Required Summer Reading That You Will Actually Love

No one likes homework in summer, but if you’re assigned any of these books you’re in luck! Read on to find out why you’ll actually enjoy these required novels.

Book Culture Classics Fiction Recommendations

Summer is a time for running in sprinklers, eating messy popsicles, and complaining about having to wear sunscreen. Unfortunately, many of us also must start reading our books for the next school year. (Spoiler alert: they’re not all bad!) Here are some of the books you’ll actually enjoy this summer that you might want to pick up for fun instead of begrudgingly skimming the pages so you can tell your English teacher you read them.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby book cover by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is an image depicting a painted city with a blue sky that has eyes, lips, and a single tear.
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This novel has actually become the theme for a ton of parties, which is totally ironic if you read the book. I will say that the aesthetics are incredible, and the lavish 1920s lifestyle depicted in this novel is one you’ll be thinking about for days. Not only does this book have a ton of really cool metaphors and figurative language, it says a lot about American culture and is a pretty quick and easy read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The image is half orange and half green, with the title in a black box on the right outlined in orange, and a tree on the left decorating the orange section.
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Oof. This book hits hard, especially with recent events. This is a novel that always seems to land itself on one of those “Top 50 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Life” lists, and for good reason. It explores themes of race and prejudice that a lot of white authors from its time were afraid to write about. Similar to novels like The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter, it also explores themes of collective conscience and challenging the status quo despite the risks. And it is SO riveting.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Book cover for Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The cover is blue that fades into orange at the bottom and depicts the title and author with an image of several boys, flowers, and butterflies.
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This book has one of the coolest premises ever: What would happen if kids were forced to fend for themselves to become adults in a split second? This book says so much about human nature, and is the inspiration for a ton of other media, like Gone by Michael Grant or the film Battle Royale. It’ll have you flinching and going “yikes” until the very end.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Book cover of The Crucible by Arthur Miller, displaying the back of a woman's head, wearing a cloth bonnet.
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While not exactly a book, this play still demands your attention (and I’d highly recommend you go see it in person). It still haunts me to this day how far a community can take something to save itself. Arthur Miller wrote this during the 1950s so-called “red scare,” where people were being hunted and prosecuted for suspected communist activity. This play was written to reflect the fear and paranoia in American citizens, prevalent all the way back to the 1600s. This play is super powerful and sure to keep you on your toes.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is mint green, with the title and author in gold lettering and small drawings of birds, flowers, and hearts.
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I mean, this one is obvious. This novel was the basis for many modern romance novels and continues to make readers swoon 200 years after its publication. For ANY fan of romance, this one is highly recommended. I mean, Mr. Darcy, am I right? Not only is the romance incredible, but the writing is somehow hilarious, too. Austen was way ahead of her time in the rom-com department.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Book cover for A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. It contains a black middle with the title and author with whimsical drawings of old women, children, and nature surrounding it.
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This novel is recommended for younger readers, as it explores love, family, and sci-fi. It’s a hugely influential novel that is guaranteed to nudge new readers towards the sci-fi genre. It’s even got a few movie adaptations, which got mixed reviews but ultimately seemed entertaining. Older readers can sometimes find this novel simple, but I think that’s the charm in it. It doesn’t take a lot of complicated ideas and morally gray characters to make a compelling and heartwarming science fiction novel.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the bottom quarter stating the title, author, and publisher, and the top three quarters depicting a painting of a man staring into a body of water, surrounded by a black sky with rocks and a dead tree and some flowers.
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This novel is actually unintentionally hilarious. It has some serious themes about death, prejudice, violence, and man trying to play god, but this Frankenstein character? He is genuinely funny. (Once again, mild spoilers for the novel ahead!!) When he finally re-animates his first dead animal, there is a page of inner monologue about how incredible he is, and how he is going to create a new race of people who will think of him as a father, and will be more thankful to him for creating them than anyone is thankful to God himself. Then, after he finishes his creature, he becomes incredibly frightened and runs away to his room out of horror and… takes a nap. No, I’m not kidding. Victor Frankenstein is hilarious.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Book cover for The Giver by Lois Lowry, depicts an old man's face in tan and white, blended with some trees and grass.
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The Giver is an award-winning dystopian novel (with three sequels!) about a utopian society where not everything is as it seems. This novel for young and middle readers has won a ton of awards and truly deserves all the hype it gets. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it! It provides an important message about conformity and doing the right thing while also being a highly addictive story that keeps you on the edge of your seat until that final plot twist.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Book cover of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. The top two thirds of the cover is a picture of a rocky path surrounded by green hills. The rest of the cover depicts the title, author, and edition in blue, black, and grey blocks.
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This is one heck of a novel. This book even inspired Kate Bush’s song Wuthering Heights, which you totally have to check out. It’s a little bit of a tedious read at first, but once you get into it it gets really weird and very enthralling. Obsessive, manipulative characters litter the pages, creating a deep and interesting look into a toxic relationship that is both distressing and captivating. Wuthering Heights is one of the most famous romance (ish?) novels and is a great introduction to the Brontë sisters’ literature.

Classic books like these often get a bad rap; people think they’re “boring” or “old” (and let’s be real, some of them are). But often, once you actually get started on these books, there’s so much to discover in the rich worlds these authors create. You can always read about witches, time travel, regency-era romance, or reanimated corpses, but these novels did it first, and they did it better.


Want more Wuthering Heights content? Check out this cool list of hauntingly romantic quotes we love!

For more classic book recs (and those that are sure to become classics), check out our Bookshop.org bookshelf of classics.

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