Middle School Reading List

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Today begins National Young Readers Week, and I decided to kick it off at my house by creating a list of books that I’d like Megan to tackle during her middle school years.

middle school reading list

Why just Megan, you may ask. Because Josh is already in 8th grade, so he doesn’t really have time to read them all. Add to that the fact that he tends to prefer non-fiction, so I don’t want to frustrate him. That being said, I am going to encourage him to choose a few books from this list to read over the next few months.

I don’t necessarily expect Megan to make it through the whole list, but I wanted to give her some variety. I also wanted to keep in mind something that Lee Binz pointed out on her college-bound reading listhomeschool families tend to focus on the classics and colleges like to see that kids have read current popular books. There probably aren’t going to be any colleges looking at my middle school book list, but I still wanted to make sure I included a good mix of classic and new favorites.

Also, please note: I missed out on a lot of these books in my teen and tween years. I plan to preview the ones that I haven’t read (which also means I get to enjoy them myself). There are also a couple that should probably be on a reading list for younger students, but I realized that we missed them when Megan was younger and I want to make sure she reads them.


100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes – Kids can be mean and sometimes, by the time you realize how cruel you’ve been, it’s too late to apologize. I think every kid should read this book.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket – This is one of those series that I haven’t read, so I’d want to preview it. I included it so I’d remember to check it out since it falls under that “currently popular” heading.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I don’t know if it’s gone out of style because Brianna said it was boring, but I’d love for Megan to read it.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – This was the first book that ever made me cry. I love a book that touches me at a deep level, making me laugh or cry. It is a skilled author who can make his reader feel what his characters feel. As much as Megan loves animals, I think she’ll love this book as much as I did.

The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan – Megan started this one quite some time ago, but has never finished it. Every once in awhile, she’ll pick it up and plug away some more. I really want to encourage her to finish it and not be intimidated by its length. Plus, I love Greek mythology, so I think reading the book now (she’s already seen the movies) will lay an interesting foundation for the study of Greek myths later.

Holes by Louis Sachar – I’ve got to say, this one doesn’t really do anything for me. However, it’s an oft-suggested book for middle school kids. I thought the kids might be interested in reading it since they’ve seen the movie.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – I know that at this very moment there are those of you who are agreeing with me whole-heartedly and those who are now questioning my faith. Brianna never read the Harry Potter books and neither did I, based on what I heard about them. Then, this summer, I decided that I needed to see for myself what I thought about them, rather than judging them based on what I heard.

I really, really enjoyed the series – like sitting up until the wee hours of the morning reading, not getting anything else done enjoyed them. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I’m not going to defend my opinion, so there’s no need to leave those sorts of comments. If you love the books, feel free to include them on your kids’ reading list. If you hate them, don’t. We can still be friends.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – I debated on including this one. I read it when I was a kid and remember it being maybe a little edgy. I also remembered really enjoying it, though, and I think it deals with a lot of coming of age things that may be uncomfortable for girls to bring up, so I thought it might offer some conversation starters. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – We’ve seen the movie, so I thought Megan might enjoy the book.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Really? Does anything more need to be said about this one. I’d love to have the video of the cartoon version that used to come on TV from time to time when I was a kid.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – The kids have loved both movies. I’ve always heard that the second movie sticks a bit closer to the storyline of the book. Yes, I just admitted that I’ve never read the book. Maybe Megan and I can enjoy it together.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – Is living forever all it’s cracked up to be? The Tuck family doesn’t think so. I actually bought this one and read it for myself when the movie came out.

Shiloh by  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – Dog lover that she is, I fully expect Megan to love this book about a boy trying to protect a puppy, Shiloh, from his abusive owner and claim the dog for his own.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I’d love for Megan to read any of the Little House books on her own. We’ve read most, if not all, of them together, but you can never read a Little House book too many times.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – A classic perfect for animal lovers.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson – Another tear-jerker animal tale. The only version I know is the Disney version, so I’ll look forward to reading this with Megan.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – Are you starting to get the impression that I’m very willing to appeal to Megan’s animal-loving side? That’s okay. This is another “modern classic” that I’d love for her to read.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – I’ve never read this one either. I suspect it’s very intense, but also contains a message that needs to be shared. I’ll probably wait until her 8th grade year to tackle this one.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – This is another book that I’ve seen only through Disney’s eyes. I’ve heard the book is much better. I don’t doubt that – it always is.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis – Seriously, you’d think I didn’t read anything when I was in school, but I read all the time. I always got summer reading awards and you didn’t want to pay too much by the book if you sponsored me in a read-a-thon. How did I miss so many of these classic books? I haven’t read this one either.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton – Um, yeah, I didn’t read this one either. It comes highly recommended by a friend, though.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This one I did read – with Brianna. We both enjoyed it and I think Megan will, too.

How many of these books have you and/or your kids read? What would you add to the list?


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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I was predisposed to dislike the Harry Potter books because of how they came to my attention, but I decided to read them, too. I think it is so important to check into something yourself. And we have thoroughly enjoyed the books.

    1. That was the lesson I took away from that, too, Becca – that I should check things out myself, rather than relying on the opinions of others. That’s true for so many situations in life.

  2. I’m so glad you put the Harry Potter series on the list. And Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was one I loved in middle school. If you guys like that one, it has a couple of sequels that follow the main character and her family as she gets older. They might be a little too adult for middle school, but still enjoyable.

  3. I would add A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, A Jar of Dreams by Yoshiko Uchida, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I loved a lot of the books on your list when I was in middle school and read them again as an adult.

    1. Oh, great suggestions! I knew I’d miss some good ones. I haven’t read any of those, but have heard of them. I’m telling you, I missed so many books. That’s why, even though I’d love for my kids to pick up great books on their own, I want to make sure I assign some of these great books. I know they’ll miss them like I did if I don’t.

  4. I would second The Giver, but maybe a bit older? I love that book! My assignment as a 9th grader was to write another chapter that took place after the book ends. So many great conversations can come from that book! My kids are still younger, and I look forward to them reading that book. I also highly recommend Heidi, though I listened with younger kids to an audiobook. Similar in challenge to the Secret Garden I think though! Something by Marguerite Henry! Our favorites are Misty of Chincoteague, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and Justin Morgan had a Horse. And Gentle Ben, though some of my recommendations are based on boys. My girl just turned 5 🙂

    1. I think a middle schooler could tackle The Giver. And Lowry has written three more books to make a quartet. I just finished the 4th, and it was so worth the time. I loved how the 4th book drew the first three together. They are all a little different. I can’t wait til my wee ones are ready for those books!

  5. My daughter has read almost all of those (11 yr old) and really enjoyed them, so I would agree that its a great list. She also really enjoyed Fever (about the bubonic plague) and Hatchet. (She read those both in public school a few years ago.)

  6. I am also a Christian Mom who LOVES the Harry Potter series, so I’m right there with you. I also read and loved the Percy Jackson series, although the movies are honestly very different from the bookd. Right now our read-aloud is A Wrinkle in Time-also one of my favorites. A lot of people don’t realize that this is actually the first book in a series by Madeleine l’Engle. The others are definitely worth checking out, especially Many Waters, in which Meg’s twin brothers, Sandy and Dennys accidentally get transported back to the pre-flood days. Our next read- aloud will be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lastly, I saw that you listed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- my son is now reading that and loves it!

  7. Great list! I help lead a book club for our middle school aged kids and we have enjoyed many of the books on your list. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month and the kids really liked it — it’s a quick read but the kids were so happy it was on our list. Another book they really enjoyed was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (same author as The Giver).

  8. I agree with those above about A Wrinkle In Time – I read it as an adult and it was amazing. The kids loved the audio recording of Madeleine reading it! If you enjoy it, you would also enjoy Madeleine’s autobiography works in which she writes about her faith struggles.

    Another great one that you might add is The Hobbit – way less intimidating than The Lord of the Rings series. And very fun. We listened to it on audio on a long trip. (I forced the kids to listen before I would take them to the movie!)

    One author that I LOVED in Jr. High is Jules Verne. His books are classic sci-fi adventures. Jounrey to the Centre of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea were my favorites.

    And finally I have to put a plug in for my favorite book of all time. Treasure Island. A boy struggling to become a man finds a father figure in a nasty old pirate. It spoke to me as an adolescent. It helped me realize a person could have both good and bad parts about them.

    Great list! I’m taking notes because I really need to get some more reading material for my 13yo. She goes through books like candy!

  9. We used Roll of Thunder , Hear my Cry as a read-aloud when my daughter was younger, and we both loved it! I’d also recommend The Witch of Blackbird Pond for 7th or 8th grade, but I don’t remember the author at the moment.

  10. I have the Secret Garden on my TBR list for my youngest. He’s only 8, but I’m thinking it would make a great read aloud/read together. Great list, Chris!

  11. My daughter is almost 11 and has read and enjoyed the majority of these. I would second the addition of Fever 1793 and also add The Crispin book series by Avi, Deadly (about “Typhoid Mary” Mallon) by Julie Chibbaro, Blue Willow by Doris Gates, and The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

  12. I second the suggestions of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (don’t stop with that one, it’s a 5 books series) and The Giver (the 4th, I believe, book in that series just came out). I’d make sure to read The Giver before your kids so you can judge whether they are ready to tackle some of the themes and subject matter.

    Brian Jacque’s Redwall Series is another good one, Island of Blue Dolphins, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Series takes liberally from Welsh mythology and might make for an interesting study, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Little Women are all great.

    7th grade (so about 12-ish) was when I first started reading classics on my own – Jane Eyre, Austen novels, and even a little Shakespeare.

  13. What a great list! 🙂 I’d also think twice about the Are You There God It’s me Margaret 🙂 I loved it as a kid but it is the book that started me down a road of questionable, unchecked reading. In retrospect, I wish I had had more dialog with my parents about coming-of-age things instead of via stories and books that perpetuated the idea of ‘I can’t talk to my parents about this!’ 🙂

    An author that I always recommend is Patricia St John. Her books Treasures of the Snow and the Tanglewood’s Secret are gems. They’re hose gripping stories enjoyed by all ages that have the reader pausing at times gasping ‘Wow’ at a single sentence of simple but deep truths. On par with CS Lewis I believe! 🙂

    Of course, I would love to recommend my own middle grade story: Seekers of the Lost Boy. It begins on a beach where a mystery message is found in a bottle by a 12-year-old homeschooled boy. My website has the details: https://tarynhayes.com

  14. My daughter read Roll of Thunder last year in her sixth grade Language Arts class. I had never read it so I checked out the CD version from the library and listened while working in the kitchen. I absolutely LOVED the book (my daughter not so much). I thought it taught great values and was glad she got to hear them from another perspective.

  15. “Homeschool families tend to focus on the classics and colleges like to see that kids have read current popular books.”

    This isn’t just the case with homeschool families. A lot of well-read parents simply don’t know newer titles or feel they might be “less than” the classics. As a former teacher and a children’s author, I’m rather biased, but I am always SO encouraged and excited when parents are interested in embracing a wide range of literature for their children.

  16. This is a great list, but a little on the young side, I think, for middle school. These are books that I (and my girls) have read (are reading/will read) in the 9-11 age range.

  17. I would definitely add Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

    Recently I read a wonderful book called Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, and I’d recommend it to any middle-grade reader. It’s a book from the POV of a child with cerebral palsy and it is fantastic.

  18. I found the cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a bargain bin of DVDs at Walgreens about a year ago. It was maybe $2.50? My girls (4 and 2) love it and I have such fond memories of that version from childhood. Keep an eye out if you have Walgreens in your area!

  19. I would add “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. And “Princess Academy” and “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale. This is my favorite age for recommending and reading books!

  20. Ella Enchanted was my favorite book growing up – I was so mad about that silly movie they made! It’s a great book but I don’t remember it being “fun” – it deserved a serious movie adaptation or none at all – more along the lines of “A Little Princess” than your typical Disney princess movie complete with musical numbers.
    And Tuck Everlasting is a very nice alternative to Twilight, I think, in that both female protagonists have to make very similar decisions, and the choice made in Tuck is very refreshing in contrast to the desperate do-or-die romance of Twilight.

  21. Great List! Have you heard of the City of Ember series written by Jeanne DePrau? My daughter loves these books. We also liked Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. I guess your opinion may vary based on how many dyslexics live in your home. You’re welcome to use the ideas for whatever grade levels seem most suitable in your homeschool.

      1. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean that to be snarky, and apparently it came across that way. I misunderstood the original intent. I thought you were saying that the bulk of this was average “middle school reading,” when you’re just saying this is what your kids will be reading in middle school. 🙂

        I totally understand/appreciate adjusting to your students, and am less confused now. 🙂

        1. I have a dyslexic child as well and really appreciate this list. It’s hard to find books that engage them (my girl is so smart!!) and are not daunting. The exercise of reading is tiring but the books her size tend to bore her since she can handle a more intricate plot.

  22. We took “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret” off of our list completely. In fact, I actually threw the book away (first time I have ever even considered placing a book in the trash). It caused some issues in my family, and it brought it back up again when I saw the book as I cleaned my room…so out it went. My MIL bought the book for my daughter at 9 and let her begin reading it before even letting us know….after she had told my daughter that she wasn’t sure she should be allowed to read it yet. Truth be told, I had already purchased the book and put it away for her because I wasn’t ready for her to have it. I started rereading it, and decided the messages were not ones I wanted my daughter to receive, so I decided to not give it to her..at least until she was much older. Now she is 11, and she still won’t read it. I don’t like the message of “I can’t talk to my parents about this” or all the messages about body image and boys. So that book is one she can read when she is older and chooses it on her own, but it is not one I will recommend or allow for her at this point.

    I love your list though, we have made it through many of these but it’s a great list for us to pull out when I hear the dreaded “I have nothing to read!” My daughter is an animal lover as well, so I think some of these books will be great for her! Thanks for sharing your list!

  23. I would add “Wonder.” It’s about a boy who had been homeschooled because his parents wanted to protect him from the taunts he would get from his classmates. He has a cranial facial disorder that makes him look like no one you’ve ever seen. His Mom decides she can’t give him what school could BUT the important part is he will have to be in the world someday. It deals with topics such as bullying and how quickly you can follow the crowd and more wonderful things like accepting differences. It also tells the story from many characters point of view. My whole book club agreed all parents, teachers and students grade five and up. It does say what everyone feels about him not being homeschooled but that is just the beginning of a great book. I’m an adult who remembers little of my school years and am homeschooling myself. I was also bullied from kindergarten right through high school. I hope some of you add this book. My favourite YA fiction book is “The Giver” hands down.

  24. Sorry this is a couple years too late, but one book that wasn’t mentioned on your list or within the comments is The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
    The 8th graders in CA read it in school. (I’m a teacher).

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