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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.