Books for Teens

The following is a list of books for teens – as the holidays approach people might be thinking about what books to get for their teenage sons or daughters. This is a difficult age to buy books for – just because they are capable of reading anything does not necessarily mean they should!
Most of these books are favorites of my own teenage sons. Some are from the literature curriculum from the Waldorf-inspired high school where I teach. All are really good reads!
Younger Teens (13 – 15)
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers I am reading this with my sophomore English class. I think the theme of loneliness can really speak to this age group. And there’s a great teenage character who, although one would be hard pressed to find someone like her nowadays, is someone many teens can relate to.
Cannery Row John Steinbeck The raucous characters in this book are so alive that one feels as if they’ll be sitting on the couch next to when you look up from reading! This is another 10th grade English lit choice of mine.
Ok – I have to admit I’m a huge Steinbeck fan – so I need to list East of Eden, Of Mice and Men (which is probably my least favorite though many enjoy it) and Grapes of Wrath. The Pearl is quite goos, too – 9th grade English in my school.
Another 9th grade English choice is Animal Farm by George Orwell. And then 1984 in 10th grade.
Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut Dark, morbid and very funny – either you love it or hate it.
Naftalie the Stotyteller and His Horse Sus Isaac Bashevis Singer Poignant and warm stories from a master Yiddish story teller.
Various Sherlock Holmes collections Arthur Conan Doyle Who doesn’t know these great stories?
Short story collection by O. Henry – here’s another author I regularly use when I teach.
His Dark Material trilogy Philip Pullman These are very dark futuristic stories about the nature of evil and power
Eragon and Eldest Christopher Palolini If your child hasn’t read these yet, now’s the time! Fantasy stories written by a homeschooled teen
Bartemaus trilogy Jonathan Stroud My 13 year old tells me these are the best books ever – we wrote these blurbs together and he just couldn’t come up with the right way to convey his enthusiasm for these complex, fun, sarcastic and wryly humorous fantasy stories
Lord of the Rings JR Tolkien Gotta read these if you haven’t already!
Harry Potter JK Rowling Ditto (and the last book really is right for about this age)
Montmorency series Eleanor Updale Double life of a thief and gentleman in 19C London
The Wilderness Family Kobie Kruger I recommend this as a family read aloud elsewhere – an animal loving teen might like to read this himself
The Prince and the Pauper Mark Twain Twain’s classic about swapped social positions in 15C Britain
Harper Hall trilogy Anne McCaffrey Fantasy story about a gilr who seeks to be a bard and her entanglement with dragons
Earthsea trilogy Ursula LeGuin A favorite from my teen years about magic and evil and the nature of growing up
The Samurai’s Tale Erik Christian Haugaard Poor boy becomes a samurai during the time of feuds
Eagle of the Ninth Rosemary Sutcliffe Adventures amongst the Celts and Romans
The Thief Megan Whalen Turner Jailed thief forced by the king to steal legendary treasure
The Giver Lois Lowry A coming of age story set in a dystopia of the future
Call of the Wild Jack London Dog has adventures in the Yukon – gripping and exciting
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee More 9th grade lit – racial prejudice and a gripping trial in the segregated South
Older Teens (16 and Up)
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky Part of our senior world literature curriculum
The Stranger Albert Camus Ditto
My Antonia Willa Cather This one is good for juniors
Anything by Kent Haruf Amazing and poignant modern novels about everyday life amongst everyday people in the bleak West
The Bluest Eyes Toni Morrison Painful novel about prejudice’s destructive influence
The House on Mango Street Susan Cisneros At first can seem like a book for children, this jewel like series of vignettes captures the poverty stricken life of a Latina girl in contemporary Chicago
Peace Like a River Leif Enger A moody and compelling novel of life in the Midwest showing how complex real human beings are
Andromeda Strain Michael Critchton Sci fi classic of space age disaster
All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Remarque Anti war novel from WWI
Tar Baby Toni Morrison A love affair between a white woman and Black man rock their worlds
The Fixer Bernard Malamud Pulitzer prize winning novel of the horrors of anti-semitism in Russia
Ragtime EL Doctorow A lively story with an interesting narrative about the movers and shakers of  early 20C America
USA John Dos Passos Similar theme as the above, but more powerful in terms of its experimental narrative and its stark look at injustice and power

Posted on November 17, 2006 in Older Children

  • Penny says:

    Wow, Donna, this is a GREAT list! Even though your wrote it almost 5 years ago, it is so helpful for me today! Thanks 🙂
    PS: I just listened to your 7/8 talk – it’s really wonderful. It helped me calm down a LOT about grade 8, and feel happy and confident that we can move forward with great success! Thank you SO much (again lol)!

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