Books to Read: Incoming High School Freshman Edition

I started reading a lot less when I got to high school, mainly due to a lack of free time, but back in middle school I was an avid reader. I think that the books and series in this article are some of the best I came across at that time, and I strongly recommend looking into at least one of them. (I will not touch upon very popular books like The Fault in Our Stars or series like The Hunger Games because I assume most students will have either already read them or at least heard of them).


Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale

This series of science-fiction and fantasy novels chronicles the adventures of a teenage boy, Bobby Pendragon across ten worlds throughout time and space. I love that the novel is written in the first-person, as journal entries from Bobby recollecting his adventure after returning home, with the occasional third-person narrative to fill in information about other characters. The books are filled with action, complex characters, and an abundance of surprising twists you never would have predicted. Overall, a very solid read, and definitely worth grinding through all 10 books.


Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

Similar to the Pendragon series, this series follows the adventures of its protagonist through a lot of books– 12 to be exact. Again, the books are worth every minute you put into reading them. The story follows an orphan boy, Will, and several of his friends who are of the age in their kingdom where they must seek an apprenticeship and pick a career-path. Will, despite being scrawny and quiet, is selected to become the apprentice of the village ranger, a legendary fighter and spy integral to the safety of Will’s community. During his travels to many other nations, Will learns many new secrets about his past, and undergoes a dramatic change as he becomes a reliable and skilled fighter capable of protecting those closest to him. 


Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz

The last of the three long series I will recommend in this list, Alex Rider’s adventures are extremely detailed and some of the most well-written stories I have read. The series follow a teenage boy’s missions to various locations around the world after he is recruited by the British Intelligence Agency MI6. The interplay between MI6 and various criminal organizations is fascinating and makes for one of the most gripping plotlines I have ever read.


Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

In these books, the two authors take an innovative approach to understanding social and political issues in the modern world; namely, an economic approach. The books analyze and compare anything from the KKK, Prostitutes and Real-Estate Agents to Suicide Bombers and Hospital Doctors. Learning some of the patterns different people exhibit around the world can be very eye-opening, and also humorous at times, making these books both a fun and educational read.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

In this novel, Cain exposes society’s “extrovert ideal” and demonstrates that allowing it to permeate all aspects of our lives is dangerous because we lose valuable people. Whether is be in the workplace, at social events, or in the media, introverts are quietly making enormous contributions to the world we live in, and Cain persuasively argues for a new view of the type of people we want to interact with. Based on true stories, the book is very well-researched and guaranteed to make you think.


The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The story follows an elderly maintenance man named who, despite injuries suffered in World War II, works at an amusement park. Eddie dies while trying to save a young girl from a falling roller-coaster cart, and immediately finds himself in heaven. The book’s main plot is centered on Eddie’s interactions with five people who either had a significant impact on him, or he on them, whether he knew it or not. From heaven Eddie can see the effects his actions had on other people throughout his life, and the book has a beautiful message that all life is connected.


Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

In this non-fiction novel, Albom recounts the time he spent with his 78-year-old sociology professor Morrie Schwartz at Brandeis University, who was dying from ALS. As a sport columnist, Albom called Schwartz after 16 years in the business upon seeing his old professor on Nightline. Over the course of 14 weeks, Schwartz impart a variety of life-lessons and memorable experiences to Albom; certainly, you cannot read this novel without forming an emotional connection to Mitch and Morrie.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho beautifully spins an old tale into a journey chock-full of magical realism. The protagonist, Santiago, is an Andalusian sheppard boy who sets out on a journey to the pyramids of Egypt after hearing a prophecy that he will find treasure there. In a desert oasis, he meets an alchemist and learns how to become one with nature, eventually returning to the farm in his homeland to complete his journey. Along the way he encounters comrades, enemies, and his future wife, all in the span of barely 100 pages. I worked extensively with this book for my Junior-Author Paper at Byram Hills High School as well, and I have to say that the more I learned about it, the more I enjoyed it. Truly an amazing story.


Of course, there are many other good books and good series out there, and even others that I enjoyed and would want to put on this list, but for brevity’s sake I am going to leave the list as is. I also enjoyed a lot of the assigned readings I was given in high school, so I suggest checking out your school’s website, and other nearby schools to see what books are in the curriculum. 

Happy Reading!