Stephen King said that books are “a uniquely portable magic.” AJ Tutoring is a team of avid readers, but our literary interests vary richly across genre, field, and subject.
With that in mind, we’ve crowd-sourced a diverse list of book recommendations from leaders and veteran tutors at AJ Tutoring. The only requirements were that the books be appropriate for high-school-aged readers, and that they not be books that regularly show up on high school reading lists. Fiction and nonfiction, memoir and sci-fi—it’s all here.
Take a look and find something new for your student (or you) to enjoy!
Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow
Recommended by Andrew Houghton
Simon Scarrow is a Cambridge historian who specializes in Roman history. In his Eagles of the Empire series (currently up to book 17) we follow 2 members of the Roman army in their adventures in the days of Emperor Claudius. As a historian, Scarrow writes books that are very historically accurate. However, they are far from boring with plenty of gripping combats, love interests and political intrigue from the Imperial Palace! This book will get you hooked on the series!
The Best Short Stories of O. Henry
Recommended by John Richard
O’Henry captures in vivid detail the lives of Americans around the turn of the century in a highly entertaining and poignant manner. While most of the stories are quite short, they never fail to draw the reader in, and the twist endings would surprise even M. Night Shyamalan. One of the few great American authors who seems to enjoy life and love happy endings. O’Henry is a breath of fresh air.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended by Chelsea Greene
A quick science fiction read that is touted as a cross between How to Train Your Dragon and Top Gun, Skyward features a strong female lead and is super fun. It is also a great intro to Brandon Sanderson, whom I cannot recommend enough!
Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca
Recommended by Matthew Downhour
This book is also called “Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius” or “Letters from a Stoic.” It explains Stoic philosophy but also discusses Epicurus and other ancient philosophers as well. It’s a good introduction to philosophical discourse without being boring or too formal. It’s also a good introduction to Classical literature and to the Classical world in general, as it makes the Romans seem very human. Finally, it’s a interesting discussion of form in writing and rhetoric—Lucilius may not have even been a real person, but Seneca chose to publish these “letters” to him to educate people about his beliefs, so it can start a good discussion of epistolary literature and why letters from one person to might be more interesting or persuasive than a straightforward philosophical treatise.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
Recommended by Elizabeth Emery
John Elder Robison wrote an incredible autobiography about his life with Asperger’s before there was a name for it. Not only does he provide a unique glimpse into the inner workings of his mind, he also has an absolutely fascinating life. This book is funny, sad, heartwarming, and insightful all rolled into one; it’s a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s so, so worth it!
Sawbones: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine by Justin McElroy & Dr. Sydnee McElroy
Recommended by Jessica Embrey
I didn’t always love history class when I was in school, but who doesn’t love the weird, misguided, and gross ideas doctors had throughout the ages about human health? From grave-digging opportunists to over-confident doctors experimenting on themselves to prove a point, this book will appeal to anyone who loves TV medical dramas and historical oddities alike.
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt
Recommended by Matthew Grabowski
“No one is omniscient or infallible, so a willingness to evaluate new ideas is vital to understanding our world. Yet universities, which ought to be forums for open debate, are developing a reputation for dogmatism and intolerance. Lukianoff and Haidt, distinguished advocates of freedom of expression, offer a deep analysis of what’s going wrong on campus, and how we can hold universities to their highest ideals.” – Steven Pinker
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Recommended by Chiranjeevi Raghunath
Angela’s Ashes offers the truly a fascinating experience of growing up through adolescence through the eyes of a poor Irish Catholic boy. It’s a really engaging, thoughtful and hilarious memoir from the late Frank McCourt.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Recommended by Daniel Pincus
This reality-bending science fiction classic takes place in a dystopian version of 1960s San Francisco in which the Axis powers won World War II. When a contraband book that imagines an alternate outcome to the war begins to circulate, the world of the characters and the world of the reader start to swirl together in a meta twist that propels the story forward to a surreal surprise ending. The Man in the High Castle is the inspiration for an Amazon series of the same name.
Your Body and How it Works by J. D. Ratcliff
Recommended by Stephen Horabin
This book can be hard to find—check your local library!—but is well-worth the effort to track down. In a series of first-person narratives, the organs and systems of the human body are broken down. The writing is great, the sections are relatively short (great for on-the-go and intermittent reading sessions!), and it was one of the first books that got me thinking about becoming a doctor. Great stuff for anyone curious about how we tick!