Bonus What Kids Are Reading lists for middle and high school

What Kids Are Reading is the world’s largest annual study of K–12 students’ reading habits. The 2019 report examines the reading records of more than 8.7 million students across the United States to identify the most-read books in the country. New this year, the report included themed book lists around key topics in science, social studies, and social-emotional learning such as earth and space science, civil rights, and grief.

For the researchers who write the report, it was especially hard to decide which book lists to feature in our annual What Kids Are Reading report—there were so many great ones! Here, we’re sharing bonus cross-curricular reading lists for middle and high school that you won’t find anywhere else.

With intriguing themes such as robotics, horses, thrillers, and biographies, these books are a great way to entice middle and high school students to read more. The latest data shows that students’ daily reading practice starts declining in middle school and reaches its lowest levels in high school, so it’s especially important to encourage older students to spend time reading.

It should be noted that these lists aren’t top 10 lists, but instead, curated lists of popular books specifically for middle and high school readers. Let’s dive in!

What are students reading in the content areas?

Middle School: Robotics
Drones, space robots, and Alexa

  • Ungifted series by Gordon Korman

  • How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel by Jennifer Brown

  • Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen

  • Battling for Victory: The Coolest Robot Competitions by Kathryn Clay

  • Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton

  • Drones by Katie Marsico

  • Space Robots by Steve Kortenkamp

  • Amazing Military Robots by Sean S. Price

  • Robots at Your Service: From the Factory to Your Home by Kathryn Clay

  • Robots in Risky Jobs: On the Battlefield and Beyond by Kathryn Clay

Middle School: Horses
Horses, horses, and more horses

  • War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

  • The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

  • Horses by Mary Ann McDonald

  • Horses by JoAnn Early Macken

  • In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III

  • The Horse in Harry’s Room by Syd Hoff

  • Horses by Emily K. Green

  • The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse by John R. Erickson

  • Baby Horses by Bethany Olson

Middle School: Mysteries
UFOs, haunted houses, and unsolved mysteries

  • The Bermuda Triangle: The Unsolved Mystery by Connie C. Miller

  • Ghosts: The Unsolved Mystery by Lisa W. McCormick

  • Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi

  • Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements

  • Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries by Kathryn Clay

  • Haunted Houses: The Unsolved Mystery by Lisa W. McCormick

  • Top 10 UFO and Alien Mysteries by Lori Polydoros

  • The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene

  • Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris by Thea Stilton

  • Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein

High School: Biographies
Stories of survival, achievements, and shock

  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave by Frederick Douglass

  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

  • American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethel Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle

  • Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, I: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

  • The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

  • A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee L. Dugard

High School: Music and the Arts
Hip-hop music, fashion, and journeys to the top

  • Cool Hip-Hop Music: Create & Appreciate by Karen L. Kenney

  • The Hip-Hop Scene: The Stars, the Fans, the Music by Ann G. Gaines

  • The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez

  • The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival by Mona Golabek

  • The Alternative Rock Scene: The Stars, the Fans, the Music by Wendy S. Mead

  • STEM Jobs in Music by Shirley Duke

  • Fashion Design: The Art of Style by Jen Jones

  • Fashion Design: Learning the Skills to Succeed by Jen Jones

  • Battle of the Bands by K.L. Denman

  • Art Show Mystery (Carter High Mysteries) by Eleanor Robins

High School: Suspense
Murder mysteries, true crime, and thrillers

  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences by Truman Capote

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

  • Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson

  • Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson

  • Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe

  • The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

  • No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin

  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

  • The Weekend Was Murder! by Joan L. Nixon

Create custom lists for students

Thanks to the What Kids Are Reading Custom Report Builder tool, you can easily generate a custom list of titles according to your students’ needs and interests.

Start by visiting the Custom Report Builder at www.renaissance.com/wkar-custom.

When you arrive on the page, click on the plus symbol next to “Tips for using the Custom Report Builder” for helpful information about the filters you can use.

Custom Report Builder

On the Custom Report Builder tool, select fiction or nonfiction under the Type filter. Give the tool a moment to reload—remember, it’s looking at millions of reading records—and you’ll see a list of the most popular nonfiction books.

Custom Report Builder

By default, this list will display data for grades 1–12. You can narrow the list to just one grade by using the Grade filter. You can also select multiple grades at a time if you’d prefer to see the top books for a grade range rather than a single grade level.

Custom Report Builder

You can also filter by text complexity level using the ATOS Level slider, Interest Level (select one or multiple), Language (English or Spanish), or State (using the drop-down menu).

When you’re finished, click the green “Generate My Report” button for a PDF of your custom book list, which you can print or save.

Visit the What Kids Are Reading Custom Report Builder tool today! And don’t forget to download your copy of the 2019 What Kids Are Reading report for exclusive research analyses, tips to boost reading growth, author essays, and more.

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