Are you looking for engaging novels to keep your middle school students hooked? Students need the books to be interesting enough to nurture the love for reading. This is why having a middle school reading list ready to go is essential.
If you are one of these teachers who wonders what novels to bring in your middle school ELA class, take a look at this quick middle school reading list of books. These novels were recommended by over 400 middle school ELA teachers that answered our online survey!
If you want to have a greater impact in your class, you can pair the books on this middle school reading list with meaningful novel study activities and have a complete learning experience.
1. The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton (Realistic Fiction)
We start the middle school reading list with the most popular novel. The Outsiders is about two weeks in the life of a 14-year-old boy. The novel tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his struggles with right and wrong in a society in which he believes that he is an outsider. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back.
2. The Giver – Lois Lowry (Dystopia/Science Fiction)
This is again one of the best middle school books to teach of all time. The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
3. Refugee – Alan Gratz (Historical Fiction)
Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE. All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow.
4. A Long Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park (Historical Fiction)
A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay.
5. Freak the Mighty – Rodman Philbrick (Realistic Fiction)
Two boys – a slow learner stuck in the body of a teenage giant and a tiny Einstein in leg braces – forge a unique friendship when they pair up to create one formidable human force. A wonderful story of triumph over imperfection, shame, and loss.
6. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 – Christopher Paul Curtis (Historical Fiction)
Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There’s Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron, who’s thirteen and an “official juvenile delinquent.” When Momma and Dad decide it’s time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. They’re heading South to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history.
7. Bud, Not Buddy – Christopher Paul Curtis (Historical Fiction)
This is one of the most loved novels for middle school. It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him. He has his own suitcase full of special things. He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression.
8. Touching Spirit Bear – Ben Mikaelsen (Realistic Fiction)
Within Cole Matthews lies anger, rage and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life. Ben Mikaelsen paints a vivid picture of a juvenile offender, examining the roots of his anger without absolving him of responsibility for his actions, and questioning a society in which angry people make victims of their peers and communities.
9. Night – Elie Wiesel (Nonfiction/Memoir)
Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man.
10. Esperanza Rising – Pam Muñoz Ryan (Historical Fiction)
In one of the most inspiring books for middle school, Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.
11. Prisoner B-3087 – Alan Gratz (Historical Fiction)
As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087. Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?
12. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien (Fantasy)
This novel is on every middle school reading list. The Hobbit is set in Middle-earth and follows home-loving Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit, who joins the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves that make up Thorin Oakenshield’s Company, on a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ home and treasure from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo’s journey takes him from his peaceful rural surroundings into more sinister territory.
13. Number the Stars – Lois Lowry (Historical Fiction)
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
14. Holes – Louis Sachar (Realistic Fiction)
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
15. Monster – Walter Dean Myers (Realistic Fiction)
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout. Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of “the system,” cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.
16. Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli (Realistic Fiction)
Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out–under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes–for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body.
17. Among the Hidden – Margaret Peterson Haddix (Dystopia/Science Fiction)
Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.
18. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (Dystopia)
Another book of the middle school reading list is The Hunger Games. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
19. Hatchet – Gary Paulsen (Realistic Fiction)
Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake–and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure. A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild.
20. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (Nonfiction/Memoir)
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away.
21. Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan (Mythology/Fantasy)
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe.
22. I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai (Nonfiction/Memoir)
This is one of the best middle school books to read! When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
23. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (Science Fiction)
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly.
24. March: Book One – John Lewis, Andrew Aydin (Nonfiction/Graphic Novel)
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
25. Lord of the Flies – William Golding (Dystopia)
At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued.
26. Tangerine – Edward Bloor (Realistic Fiction)
Paul Fisher sees the world from behind glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he’s not so blind that he can’t see there are some very unusual things about his family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. The chaos is compounded by constant harassment from his football–star brother, and adjusting to life in Tangerine isn’t easy for Paul—until he joins the soccer team at his middle school. With the help of his new teammates, Paul begins to discover what lies beneath the surface of his strange new hometown.
27. Milkweed – Jerry Spinelli (Historical Fiction)
He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi some day, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.
28. Matilda – Roald Dahl (Fantasy)
This is a very popular book on any middle school reading list. Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived.
29. Save Me a Seat – Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan (Realistic Fiction)
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy and a common mission.
30. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Mildred D. Taylor (Historical Fiction)
Why is the land so important to Cassie’s family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she’s black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family’s lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.
31. Under The Blood-Red Sun – Graham Salisbury (Historical Fiction)
Tomi was born in Hawaii. His grandfather and parents were born in Japan, and came to America to escape poverty. World War II seems far away from Tomi and his friends, who are too busy playing ball on their eighth-grade team, the Rats. But then Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, and the United States declares war on Japan. Japanese men are rounded up, and Tomi’s father and grandfather are arrested. But one thing doesn’t change: the loyalty of Tomi’s buddies, the Rats.
32. Iqbal – Francesco D’Adamo (Historical Fiction)
When young Iqbal is sold into slavery at a carpet factory, his arrival changes everything for the other overworked and abused chidren there. It is Iqbal who explains to them that despite their master’s promises, he plans on keeping them as his slaves indefinetely. But it is also Iqbal who inspires the other children to look to a future free from toil and is brave enough to show them how to get there.
33. Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction)
Okay For Now explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.
34. Serafina and the Black Cloak – Robert Beatty (Fantasy)
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists. But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night.
35. Code Talker – Joseph Bruchac (Historical Fiction)
Throughout World War II, in the conflict fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending messages back and forth in an unbreakable code that used their native language. They braved some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with their code, they saved countless American lives. Yet their story remained classified for more than twenty years.
36. Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction)
When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him: Joseph almost killed a teacher. He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain. He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her. What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl. Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help. But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.
37. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls (Realistic Fiction)
A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn. Little Ann had the brains, and Billy had the will to make them into the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. Where the Red Fern Grows is an exciting tale of love and adventure you’ll never forget.
38. How I Became a Ghost – Tim Tingle (Historical Fiction)
From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac’s talking dog, Jumper.
39. Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes (Realistic Fiction)
Another excellent book that should belong on the middle school reading list. Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances.
40. Uglies – Scott Westerfeld (Dystopia)
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn’t very pretty.
These are the best books on the middle school reading list you can bring to your students in order to have tremendous success. For your classes to be fully engaged, you should use a variety of reading and comprehension activities: portfolios, choice boards, projects, formative assessment and so on.
We recommend these time saving resources that will improve your teaching while keeping your students on the edge of their seats.
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