"The Best Short Stories of O. Henry" by O. Henry. Henry brings a laugh-out-loud perspective on life everyday life and situation. These short stories are chock-full of twists and turns. Along with a rich vocabulary, O. Henry uses wit and irony to great effect.
"Ancestral Shadows" by Russell Kirk. Many people think of Russell Kirk as only a writer of historical, political, and educational books and essays, but Ancestral Shadows is a collection of morally charged ghostly tales.
"The Wingfeather Saga" by Andrew Peterson. Joining other fantasy novelists like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, author Andrew Peterson is writing a multi-book series called the Wingfeather Saga. The saga is a dramatic fantasy featuring the Igiby family and a group of freedom fighters who are battling the evil which has conquered the continent of Skree.
"Percy Jackson and the Olympians" by Rick Riordan. Using modern-day teenage cares and situations as a backdrop, Rick Riordan has written an entertaining, action-packed adventure series based on Greek mythology. The stories start in New York City.
"Dark Eyes" by William Richter. Dark Eyes is a harrowing, easy-to-read and exciting tale about a driven young woman searching for her identity in all the wrong ways. Wally stumbles upon something during her search that leads to chaos, violence, and murder.
"I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith. This is a charming coming-of-age story featuring 17-year-old Cassandra, who lives in a broken-down castle in England with her beautiful older sister, depressed father, slightly nutty stepmother, and young brother. The family's finances are in the gutter because the father—who wrote one famous book years before—cannot seem to write another. And then two handsome brothers move into the castle next door, complicating all their lives. Cassandra—a budding writer who narrates the story—experiences her first confused feelings of love.
"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury. Although not always an easy read for students, this novel about a fireman in the future whose job it is to burn books is a classic that is bound to turn up on a required reading list for one of your English classes. Thematically powerful, this story of a dystopian society that controls the media its citizens can access should appeal to fans of works such as The Hunger Games.
Esther J. Archer
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Just the title of this book reminds many of its readers of the hot summer days in the southern United States described by Scout. Many children have this on their summer reading list for school, but this novel is just a fantastic read even without the "requirement" latched onto it.To Kill a Mockingbird is coming of age story that revolves around a rape case that causes tension in a small town in Alabama. Scout's father, Atticus, is one of the few in town willing to defend a black male against the accusations of a white female. The reason for this recommendation is that it sheds a positive light on the relationship between children and parents. Scout absolutely adores her father and his love for her is obvious. The story is written from Scout's perspective so many of the more "adult" themes are not explored as they would be in adult novels. There is still a lot of mystery left to the reader, which gives a lot of material for parents to discuss with their own children as they read through the book.
"Anne of Green Gables" by L. M. Montgomery. Anne is an orphan who is mistakenly adopted by an older couple who believed they were getting a boy to help around the farm. Compared to most residents of Avonlea, Anne is a free spirit, so no one is sure what to do about her! This charming book has a transfixing quality with lots of fun adventures, including Anne's scheme to float down the river in a boat playing the "Lady of Shallot." This is a definite classic and a must leisure read during the summertime.
"Beauty," "Rose Daughter," and "Spindle's End" by Robin McKinley. With fairy tales all the rage thanks to television shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm, and feature films such as the recently released Snow White and the Huntsman, there’s never been a better time to revisit (or discover) Robin McKinley’s poetic retellings of classic fairy tales. Beauty and Rose Daughter are McKinley’s retellings of Beauty and the Beast, published twenty years apart. In each instance McKinley retains the classic elements of the original story and transforms them into something uniquely her own and completely unforgettable. Spindle’s End is McKinley’s take on my favorite fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.
"Captain Blood," "The Sea Hawk," and "Scaramouche" by Rafael Sabatini. If adventure stories are more to your liking, check out Sabatini’s novels. These three are my favorites. All three novels were made into films during Hollywood’s Golden Age, but the original source material stands up today as classic examples of rollicking good stories, replete with danger, romance, adventure, and in the case of the first two , pirates.
"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. With both a miniseries and a movie version coming out this year, now is a good time to introduce high school students to this classic rags-to-riches novel. Dickens’s rich and complex language is not always easy to navigate, but with patience and a little parental guidance, dedicated young readers will reap great rewards from his story of one young man’s corruption and redemption.