With the success of our last lists, we’ve added even 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.
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Recommended by Aaron Andrikopolous
A great and eye opening read! A true spiritual adventure!
Naive. Super by Erlend Loe
Recommended by Jacob Schott
I think the title says it all. A bored, slightly naive young adult in Norway navigates their way through daily life before taking a trip to New York to confirm or disconfirm whether or not it is true that time moves slower at the top of the Empire State building than at street level. Trust me, this blurb doesn’t do the book justice…
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Recommended by Mark Liveringhouse
Incognito is a wonderful choice for anyone interested in exploring the hidden recesses of the mind.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Recommended by Sebastian von Zerneck
A renowned poet, John Shade, dies and leaves behind a final manuscript for his poem “Pale Fire.” A neighbor and colleague, Charles Kinbote, recovers the poem and publishes it with a forward and line-by-line analysis. Together these elements form a narrative in which both fictional authors are central characters. Kinbote, we soon realize, is completely deranged, and his analysis of Shade’s manuscript, which is being held hostage from all other publishers and scholars, is wildly convoluted and entertaining.
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
Recommended by Matthew Downhour
Resurrection is shorter and more readable than Tolstoy’s more famous books, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, so it’s a good introduction to one of the giants of the classical literary canon. It is also a strong book in its own right, delving more directly into Tolstoy’s unique social and religious philosophy, which would inspire such historical figures as Mohandas K Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Recommended by Keith Tippman
This dystopian masterpiece from Margaret Atwood–author of the The Handmaid’s Tale—is an eerie exploration of the type of future we may currently be creating with the modern state of politics and capitalist systems as we continue to degrade the earth’s environment. Set in the not-so-distant future, survivors of a devastating pandemic seek to create a new better world from the husk of our destroyed civilization and planet.
The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
Recommended by Andrew Houghton
Set in a fictional English town of Garmouth shortly after the Battle of Britain, The Machine Gunners follows the life of a gang of school children during the Second World War. They find a crashed German bomber, complete with machine gun and 2,000 of ammunition. The children decide they are going to defend their homes and families, and so they build a fortress with their machine gun atop to defend themselves.
This book is written by my dad’s old art teacher, who also taught my mum English. It won the Carnegie Medal for writing when it was published and was named one of the top ten medal-winning works ever. Not a long or a new novel, but absolutely gripping to read!
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Recommended by Nisha Gabbi
Ever wondered how those cool sneakers on your feet came to be? This book chronicles the journey of Phil Knight, founder of Nike. Full of life lessons with surprising twists and turns, this book is for the budding entrepreneur and fashion curious.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Recommended by Noah Larson
The original monster horror novel and note the tale most people think they know. It’s a classic with a twist you won’t see coming.