Summer 2020 Reading List: Books, Books, & More Books

Summer 2020 is quickly approaching. I know I’m not alone in wondering what the Summer of 2020 will look like. Hopefully, Summer 2020 will include beach days, camping trips, bonfires, barbecues, and all the typical summer fun, but life’s been pretty strange these days, so who knows? One thing the COVID-19 crisis can’t stop you from doing is exploring our world (and worlds beyond this one) through reading.

In working with high schoolers, I am very familiar with the fact that many teenagers do not like reading, perhaps even hate it, but I’m also a firm believer that people who hate reading could come to love reading (or at least dislike it less) if they found a story that interested them. 

Don’t forget the added bonus--forming reading habits will greatly benefit you, not just in your English classes but also when it comes time to take standardized tests like the ACT or SAT.

If you aren’t sure where to get started with your summer reading, take a look at some summer reading recommendations. The list spans several different “types” of books and includes a mix of classic literary and contemporary reads. 

Adventure Reads

[Sometimes, when reading, we don’t want to think too hard. We just want to escape into another world or an exciting adventure. Here are some books that can help.]

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


War-Adjacent Reads

[While the stories are mostly fiction, these stories are based around real events, such as World War II. Engaging with history through fictional and nonfictional stories can be an interesting way to learn more about specific time periods and events.] 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (for more advanced readers)

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (satirical novel)

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (actually nonfiction)

The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Girl at War by Sara Novic 


Reads That Make You Feel Things

[While all well-told stories evoke emotion from the reader, some books seem to stir something in us more than others, making us ask the hard questions about our own lives and society.]

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Power by Naomi Alderman 

The Circle by Dave Eggers

A Question of Freedom by R. Dwayne Betts (nonfiction)

Night by Elie Wiesel (nonfiction) 

Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography  by Mark Mathabane (nonfiction)


Quick Reads

[This list includes a mix of short novels, short story collections, and plays. The nice thing about a short story collection is that you can break it apart and read it in snippets at your own pace without worrying about losing track of the plot.]

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (103 pages)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (107 pages)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (218 pages)

Different Seasons by Steven King (collection of 4 season-based novellas)

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (short story collection)

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (short story collection)

The Best American Nonrequired Reading series (collection of writing)

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (play)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (play)

Dystopian Reads

[Dystopian literature explores our civilization’s future (usually pretty bleak); these books are often unsettling, but we can also find hope in humanity’s resiliency.]

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

1984 by George Orwell

Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

Legend series by Marie Lu

Romantic Reads

[Sometimes, you just need a good love story.]

The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before  by Jenny Han

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becki Albertalli 

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Puzzling Reads

[Here are some mysteries and thrillers that may pique your interest.]

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

It by Stephen King (horror/thriller)

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin (psychological thriller/science fiction)


Quirky Reads

[This category is dedicated to the texts that remind us we are all unique with memorable quirky characters.]

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Papertowns by John Green (or really anything by him)

Geekarella by Ashley Poston 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan


Hefty Reads

[I used to live by a code that if a book wasn’t over 300 pages, I wouldn’t buy it because it would only last me a day (I suffer from an inability to put books down once I start them). The books in this category are dense and lengthy--I’m really selling them, right?--but they are also rewardingly rich.]

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte



Other tips for finding books you’ll love--

  • Use your streaming queue for ideas. Right now, so many of the TV shows and movies you love are adapted from books. It may feel strange reading a book you’ve already seen on screen, but often the adaptations deviate from the original book, and you may find some surprises. 

  • Think of one book you really liked. Look for other books by the same author. Use the vast resources of the internet to see what similar books and authors are recommended. 

Obviously, there are many, many more books out there that are well worth reading. What are books you’d recommend we should read this summer? Feel free to leave a comment below. 

Happy Reading!

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