Summer Reading List for Coginchaug High School Students

The English faculty offers students a non-compulsory program designed to encourage reading.


The value of summer reading is widely known. But there is a difference between assigning a text and offering freedom of choice. Students don’t typically respond as well to books that are assigned as they do to books they choose on their own.  

In addition, research suggests the latter can have as much academic benefit as any “required reading” over the summer.

Besides, it’s not just the academic benefits of summer reading that the Coginchaug English department faculty is interested in. We also know that reading is fun. Readers can travel, explore, discover, and encounter all sorts of interesting people, places, and things from the comfort of a couch, a beach chair, or backyard swing.  

And so we tell our students to read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and web articles about anything that interests them. Librarians and booksellers are excellent resources for identifying personalized selections. 

The English teachers at Coginchaug have also put together a list of summer reading suggestions that are particularly relevant to Coginchaug students. This list is based on a balance of three factors: 

1. Interest and readability

We considered books that students would be able to enjoy independently—without an English teacher as a guide—and that might appeal to the particular interests we see among students today.

2. Literary merit

We considered books that have some leaning toward literary merit. There’s a difference between good literature and everything else. And there’s nothing at all wrong with reading things from the ‘everything else’ category. But there is also benefit to books that offer depth of insight, crisp language, or a significant contribution to the art and history of literature. 

3. Curriculum relevance

We considered books that match what we are teaching next year. The curricula for grades 9-12 are structured around resonant and challenging themes. The selection of books for each grade particularly lines up with one or more of the themes in that year’s curriculum.

This list is neither exhaustive nor permanent. These are just the titles we generated at this moment. And some are more challenging than others. One title may have difficult or mature content you may want to be aware of before you get started, for example, or another title might strain your independent reading ability. 

So the best thing to do is get to the library, review some of the books listed here, check them out with your librarian and parent, and then choose something that strikes a balance with your wants and needs. 

However you do it, get it done. Reading is good.

Kris Nystrom, Chair

Department of English

Coginchaug Regional High School



The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen

The Natural, by Bernard Malamud 

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Vandover and the Brute, by Frank Norris

His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole


Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose 

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury 

Different Seasons  (four novellas), by Stephen King

Letters from the Earth, by Mark Twain

The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

My Antonia, by Willa Cather

Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko 

The Complete Stories, by Zora Neale Hurston

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt 

Shane, by Jack Schaefer 

Ellen Foster, by Kay Gibbons

Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote 


The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexi 

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

R.U.R., by Karel Capek

Poetry 180, by Bill Collins

The Translator, by Daoud Hari 

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Swallows of Kabul, by Yasmina Khadra

Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer

No Easy Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, by Kenzaburo Oe 

Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See


The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon 

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse-Anderson

Geronimo Rex, by Barry Hannah

Burial at Thebes, by Seamus Heaney

 Hiroshima, by John Hersey

Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein

Mythbusters, by Keith Zimmerman 



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