50 Must-Read Books for Eleventh Graders

Must-read books for 11th graders

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.

Eleventh Grade

Eleventh grade is often the time when students take language arts classes focused on American history and culture. For that reason, this list is filled with historical fiction and nonfiction titles as well as books that delve into contemportary American issues. 

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

1. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

 The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Get it HERE.

Death personified narrates this book set during the Holocaust. He tells the story of a young girl named Liesel Meminger, whose moth gives her and her brother to a foster family out of wartime desperation. Liesel’s brother dies within the first few pages, and at his perfunctory burial, she steals a book out of impulse. Liesel’s life in Nazi Germany is populated by moments of book thievery, which end up feeding her soul and saving her life. 

2. Revolution

by Deborah Wiles

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Get it HERE.

Revolution (and its precursor, Countdown) are being called documentary novels, because they contain a fictional story interwoven with historical artifacts – quotes, song lyrics, compelling photographs, etc. This book is like reading a time capsule. In it, Freedom Summer in Mississippi is seen through the eyes of preteen Sunny, who doesn’t understand why her town is suddenly invaded by white people from the north or why a registering black people to vote makes so many people angry. 

3. Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Get it HERE.

At the end of World War II, refugees were loaded onto the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff for transport. Soviet ships torpedoed the boat, killing 9,343 people. Salt to the Sea tells the story of the boat’s sinking from the alternating perspectives of four passengers aboard the ship. Ruta Sepetys is a master at young adult historical fiction. 

4. Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Get it HERE.

Dread Nation imagines a world where the Civil War is interrupted by a zombie apocalpyse. Jane McKeene is a young black woman attending a special kind of finishing school – one where she learns to kill zombies for whatever rich white family hires her for their protection. Jane just wants to return home to make sure her mother is safe but finds herself caught up in a conspiracy where racial tensions run high. 

5. Boys on the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation)

by Daniel James Brown

Boys on the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation) by Daniel James Brown

Get it HERE.

This is the true story of a crew team from the University of Washington in the 1936 Olympics. The team of blue collar students roundly defeated elite East Coast teams in an unexpected routing and went on to row against the German crew boat. 

6. Audacity

by Melanie Crowder

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Get it HERE.

This novel in verse is inspired by the true story of Clara Lemlich who came to New York via Russia at the turn of the twentieth century and refused to work in factories with poor working conditions. She ultimately organizes a strike of women factory workers in an event known as the Uprising of 20,000. 

7. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

7. Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

Get it HERE.

Easily one of the most important graphic novels ever, Maus depicts the author’s father recounting his time living during the Holocaust. In this story, the Jews are depicted as mice and the Nazis as predatory cats, but don’t think for a second that using animals instead of people tones down the violence of history. This is a brutal, unflinching look at an ugly time in history. 

8. Egg and Spoon

by Gregory Maguire

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Get it HERE.

Author Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame conjures up a fairy tale brimming with elements of Russian folklore. It’s a case of mistaken identity when a peasant from the countryside switches lives with the daughter of a noble family. The Russian witch Baba Yaga and her house that walks around on chicken legs really steals the show in this book. 

9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Get it HERE.

At first, Aristotle and Dante seem to have nothing in common when their lives collide one summer at the public swimming pool. Over the summer, however, they develop a friendship that turns into a relationship in this coming-of-age story. 

10. #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women

edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Get it HERE.

This book is a powerful collection of art created by Native American women to capture the experience of being native. The writing changes from poetry to essays to art pieces, but together they create a portrait of powerful indigenious women demanding to be heard. 

11. Royal Bastards

by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Get it HERE.

Tilla is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent. She is relegated to the bastards table at royal events while her father lavishes attention on his royal children. One day, a princess visits and scandalizes everyone by sitting with Tilla at her table during a banquet. The two young women find themselves fast friends and, exploring the kingdom late at night, they witness a crime they were never meant to see. 

12. Everything, Everything

by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Get it HERE.

Maddy has a disease known as SCIDs, or severe combined immunodeficiency. In layman’s terms, she’s essentially allergic to everything and lives inside in a carefully controlled environment. From her bedroom, she watches the boy next door move in. His name is Olly. From that moment, Maddy decides to risk her health for the sake of being a normal teenager who just wants to date a nice boy. 

13. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Get it HERE.

Justyce McAllister is an honor roll student and an all-around good guy who winds up handcuffed in a moment of racial profiling. To cope with the injustice, and a mounting awareness of the racism that is pervasive in his world, Jus starts writing letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. in his notebook. It’s an important book.

14. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

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

Get it HERE.

Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, The Family Romanov tells the true story of Russia’s last royal family. It’s a nonfiction book, of course, but it reads like a novel and would be a great starting place for teens looking to foray into the world of nonfiction. 

15. Replica by Lauren Oliver

Replica by Lauren Oliver

Get it HERE.

Half of the story is Lyra’s. Lyra is a replica, a human model raised in the Haven Institute. Haven is attacked, and Lyra escapes, along with a boy known as 72. The other half of the story is Gemma’s. Gemma is chronically ill and discovers her father’s connection to the Haven Institute, which leads her to travel to the institute and encounter the two escaped replicas. The book has two covers and two starting places – read it like normal for one story, then turn it over and upside down for the other perspective. 

16. Midnight at the Electric

by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Get it HERE.

This novel bounces between three perspectives. First the reader meets Adri, living in 2065, as she is getting ready to be on the first manned space mission to Mars. Adri discovers the journal of Catherine, from 1934 who is trying to survive the Dust Bowl, and Lenore, who, in 1919, is planning a voyage from England to America. The three stories intertwine in engaging ways, and the characters are remarkably well-developed. 

17. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Get it HERE.

Mercy Wong, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, uses her wits (and a little bribery) to earn her admitance to St. Clare’s School for Girls. Mercy finds herself a bit in over her head when disaster strikes in the form of a massive earthquake. Mercy must rise above the petty squabbles of her classmates and help them survive, because help is coming no time soon. 

18. Once and For All

by Sarah Dessen

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Get it HERE.

Louna doesn’t believe in love anymore, which makes it that much more ironic that she works as a wedding planner. Along comes Ambrose, who sets his sights on Louna. He just has to convince her to give love a second chance. 

19. Solo

by Kwame Alexander

Get it HERE.

Blade is the son of a former rock star turned drug addict, and everyone assumes that because Blade loves music, Blade will wind up just like his father. They even forbid him from seeing his girlfriend Chapel. When a family secret threatens to change life as Blade knows it, he must decide what to do next. 

20. A Psalm for Lost Girls

by Katie Bayerl

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl

Get it HERE.

Teen Tess De Costa passes away, and her town petitions the Pope to grant her sainthood. Tess’ sister Callie, who knew Tess best of all, wants to prove to the world that Tess was more than this saint caricature that everyone is making her out to be. But when Callie starts investigating Tess’ life, she unearths some secrets she wishes she hadn’t known. 

21. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Get it HERE.

This is the classic coming of age story. It features Charlie as he travels the usual roads through adolescence – heartache, love, drugs, new friends. As Charlie observes the outer world from his position as a wallflower, he also starts to look inward to understand who he is becoming. 

22. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Get it HERE.

Astrid Jones spends her days watching airplanes flying overhead. She begins to tell the passengers thousands of feet above her her greatest fears and secrets, including her budding romance with a girl. 

23. The Marrow Thieves

by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Get it HERE.

In this dark, dystopian story, Native Americans are being hunted for their marrow, which people believe will bring back the ability to dream. The world has been practically destroyed by global warming, humanity turns desperate. 

 24. Midwinterblood

by Marcus Sedgwick 

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Get it HERE.

Midwinterblood is seven separate stories with interwoven elements. All seven stories take place on a Scandanavian island called Blessed. Blessed is more than just an island; magic lurks and infuses the stories with atmospheric ambiance. 

25. Damsel

by Elana K. Arnold

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Get it HERE.

Ama is rescued from a dragon by the handsome Prince Emory, who tells her his heroic tale and takes her back to his kindgom of Harding to wed. But Ama has no memory of the time before the dragon took her, and once in Harding she learns the secrets behinds the damsels and dragons that everyone would rather stay hidden. 

26. The Monstrumologist

by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist

Get it HERE.

Will Henry is an apprentice to a doctor who specializes in monster hunting. One dark night, an Anthropophagus is brought to the doctor, a monster about to unleash horror upon the world unless Will can stop it. This is the first in a four-book series. 

27. A Wreath for Emmett Till

by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by Philippe Lardy

A Wreath for Emmett Till written by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by Philippe Lardy

Get it HERE.

This beautiful picture book features a poem written to honor the legacy of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teen who was brutally murdered and who helped inspire the civil rights movement. 

28. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Get it HERE.

Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect journey through the galaxy doing research for Prefect’s book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Filled with oddballs and whimsy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has quite the cult following. In it, you will learn the answer to life, the universe, and everything. 

29. Code Talker

by Joseph Bruchac

Get it HERE.

This historical fiction novel tells the story of World War II Navajo code talkers. Specifically, the story centers on Ned Begay, who becomes a code talker, braves the horrors of war, and saves lives. 

30. Night

by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

Get it HERE.

This is Elie Wiesel’s blunt, brutal account of surviving Nazi death camps. Readers get a horrifying firsthand account of life in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel also spends time reflecting on the human condition that allowed such an atrocity as the Holocaust to happen. 

31. The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Get it HERE.

The Things They Carried is a loose collection of stories, vignettes, and moments designed to capture what it meant to be a soldier during the Vietnam War. 

32. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

by Ishmael Beah

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

Get it HERE.

Ishamel Beah was conscripted into the Sierra Leone army as a 13 year old boy. This is his autobiographical account of what it was like to be a child soldier witnessing and partaking in the absolute horrors of war. 

33. The Radium Girls

by Kate Moore

Get it HERE.

At the turn of the twentieth century, young women worked in factories with a promising new substance isolated by the Curies known as radium. These women were responsible for painting watch faces with the sparkly new substance. They did not know about the terrible health hazards they would face later in life thanks to their constant exposure to the dangerous radium. 

34. Juliet Takes a Breath

by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Get it HERE.

Juliet is a Puerto Rican lesbian who just came out to her family. She’s not sure if her mother will ever speak to her again. Luckily, she’s interning for the author of her favorite book about feminism, and she hopes this summer job will help her figure out everything else. 

35. Autoboyaugraphy

by Christina Lauren

Get it HERE.

Tanner Scott is a closeted gay teen living in Utah. He’s fine with his sexuality, but he knows his community is not. But, in just a few short months high school will be over and he can go be who he really is in college. But, one semester in a writing class changes all that as Tanner finds himself in a relationship with his mentor Sebastian.  

36. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Get it HERE.

Lara Jean Song writes love letters like most people write diaries. To each of the five boys she’s loved, she has written them a letter pouring out her most intimate thoughts – things she never dared share with them in real life. The letters were for her eyes only, until they get accidentally mailed. 

37. Up to this Pointe

by Jennifer Longo

Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo

Get it HERE.

Harper is determined to become a professional ballerina. Her plan is not going to work out. So Harper makes the drastic decision to literally follow in the footsteps of her ancestor Robert Falcon Scott, who died in a race to the south pole. Harper finds herself in Antarctica on some pretty thin ice after things don’t go according to plan. 

38. Six of Crows

by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Get it HERE.

Kaz is a criminal mastermind, and a con man. He is offered to lead the heist of a lifetime along with a crew of five other con artists. The story is told in multiple points of view and is filled with twists and turns to make it a page-turning read. 

39. Exit, Pursued by a Bear

by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Get it HERE.

Hermione Winters is the captain of her cheerleading team, and the summer of her senior year is when she’s going to make it all count. But when someone slips something into her drink during a cheer camp party and she finds out she’s pregnant from a rape, her world changes drastically. Hermione’s tough character makes this an emotional but ultimately positive book. 

40. If I Was Your Girl

by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Get it HERE.

Amanda meets Grant at her new school and the two of them are drawn to each other. But Amanda has a big secret – she is a transgender teen who used to go by Andrew. She fears that Grant will leave as soon as she tells him her biggest secret. 

41. Passenger

by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Get it HERE.

Passenger is a time-travel tale about Etta Spencer who is pulled back in time by a stranger who needs her help. She finds herself aboard a ship and is put to work searching for a valuable object from the past. On the ship, she meets Nicholas Carter and sparks fly. 

42. The Knife of Never Letting Go

by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Get it HERE.

A germ has infected the world, killing all females and imbuing men with the ability to hear each other’s thoughts. In spite of the thought noise, Todd suspects the townspeople are keeping something from him, so he runs away with his dog. Soon, he finds a girl. She is silent. This is the first in a white-knuckle trilogy. 

43. Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Get it HERE.

Zélie Adebola remembers the awful night the magic disappeared, when the king ordered all the maji killed. Now Zélie must bring the magic back in this African-inspired fantasy novel. 

44. On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Get it HERE.

In Thomas’ follow-up to The Hate U Give, readers are back in Garden Heights, this time in the world of Bri, who wants to be a rapper like her late father. Her first song goes viral when she raps about the hood life, and suddenly Bri finds herself labeled as a hoodlum. It’s a novel about finding your voice and the cost of free speech.  

45. We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet

by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Get it HERE.

The author of this book, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, is a teenager himself. He works as a climate activist and his mission is to get teens involved in activism to save the planet and build a better world for all of us. We Rise, is, at its center, an action guide for teens who want to get involved in a movement. 

46. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

by Preston Norton

Get it HERE.

Cliff Hubbard is enormous, nicknamed the Neanderthal by everyone at school. His life is not great. He particularly dislikes ultra-cool quarterback Aaron Zimmerman, until one day, after a near-death experience, Aaron tracks down Cliff and asks for his help. Specifically, Aaron says God gave him a list of things to do to make their high school suck less. Cliff joins in, and together they set out to save their high school. 

47. Odd One Out

by Nic Stone

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Get it HERE.

This is the story of a love triangle. First, there are best friends Courtney and Jupiter. Jupiter starts feeling like he might have feelings for Courtney, when new girl Rae moves to town. Rae has feelings for both Jupiter and Cooper, and quickly she starts dating Cooper – and this is when Jupiter realizes her feelings for Cooper. 

48. The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig

by Don Zolidis

The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig by Don Zolidis

Get it HERE.

Craig and Amy are a couple. And then they aren’t. And then they are. They break up seven times over the course of this novel about first love and finding yourself. 

49. Heretics Anonymous

by Katie Henry

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Get it HERE.

Atheist Michael isn’t too pleased about attending a Catholic school until he finds himself in a secret society known as Heretics Anonymous. Here, all the kids who don’t quite fit in find their space until Michael starts using the heretics club to expose what he sees as hypocrisies in the school.  

50. What If It’s Us

by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Get it HERE.

Arthur and Ben are all about reading the signs from the universe, and the universe is telling them to get together. Unless they are reading the signs wrong. They’re not sure, and the whole book is a will they/won’t they romance as the two are brought together and pulled apart. 

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

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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.

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