Part 2: Ask and You Shall Receive ... Happy (Hard) Reading, Kids! (Intro 150)

reading lists Apr 22, 2020
The overwhelming question I receive as part under the broader "helpmykidsarestuckathome" hashtag: What books should my kids be reading?
Same criteria apply : EWC's reading lists are only comprised of books that the our team had read at your child's age. And now that we covered the advanced reading for our Intro 100-ers, let's turn our attention to Middle School.
This is a bit tricker - it's an incredibly broad range of books, from memoirs to fiction books that explore the depth of human nature. I've tried to "group" some of these books by genre, but I must admit: the lines definitely blur.
But irrespective of the categories, each one of these books is a classic and absolute gem. Highly recommended by everyone at EWC!
Let's start with a book series that needs no introduction:
Seriously. Just go read them all. (I'd say this is a late elementary school slash early middle school read. You do however, need some level of maturity to fully appreciate the themes in the series.)
Speaking of series, let's take a look at The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit.
Start with The Hobbit before progressing to the trilogy.
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather- A novel that captures the lives of early white settlers in the American West, Cather portrays life in the American prairies.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros - Structured as a series of vignettes, the book follows the life of a 12-year-old girl growing up in the Hispanic neighborhood of Chicago.
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - A coming-of-age novel, the book was published when Hinton was only eighteen. Also a movie, it explores the socioeconomic divide between two rival gangs.
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry - What happens to a raisin in the sun? One of the best plays ever written, the book tells of the financials struggles of a black family in south Chicago.
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - The first science fiction book on this list, the book is told in a series of progress reports on a laboratory mouse who undergoes surgery to become more intelligent. As you're reading, think about the human ethical/ moral ramifications and implications of these experiments. 
  • Death be Not Proud by John Gunther. A gut-wrenching memoir of a father who describes the death of his son who is suffering from a brain tumor. With a title taken from John Donne's poem, the book proves just how the power of our souls conquers Death.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Speaking of conquering death, this remarkable diary is a powerful reminder of the testament to the human spirit. Follow the courageous and spirited life of a thirteen-year-old girl hiding from the Nazis in Holland.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This is a classic autobiography about the early years of American writer and poet Maya Angelou. It captures her strength as she sought to overcome racism and trauma.
  • John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, Tortilla Flat. I've grouped these all together. The works of Steinbeck, "a giant of American letters," are considered classics and focus on the themes of fate and injustice. These are preludes to his great masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. It all started with a bet ...
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A must-read! One of the most famous novels ever, Golding explores the depths of human nature.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. You probably could have read this in elementary school, but it takes a bit of wisdom to fully appreciate "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale."
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. For anyone having difficulty with the language of "1800s English," this might be a nice way to ease into. I remember running to the library after school to finish reading all of Sherlock Holmes' adventures. Just imagine Benedict Cumberbatch doing all the "deducing."
  • Antigone by Sophocles. The token Ancient Greek tragedy on this list. Sophocles raises questions of fate and free will, rule and order, and mortality.
Animal Farm by George Orwell. "A Fairy Story," AF is one of my all-time favorites. No preface will do this book justice: go read it and then come find me to talk about it. 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My other favorite! The story of Jean Louise, Atticus Finch, and Boo Radley, is just an absolute classic. A MUST read.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. You have to read some Hemingway in your life. Go read about this epic struggle between an old fisherman and the greatest catch of his life. It's also a fairly short novel, so just go read it.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. So you already read about Tom Sawyer. Now, meet his other half.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Exploring themes of angst, alienation, and our "phony" society, Salinger's Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenagers everywhere. Sorry, parents.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. F451 is the temperature at which books burn. Why would a society want to burn books?
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. When your greatest fear is becoming your father, how far would you go to protect your family? A story the chronicles pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans in the late 19th century.
  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. The most contemporary book on our list. Tara overcomes her survivalist Mormon family in the mountains of Idaho and goes to Cambridge.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. You've heard this before: young woman marries wealthy widower. Naturally, both are then haunted by the memory of his late first wife, Rebecca. Pretty terrifying book.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Scientist Victor Frankenstein creates an artificial man from pieces of corpses and brings him to life. So many problems arise.
  • The Odyssey by Homer (trans. by Robert Fagles or Stanley Lombardo). Last, but certainly not least, this Homeric epic is a MUST. Our flawed hero, Odysseus, is trying to find his way back home, ten years after the fall of Troy in The Iliad. I have six different copies of The Odyssey at home from different translators. Lombardo is the most readable, but Fagles is my favorite.
OK, Middle Schoolers. High Schoolers - you're next. (Looking at you, Expos 100-ers ...)


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