With the success of our last list, we’ve added some more recommendations from AJ leaders. As a reminder, here are the ground rules: 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.
Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Recommended by Tala el-Fahmawi
“We are doomed to remember what never really happened.” Marina is a beautiful Gothic tale that perfectly combines horror, mystery and romance. It is a heart wrenching tale that will keep you turning its pages searching for answers. While reading this novel, I found my eyes watering, my heart racing and my mind refusing to sleep. It is a book you will think about long after you finish the last page. A true masterpiece.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Recommended by Kristin Jusi
As a lover of books, this novel made me appreciate, well, books! A fantastic piece of historical fiction, The Book Thief is a pretty easy read about a young girl’s experience in Nazi Germany, and in my opinion, beautifully written.
Hans Christian Andersen: The Complete Fairy Tales
Recommended by Nieka Bright
Don’t let the name deceive you; these tales are brimming with real life lessons. To quote someone wise, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Recommended by Stephanie Simon
If you liked The Bean Trees and Animal Kingdom, you should check out this tale from Barbara Kingsolver about our changing world. Not only does it dazzle you with forest ecosystems and the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, it also deftly explores how culture shapes our views about science and the world around us. Through engaging characters and accessible prose, Kingsolver draws us in to explore the tension between scientific and cultural views, challenging us to think about how we acquire our own deeply-held beliefs.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Recommended by David Massey
Science fiction with great twists!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Recommended by Sebastian von Zerneck
Have you ever felt like you were just a minor character in someone else’s story? This is the book for you. A re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the perspective of two secondary characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a quintessential postmodern play: innovative, mind-bending and absolutely hilarious.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Recommended by Carmel Richard
I’m currently re-reading this book and falling in love again! What sets Willa Cather apart as an author is her ability to paint a picture almost impressionistically with a few brushstrokes of her pen, as well as her power to transform a web of vignettes into a full-fledged novel through her effortless encapsulation of universal themes within the eccentricities of unadorned characters. In this story, she does more. She binds all the characters together through the magnetism of a single central figure. This the story of Ántonia Shimerda, an immigrant girl blossoming into a woman against the sparse landscape of 19th century Nebraska. This is the story of life and death, joy and grief, self-discovery, but most of all undying memory. It’s Cather’s masterpiece, in my opinion. Highly recommend!