Middle School List
A List of the Last Books You May Be Able to Encourage Your Curious and Inquisitive Children To Read
(Middle School age–grades 6-8, ages 12-15)
After this, it’s almost impossible to influence their reading choices.
This is the last of a series of recommended books for especially curious and inquisitive children (the previous ones are available at The Estella Society)
I have chosen these books because they’re the ones my own children (one male, one female) liked and responded to best, the books that I credit for helping make them into the interesting young adults they are now. Although this list does contain realistic fiction, it’s heavy on fantasy; I think middle-schoolers need a lot of fantasy to help them get through these difficult years.
Like all lists, this one is necessarily incomplete. Feel free to add your own must-read titles in the comments.
The list is presented alphabetically, by the title of the first book in a series.
Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three
First in the Prydain series.
Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
Anderson excels at characterization; this one casts light on anorexia. You might also consider her novel Speak, a he said/she said situation with a twist, which is that she can’t say.
M.T. Anderson, Feed
What happens when the internet is wired directly into our brains?
Holly Black, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
Teens are caught in a fight between the Seelie and Unseelie Court.
Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Despite the fact that I hate Card’s financial support of homophobic political action groups, I cannot deny that his story of how a young boy saves the whole world and thereby loses part of his soul is a masterpiece of our time. Highly recommended and available in libraries.
Michael Chabon, Summerland
Young teens find themselves in a world full of Native American and Norse Mythology, Sasquatch, and baseball.
Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl
Artemis is a young and extremely clever criminal with a heart of gold.
Susan Cooper, Over Sea, Under Stone
First in The Dark Is Rising Series.
Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
13-year-old Sal goes on a road trip with her grandparents to find out the truth about her mother.
Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
After a domestic terrorist attack, innocent American teens defend themselves against Homeland Security.
Elizabeth Janet Gray, Adam of the Road
A 13th-century minstrel travels with a knight.
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
Colin tries to find an equation to explain/predict love.
Robert Heinlein, The Menace from Earth
In the title story, a girl who lives on the moon teaches an older woman how to fly in low gravity and learns more about her own feelings.
Michael de Larrabeiti, The Borribles
When runaways find their ears have become pointed, they have become Borribles, who are chased by the “woolies” (police) and take on the “Rumbles,” rat-like creatures.
Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea
First in the Earthsea Cycle.
C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The first of his books about Narnia.
Lauren Mclaughlin, Cycler
Four days a month, Jill cycles into a boy named Jack.
China Mieville, UnLunDun
In a mirror version of London, an ordinary girl takes up the ungun to save this world from sentient smog.
David R. Palmer, Emergence
Candy travels across the country looking to see if she is the only survivor of a sudden biological war.
Susan Beth Pfeffer, Life As We Knew It
When an asteroid moves the moon closer to earth, a family must learn to survive the effects.
Adam Rex, The True Meaning of Smekday
Eleven-year-old Tip must cooperate with the alien Boov invaders.
Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
First in his Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series.
Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now
15-year-old anorexic Daisy is sent from Manhattan to live with cousins in an English village. WWIII breaks out while her aunt is in London, and they have to learn to survive on their own.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Is there a middle-school-age kid who hasn’t heard of this one? Let’s be sure.
Louis Sachar, Holes
A boy accused of a crime discovers secrets of the past and atones for a family curse while sentenced to hole-digging at Camp Green Lake.
Neal Shusterman, The Schwa Was Here
The Schwa is a boy no one notices. Eleanor and I prefer Unwind by this author, but Walker argues in favor of The Schwa.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Perhaps the gateway book to The Lord of the Rings? Many people read LOTR first and then go back to read The Hobbit, which is written in a very different style, not necessarily easier.
Scott Westerfeld, Uglies
In a world where everybody gets cosmetic surgery at the age of 16, a young girl finds out what’s involved about in the process of becoming a pretty.
Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber
The first of the Chronicles of Amber