12th grade reading list for students aged 17-18

Books for grade 12 – this list of recommended reading books for grade 12 students has been curated and compiled for high school seniors 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. This list of 12th grade reading recommendations includes titles by Salman Rushdie, M. T. Anderson, Margaret Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy, Jennifer Dugan, Frank McCourt, Chinua Achebe, Andrew Joseph White, Shaun David Hutchinson, Elizabeth Bishop and many more.

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Books for Grade 12 – our recommendations

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White

Benji is a 16-year-old trans boy on the run from a fundamentalist cult that has infected him with a dangerous bioweapon. Taken in by a shadowy group of teens called the ALC, will Benji be able to stop the bioweapon from turning him into a mutant monster, and can he trust the leader of the ALC? This fascinating queer thriller was voted a New York Public Library best book.

Dystopia | Horror | LGBT

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White

Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson

Brave Face is a powerful account of the author’s journey through the challenges of growing up as a confused gay teenager while battling depression. With unflinching honesty, it explores identity, mental health; and the power of positive thinking, self-acceptance and being outwardly proud of who you are. This unforgettable and moving read is ideal to discuss in book clubs.

Mental health | LGBT

Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson

Himawari House by Harmony Becker

After growing up in America, Nao returns to Tokyo to stay for a year at the Himawari house to rediscover her Japanese heritage in this absorbing and emotive contemporary graphic novel. Sharing accommodation with a diverse range of characters, how will Nao navigate the cultural differences and her evolving identity? It’s a spellbinding story to read again and again.

Graphic novel

Himawari House by Harmony Becker

The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan

Sloan and Cherry are the only survivors of a summer camp massacre. Desperate to understand what happened and why they dig for clues. But the discovery of important new evidence detonates everything Sloan believed about that fateful day. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who to trust. With a savage plot twist and page-turning tension, this modern psychological mystery LGBT horror is unputdownable.

Horror | LGBT

The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis Fontaine witnessed a crime. When she agreed to go undercover, she could not have imagined how her world would unravel. Teen fans of crime podcasts will love this multi-award-winning and compelling thriller about how 18-year-old Daunis fearlessly takes on corruption at the heart of her community. Rich in Native American cultural references and history, this is a vivid and immersive story that will linger in the memory.

Thriller | Substance abuse

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson

When aliens arrive in ‘vuvvs’, they set about making everything better – with automation, technology, and medical marvels – if you can afford it. Soon there are no jobs for humans and there’s little to live for. Can Adam, an artist, be creative enough to make his voice heard and stand out? This award-winning novel is a biting and thought-provoking satire of global monetization, automation, and our reliance on technology.

Science fiction | Dystopia

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson

In Darkness by Nick Lake

A challenging read for young adults, combining the stories of Shorty and Toussaint L-Overture in Haiti. Trapped under rubble after an earthquake, Shorty relives his young, brutalized existence – and in his delirium, he has visions and conversations with Toussaint, who led a slave rebellion 200 years earlier. This novel features the use of Haitian dialect and depictions of racism, voodoo and violence.

Adventure

In Darkness by Nick Lake

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

A dual narrative story, told from the perspective of war-torn Poland in 1942, and the present day. A grandmother and granddaughter experience love, sacrifice, hardship and trauma. The two timelines weave together to bond them as a family and allow the truth to finally be heard.

Historical fiction | War

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

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 thought-provoking read which lends itself to moral discussions.

Contemporary | Africa

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss

Tenacious Frank Prescott leads 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.

Literary fiction

The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss

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.

Historical fiction

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela

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.

Memoir

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard

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.

Classic | Romance

The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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.

Autobiography

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

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.

Playscript

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Selected Stories by Alice Munro

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

Short stories

A Wilderness Station by Alice Munro

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 country. Both heartwarming and raw, this collection will resonate with multicultural communities.

Short stories | Diverse

Interpreter of Maladies by Thumpa Lahiri

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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

Classic | Literary fiction

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky

Beloved by Toni Morrison

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

Slavery

Beloved by Toni Morrison

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”.

Poetry

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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.

Science | STEM

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

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?

Classic

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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 is one of 1,000 children, all born at the stroke of midnight, who possess a telepathic gift. A startling novel that is ideal for provoking discussion within 12th grade classes.

Saga | Fantasy

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

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.

Coming of age

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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.

Autobiography

Night by Elie Wiesel

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 that will spark debate and further inquiry.

Anthropology

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

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 12th grade teens.

Crime

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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.

History | Humor

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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 the #metoo era.

Poetry

WDriving

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 book charts his unshakeable belief in black nationalism, turning his determination into a clarion call for action.

Autobiography | Diverse

Malcolm X by Alex Haley

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?

Dystopia

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Feed by M.T. Anderson

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

Dystopia

Feed by M.T.Anderson

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.

Political history

All The President's Men by Carl Berstein and Bob Woodward

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 that has been adapted into a film. Great for book groups and wider philosophical discussions in the 12th grade.

Romance

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

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.

Slavery

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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

Literary fiction

Rabbit Run by John Updike

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.

Historical fiction | Classic

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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.

Family

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

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.

Short stories

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

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.

Poetry

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop


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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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is an educational management professional who has spent over 20 years developing teaching resources for K-12 schools in the United States and other countries worldwide. His area of expertise is literacy instruction, reading recommendations, and school improvement ideas. Twitter | Linkedin