12th grade reading list for students aged 17-18

Books for grade 12 – this list of suggested reading books for grade 12 has been curated and compiled for high school students by educators and librarians. There is a range of exciting and thought-provoking books to suit all abilities in the 12th Grade, aged 17-18, including easy readers and more difficult texts. Authors include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy, and Elizabeth Bishop. This list of 12th grade reading recommendations was last edited on Mar 24, 2020 @ 4:16 pm

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Books for Grade 12 – our recommendations

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The first of a trilogy, this is a blunt and at times painfully brutal story about the repercussions of intransigent beliefs amidst cultural clashes. This is a though-provoking read which lends itself to moral discussions.


The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss

Tenacious Frank Prescott lead his boarding school with an iron fist. Through the eyes of his colleagues, flaws in his doctrine are exposed and the unpredictability of human nature begins to erode his convictions.


The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela

A searing and historically accurate account of the revolution in Mexico during 1910. Fire, enthusiasm, and hope gradually erode as factionalism and greed creep in. This book is useful for discussing the concept of reparations and conciliation.


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

An evocative account of a year spent closely observing the natural world. The cornucopia of absorbing details and abstract musings is precise, powerful and profound. An intriguing read.


The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Leaving the rat race, Miles joins a small rural farming community to seek a simple life. This book explores the human traits of intolerance, jealousy, and feat – traits that even an idyllic existence cannot erase. A classic for 12th grade literature study.


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

These classic Oscar Wilde plays ridicule and expose Victorian upper-class values. The veneers of respectability, religion, and morality are laid bare in an acerbic and witty style.


Selected Stories by Alice Munro

These beautifully written short stories about ordinary folk living in rural Canada. Masterfully interwoven, these short vignettes – often interlinked – are an absorbing and emotional read.


Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

A modern classic. Frank McCourt’s honest recollection of his turbulent childhood in Ireland is evocative and deeply moving. A must-read autobiography.


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This award-winning and riveting collection of short stories explores the emotional and physical impact of a culture shock when relocating to a foreign county. Both heartwarming and raw, this collection will resonate with multicultural communities.


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The classic which has it all – a plethora of diverse characters – the good, the bad, the rich and poor, all bound together into an unforgettable and thrilling battle of good versus evil.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

A powerful account of slavery from multiple narrators. Multifaceted, the book explores the motivations and perspective of each voice. The hard-hitting book is an uncomfortable, but necessary, read.


Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Groundbreaking and controversial at the time of its release, this is perhaps the best-known volume of Whitman’s work, celebrating nature, love, life and how to live it. This edition includes “Song of Myself”.


A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A monumental introduction to astrophysics, including time-travel and wormholes. Written in an accessible and occasionally humorous style, this mind-expanding book is a must-have for any high school and pre-college reading list. A more challenging read for 12th grade students.


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The classic follows Pip from his beginnings and a life of poverty in Victorian-era England. Full of moral dilemmas, injustice, and darkness – is good set to triumph over evil?


Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

A Booker prize-winning novel set in newly independent India. In this long, sometimes circuitous story, packed with historical and political detail, Saleem in one of 1,000 children, all born at the stroke of midnight, who possess a telepathic gift. A startling novel that is ideal to provoke discussion within 12th grade classes.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road depicts a broken America, destroyed by cataclysmic events. Society has collapsed and humanity barely survives. In the midst of this, a father and son embark on a dangerous journey to reach the coast.


Night by Elie Wiesel

A truly powerful book, this is the personal account of a holocaust survivor. Beautifully written with harrowing descriptions – a life-changing and memorable read.


Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

A prize-winning treatise on the development of civilization, containing well-researched arguments and full of absorbing theories which will spark debate and further inquiry


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Imagine a brutal murder scene with no suspects of apparent motive, Truman Capote links together all the events and with masterful skill, solves a crime which is based on a true story. A gripping book for 12 grade teens.


A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

This book will inform, enthuse and amuse. The content spans the sciences and travels from the dawn of time to the present day, recording the often humorous attempts to explain enigmas. An essential read.


Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

A collection of poems from Adrienne Rich written when the battle for women’s rights in America was gaining a voice. Full of powerful and evocative language these distinctive poems resonate in #metoo era.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley & Malcolm X

The seminal account of a leading figure in the Civil Rights movement in America, this books charts his unshakeable belief in black nationalism, turning his determination into a clarion call for action.


Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

1984, updated, and twice as scary for the post snowflake generation. A tightly plotted novel set in a plausible future when state-run technology controls personal freedoms and no action passes unnoticed. Can the young hero break free?


Feed by M.T. Anderson

Think Brave New World meets The Purge in this wildly satirical dystopian vision on post-technological America. A cautionary message for teens who cannot live without being online.


All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein

A masterpiece of incisive investigative journalism which is very relevant in the current climate of fake news. This thrilling read, with an explosive conclusion, chronicles the downfall of the Nixon administration.


A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Set during and after World War Two this novel espouses the virtues of strength, courage, sacrifice and ultimately, love. An epic and memorable book which has been adapted into a film. Great for book group and wider philosophical discussions in the 12th grade.


The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The captivating story of Aminata Diallo who strives to escape a life a servitude for freedom in the North. A mesmerizing fifty years of hardship, cruelty, and struggle. Recently adapted into an award-winning miniseries.


Rabbit, Run by John Updike

A gritty and uncompromising slice of American life in the 1960s. A man thwarted of greatness is unable to settle for being ordinary. Brilliantly written.


Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

A sweeping love story set during the American Civil War that examines the shifts in society wrought by the conflict. A historical epic. Also available as an Oscar-winning film.


Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

The rivalries, and machinations of a traveling family of circus freaks who play to audiences around America. This book forces the reader to rethink notions of normality and what is acceptable to society. A sometimes shocking, and always thought-provoking, read.


A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

American Gothic meets McCarthyism in this landmark 1950s short story collection which epitomizes alienation and extremism. Vivid and accessible, these vignettes challenge the reader’s outlook on life.


Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

A definitive collection of verse by one of the greatest modern American poets. Bishop uses nature and landscape to depict the fragile human condition in these poems which often microscopically analyze the self. An accessible collection of poetry for 12 grade students.


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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