High School

Welcome to the High School Summer Reading List!

Summers are times to relax and explore your own interests, free of school’s direction. What better way to do this than with books? At GDS we don’t require any specific summer reading books because we believe that developing the habit of free, voluntary reading leads to becoming lifelong readers and learners. You should read what you want… we just want you to read! The books on this list are merely suggestions, things Rhona (your librarian) and other staff think you might pick up for your own self-fulfillment.

Of course, whenever one reads, there is a chance of encountering uncomfortable, emotionally difficult, or even painful content, ideas, or language. For example, within the suggested titles below, you’ll encounter graphic violence, uncomfortable sexual situations, drug abuse, suicide, genocide, enslavement, racism, homophobia, loaded words, or politics with which you might disagree. Here at GDS, we believe that encountering challenging ideas is, as the U.S. Supreme Court once stated, “a necessary predicate to the recipient’s meaningful exercise of his own rights of speech, press, and political freedom.” (Board of Education vs. Pico, 1982)

However, this doesn’t mean that you should have to grapple with feelings of hurt, confusion, or indignation on your own, just because you were alone with a book when you were triggered. Reading may be a solitary activity, but books can—and should—be shared. We encourage you to reach out to the adults in your lives, to your family members, to your teachers. Give them the book, talk to them about your thoughts, and listen to what they have to say. Always remember that you can put a book down if you need to, so that you can have a discussion about it after you have more context. And always remember, there are a lot of other books to try!

Happy summer reading!

Rhona Campbell
HS Librarian


List of 53 items.

  • With the Fire on High

    Elizabeth Acevedo
    The author of The Poet X does it again, this time with a prose story of an Afro-Latina teen whose own dreams of being a chef always have to take second place to her responsibilities to her baby and her abuela.
  • Children of Blood and Bone

    Tomi Adeyemi
    This fantasy tale in a West African-based fantasy world features a fierce female warrior on a quest to bring magic back to her land, despite the powerfully attractive prince pursuing her. The first in a series; the sequel is due to release in December.
  • Internment

    Samira Ahmed
    In a horrific near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Muslim American Layla and her parents are forced into an internment camp.
  • The Weight of Our Sky

    Hanna Alkaf
    In 1969 Kuala Lumpur, sixteen-year-old Malay Melati has her OCD to contend with amidst the Chinese-Malay race war that breaks out while she’s at the movies, separating her from her mother.
  • The House of the Spirits

    Isabel Allende
    Mysticism mixes with socialism in this classic saga of the Chilean Trueba family, using constantly shifting viewpoints. [Recommended by Maribel Prieto]
  • The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel

    Margaret Atwood, adapted by Renée Nault
    (Graphic Fiction) The bleak dystopian novel is about a young white woman living in a puritanical theocracy, stunningly adapted into graphic format.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk

    James Baldwin
    In 1970s Harlem, nineteen-year-old Tish and twenty-two-year-old Fonny are in love and pregnant. When Fonny is falsely accused and imprisoned for rape, the two African American young adults’ families have tough decisions to make. [Recommended by Annie Thrower-Patterson]
  • The Only Great Harmless Thing

    Brooke Bolander
    This short book presents a compelling and unique alternate imagined past and its future, when sentient elephants took on the jobs working with radioactive paint in the 1920s when the white women who work there start to sicken. [Recommended by Annie Thrower-Patterson]
  • The Diviners

    Libba Bray
    (Series) A white small town girl comes to the big city during the Roaring Twenties and gets tangled up in solving bizarre murders with her occultist uncle. The series continues in Lair of Dreams and Before the Devil Breaks You. The final installment is due in February 2020. [Recommended by Emily Landau]
  • Jane, Unlimited

    Kristin Cashore
    When white eighteen-year-old Jane visits an island mansion, the story could go many different directions, all of which are strange and unexpected. Cashore lets you choose in this book that Publisher’s Weekly calls “less Choose Your Own Adventure than Groundhog Day on acid.” [Recommended by Emily Landau]
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

    Michael Chabon
    This 2000 Pulitzer Prize winning book focuses on white, Jewish Brooklynite cousins Sammy and his cousin Josef, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, as they create an iconic American comic book. [Recommended by Julia Fisher]
  • Cronopios and Famas

    Julio Cortázar
    Short stories from one of Argentina’s most brilliant writers, examining the absurdities of human behavior. [Recommended by Maribel Prieto]
  • All the Light We Cannot See

    Anthony Doerr
    Alternating voices, a white German boy and a white French girl who is blind tell their stories of survival in World War II. [Recommended by Russell Shaw]
  • Luminous Traitor: The Just and Daring Life of Roger Casement: A Novel

    Martin Duberman
    A novel based on the real life of the white, gay Irish nationalist Roger Casement, who was renowned for exposing atrocities in the British Congo and Peru in the 1910s, but who was sentenced for treason. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • Washington Black

    Esi Edugyan
    This best-selling novel explores the relationship of slave and master, following the adventures of an enslaved Black boy from a sugar plantation in Barbados after he’s taken on by an eccentric scientist master. [Recommended by Russell Shaw]
  • Invisible Man

    Ralph Ellison
    This award-winning 1952 novel addresses many issues facing African Americans of the mid-century through the odyssey of an unnamed Black man. [Recommended by Julia Fisher]
  • American Road Trip

    Patrick Flores-Scott
    Three Mexican-American siblings take a road trip: one dealing with PTSD following his tour in Iraq, one trying to win the heart of a girl, and one just trying to save her family.
  • 100 Years of Solitude

    Gabriel García Márquez
    100 years in the life of the Colombian Buendia family, echoing the scope of human history from genesis to apocalypse. Many consider this to be the beloved Colombian author’s best work. [Recommended by Maribel Prieto] Note from Maribel: If you can, try reading it in the original Spanish!
  • Homegoing

    Yaa Gyasi
    In eighteenth century Ghana, two Black girls will live very different lives: one to be married to a British officer and the other to be enslaved and sent to America. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • The Iliad

    Gareth Hinds
    (Graphic Fiction) A companion to Hinds’ adaption of The Odyssey, here is the story of the Ancient Greek Trojan War retold in full color graphics.
  • Let Me Hear a Rhyme

    Tiffany D. Jackson
    In pre-gentrified 1990s Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn, New York), aspiring rapper Steph is shot and killed, but his sister and friends pretend he’s still alive to score him a record deal. Told from multiple points of view. All characters are Black.
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    Adib Khorram
    Overweight, clinically depressed sophomore Darius feels like he’s constantly disappointing his Persian family, but on a trip to Iran he gets close to the boy next door, who changes his life.
  • Lost in the City

    Edward P. Jones
    Fourteen short stories about African American characters living in Washington, D.C. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • We Regret to Inform You: An Overachiever’s Guide to College Rejection

    Ariel Kaplan
    Who knew that a story about someone getting rejected from every college to which they applied could be really funny? Introducing white, Jewish senior Mischa, whose D.C. independent school might be plotting against her future success.
  • The Music of What Happens

    Bill Konigsberg
    One hot summer in Mesa, Arizona, two boys connect over a food truck and fall in love despite the homophobia and racism surrounding them. With Maximo being multiracial and Jordan white, race and class are definitely part of their story.
  • Motherless Brooklyn

    Jonathan Lethem
    This wacky 1999 take-off on the classic hard-boiled detective genre features a white detective with Tourettes Syndrome, whose compulsions get him in and out of trouble. Coming to the big screen in November.
  • Every Day

    David Levithan
    (Series) A wakes up every day in a different body, in some other teenager’s life. That’s A’s life… until the day A falls in love with A’s host’s girlfriend Rhiannon. A doesn’t have a gender, a race, or even an identity beyond those of the bodies A inhabits; this contributes significantly to the plot. The first of a series including Another Day and Someday.
  • Middle Game

    Seanan McGuire
    Telepathic twins, both with extraordinary powers, one with math and one with words, are the products of a long-running alchemical experiment. In this fast-paced sci-fi fantasy adventure, the genetically engineered pair are unaware of their role in someone else’s game. Characters are presumed white.
  • A Blade So Black

    L.L. McKinney
    Alice, a Black girl living in Atlanta, juggles an overprotective mother, a crazy best friend, her slipping GPA, and (of course!) battling monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland. An action-packed modern version of Lewis Carroll’s classic.
  • There’s Something About Sweetie

    Sandhya Menon
    In this companion novel to her award-winning When Dimple Met Rishi, two Indian American high schoolers alternate chapters to tell about how Sweetie, who considers herself fat, agrees to an arranged set of dates with the popular and athletic Ashish, despite her parents’ objections.
  • Don’t Date Rosa Santos

    Nina Moreno
    Love is never easy, especially for a Cuban American small-town Florida girl carrying a family curse about never going on the sea when the boy she likes has a boat.
  • Come Find Me

    Megan Miranda
    A captivating thriller about two teens who connect when each discovers a mysterious radio frequency, which suggests their family tragedies are mysteriously connected. Characters are presumed white.
  • All the Bright Places

    Jennifer Nivens
    This story about depression and suicide alternates between Theodore and Violet, two teenagers who meet when each is considering suicide at the same water tower and embark upon an unlikely relationship. In the book both characters are white; not so in the movie releasing this fall!
  • An Orchestra of Minorities

    Chigozie Obioma
    Narrated by a “chi,” a guardian spirit, this book tells about a Black Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves. Class and social status clash in this epic romance.
  • Bloom

    Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
    (Graphic Fiction) In this sweet romance, Greek American Ari doesn’t want to work at his father’s struggling family bakery in the summer after high school, but cooking school drop-out Hector, of Samoan heritage, and his baking skills, may just change his attitude.
  • Opposite of Always

    Justin A. Reynolds
    Time travel and romance collide; Jack and Kate are meant to be, so when she dies he is flung back to the start of their relationship… over and over, while everything else goes by the wayside. Both characters are Black.
  • If We Were Villains

    M.L. Rio
    Suspense meets Shakespeare in this mystery, in which the tensions rise among group of white actors at an elite college drama program until someone is murdered.
  • The Affairs of the Falcóns

    Melissa Rivero
    A family of undocumented Peruvian immigrants find 1990s New York City complex, confusing, and at times nearly impossible to navigate.
  • Normal People

    Sally Rooney
    This book, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, follows Connell and Marianne, two white teens in a small Irish town, who start a secret romantic relationship. As the social dynamics around them change over the next four years at college, they break apart, together, apart, together, etc.
  • Tell Me How You Really Feel

    Aminah Mae Safi
    This smart lesbian romance features two high school seniors, white Jewish filmmaker Rachel and Persian-South Asian Muslim cheerleader Sana, who get stuck together on a school project, and fight against an inevitable romantic conclusion.
  • The 57 Bus

    Dashka Slater
    A fictionalization of a real event, when a young Black man impulsively committed a hate crime against a gender queer white teen on a bus in Oakland, California, and what happened next.
  • Hearts Unbroken

    Cynthia Leitich Smith
    The race-blind casting of a school production creates waves in seventeen-year-old Mvskoke Indian Louise’s small Kansas town, where she’s already dealing with an ex-boyfriend who spouts ignorant anti-Nativist sentiments.
  • Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda

    J.P. Stassen
    (Graphic Fiction) A Black Tutsi boy named Deogratias shows the reader his experiences of the genocide of his people in Rwanda, before and after the killings. This book is a translation and reissue of the original, which came out in French in 2000.
  • Heads of the Colored People

    Nafissa Thompson-Spires
    DC’s One Read for 2019 is a short story collection confronting archetypes of identity head-on in sometimes very dark and funny ways.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Mark Twain
    This epic tale of young, white Huckleberry and his Black companion, the escaped slave Jim, on the Mississippi River, is considered by many to be the greatest of all great American novels. [Recommended by Julia Fisher]
  • Kiss Number 8

    Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw
    (Graphic Fiction) Maddie, a white Catholic, thinks she’s happy until she learns a family secret that upends her acceptance of the rigid gender binary system, her own sexuality, and her feelings for her female best friend.
  • On a Sunbeam

    Tillie Walden
    (Graphic Fiction) Originally written as a webcomic, this 533-paged anti-capitalist queer sci-fi novel alternates between Mia’s life and romance with fellow student Grace at an elite boarding school and the life she lives now on an interplanetary journey. Mia is assumed white, Grace is inked with darker skin.
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker

    Jen Wang
    (Graphic Fiction) Prince Sebastian is supposed to be looking for a bride, but he’s too busy being the drag queen Lady Crystallia, with the secret help of his friend and dressmaker Frances. Characters are all white in this Eurocentric kingdom.
  • Code Name Verity

    Elizabeth Wein
    A Scottish spy, being tortured by the Gestapo during World War II, weaves a tale of how she got there. A remarkable story of friendship in a time of inhumanity. All characters are white. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • The Martian

    Andy Weir
    Stranded on Mars, white astronaut Mark Watney must use every bit of his scientific knowledge and personal strength to survive in this suspenseful novel.
  • Native Son

    Richard Wright
    You met the modern day Bigger on HBO. Now read the original 1940 classic about this young African American man on the South Side of Chicago who murders a white woman.
  • The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days

    Lisa Yee
    This angst-filled but funny book features Harvard-bound Chinese-American senior Higgs Boson Biggs, whose whole life falls apart over a hypothetical question: would he give his girlfriend a kidney? [Recommended by Emily Landau]
  • Nicola Yoon

    Nicola Yoon
    One summer morning in New York City, Korean-American Daniel and African American Natasha meet and change both of their destinies forever. Read the book before you see the movie!


List of 10 items.

  • Strangers Assume My Girlfriend Is My Nurse

    Shane Burcaw
    Lightly comedic essays that aren’t just about Burcaw’s day-to-day life as a white wheelchair user with a degenerative disease, but also touch upon family, love and coming of age.
  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her SuperPower

    Brittney Cooper
    Cooper embraces, reframes, and affirms the power of the label “angry Black woman.” [Recommended by Lakaya Renfrow]
  • American Like Me: Reflections of Life Between Cultures

    America Ferrera, editor
    32 first-person stories by actors, comedians, athletes, politicians, artists, and writers whose identities as immigrants, indigenous people, or people who otherwise grew up with deep and personal connections to more than one culture. [Recommended by Lakaya Renfrow]
  • A Fire Story

    Brian Fies
    (Graphic Memoir) A personal account by a white cartoonist who lived through the devastation and loss caused by the wildfires in Northern California in October of 2017.
  • Gender Queer: A Memoir

    Maia Kobabe
    (Graphic Memoir) An explicit and unflinchingly honest look at Maia’s journey through understanding and developing eir gender identity as neither male nor female. Maia is white and uses e/em/eir pronouns.
  • Born a Crime

    Trevor Noah
    The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah tells about growing up as the son of a Black Xhosa woman and a white Swiss father in South Africa, when his parents’ relationship was illegal. [Recommended by Russell Shaw]
  • Becoming

    Michelle Obama
    A New York Times bestseller, this autobiography of the Black lawyer and First Lady reveals her also to be a consummate storyteller. [Recommended by Michelle Cobb]
  • Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist

    Franchesca Ramsey
    A collection of personal essays by Black video blogger and MTV star Ramsey, exploring race, identity, online activism, and the pitfalls of online communications. [Recommended by Lakaya Renfrow]
  • Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth/ Nuestras Historias, Nuestra Verdad

    [Bilingual Spanish and English Cartoon Collection] Teens at the Latin American Youth Center in D.C. worked together to write their stories about immigration and transformation in cartoon format. [Recommended by Maribel Prieto]
  • Educated

    Tara Westover
    Born in rural Idaho to Mormon survivalists who didn’t believe in education, the author tells the story of how she educated herself out of her narrow life. [Recommended by Amanda Deringer and Kristina Lennox]


List of 28 items.

  • The Young Champion’s Mind: How to Think, Train, and Thrive Like an Elite Athlete

    Jim Afremow
    Strategies for improving your mental skills to be the best athlete you can be. Adapted for teen readers from The Champion’s Mind (2014), this version focuses on issues of particular relevance to young athletes.
  • We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide

    Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden
    This adaption of Anderson’s best-selling White Rage for teen readers is an excellent introduction to the history and current status of race relations in the U.S.
  • Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital

    Christopher Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove
    This extensive book views D.C. history through the lens of its African American residents, from the 18th century through the present. [Recommended by Topher Dunne]
  • Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky

    David Bowles
    Pre-Columbian Mexican mythology pulled together into a fascinating epic narrative.
  • Blacklisted! Hollywood, The Cold War, and the First Amendment

    Larry Dane Brimner
    Details the story of 19 men from the film industry who were investigated for suspected communist ties during the Cold War, and the ten who refused to cooperate with the Un-American Activities Committee.
  • Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

    Box Brown
    (Graphic Non-fiction) Cartoonist Brown tells the story of how cannabis legislation has been linked to racism from the 19th century through today.
  • Atom Land: A Guided Tour Through the Strange (And Impossibly Small) World of Particle Physics

    Jim Butterworth
    Using the metaphor of a sea voyage into the unknown, Butterworth explains particle physics in engaging and easily comprehensible language.
  • Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge

    Erica Armstrong Dunbar
    Ona Judge learned the Washingtons were evading local law by keeping her enslaved when they moved to Philadelphia. Learn about the extraordinary lengths our white first president went to in order to get back his Black “property.”
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

    Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
    The history of the continental U.S., told from the perspective of the indigenous people who were here before colonization. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do

    Jennifer L. Eberhardt
    Eberhardt, while not the first to write on the topic of the hidden biases we all carry, clearly explains the research and ways to make changes in ourselves.
  • American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan

    Matt Farwell and Michael Ames
    If you’ve never heard of the young, white American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, look him up quick…and then pick up this book, which examines the strange and complicated events surrounding his story. Not a politically neutral book: Farwell and Ames give definite opinions about the politics of America’s presence in Afghanistan.
  • Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

    Joanne B. Freeman
    Yes, our white members of Congress waved guns and physically fought each other while in session in those contentious days leading up to the Civil War. Historian Dr. Freeman’s research brings this era and its people to life. [Recommended by Sue Ikenberry]
  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice

    Lawrence Goldstone
    Did you know that on Easter Sunday in 1873, an organized group of white supremacists murdered over one hundred unarmed African Americans in one Louisiana county? Did you know not a single person was ever convicted? An exposé on one of U.S. history’s horrific chapters.
  • The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s and the American Political Tradition

    Linda Gordon
    Gordon’s timely examination of the KKK’s rise in the 1920’s has disturbing connotations for today’s rise in White Power terrorist group action. [Recommended by the History Department]
  • This Noble Woman: Myrtilla Miner and Her Fight to Establish a School for African American Girls in the Slaveholding South

    Michael M. Greenburg
    A white ally in the fight against racial injustice, Myrtilla Miner was a teacher who fervently believed in education for all.
  • Vaccination Investigation: The History and Science of Vaccines

    Tara Haelle
    The fascinating history of vaccines, their important role in protecting community health, and the excitement of cutting-edge research.
  • The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai

    Ha Jin
    Bai, one of China’s most celebrated poets, is a legendary figure who lived in the first century. Jin uses the poet’s own words and the legends surrounding him to create an engaging glimpse into Bai’s life and times.
  • Attucks! Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City.

    Phillip Hoose
    In 1955, ten Black boys from a racially segregated Indiana high school challenged the myths of their inferiority with their unbeatable basketball team.
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

    Zora Neale Hurston
    Based on interviews with ex-slave Cudjo Lewis and using his own words and dialect, Hurston completed this biography in 1931, but publishers refused to publish it because it wasn’t “proper English.” A painfully honest look at the life of one enslaved African man. [Recommended by Annie Thrower-Patterson]
  • The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

    Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
    Lukianoff and Haidt, in line with conservative political thought, argue that college campuses are suppressing ideas, words, and discussion in the name of protecting people’s sensibilities.
  • Glimmer of Hope

    March for Our Lives
    In their own words, with 100% of proceedings from book sales channelled into the movement: How a group of teenagers moved from rage to action, creating one of the largest youth-led movements in history.
  • Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought

    Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich
    Have you ever thought about the foods you could eat to help solve the global hunger crisis?
  • Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

    Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña
    (Graphic Biography) This beautifully made biography of Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide looks at her from many angles, mixing cartooning with original art, first-person prose, lyrical writing, and reproductions of Iturbide’s work.
  • An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System

    Matt Richtel
    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Richtel examines the immune system and recent advances in treating immune disease and disorders.
  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World -- and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

    Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund
    Statistics show that…well, which statistics should you believe, and why? Thoughts from a statistician.
  • Breaking and Entering: the Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called “Alien”

    Jeremy N. Smith
    The thrilling true-life story of a white woman whose very dangerous work is in exposing security vulnerabilities, and the perils she risked to gain these specialized skills.
  • Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule

    Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis
    The little-told story of Germans who worked against the Nazi machine, many from inside the power structure.
  • The Blood of Emmett Till

    Timothy B. Tyson
    This multiple-award-winning title examines the 1955 murder of African American teenager Emmett Till in rural Mississippi, an event which helped to spur the Civil Rights Movement. [Recommended by the History Department]

Summer Reading Challenge

Submit a photo of yourself reading a book. We'd love to see photos of PK-12th grade students reading this summer! We will use all the photos for a joyful collage of reading at the beginning of the school year.

Feel free to be creative!

Email your photo to library@gds.org.


4530 MacArthur Boulevard, NW, Washington, DC 20007


4200 Davenport Street, NW, Washington, DC 20016

Georgetown Day School is a coed, preK-12, non-sectarian private school in Washington, DC with small class sizes and a diverse school community. Our comprehensive, innovative curriculum includes hands-on learning, honors and AP classes, as well as advanced-level math and STEM courses. An education is not just college prep and SAT scores. GDS teachers focus on providing the best education for each child, from elementary grades through high school. The school performing arts program includes theater, dance, and music. The athletics program offers competitive sports for student athletes, including cross-country, track, soccer, lacrosse, and crew/rowing. With our strong commitment to financial aid, an independent school tuition is affordable.