Required Summer Reading That Doesn’t Make You Groan

Every summer, millions of teens are asked to read books off of a list of required summer reading and every summer the sound of millions of teens groaning can be heard throughout the land. This rite of passage has haunted and terrified teens for centuries. I still remember some of the required books I had to read over the summer when I was in high school. Many of them were long, boring and full of characters I couldn't relate too.To this day, the thought of ever having to read Heart Of Darkness again makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. But, when I read required books like The Catcher in the Rye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and 1984, my mind was blown by how relatable, inspiring and entertaining many of the classics are.

So how do you know whether a required summer reading book is going to blow your mind or bore you out of ever wanting to read a book again? I think the answer is realizing that the books on your required list were the inspiration for the modern books you love now. Like dystopians? Many of them were inspired by classics like 1984 and A Brave New World. Romance is more your thing, then try reading Romeo and Juliet one of the first tragic love stories. Not all required reading is inspirational to everyone, but there is a required summer reading book out there for everyone. You just might need help finding it.

Hopefully this list of classics and contemporary read alikes will help you find a book from your required summer reading list that entertains and inspires you.

Lord of the Flies

Scar Island

Both these books involve boys going mad on a deserted island with no adults to curtail their bullying, destruction and insanity. The only difference is that Scar Island takes a comedic route with this classic story, while Lord of the Flies goes darker and examines the psychological aspects of teens left alone.

Invisible Man

The Hate U Give

The Invisible Man addresses many of the social and intellectual issues that faced Black people in the early twentieth century and sheds light on racial injustices through a science fiction metaphor. The Hate U Give also addresses social, political, and intellectual issues Black people face but discusses these issues in a present day, realistic world. Both books were written during the rise of protest movements against racial inequality, The Invisible Man during the black nationalist movement and The Hate U Give during the Black Lives Matter movement. Read together these books are powerful, raw and transformative.

The Scarlet Letter

Thirteen Reasons Why

Hannah from Thirteen Reasons Why and Hester from The Scarlett Letter are both victims of shaming, lies and guilt. These women face cruelty and suffering at the hands of their fellow community members because no one will stand up for, or seek the truth behind, the rumors surrounding them. Hannah and Hester live centuries apart, but their stories show us the impact of a tainted reputation and the debilitating effect bullying can have on a person.

The Odyssey

The Lightning Thief

Have you ever wanted to know more about Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon, the parents of the super kids in The Lightening Thief? Then you should read The Odyssey. This epic story follows the mortal human Odysseus as he tries to make his way back home after a long, terrible war while his enemy Poseidon does all he can to stop him. Think of The Odyssey as the prologue to the Percy Jackson series.


The Great Gatsby

The Thousandth Floor

The wish to move up in the world and acquire wealth and power is not a new idea, neither is what that desire can do to a person if left unchecked and unfulfilled. The Great Gatsby is the story of one man's self-destruction over the need to have it all and The Thousandth Floor is a story about teens trying to make their way to the top of the social ladder, even if it kills them. These cautionary tales remind us that money doesn't always solve your problems.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of King County Library System