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Summer Reading Booklist

The Hate U Give*—Angie Thomas

The story’s teen-age protagonist becomes an activist after seeing her unarmed friend killed by police.


The 57 Bus—Dashka Slater

The true and tragic story of two Oakland teenagers...The book jacket reads: “Two ends of the same line. Two sides of the same crime.”

Kindred—Octavia E. Butler

Butler’s novel weaves together 1970’s Los Angeles and the antebellum South in a compelling combination, exploring time travel, personal histories and slavery’s lasting scars.


If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home—Tim O’Brien

The author’s memoir of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam stands out as one of the most vivid books about the war.


The Bean Trees—Barbara Kingsolver

A young woman embarks on a journey of personal discovery, leaving her hometown and her name behind.


Travels with Charley—John Steinbeck

An engaging travelogue tracing the author’s adventures traveling around America with his dog in 1960’s America.


The Catcher in the Rye—JD Salinger

A memorable tale of youthful disenchantment starring one of American literature’s most famous protagonists, Holden Caulfield.


Outliers: The Story of Success—Malcolm Gladwell

From the author of Blink and Tipping Point comes another interesting non-fiction work, this time addressing the question “Why do some people succeed far more than others?” with interesting results.

Freakonomics—Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The authors set out to explore the inner workings of a crack gang, the truth about real estate agents, the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, and much more. Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, they show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. (


The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales—Oliver Sacks. The stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations and are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. 

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Jon Krakauer
This gripping true-life adventure tale tells the story of the disaster in which several climbers died on the slopes of Mt. Everest in 1996, as witnessed by Jon Krakauer, a journalist who is also one of the climbers to reach the summit that year.


Warriors Don’t Cry—Melba Patillo Beals

In 1957, Melba Pattillo turned sixteen. That was also the year she became a warrior on the front lines of a civil rights firestorm. Following the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, Melba was one of nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock's Central High School. 


The Glass Castle—Jeannette Walls

Jeannette writes about her unique childhood, sharing her fond memories of her father and mother. She tells how they refused to conform to society's ideas of responsibility, leaving their children to fend for themselves for even the most basic of needs, such as food and shelter. 


The Autobiography of Malcolm X—Alex Haley 

Published in 1965, this book is the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X's 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the leader was killed, Haley wrote the book's epilogue.a[›] He described their collaborative process and the events at the end of Malcolm X's life. (Wikipedia)

Freedom Riders—Raymond Arsenault

1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.
Here is the definitive account of a dramatic and indeed pivotal moment in American history, a critical episode that transformed the civil rights movement in the early 1960s.

Flags of Our Fathers —James Bradley
James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America. (Bookrags)


Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation —Cokie Roberts
While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. (Borders)


The Right Stuff—Tom Wolfe 
Test pilots, we discover, are people who live fast lives with dangerous machines, not all of them airborne. Chuck Yeager was certainly among the fastest, and his determination to push through Mach 1--a feat that some had predicted would cause the destruction of any aircraft—makes him the book's guiding spirit.

The Devil in the White City—Erik Larson

Intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. 


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—Rebecca Skloot
A riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.


No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes about Himself and Our Way of Life in the ProcessColin Beavan.

Beavan chronicles his yearlong effort to leave as little impact on the environment as possible. Realizing that he had erred in thinking that condemning other people's misdeeds somehow made [him] virtuous, he makes a stab at genuine (and radical) virtue: forgoing toilet paper and electricity, relinquishing motorized transportation, becoming a locavore and volunteering with environmental organizations. (Publishers Weekly)

Silent Spring —Rachel Carson
First published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. 

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America—Barbara Ehrenreich
Ehrenreich turns her gimlet eye on the view from the workforce's bottom rung. Determined to find out how anyone could make ends meet on $7 an hour, she left behind her middle class life to try to sustain herself as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time. 


Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die—Chip and Dan Heath
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In this book, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. 

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future—Daniel Pink
The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers-creative and holistic "right-brain" thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn't. 

Do Androids Dream of Electric SheepPhilip K. Dick

This science fiction novel (and inspiration for the classic film Blade Runner) is set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco and finds earth’s life greatly damaged and humans’ ability to empathize in question.

Into the Wild*—Jon Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was
Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his
car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for
himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild. (Amazon)

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts—Maxine Hong Kingston

In the United States, the meager opportunities available to Chinese immigrants force her parents to earn a living by running a small laundry. Kingston’s mother, Brave Orchid, a mid-wife in China, is a forceful character who admonishes her daughter with ever-changing renditions of Chinese legends and myths as well as tales about women who have been driven to madness or death by a culture that has traditionally viewed girls and women as subordinate to boys and men. (

The Bell JarSylvia Plath

Chronicles a young woman's descent into madness. The story parallels Plath's own journey and how she overcame a nervous breakdown as a college student. It is a powerful story that gives the reader a glimpse into the tragedy of insanity and the struggle to overcome it. (Bookrags)

Salt: A World History​Mark Kurlansky

Salt, the only rock we eat, has made a glittering, often surprising contribution to the history of humankind. Until about a hundred years ago, when modern geology revealed its prevalence, salt was one of the world’s most sought-after commodities. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires and inspired revolutions. 

Everything I Never Told You—Celeste Ng

[This novel is] about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue… When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. (


VermillionMolly Tanzer

Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts to care much about that. (


A Tree Grows in BrooklynBetty Smith

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. (

The House on Mango Street—Sandra Cisneros The novel of a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. The House on Mango Street tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn't want to belong -- not to her rundown neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her.(

American Street*Ibi Zoboi

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.


Shadowshaper*Daniel Jose Older

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep.... Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on. Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. (


Monster*Walter Dean Myers

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout. Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of "the system," cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. (


*Young Adult (YA) novel,
highly accessible read

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