11 Books Every Kid Should Read Before High School

From timeless classics to timely hits, here are 11 books we think should be required reading before going to high school.  

10 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in September

the joy luck club amy tan
Cover: Penguin Books; Background: Twenty20

the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan 

Four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco start a mahjong group known as The Joy Luck Club. Structured somewhat like a game of mahjong itself, each part of the story focuses on a mother-daughter duo...and is so relatable to anyone striving to differentiate themselves from their parents. 

i am malala malala yousafzai
Cover: Back Bay Books; Background: Twenty20

i Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai 

This 2013 memoir by 19-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Yousafzai (who was attacked by the Taliban for her outspokenness on the importance of girls’ education) is stunningly inspirational and should be required reading for any young person as a lesson in how to change the world.

are you there god its me margaret by judy blume
Cover: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Background: Twenty20

are You There God? It's Me, Margaret By Judy Blume

Anyone who’s ever grown up (or is in the process of growing up) will recognize Margaret’s triumphs, struggles and confusion. And while today’s kids might not recognize some of the more dated references (like, umm, sanitary belts), they'll  get the point. 

miss peregrines home for peculiar children ransom riggs
Cover: Quirk Books; Background: Twenty20

miss peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

Riggs’s dark fantasy is about a young boy who time travels to a home for strangely gifted children with “peculiarities,” like invisibility, superhuman strength and prophetic dreams. It’s also worth seeing Tim Burton’s film version—after reading the book of course.

a wrinkle in time madeleine lenge
Cover: Square Fish; Background: Twenty20

a Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine l'engle 

The wildly popular story of grouchy misfit Meg, her genius little brother and their missing scientist father swoops through time and space to teach lessons about individuality, patience and love. 

the giver lois lowry
Cover: HMH Books for Young Readers; Background: Twenty20

the Giver by Lois Lowry 

This 1993 dystopian YA novels follows 12-year-old Jonas as he prepares to take his government-appointed position as “Receiver of Memories,” only to discover the sinister reason behind state-sanctioned “release dates” for the elderly and developmentally challenged children. The themes are a little hit-you-over-the-head obvious, but for a tween they’re mind-blowing enough to spur deep conversation. 

harry potter and the sorcerers stone jk rowling
Cover: Thorndike Books; Background: Twenty20

harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone By J.k. Rowling 

Rowling’s entire series is suitable for readers of just about any age, but we strongly support a middle school introduction to Harry, Hermione, Ron and the rest of the gang at Hogwarts.  

fangirl rainbow rowell
Cover: St. Martin's Griffin; Background: Twenty20

fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

Rowell wrote the equally excellent Eleanor & Park, but we’re partial to Fangirl. The novel follows Cath, an awkward teen, through her first year of college, where the only thing getting her through is the fan fiction she obsessively writes and reads. Even if college is a few years away, Cath’s struggles to fit in are pretty much universal.

the lion the witch and the wardrobe cs lewis
Cover: Harper Collins; Background: Twenty20

the Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C.s. Lewis 

Talking animals, mythical creatures and a White Witch make up the first installment of Lewis’s fantastical Chronicles of Narnia series. (Plus, again, there’s a movie series with which to bribe reluctant readers.)

wonder rj palacio
Cover: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Background: Twenty20

wonder by R.j. Palacio 

This non-saccharine book, told from the alternating perspectives of a ten-year-old with jarring facial anomalies and his various family members and friends, gets our Golden Tissue Box award for most quality tear-jerker in recent history.

the hobbit jrr tolkien
Cover: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Background: Twenty20

the Hobbit by J.r.r Tolkien 

A bit more accessible and consistently engaging than The Lord of the Rings, this is just a really great adventure story. The themes of personal growth and overcoming challenges—told through the story of a pint-size hero—are just icing on the cake.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...