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Five of my favorite books I recommend each year to high school and college students looking for summer reading.


ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons


The Shadow of the Wind


The God of Small Things


A few of my favorites for high school

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Arundhati Roy


This novel, written by Kaye Gibbons, shows incredible mastery of the written word

This novel may be short, butit's certainly not light. At the start of the novel, Ellen Foster is a white, 9-year-old girl who lives in an abusive home with an alcoholic father and mournful mother. Despite her young age, Ellen spends much of her childhood needing to fend for herself, and the book explores themes of identity, home, isolation, race and class. Her best friend, Starletta, is a poor black girl with kind parents, and Ellen grapples with questions about race as she gravitates towards her friend's family while silmultaneously demonstrating learned racism against people of color.


Not to be confused with The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells!

This was my favorite book during my time in high school and was optional reading for my AP lit. class. Invisible Man, published in 1952, tells the story of an unnamed black man who lives in an underground room with power stolen from the city's electric grid. Through the experiences of his protagonist and his powerful use of metaphor, Ellison address questions of black identity, Marxism, individuality, personal identity and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, Invisible Man won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953 and has been included in prominent lists of the 20th century's best novels.


Carlos Ruiz Zafón's page turner and a worldwide bestseller.

Full of mystery and suspense,The Shaow of the Wind is a contemporary gothic novel. full of missing books, espionage, death and forbidden love. Ruiz Zafón takes readers on a harrowing journey through time as they discover a story within a story through the protagonist, the son of a bookshop owner, Daniel Sempere. After visiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and picking out The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax, Daniel learns that someone has been searching for all of Carax's books and then burning them. The question remains: What secret do Carax's books hold that must be destroyed?


Looking for a master of words? Look no further than Toni Morrison's rich descriptions and creative use of language.

This novel will have you singing and crying. Morrison's unique use of language means that you know a book is hers without checking for the author's name. Beloved was inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, an African American who escaped slavery in Kentucky in 1856 by crossing the Ohio River to Ohio, a free state. When captured, she killed her child rather than have her taken back into slavery. This novel uses elements of magical realism to bring fantasy into the story of its protagonist, Sethe, and to illustrate the pain caused by slavery as well as the unbreakable bonds between a mother and her daughter,


A shocking work that explores trauma, history, class abuse and loyalty.

A story of twins...and a book of epic proportions. It's set in 1969, when fraternal twins Rahel (girl) and Esthappen (boy) are seven years old, and 1993, when the twins are reunited in India. The God of Small Things shows how the smallest of actions forever changes the course of the twins' lives. Some critics have claimed that the twins represent India... read this novel and see what you think. I'd suggest keeping notes on who the characters are for the first few chapters. The book gains speed a few chapters in and reads like a roller coaster.