10th grade reading list for students aged 15-16

Books for grade 10 – this list of reading books has been curated and compiled by teachers and librarians for high school students aged 15-16. There is a range of exciting and thought-provoking books for 10th Grade readers to suit all abilities, including less challenging leisure reads and more difficult texts. Authors include Herman Melville, John Green, Maya Angelou, and Elizabeth Wein. This list of 10th grade reading recommendations was last edited on Mar 24, 2020 @ 4:09 pm

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Books for Grade 10 – our recommendations

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

In 1831, Charles Darwin set off on a voyage on the Beagle. Five years later, he returned, with a journal full of his discoveries. Geology, natural history, maps, and vibrant descriptions all lay the foundations for his later publication, The Origin of the Species.

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Immediately recognized as a uniquely powerful novel, Invisible Man was published in 1952. Dealing openly with racism, jealousy and barbarism this book is a harsh evocation of an era featuring uncomfortable truths. Ideal for 10th grade books clubs.

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Kim by Rudyard Kipling

This novel is set in India during British rule. Kim is a young white man and his companion is an old priest, a lama. His quest throughout the story is to blend and harmonize the differences between the two cultures, in a beautiful, but often hostile country.

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The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe set out to research why test pilots and the first US astronauts would want to become involved in extremely dangerous rocket-powered machines. His search to find out the characteristics required – the right stuff – and his subsequent interviews are documented in this book.

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Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

A spellbinding historical novel inspired by a famous portrait of a young woman by Dutch master painter, Vermeer. When Griet, a 16-year-old girl, starts working in the household of a nearby artist, her life is changed forever. Viewed with suspicion by Vermeer’s family, she gradually becomes closer to the artist and sits for a portrait. A scandal ensues.

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Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

A young Englishman runs away to sea, looking for adventure. He sails the oceans and experiences danger and excitement and sees many wonders. A tragic shipwreck leaves him marooned and alone on a deserted island which becomes his home for 28 years. There’s contact with cannibals, slaves, and mutineers before he is finally rescued.

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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

An account by a young soldier, Paul Bäumer, who enthusiastically enlists to fight for Germany at the start of WW1. Within weeks, disillusion has set in. The awful conditions, the constant threat of bombardment and snipers and the futility of fighting to the death over a few yards of mud lead to a sense of despair which deepens daily. A moving novel.

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And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

This volume of poetry, published in 1978, consists of 32 short poems. There is an overarching theme of hope – a hope to overcome problems and difficult times. Written from a distinctly feminine viewpoint these poems are poignant and accessible.

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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s award-winning playing play features Willy Loman, a failed salesman, and his family. When his family finds out that Willy is not the man he claims to be, his fantasy facade crumbles and his denials are exposed. Unable to cope, he commits suicide.

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a young adult novel with themes of domestic abuse, bullying, body image and escapism. Eleanor and Park are both misfits in different ways and yet they are drawn together through music, and eventually, love. Honest and touching, this is a captivating book.

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An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

A novel about trying to reinvent oneself. Colin Singleton, a child prodigy, has failed to live up to his promise, and he has also had 19 girlfriends called Katherine. In an attempt to break his cycle of despair, he sets off on a road trip. He hopes that he will have a eureka moment that will change his life forever. Funny and heartwarming.

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Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn

Nora Cunningham’s life is thrown into turmoil when two teenage girls are murdered on the last day of school. A suspect is named, and all the townspeople, including Nora, are confident he is the guilty one. Slowly, however, doubt creeps in for Nora, and she becomes the sole voice of dissent. Based on an actual murder in 1955.

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Rootless by Chris Howard

A dystopian eco-mystery. Banyan constructs trees out of old pieces of metal and sells them to rich people who yearn for the forests that no longer exist. A meeting with a stranger, who has a map showing the location of the last trees on earth, provokes Banyan to start a long and dangerous quest. Adventures, dangers, and revelations abound. A good book to provoke 10th grade discussion.

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Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Nailer works as a shipbreaker in a post-apocalyptic world. He strips copper wiring from grounded oil tankers to survive. His discovery of a clipper ship, grounded after a storm, leaves him with a dilemma. Does he strip the ship and make a profit, or does he rescue the only survivor on the clipper – a rich and lovely girl?

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A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

A moving novel that contains romance, history and a murder mystery. Mattie yearns to improve her young life and has ambitions to go to college. The book follows her progress and her growing maturity and awareness of the duplicity of others.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

A young adult novel, full of angst, jealousy, love, and guilt. Jude and Noah are incredibly close until they become teenagers when events force them apart. Half the story is told by Jude and half the story is told be Noah. An award-winning and thoughtful novel.

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Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Arn is just a boy when soldiers force the entire population of Cambodia into the countryside. Away from his family in a labor camp, he experiences things that no child should ever see. Saved from dying through exhaustion by claiming to be a musician, Ahn finds himself in the Killing Fields. Based on a true story this is an uncomfortable and unforgettable read.

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Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Melville’s masterpiece about the obsessive Captain Ahab’s pursuit of a great whale that attacked him on a previous hunting trip. DH Lawrence called it “One of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.”

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The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

When Private Henry Fleming flees from his first battle during the Civil War, all notions of bravery and heroism evaporate. Frightened and alone, he is attacked. Returning to his regiment with his Red Badge of Courage, he overcomes his terror and shame and is redeemed. .

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

This famous abolitionist novel became very popular when first published in 1852. It is credited with influencing the views of white readers towards the abolition of slavery. Uncle Tom, a slave, retains his dignity, loyalty and Christian beliefs to the end.

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A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun is a line from the poem ‘Harlem’ by Langston Hughes. It is considered a landmark play. An authentic account of the struggles of a deprived family in Chicago. An award-winning drama that still resonates today.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

This gothic novel revolves around Esmeralda, a beautiful gypsy girl who is loved by three different men. Archdeacon Frollo, Quasimodo – the bell-ringer, and Captain Phoebus. The setting for much of the story is the famous cathedral of Notre Dame. Thrilling, full of expected twists and turns, and ultimately – tragedy.

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The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

An amusing and yet touching novel. Augie March grows up poor and alone in Chicago during the Great Depression. Easily led by others, he takes on a series of wildly varying jobs. Eventually, he begins to find his true identity and a sense of fulfilment. A more challenging read for 10th grade classes.

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A novel that exposes both the strengths and the prejudices of the Puritans in Massachusettes during the 17th century. Revolving around three main characters – Hester, Roger, and Arthur, the ramifications following one sinful act are played out. Nathaniel Hawthorne is considered a leading light in the development of American literature.

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A tightly constructed plot, detailed and comprehensively researched. Set in WW2, a spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Julie and Maddie keep British secrets from the Nazis and also deceives them enough to stay alive.

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Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

A young adult novel, full of excitement, adventure, pirates and mythical beasts. The two main characters Matt and Kate find themselves involved with criminals, a secret map and search for flying creatures. Set in an alternate world, where travel is by airships, there are many heartstopping moments.

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Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Gemma is abducted from Bangkok airport by Ty and taken to the Australian outback. She is 16. He is 24. Told in a letter from Gemma to Ty, she writes the events that lead to her feelings changing from hate and anger to acceptance – the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.

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My Antonia by Willa Cather

My Antonia was published in 1918 and is the final book of her prairie trilogy. The main characters, Jim Burden and Ántonia Shimerda both trek to Nebraska as pioneer settlers. The hardships, disappointments, homesickness, and divided loyalties of the diverse community are beautifully narrated by Jim.

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Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

This novel by Daniel Defoe is a tale of the fortunes and misfortunes of the outrageous Moll Flanders. From her birth in Newgate, through her many liaisons and tribulations to her final honest and penitent old age, this is an absorbing read.

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Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau wrote this seminal essay partly because of the disgust that he felt about slavery and the Mexican-American war. The thrust of his argument is that conscience should be more important than the force of the law and that the best kind of government is limited government.

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Up from Slavery by Booker T Washington

This book was the bestselling African American autobiography until that of Malcolm X and is highly rated in the 100 best non-fiction works of the 20th century. Covering over forty years of his life, from slavery to school teacher; Washington emphasizes the importance of education in the fight for equality.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A sobering and thoughtful book that peels back and exposes the pressures that teenagers can experience in high school. Melinda is an outcast because of something she did. She won’t explain why, believes that if she did, no-one would want to hear. Through an art project she comes to terms with what happened and finally can take back control.

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Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Published in 2009, this biography of Charles Darwin questions the motivations of the man who came up with a new and controversial theory of the origins of life. Causing friction with his religious wife Emma, his work and home life were both affected. History, religion, and science are woven adeptly.

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Collected Poems by Robert Frost

Robert Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times – the only writer so far to achieve this. This is a comprehensive volume of his verse, allowing the reader to sample the works of this great American poet.

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The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Young adult horror at its best. The first in a series guaranteed to cause shivers and yet fire the imagination. The diary of Will Henry takes the reader on a dark journey into a world of monsters most deadly.

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If you would like to order all or most of the books in this list; or if you want to order classroom sets or multiple copies of books; or if you are ordering from outside the US,  have a look at our ‘bulk orders’ page which makes this process easy.

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