of my favorites. Emma’s character is relatable and humorous, even to twenty-first century readers. This would be a very fun read if you are looking for a book to read with your daughters.
7. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness d’Orczy
A sweeping, romantic novel set during the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel has been one of my favorite books for many years. Lady Marguerite Blakeney is at odds with her husband, the immensely wealthy yet inane Lord Percy Blakeney. During this time, England and France are set afire by the Scarlet Pimpernel, an anonymous man who rescues French aristocrats from the guillotine. This is also a great choice for a family read aloud.
8. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway is an author who is either loved or hated. Despite his controversy, he is an incredible writer and his novel A Farewell to Arms perfectly exemplifies his unique style. Somewhat autobiographical, the plot is centered around a young American soldier fighting with the Italians in World War 1. It is a sweeping story about love, war, and loss that will leave the reader reaching for a box of kleenex.
*There is some mention of sex and war violence, but it is pretty understated and not graphic.
9. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Possibly one of the most famous novellas ever written, Fitzgerald’s classic romance was originally considered a failure. However, it was rediscovered during World War 2 and is now classified a literary masterpiece. The story follows Jay Gatsby, a man who has everything he could ever want, and his passionate, overwhelming love for Daisy Buchanan, the love of his life. Fitzgerald creates compelling characters, brilliantly exposing secrets and actions in a thought-provoking style that keeps his readers on their toes.
10. The Space Trilogy – C. S. Lewis
Born in 1898, C. S. Lewis is renowned and beloved for his fictional and theological works including The Chronicles of Narnia series, Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity. Everyone should read his wide-reaching works, but one his most interesting series is The Space Trilogy. It has always reminded me of a Christian version of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time trilogy. The series brilliantly weaves together fantasy, science fiction, and theology. It would also be a fantastic family read-aloud.