There are a lot of books out there, so we asked the staff at Books Inc. in Downtown Mountain View for 12 essential books for high schoolers to read in 2022. This list is made up of their answers.
It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction, made-up characters and autobiographies, mythology and realism, academic reads and just plain fun. There’s no central theme, nor an order in which you should read the list, just 12 really good books.
Hopefully there’s something here for every kind of reader, but if nothing on this list in particular tickles your fancy, we’re sure the good people of Books Inc. will be glad to give you other suggestions.
Note: All links in this article lead to Books Inc.’s website.
“KINDRED” BY OCTAVIA BUTLER
Dana, a 26-year-old African American, lives in 1970s California. Throughout the novel, Dana travels back in time (not of her own will) and barely lives through numerous near-death experiences before being wrenched back to her own time. Dana endures two different time periods, and two forms of American racism. In a time of racial reckoning, hearing the (albeit fictionalized) story of the past can help us understand the present just a little bit better.
“ALL ABOUT LOVE” BY BELL HOOKS
“All About Love” is a guide to love in the modern age. hooks lays out a roadmap for how she believes society should interact with and use love. she criticizes the younger generations for being cynical and dismissive of love, and encourages all to “embrace the idea of love as a transformative force.”
“SCYTHE” BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN
In the far future, advanced technology has led to natural death being practically eliminated and the world is controlled by an omniscient computer. There’s just one issue. If people never die, the population doesn’t stop growing. The dystopian novel follows two teens, Citra and Rowan who become apprentices to a Scythe, who “gleans” individuals in order to prevent overpopulation.
“LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB” BY MALINDA LO
17-year-old Lily Hu, a queer Chinese-American, lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s. The novel, named for a lesbian bar in San Francisco, follows Lily as she grapples with her own identity and navigates discrimination. The novel will create context for readers surrounding anti-Asian hate in this country yet in a style relatable to many high schoolers: teenage romance.
“SADIE” BY COURTNEY SUMMERS
Sadie is a teen seeking revenge for her sister’s murder. The book is split into two perspectives: that of Sadie, and a true crime podcast that discusses both her mysterious disappearance and her sister Mattie’s death. This book is dark, and haunting. For those fans of true crime, this book can shed perspective on the other perspective of true crime: the victims.
“A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES” BY HOWARD ZINN
Published in 1980, Zinn presents what he believes is an alternative to the “fundamental nationalist glorification of country” present in many other history curricula. The nonfiction work tells the stories of American women, laborers, people of color, the working poor, immigrants and other disadvantaged groups.
“CEMETERY BOYS” BY AIDEN THOMAS
Yadriel is a young transgender man fighting to get his Latino family to understand his gender. While he wrestles with his identity, he sets out to free the ghost of his murdered cousin but instead frees the ghost of Julian Diaz, his school’s “resident bad boy.” As the novel progresses, Yadriel begins to fall in love with Julian, and a romance between a dead boy and a living one emerges.
“THE DAWN OF EVERYTHING: A NEW HISTORY OF HUMANITY” BY DAVID GRAEBER AND DAVID WENGROW
“The Dawn of Everything” presents a different understanding of human history than we might be used to. The book is as much history as it is historiography — the study of history in and of itself. The authors look to the unheard true origins of the Enlightenment to make sense of human history today and the origins of civilization itself.
“DEAR AMERICA: NOTES OF AN UNDOCUMENTED CITIZEN” BY JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS
Jose Antonio Vargas discovered at age 16 that he was an undocumented immigrant, when the choir team he was a part of at Mountain View High School was going on a trip abroad. His memoir tells the story of making a life in a foreign country, learning and hiding.
“CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONES” BY TOMI ADEYEMI
“Children of Blood and Bones” is a mash-up of American-style young adult writing and Nigerian mythology. The novel delves deep into racially-motivated violence, while balancing a family tale. This is also, after all, a fantasy novel filled with magic, princesses, royalty and divine power.
“A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH” BY DARCIE LITTLE BADGER
Nina is a 16 year-old member of the Lipan Apache tribe in Texas. Oli is a cottonmouth snake living in the reflecting world — a mythological place where animals live. When Oli travels to Texas seeking help, he finds Nina. While much of the literature surrounding iIndigenous experiences is about the centuries of oppression they’ve faced in the Americas, the culture, traditions and stories have remained in the shadows over the years. The novel takes advantage of traditional Apache storytelling techniques to weave together reality and mysticism.
“PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR” BY THOMAS CATHCARD AND DANIEL MARTIN KLEIN
Most high schoolers are taught a little bit of philosophy through the lens of history — and that’s about it. “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar” is a funny read that will help you understand the basics of philosophy, and have some fun while doing so.