11th grade reading list for students aged 16-17

Books for grade 11 – this list of recommended reading books has been curated and compiled for high school juniors in the 11th Grade, aged 16-17. Over a year, these stories should provide inspirational reading material, and also challenge pupils to think independently. This list of 11th grade reading recommendations includes titles by Laekan Zea Kemp, James Agee, Shideh Etaat, Saul Bellow, Sylvia Plath, Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Atwood, Andrea Rogers, Isak Dinesen, Alice Sebold, Alice Walker and many more.

Books for 11th graders

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Books for Grade 11 – our recommendations

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Two teenagers battle mental health, love life, legal and family issues in this powerful exposition of identity and coming of age. Should Pen follow the path laid out for her by her mum, or her dad, or should she follow her own dreams? Either way, someone is going to be disappointed. Add into the mix a secret Pen is keeping and ‘Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet’ has all the ingredients for a compelling read.

Romance | Diverse

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Rana Joon and the One and Only Now by Shideh Etaat

Rana Joon is not her Iranian family’s idea of a perfect A grade student. She listens to Tupac, smokes weed, and loves girls. On the anniversary of her closest friend’s death, she decides to face her insecurities and celebrate him by entering a rap battle. Will she be able to overcome her fears, cultural alienation, and peer pressure, and show the world who she really is? It’s an empowering and thought-provoking read.
Diverse | LGBT

Rana Joon and the One and Only Now by Shideh Etaat

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Deeply personal vignettes of life are told through luminous biographical verse in this memoir that echoes the author’s very personal journey. Through powerful reflections, issues of assault, censorship, and empowerment through having the courage to speak out are explored. ‘Shout’ is a compelling call to action, urging readers to find their voices and feel confident to make change happen. An ideal choice for book clubs.

Poetry | #MeToo

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers

There are not just zombies, werewolves, and vampires in this very modern YA horror novel, but also social, family, and life-story horrors in this collection of powerful short stories. Following one Cherokee family over several generations through first, third, and second-person narratives, these stories present an unsettling and memorable portrait of the soul. This paperback includes startling illustrations by Jeff Edwards.

Horror | Short stories

Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Lev and Kolya are arrested and thrown into the same cell during the siege of Leningrad. Offered the chance to escape execution, the pair set off on a mission impossible. A compelling coming-of-age story.

Historical fiction

City of Thieves by David Benioff

A Death in the Family by James Agee

James’ father was killed in a traffic accident in 1915. This autobiographical work explores the impact that his death had on his immediate family in the years that followed. A Pulitzer prize-winning novel, it is regarded as one of the best English language novels of the 20th century.

Classic

A Death in the Family by James Agee

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

A scathingly amusing look at the stifling atmosphere prevailing in an English university in post-war Britain. A hugely successful novel that rocked the foundations of academia.

Satire

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The Plague by Albert Camus

A novel that has many layers of meaning to explore. A plague sweeps through Oran in French Algeria. The way the inhabitants react to the ongoing horror and suffering is eloquently and passionately portrayed.

Classic | Political fiction

The Plague by Albert Camus

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The most popular of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, this novel looks at the changing frontiers in America during the French wars and the animosity between rival tribes and settlers. A touching account of a vanishing way of life.

Adventure | Historical fiction

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

In Seize the Day, Tommy Wilhelm has to face up to his failures in life and examine the personal traits that have led him to this day. Can he retrieve his self-belief?

Classic

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

A classic novel. A graphic and unforgettable account of a day in a Stalin-era work camp in Russia. Ivan Denisovich has to learn how to survive hunger, exhaustion, disease and freezing temperatures and to maintain his dignity and belief in humanity.

Literary fiction

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar is a terrifyingly realistic account of a descent into insanity. An American classic by Sylvia Plath. A useful counterpoint to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

Mental illness

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

One of the most influential and moving novels in South Africa’s literary canon. In a country divided by race and factionalism, this is a story that contains a hope that the best of human nature will prevail.

Classic

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

On Writing by Stephen King

Written by one of the most popular and best-selling authors ever, this is a clear and accessible insight into the techniques every writer hopes to possess. Enthusiastic and thought-provoking. This should be required reading.

Writing guide

On Writing by Stephen King

Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

This collection of short stories by Raymond Carver, written in the 1970s and 1980s, introduced a new and succinct style of writing – the influence of which continues today. Stephen King believed Raymond Carver was “surely the most influential writer of American short stories.” Ideal for 11th grade book clubs and discussion groups.

Short stories

Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

This comprehensive collection of Larkin’s poems includes all his best-known works – including This Be The Verse and Toads, as well as some later editions. A greatly admired English poet. An accessible collection that will appeal to more reluctant readers.

Poetry

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Set in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s this novel encompasses the social and political upheavals of that era. A vivid depiction of the disintegration of ‘The American Dream’. A Pulitzer Prize winner.

Historical fiction | Thriller

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

A disturbing novel about how being different can cause animosity and rejection, rather than understanding. After nightmares convince Yeonj-Hye to become vegetarian, her isolation from her family increases with dire consequences.

Literary fiction | Contemporary

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set on a plantation in Mississippi. Twists and turns take the audience through a gamut of human emotions – both good and bad. Filmed in 1958, this playscript is still relevant.

Playscript

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Exploring the fine line between sanity and madness, this book attacks the overmedication of patients in an Oregon State mental institution. McMurphy, the rebel, sets out to oppose the system and do battle to change the status quo.

Classic | Thriller

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

Lucy, a middle-class Edwardian young lady, with her life neatly planned out, visits Florence in Italy. Once there, her tidy world is overturned. Which will be the right path for her?

Romance

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

An award-winning novel set in France during World War Two. Marie-Laurie is a blind French girl, and Wermer, a German employed to uncover the resistance. A Pulitzer Prize winner.

War | Historical fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A story set in London and Paris during a time of upheaval and revolution. The themes of hope, redemption, and sacrifice are central to the novel, both on personal and wider societal levels.

Classic | Historical fiction

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

An unusual murder story, in that it is told by the victim. Watching over her family from heaven, Suzie describes the agonies of her suffering family and yearns for them to discover her killer. A great book to study in 11th grade literature classes.

Mystery | Ghost story

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot

The Waste Land an epic poem in five sections published in 1922, is considered a modernist masterpiece. Useful to compare to modern American works on the themes of materialism, depression, and Alienation. A challenging yet rewarding pre-college read for 11th grade students.

Poetry

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot

Carrie by Stephen King

Stephen King’s first published novel – the story of Carrie White and her terrible powers. Rejected and isolated by her peers, her revenge is shocking. A stand-out thriller from a great American writer.

Horror | Thriller

Carrie by Stephen King

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Written by British author Dodie Smith this story is told through the diaries of Cassandra Mortmain. Living in poverty, in a derelict castle, as part of an eccentric family, the entries are sharp, witty and poignant. A good choice for 11th grade book groups.

Coming of age

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

A modern American classic following the travels of Kerouac and his friend across the United States. Rejecting convention, they travel unknown routes and discover an alternative America. A great novel.

Coming of age

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Dig by A.S. King

Brutally candid in the way attitudes are passed down through the generations, this story encompasses societal ills of class, sexism, racism, patriarchy and abuse. An eye-opener for young adult students, the author states this book is meant to be uncomfortable reading.

Family | Racism

Dig by A.S. King

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

An inspirational story of young Sam Gribley who runs away to the Catskill Mountains and through trial and error learns to live off the land. Living in his tree trunk home, his experience with wildlife, weather and random companions make for compulsive reading. A thought-provoking read for 11th grade students.

Adventure

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

Out of Africa is an account of life on a coffee plantation near Nairobi in Africa from 1914 to 1931. A brilliant contemporary account of colonial society. Turned into a movie in 1985.

Historical fiction

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Set in dystopian New England in a patriarchal society, Offred is a handmaiden. Deprived of her name, her family and her freedom, she relates the circumstances that changed her life and the lives of all women. A thought-provoking read for 11th graders.

Dystopia

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Philip Marlowe is drawn into a complex case of murder and adultery when he meets Terry Lennox. Multiple twists and turns arrests and murder pepper the plot before the final astonishing reveal.

Crime | Mystery

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

A complex plot centered on Homer Wells, who was born and raised in an orphanage. Trained by his mentor, his life remains uncomplicated until he is drawn into the outside world with its confusing temptations and difficulties.

Saga

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Asher Lev grew up in a strict Hasidic Jewish family. He is a very gifted artist. Unfortunately, this talent is not welcomed by his father or his community. However, he persists and achieves great success but at considerable personal cost.

Coming of age | Diverse

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

A hard-hitting, no holds barred, novel – very highly regarded. Centered around Celie and her sister Nettie – born in poverty and segregation their abuse and degradation is uncomfortable but rewarding reading.

African American literature

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Algernon is a lab mouse, and Charlie is a cleaner with a low IQ. They are brought together through an experiment to increase mental abilities. Charlie’s delight in his newfound intelligence is soon tempered by what he discovers about his past, and by what is happening to Algernon.

Science fiction

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is an highly qualified and highly experienced teacher and children's literature expert (Honors Degree and Postgraduate PGCE QTS) who has spent over 25 years developing award winning literacy and ELA training resources for K-12 schools in the United States and worldwide. His areas of expertise are children's and YA books, literacy instruction, reading recommendations, and school improvement. Twitter | Linkedin

This booklist was last updated on February 9th, 2024 and first published on August 6th, 2017.