50 Must-Read​ Books for Eighth Graders

11 min


308 shares

Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading. 

Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.

First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.

Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selection as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.

Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.

One final note: today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.

Eighth Grade

Eighth grade students are on the cusp of high school, so the books on this list are reflective of their level of increasing maturity. Many of the books on this list are appropriate for middle school and high school students.

Just so you know, Bored Teachers may get a small share of the sales made through the Amazon affiliate links on this page.

1. Refugee

by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz

BUY NOW

Refugee is one of those “everyone must read this book” books. It span ages and is equally powerful as a middle school or high school text. This is the journey of three children, all refugees, fleeing from a terror regime. Josef lives in Germany and flees from the Nazis with his family; Isabel tries to escape Cuba for American shores, and Mahmoud is a modern-day Syrian refugee. Though they are from different times in history, their stories intersect in surprising ways. 

2. Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

BUY NOW

In a dystopian world where the economy has crashed, people around the world log into the Oasis, a virtual reality platform. The creator of the Oasis, an eccentric billionaire, has died and left his fortune buried somewhere within the game. This story follows teenager Wade as he gets closer and closer to the treasure, a dangerous game when so many want what he is close to having. 

3. Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey by Aaron Becker

BUY NOW

This is a wordless picture book that is about a girl who, using a magic marker, draws herself an escape from the ordinary into the extraordinary. It’s sort of a Harold’s Purple Crayon for adolescents and adults, with a more nuanced story and theme. 

4. Peter and the Starcatchers

by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

BUY NOW

Humor authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson imagine an origin story for Peter Pan. How did Peter end up in Neverland and what happened to his parents? Why is Hook afraid of crocodiles? Where did Tinkerbell come from, and who are the lost boys? All these questions and more are answered, and this book is both a page-turner and laugh-out-loud funny. 

5. Keeper of the Night

by Kimberley Willis Holt

Keeper of the Night by Kimberley Willis Holt

BUY NOW

Keeper of the Night takes place in Guam, and the story is richly populated with details enough to make the reader feel like they’ve stepped into Isabel’s world. Isabel’s mother has died, leaving her family reeling. Isabel wants to piece her family back together, and this is the story of how she does so. 

6. The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

BUY NOW

Nobody Owens, or Bod, is a toddler who inadvertently escapes from Jack, who murders his family. Bod winds up in the local graveyard and is raised by ghosts. When Bod reaches adolscence, however, he wants to stretch his legs and explore away from his ghost family, a proposition that could prove very dangerous to him, indeed. 

7. Science Verse

by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

BUY NOW

Science is delivered here in raucous poetic form. The author and illustrator combine to create an innate dance through science, from the food chain to the creation of a black hole. 

8. Moonshot

by Brian Floca

Moonshot by Brian Floca

BUY NOW

Moonshot is Brian Floca’s retelling of the Apollo 11 moon landing in picture book form. Floca is well-known for creating picture books about the machines that humans take journeys in, and as with his other works, this one is marvelous. 

9. Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

BUY NOW

Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz in the 1930s, when the prison housed the likes of Al Capone. Moose is one of 23 children living on the island because their parents work as prison guards or cooks or doctors. The kids get into all sorts of trouble on the small island, and this is a highly engaging story about those anctics. There are three other Alcatraz books after this one. 

10. Flying Lessons and Other Stories

edited by Ellen Oh

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

BUY NOW

This short story collection is a compendium of stories from today’s top teen authors, and there’s something for everyone, including a short story in verse. 

11. Touching Spirit Bear

by Ben Mikaelsen

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

BUY NOW

Instead of going to juvey, Cole Matthews is sent to the remote, Alaskan Circle Justice, a rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders like himself. Cole is attacked by a white bear, what is sometimes called a spirit bear, and left for dead. The attack changes Cole’s outlook and this is ultimately a story of redemption. 

12. Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

by Melissa Sweet

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

BUY NOW

American icon E.B. White is perhaps best known for Charlotte’s Web, but he was a prolific writer who wrote essays, contributed to the New Yorker, and published many other children’s books, too. This book is a lengthier picture book biography of White that includes many letters and other family artifacts that give readers an insight into this iconic American writer. 

13. Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

by Temple Grandin

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin

BUY NOW

Temple Grandin, the renowned spokesperson for autism, shares her insight into the various ways a person can solve a problem. The message of this book is that there is more than one way to look at the world, to think about things, to use your imagination and to arrive at a new idea. Grandin does this by looking at inventions and the thought process behind them.

14. The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

BUY NOW

Nisha watches her home country of India divide into India and Pakistan in 1947, and suddenly, Muslims and Hindus are being killed crossing the new border. Nisha’s family decides they, too, must cross, and she fears for her life during the long journey. 

15. Zen Shorts

by Jon J. Muth

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth

BUY NOW

A giant panda moves into the neighborhood and begins telling children ancient Zen tales in this picture book. Author/illustrator Jon Muth followed up the popular Zen Shorts with a number of other Zen tales (including Zen Ghosts and Zen Ties) which are all worth reading. 

16. Bound by Ice

by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

Bound by Ice by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

BUY NOW

The ship Jeannette sets sail for the Arctic from San Francisco, looking for a route to the North Pole. The ship becomes locked inside Arctic ice and sinks after two years adrift. The crew escape on lifeboats and make a harrowing journey back to civilization that not all survice. 

17. Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World

by Laurie Lawlor

Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor

BUY NOW

Six mini biographies are included in this book. Each paints a portrait of a lesser-known woman scientist who relentlessly pursued her studies despite obstacles in her path, many of which were gender-based. The biographies are accompanied by photographs, and the whole package is an engaging read. 

18. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth

BUY NOW

Three of today’s well-known poets, Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, write poems in honor of their favorite poets. 

19. Stormy Seas: Stories of young boat refugees

by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Eleanor Shakespeare

Stormy Seas: Stories of young boat refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Eleanor Shakespeare

BUY NOW

Contrasted with Refugee, at the start of this list, this book is a collection of five true stories about refugees who boarded a boat in search of a better life. Many infographics are included alongside the stories with more historical informatin. 

20. Strong Inside

(Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss

Strong Inside (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss

BUY NOW

Perry Wallace was the first black man to play college basketball in the Southeastern Conference. He accepted an offer to play ball at Vanderbilt and crossed into a world where hatred and racism were deeply entrenched. This is his story. 

21. The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini

by Deborah Noyes

The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini by Deborah Noyes

BUY NOW

Harry Houdini, in addition to being a magician and stage performer, had a fascination for the occult. He spent much time investigating whether or not accounts of contact with “the other side” were real or just stage illusions like his own. 

22. Ender’s Game

by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

BUY NOW

Set in the near future, the earth has been attacked by aliens called buggers. The earth must mount a resistance force before the aliens come back, and the military turns to elite child genuises. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is the best of the best and he is taken from his family and trained to be the military general that will lead the fight against the aliens. 

23. The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

BUY NOW

A band of dwarves plus the unlikely companion of hobbit Bilbo Baggins set out to steal back treasure from the dangerous dragon Smaug. This classic novel is a prequel to the longer Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

24. Better Nate Than Ever

by Tim Federle

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

BUY NOW

Nate Foster wants to star in a broadway show more than he wants anything else in life, but he knows he will never get close if he remains in his homestate of Pennslyvania. He learns that there is an open casting call for a musical and makes a daring trip to New York City to be there for it. 

25. Not your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Not your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

BUY NOW

Jessica’s parents are superheroes, but Jessica is not. She just wants to get an internship to help her get into a good college. The internship she ends up getting is in the employ of her parents’ arch enemies but allows Jessica to work alongside Abby, who she has a secret crush on. 

26. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelly

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

BUY NOW

Calpurnia’s grandfather is a naturalist, and the two of them bond when she asks him some scientific questions about grasshoppers. Their relationship grows, as does Calpurnia’s interest in science. 

27. The House of the Scorpion

by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

BUY NOW

Matt is a clone of El Patrón, who divided his cells in a test tube and then placed his developing embroyo in the uterus of a cow. The world sees Matt as an abomination but Matt didn’t ask to be created, and now that he’s here, he’s grappling with his identity and navigating the dangerous world occupied by El Patrón.

28. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir

by Margarita Engle

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

BUY NOW

Margarita lives in Los Angeles, except when she lives in Cuba during the summer with her mother. Margarita loves Cuba and lives for those summer months. But the United States is trapped in the Cold War, and when Cuba becomes a central part of the conflict, Margarita’s two sides are suddenly at war. 

29. Forget Me Not

by Ellie Terry

 Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

BUY NOW

Calliope has never felt like she fits in, which is perhaps why she turns to the night skies. She loves astronomy, and the stars do not judge her for having Tourettes like the kids at school do. It’s only when Calliope’s mom moves her to another new school that she finally starts to make friends. 

30. The Outsiders

by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

BUY NOW

It’s the Socs versus the Greasers in this iconic novel about Ponyboy and his buddies. The boys live on the outskirts of society and sometimes scuffles break out between the two groups. One night, things go too far. 

31. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

by Carolyn Mackler

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

BUY NOW

Virginia is a plus-sized teenager, which makes everything about being a teenager harder. She feels pathetic next to her perfect family, especially her perfect brother. But then a serious accusation is levied against her brother, and the family’s world is rocked to its core. 

32. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

BUY NOW

Steve Harmon is 16 and is being tried for murder after he was the lookout in the shooting of a drugstore owner. Steve, prior to the murder trial, was an amateur filmmaker so he transcribes his experiences, and Monster is the result. 

33. Lucky Broken Girl

by Ruth Behar

 Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

BUY NOW

Ruthie Mizrahi’s family has moved to the United States from Cuba. Here, she suffers a horrific accident that leaves her in a full body cast for an entire year. Because Ruthie can’t move, the book is mostly her inner monologue, which grows over the bedridden year.

34. The First Rule of Punk

by Celia C. Perez

The First Rule of Punk  by Celia C. Perez

BUY NOW

Malú learns the first rule of punk from her dad, and it’s “be yourself.” Which is all fine until Malú colossally messes up her first day of school. She decides to try her dad’s advice and assembles a punk band of misfits, finding herself along the way. 

35. Breakout

by Kate Messner

Breakout by Kate Messner

BUY NOW

Nora’s summer vacation plans are majorly messed up when the nearby prison experiences a high-profile prison break. Suddenly, the neighborhood is on house arrest. This is a multi-genre novel told in many formats including comics, poems, and letters. 

36. Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

BUY NOW

Algernon is a lab mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his IQ, and soon this surgery is applied to Charlie Gordon. The operation successfully increases Charlie’s intelligence, but only temporarily, and he is forced to watch himself regress.  It’s a book both heartbreaking and important. 

37. The Alchemist: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

by Michael Scott

The Alchemist: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel  by Michael Scott

BUY NOW

This is the first in a six-book fantasy series. This particular installment is about Nicholas Flamel, the famed alychemist. Legend has it, he did not die in 1418, as his tomb states, but that he lives on today making the elixir that keeps him immortal. But when a modern day villian sets out to steal Flamel’s magic book, two kids step in to stop him. 

38. The Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

BUY NOW

Millionaire Samuel W. Westing dies at the beginning of the book and the tenants in his building are named as heirs in his will. The tenants are paired off and told the first team to solve the puzzle contained in the will will inherit Westing’s entire fortune. 

39. A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

BUY NOW

At the beginning of the book, protagonist Conor is fighting a number of monsters – bullies at school, a monster in his nightmares, and the grief associated with an ill family member. Then a real monster shows up and Conor is forced to face some truths within himself. 

40. Fallen Angels

by Walter Dean Myers

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

BUY NOW

Perry volunteers for the Vietnam War, and he is sent to the front lines where he must face the horrors of war. 

41. When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

BUY NOW

Miranda receives mysterious notes that predict the future. So, when the notes instruct her to write a letter, she feels she must do as she is told. There is a nice mystery woven in, and some time travel to boot. 

42. Mortal Engines

by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

BUY NOW

In this fascinating and creative futuristic world, cities have been turned into rolling behemoths that hunt down and tear apart other cities. This is the first book in a four-part series. There is lots of world-building and some excellent character development. 

43. The Book of Boy

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

BUY NOW

A protagonist known as Boy is bullied for his hump and so spends his time along in the woods communing with the animals. He is found by a man named Secondus who hires Boy as a servant. Secondus has a mission, which involves thieving ancient relics with Boy’s help. 

44. Willa of the Wood

by Robert Beatty

Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty

BUY NOW

Willa is a night spirit, and she hates humans for the havoc the wreak on nature. She steals from humans as revenge, but one day winds up hurt, leaving her vulnerable during daylight hours. 

45. Grenade

by Alan Gratz

Grenade by Alan Gratz

BUY NOW

Grenade is the story of two young men. Hideki, who is in the Japanese army during WWII, and Ray, an American soldier in Japan. The two collide with orders to kill each other and they each must make a choice. 

46. Olivia Twist

by Lorie Langdon

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

BUY NOW

In this spin on Oliver Twist, Olivia is raised among Long street thieves until her uncle takes her into high society after a thieving episode goes wrong. But even though she is allowed to live a life of comfort, she cannot forget the London orphans and so sneaks away to offer her help. 

47. The Seventh Most Important Thing

by Shelley Pearsall

 The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

BUY NOW

Arthur finds himself facing a judge after he threw a brick at a garbage truck and hit the Junk Man in the arm. The Junk Man offers to let Arthur do community service with him, who sets Arthur to combing through trash searching for a list of seven important things. 

48. The Thing About Jellyfish

by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

BUY NOW

Suzy’s best friend dies in a drowning accident, but Suzy is convinced the accident was caused by a jellyfish sting. In her grief, she retreats into her imagination and comes up with a plan to prove her theory correct. 

49. Summer of the Gypsy Moths

by Sara Pennypacker

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

BUY NOW

Aunt Louise has taken in her niece Stella, and Stella loves living with her aunt. Until that is, Louise opens her home to another foster child, Angel, who Stella does not get along with. Aunt Louise dies and the two girls decide not to tell anyone. 

50. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

BUY NOW

Lily and Dunkin are both dealing with heavy situations. Lily was born a boy but knows she’s a girl, whereas Dunkin has bipolar disorder. The two become friends and help each other cope. 

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

50 Must-Read​ Books for Eighth Graders

Like it? Share with your friends!

308 shares
AuthorAmy

Veteran Member

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

Choose A Format
Article
Share your amazing stories, tips, opinions, and other stuff that matters.
Video
Upload your funny, inspiring, DIY, or informative video(s) for the world to see!
Personality quiz
Leave the serious quizzes at school, these are strictly fun! You make the questions and pre-define the results.
Trivia quiz
Time to test your friends' knowledge! You choose the subject and have fun seeing who scores the highest!
Poll
Pose any question to millions of educators by creating your own polls/surveys, whether for research, for fun, or for the sake of curiosity!
List
Make your own classic internet listicle using photos, gifs, and/or videos (i.e. '9 Things/Reasons/Times/Ways...', 'Teacher Life: As Told By...', etc.)
Open List
Submit your own item and vote up for the best submission
Photo
Share your classroom decor, costumes, funny classroom antics, silly grading moments, or other teacher life shenanigans!