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Good Reads: Book Recommendations for High School Students from AJ Tutoring Leaders


Just in time for the holiday season, we crowd-sourced a 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 non-fiction, memoir and sci-fi―it’s all here. Take a look and find something new for your student (or you) to enjoy!

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

“Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.”

Recommended by Christina.

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, by Frank McCourt.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

Recommended by CJ.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley.

“One of Time Magazine’s 100 most important books of the 20th century. A stark, unflinching look at race relations in America during the baby boom era.”

Recommended by Matt.

Bad Feminist: Essays, by Roxane Gay.

“Fantastic collection of essays exploring the pressures women inflict on themselves, as well as the demands society inflicts on us. Roxane Gay is phenomenal―accessible language, impactful ideas, and refreshing directness. 8th grade and up.”

Recommended by Magen.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.

“This book taught me that literature can be entertaining and got me to start reading more on my own.”

Recommended by Marich.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

“As much a part of Christmas as mistletoe and carolers, Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was once read publicly on Christmas Eve each year by Dickens himself. This heartwarming tale continues to stir in us the same feelings of repentance, forgiveness, and love that transformed Ebenezer Scrooge from grumbling, ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to sharing Tiny Tim’s happy ‘God bless us, every one!'”

Recommended by Carmel.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson.

“Whether you’re interested in American history, architecture, the city of Chicago, or the psychology of serial killers―or just enjoy a compelling, meticulously-researched true story―you won’t be able to put this book down until it’s over.”

Recommended by Karen.

Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, by Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron, and Kelly Tieger. 

“A fun and eye-opening book that will identify your personality type and help you explore what careers you will enjoy most. Especially useful for high schoolers starting to think about what they’d like to major in!”

Recommended by Jake.

Ender’s Game/Ender’s Shadow, by Orson Scott Card.

“Two of the best books in the Ender universe. Well-written sci-fi classics with crossover appeal. A great pick for adolescents, who will be able to identify with Ender’s character.”

Recommended by Allison.

Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.

“Sci-fi with some great twists.”

Recommended by David.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic―And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson.

“It’s the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.”

Recommended by Jimmy.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin.

“One of the first works by Hugo award-winning author N.K. Jemisin, this is the beginning of a fantasy trilogy that stars incredible female protagonists and explores systems of power in exciting ways. What would *you* do if you could command gods?”

Recommended by Jessica.

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.

“A great intro to Christianity.”

Recommended by Joe.

Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks.

“For anyone interested in science and how the human brain works! Musicophilia explores how music affects the human condition through the stories of various people suffering from what Sacks calls ‘musical misalignments.’ Among them: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist at the age of forty-two; an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; people with ‘amusia,’ to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans; and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds-for everything but music.”

Recommended by Jimmy.

The Nix, by Nathan Hill.

“A fantastic novel about love, betrayal, politics and pop culture.”

Recommended by Pat.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.

“A really fun read for the nerd in all of us. Also, if you like audio books―the audio version is narrated by Wil Wheaton!”

Recommended by Chelsea and Allison.

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

“Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets―an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”

Recommended by Merylynn.

Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician’s Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks, by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer.

“An easy book to read if you only have short intervals of time! Provides cool tricks for operations with large numbers that you can practice anywhere you go.”

Recommended by Aly.

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.

“I love Dickens’ descriptive language. Every scene in the book is expressed so vividly. Heroic Sydney Carton and friends contrast the true, the good, and the beautiful with the evil, vengeful and misguided Madam Defarge and the French revolutionaries.”

Recommended by John.

Happy reading!


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