Grade 8 books – this list of suggested reading books has been carefully selected by educators and librarians for junior high and middle school students aged 13-14. There is a range of exciting and thought-provoking books to suit all abilities in the 8th grade and over the course of a year, these titles should inspire both those who are reluctant to read, and also challenge high achieving pupils. This list of 8th grade reading recommendations includes titles by Gerald Durrell, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sharon Creech,Angie Thomas, Malala Yousafzai, Mark Twain and Mary Shelley.
Books for Grade 8 – our recommendations
Northwind by Gary Paulsen
When a plague forces Leif, an orphan, to flee for his life in a canoe with barely any food, he embraces his newfound freedom and grows to love the wide open seas and the Norwegian coast. Learning to forage, and live off the land and sea, he feels at home amongst the wildlife. It’s a gripping story of resilience, determination and survival. Highly recommended.
Adventure | Survival
All Summer Long by Hope Larson
When Austin returns from summer soccer camp everything is different. 13-year-old Bina cannot understand it – they used to do everything together. Will they be able to work things out, or will Bina’s new friendship with Austin’s sister change their relationship? A thought-provoking insight into the complex teen mind, growing up, and how people change. The graphic novel format and relatable characters will appeal to less confident readers.
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh
Salama’s normal teenage life seems long ago as she finds herself helping in a hospital in wartorn Syria. Will she stay to help those in need, or will she flee to ensure her survival? Dealing with unimaginable fear Salama is an inspirational character and As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a brilliantly written, life-affirming, and heartbreaking story that is perfect for book club discussion.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Ideal for middle-grade readers, this book has won numerous awards. Hope finds herself helping her aunt to run a diner in rural Wisconsin – a long way from lively New York. Her friendship with G.T. Stoop, the diner’s owner, develops into a coming of age story of trust and truth.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
The first in the ‘Corfu Trilogy’, this book tells the story of Gerald Durrell’s childhood experiences for five years on the island of Corfu and the wildlife and animals he keeps. His larger than life relatives and the colorful characters encountered make this a funny novel bound to appeal to middle graders interested in nature and unconventional family life.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
In this classic allegory, the animals take over the farm. They tried to create a perfect world where everybody is valued and treated equally however things don’t go entirely to plan. Written as an antithesis to controlling totalitarianism this is a book every teenager should read.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
An evocative and humorous story based on the author’s own life. When Junior, a talented artist, realizes that he wants to follow his dream, his life changes completely when he joins a new high school where he is the only Indian on the campus. A modern classic. A good book for 8th grade reading group discussion.
School story | Diverse
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
A rollercoaster of a story about the life of young Huckleberry Finn and his friend Tom Sawyer and the shenanigans they get up to on the banks of the Mississippi River. This book features some controversial themes including his father’s alcoholism and the treatment of Miss Watson slave, Jim. A story, that once read, will never be forgotten.
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Collated by her father Otto, after the second world war, this is the diary of Anne Frank who, aged between 13 and 16 wrote about being in hiding from the Nazis and Amsterdam. Poignant and moving, this is a book that should be on every high school curriculum. Arguably one of the most important books written in the 20th century.
Autobiography | Classic
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
A gripping and moving story about a misfit and awkward teen, Dill, who lives in a small community Bible belt Tennessee. When deals father becomes a hated figure, Dill cannot cope and relies on the support of his two best friends. A heart-rending and powerful story about forgiveness and redemption.
The Hate you Give by Angie Thomas
A multi-award-winning novel about Starr Carter, a teenager who has one foot in the exclusive preppy world of her school and the other foot in the deprived neighborhood of her home. When her best friend is shot by a police officer, she is the only person who knows what really happened. A startlingly powerful young adult novel. A great book to discuss in 8th grade reading clubs.
Diverse | Contemporary
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
A powerful psychological and unrelenting study of growing up in an abusive environment. When the protagonist, a 14-year-old boy, realizes that his family is not all that it seems, he starts to rebel against his self-righteous preacher stepfather in this gritty landmark first novel set in Harlem.
Family | Contemporary
2001 by Arthur C Clarke
When a scientist discovers a mysterious object on the Moon, mankind embarks on an expedition to the furthest reaches of space in search of an alien civilization. However, the voyage is a slowly building battle between man and computer, heading towards an inevitable catastrophe.
Science fiction | Classic
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
A disgraced naval officer redeems himself by protecting villagers from a local bandit. Written as a series of manuscripts told by a third party, using time shifts, this is a great book for eighth-graders to study.
Adventure | Classic
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
A unique and genre-defying young adult novel that is perfectly suited to grade 8 book clubs. Set in the “Elsewhere”, a world where angels battle mythical creatures, Karou and Akiva are drawn, as if by magic, from the opposite sides of the conflict into a love story – and perhaps the only hope for peace.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A more challenging read for grade 8 students, Life of Pi chronicles 16-year-old Pi, the only survivor of a shipwreck. His only companions in the lifeboat are a hyena, and orangutan, and a huge tiger. Memorable, and beautifully written.
Adventure | Survival
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Destined to become an important work in the 21st century, Malala’s autobiographical story takes her from a victim of Taliban in 2012 to becoming the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. An inspirational and motivating book which is bound to appeal to middle school and junior high school students in grade 8.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Isabella’s new life in Forks, Washington takes an unexpected turn when a boy she is attracted to turns out to be a vampire. Extremely readable and popular, this five volume set is a great way to reignite the fire of reading in disenchanted teenagers.
Fantasy | Romance
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This is no ordinary historical story about dragons and heroes. Nimona is a classic graphic novel in the making – peppered with ironic observations and quick, pointed humor that will appeal to 8th grader readers. Stunningly illustrated.
The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
When Sadie and Femi’s journalist father refuses to keep quiet about corruption among the military rulers in Nigeria, their mother is suddenly killed, and they have to flee to London. This study of what it is to be displaced and a refugee is a modern classic. This is a book that will stimulate discussion and debate in 8th grade reading groups.
Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez
14-year-old Manny wants respect, he wants to prove himself and he wants to kiss a girl. This multi-award-winning novel follows his journey in the face of discrimination and poverty. Poignant and memorable.
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
In a world of nightmares, magic dreams and demons, mermaid Seraphina has to fight for peace between warring nations. She is also set on avenging her parents and wooing a prince. Teen drama and adventure on a grand and underwater scale.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
When alchemist and scientist Victor Frankenstein misguidedly attempts to reanimate a creature from dead body parts, he creates a monster that threatens his very existence. An accessible classic gothic horror with a lightning-quick pace that will appeal to teen readers.
Horror | Classic
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Teenage Mim is forced to move across the state to live with her father after a nasty divorce. But when she learns her mother is ill, she boards a greyhound and throws caution to the wind in this epic coming of age YA drama. An ideal book for 8th grade reading groups.
Family | Contemporary
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
A collection of science-fiction page-turners that will prove popular with reluctant 8th-grade readers. A survivor of a crippling alien attack, Cassie is desperate to save her missing brother. She is so desperate that she is willing to go to extreme lengths to find him.
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
A quest for a magic ring that grants the wearer huge power dominates this epic high fantasy tale of good vs evil. Popular amongst teens, this novel was recently turned into a series of blockbuster movies.
Fantasy | Classic
The One and Future King by TH White
An epic and spellbinding retelling of the legend of King Arthur told in five parts – King Arthur and Camelot; Merlin and Owl and Guinevere, beasts who talk and men who fly and tales of knights, wizardry, and war. Great for students interested in history, myth, and legend.
Legend | Classic
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
A fascinating and inspirational story about a group of brave middle grade aged children and their acts of defiance in Denmark during World War Two. Based on a true story.
Historical fiction | Adventure
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
A classic tale of betrayal, imprisonment and slow, beautiful revenge. Originally written for weekly serialization, this book is gripping and pacy and it might well be the first 100,000 plus story your teen will be captivated by. It’s also fantastic to listen to as an audiobook.
Revenge | Classic
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
The prequel to Walk Two Moons, Absolutely Normal Chaos follows 13-year-old Mary Lou’s summer vacation – an unforgettable summer of adventure, gossip, and burgeoning romance. A page-turner that is ideal for more mature 8th graders.
The Rig by Joe Ducie
When serial prison escapee and 15-year-old Will gets sent to The Rig, he thinks finding a way out will be easy. That’s until he realizes The Rig is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. No one has ever come close to breaking out. Gripping and pacy, this is a perfect book for reluctant readers in grade 8.
Thriller | Adventure
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Facing a seemingly unbeatable and ruthless alien invader, Earth needs a military genius. Teenaged boy Ender is chosen from thousands to lead the fight – but is he being manipulated? Recently made into a blockbuster movie, this book is a great easy reader for 8th graders.
Science fiction | Adventure
The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason
When the sister of Stoker and the niece of Holmes get together, uncovering vampire crime mysteries are a regular day’s work. This is a gripping and atmospheric drama set in a fantasy London of the past.
Horror | Mystery
Beautiful Swimmers by William Warner
An evocative and interesting study of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Brilliantly written – this is a more challenging book for grade 8 readers interested in science and natural history.
Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins
This is an engaging set of three biographical stories of women who changed the world. Maria Merian – who documented metamorphosis, Mary Anning, who survived a lightning strike and discovered fossils, and Maria Mitchell, who found a new comet. Presented as poems, these stories are an ideal starting point for 8th-grade writing activities.
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