Although it can be tempting to turn off your brain and enjoy some carefree summer fun, the extended break also provides a great opportunity for high school students to learn with the right summer reading list. From timeless classics to stimulating modern novels, the right literature can spice up the dog days of summer and provide a jump start on the next school year – particularly for high schoolers coming up on the SATs. Here’s a breakdown of books to get them started on the right foot this summer.
The ageless story of boys stranded on a deserted island remains as haunting and compelling as it was when William Golding finished it in the early 1950s. A fairly short and easy read, "Lord of the Flies’" allegorical critique of human nature shows the inner beasts stirring within a pack of well-educated boys trying to create a society from scratch. Even for a high school student who has already read it, a second read gives a deeper understanding of one of the books that every high schooler is expected to master.
Best known for her "Shopaholic" series, Sophie Kinsella paints a vivid and hilarious portrayal of the complications of modern high school life in "Finding Audrey." Following a socially embarrassing incident, Audrey turns to her friends, family, and ultimately her own inner courage in order to reemerge back into the very world that spurned her. Although it’s perfect poolside reading, "Finding Audrey" carries more depth and weight than originally appears on the surface.
You don’t have to be a huge science-fiction fan to get sucked into the world of Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World," the dystopian game-changer that has aged extremely well more than 80 years after it was published. While it’s philosophical underpinnings can provide plenty of fodder for essays, the novel can also be a fun read despite the dark themes crafted by Huxley. For anyone who has already explored "Brave New World," Huxley’s final novel, "Island," provides a utopian spin on the themes he originally fleshed out three decades previously. For a more modern dystopian vision, try Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel "The Handmaid’s Tale" before checking out the TV series. You also can’t go wrong with "Fahrenheit 451" or "1984," two of the other titans of dystopian sci-fi.
Witches and witchcraft continue to fascinate readers more than 300 years after the infamous Salem Witch Trials, laying the groundwork for Virginia Boecker’s fun and thought-provoking supernatural thriller, "The Witch Hunter." Rich in creative storytelling that provides a refreshing spin on the world of witches and wizards, "The Witch Hunter" is an inspiring jaunt into an alternative England that is perfect for breaking up the established classics on a summer reading list.
One of bona fide landmarks of literature, Charles Dickens’ "A Tale of Two Cities," is cited by Goodreads as one of the most popular summer books and is one of the most revered and quoted books of all-time. Following the trials and tribulations of a man caught up in the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, Dickens paints a portrait of both London and Paris that continues to resonate with readers more than 150 years later. Although a little on the heavy side thematically, Dickens’ mastery of the prose makes it incredibly readable and it is much more accessible than many of the other classics of its stature.
For more advanced readers:
For those looking to really challenge themselves, digging into Fyodor Dostoevsky’s "Crime and Punishment" can be a gut-wrenching experience that can make every other book feel like a breeze. If you’re not ready to spend an entire summer sifting through the troubled conscience of axe murderer Raskolnikov, Virginia Woolf’s classic "To the Lighthouse" also regularly appears on the summer reading lists at top prep schools, as does Gustave Flaubert’s masterwork, "Madame Bovary." Hemingway’s iconic short novel, "The Old Man and the Sea," can also be a great starter course before picking up lengthier Hemingway tomes like "For Whom the Bell Tolls" or "The Sun Also Rises."