50 Must-Read Books for Tenth 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.

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

Tenth Grade

This tenth grade book list features a wide variety of books, from graphic novels to memoirs to nonfiction texts to historical fiction and everything in between. Early in their high school years, teens should be reading widely to learn more about the world around them. This list features some historical novels as well as dystopian fiction set in the future. Authors start to weave political and current events of the day into their stories so readers enjoy a deeper immersive reading experience. 

1. A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

by Mackennzi Lee

A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackennzi Lee_50 Must-Read Books for Tenth Graders

Get it HERE.

Henry Montague, who goes by Monty, is the son of a British lord in the 1700s. He’s trouble all around for his parents, having been kicked out of boarding school for fighting and consorting with other boys. To hopefully shape him up, Monty is sent on a tour of the continent with his best friend Percy for whom he harbors a secret crush, as well as his sister Felicity. Escapades ensue, and pirates and alchemy end up involved. This is easily one of the best books of 2018, and is well-worth a read. 

2. Looking for Alaska

by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green _50 Must-Read Books for Tenth Graders

Get it HERE.

Author John Green is a household name among young adult authors, and his debut book Looking for Alaska is arguably his best. Miles is the center of this book. At boarding school, he meets a fascinating, dangerous, and unstable young woman named Alaska who yanks Miles firmly from his comfort zone and shatters his innocence. 

3. I’ll Give You the Sun

by Jandy Nelson

Get it HERE.

This is the story of twins Noah and Jude. It’s told in alternating perspectives. At first, the twins are inseparable, and then tragedy strikes. The reader picks up the story some time later and the twins are barely on speaking terms. It’s about growing up, first love, family, and the art’s ability to heal the soul. A must read. 

4. The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Get it HERE.

Xiomara is a poet, but she shares her writing with no one, knowing her strict family wouldn’t approve. Then she has a chance to join the slam poetry club, and she learns that she will not be silenced. This won the Printz award as well as the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, among others. 

5. Far From the Tree

by Robin Benway

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Get it HERE.

Grace, who is an adopted child, winds up pregnany in high school and gives her own baby up for adoption. This makes her curious about her own biological family, and she soon finds out that she has two other biological siblings. The three teens meet, each dealing with their own demons, and together they discover the meaning of family. 

6. Scythe

by Neal Shusterman

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Get it HERE.

In a world where humanity has conquered death, overpopulation quickly becomes a problem. So, the profession of “scythe” is invented, and scythes are tasked with gleaning (or culling) the population by killing at random. Teens Citra and Rowan are chosen as apprentice scythes, and both reluctantly take the position as it offers their families immunity from gleaning. This is the first in a trilogy.  

7. Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Get it HERE.

Kristina is the perfect teenager, until she becomes addicted to crank and her life spirals out of control. This novel in verse chronicles her downward spiral. It’s dark and not easy to read. 

8. Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition

by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition by Phil Knight

Get it HERE.

Phil Knight was a track star in high school and went on to become the man behind the Nike shoe empire. This is his memoir, and it’s perfect for sports-obsessed teens. 

9. Warcross

by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu

Get it HERE.

A virtual reality video game called Warcross has swept the world, and everyone is playing. Some elite players even compete in the Warcross world championships. Teen Emika Chen accidentally hacks herself into a championship game, and her life changes forever as she is suddenly drafted as one of those elite players. 

10. The Sun is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Get it HERE.

Daniel falls for Natasha on the eve of Natasha’s deportation. Daniel, a scientist at heart, sets out to use science to get Natasha to love him back. While the love story is the backbone of the book, there is a real discussion about immigration that takes place here and delves into some real-world issues facing teens today. 

11. Jackaby

by William Ritter

Jackaby by William Ritter

Get it HERE.

R.F. Jackaby is a detective in need of an assistant, and Abigail fits the bill. They are on the case of a serial killer, and Jackaby, who has a unique ability to see the supernatural, begins to believe that the killer might be something other than human. This is the first in a four-part series. 

12. Little and Lion

by Brandy Colbert

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Get it HERE.

Suzette was shipped off to an East Coast boarding school while her parents struggled to help her brother with his newly diagnosed bipolar disorder. She was reluctant to leave, and now that summer’s here, she’s both relieved and reluctant to be home. Suzette had a difficult year at boarding school, but her one respite was her girlfriend, until their secret relationship was discovered. Suzette, who is not yet comfortable with her bisexuality, left things a mess and wants to make them right. 

13. Seafire

by Natalie C. Parker

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Get it HERE.

Pirate Caledonia Styx is left orphaned and in charge of her own crew of female pirates when her family is brutally murdered. Now, she’s out for revenge. When a young man from the enemy army shows up wanting to join her crew, she starts to wonder whether he might be the key to their campaign of vengeance.  

14. They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Get it HERE.

No one knows how it works, but the Death-Cast corporation knows what day everyone will die. And sometime after midnight on your death day, you get a phone call telling you you will die today. You don’t know how or when, just that you have less than 24 hours to live. Teens Rufus and Mateo both get the call on the same day and log into the Last Friend app searching for a companion for their final day on earth. They really do both die in the end. 

15. Carve the Mark

by Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Get it HERE.

This starcrossed lover fantasy story pits the children of two warring factions against each other. Cyra and Akos each live in their respective countries that are warring over global domination. Akos is captured and forced to serve Cyra’s family. Cyra is a monster known throughout the universe for her ability to inflict pain with a single touch, but as Akos gets closer to Cyra he realizes her ability is her curse, too. 

16. We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Get it HERE.

College freshmen Marin is completely alone, partly by choice and partly dictated by fate. Life has dealt her a series of tragedies, so she uproots and moves across the country from San Francisco to New York. In New York, she withdraws from everything and isolates herself, refusing to come home over winter break. So, her best friend Mabel goes to her. It’s a powerful, compelling book driven by character and not plot.

17. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Get it HERE.

When Julia’s sister Olga dies in an accident, Julia is left with her sister’s perfect shoes to fill. Julia can’t possibly live up to her sister’s reputation, a fact her mother reminds her of at every possible moment. Julia decides to investigate whether Olga was really as perfect as she seemed. 

18. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

by Penelope Bagieu

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

Get it HERE.

This is a series of mini-biographies in graphic novel form. Some of the women profiled are well-known, others are likely not on your radar at all. They each share a rebel spirit sure to inspire readers to act boldly themselves. 

19. The War That Saved My Life

by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

Get it HERE.

Ada has a twisted foot and struggles to walk, a fact of life she has no trouble coping with but that is embarassing to her mother. When Ada’s brother is sent to London to escape the war, Ada joins him and discovers a whole life waiting to be lived away from her mother’s protective thumb. 

20. We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Get it HERE.

Four privileged friends spend their summers on a private island. The adults of the island start calling the friends The Liars because these spoiled rich kids have done some pretty dark things. One summer, things go too far and a mystery unfolds that leads to a shocking ending. 

21. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

Get it HERE.

At 10 years old, Nujood of Yemen is sold off to a wealthy man three times her age who repeatedly rapes her. Nujood runs away and manages to obtain a lawyer and capture the attention of the press. She is granted a divorce. This is her story. 

22. Saving Montgomery Sole

by Mariko Tamaki

 Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Get it HERE.

Montgomery Sole doesn’t fit in, but thank goodness for the Mystery Club, of which she is president. Monty longs for a life that embraces the unknown, not a life of cliche high school jocks who make fun of her for having two moms. One day, Monty buys a mysterious object online called the Eye of Know, and when it shows up in her mailbox, strange things start happening. 

23. Extraordinary Means

by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Get it HERE.

Lane’s life is turned upside down when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. His parents send him to live in a boarding school/care facility for kids with the same diagnosis. He meets a girl named Sadie, and they fall in love while trying to lead a normal life in the midst of their illness. 

24. Fat Angie

by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Get it HERE.

Fat Angie is the story of Angie who desperately missed her sister who never came home from the Iraq war. She is bullied at her school for her weight, which causes her to eat more. Then a girl named KC Romance arrives on the scene, and Angie and KC develop a romance of their own. 

25. The Game of Love and Death

by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Get it HERE.

Personified forces Love and Death each believe themselves to be more powerful than the other. For centuries, they have played a game with two humans as pawns to prove their power. Now, Flora and Henry are the latest pawns who are set on a collision course by the two greatest forces on earth. 

26. Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Get it HERE.

Aza has anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. The tenuous plot in this book revolves around two friends chasing after a cash reward, but really it’s an exploration of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. 

27. Dress Codes for Small Towns

by Courtney Stevens

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Get it HERE.

Tomboy Billie McCaffrey might be bisexual, but she’s not sure yet. She probably has feelings for both a guy friend and a girl friend. Making life harder is the fact that Billie is the daughter of the town minister, and as a preacher’s kid, there are definite rules for how she is supposed to act. But Billie isn’t one to follow the rules, and this is the story of how she breaks the mold.

28. How Dare the Sunrise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta

How Dare the Sunrise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta

Get it HERE.

This is the shocking true story of  Sandra Uwiringiyimana, a woman who survived a massacre as a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She immigrated to the United States and now uses her voice to speak for her people.

29. March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power

by Ann Bausum 

March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum

Get it HERE.

This is the story of James Meredith, a man who protested in Mississippi for his right to vote. He was joined by civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. 

30. Saints and Misfits

by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Get it HERE.

Janna is a Muslim teen living in America. She is expected to uphold her faith and be perfect all the time. The book takes a dark turn when Janna is almost raped by a well-respected member of her mosque. This is an authentic exploration of being a teen in America today, and the book is populated by an array of strong female characters. 

31. Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis

by Jeannine Atkins

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins

Get it HERE.

Edmonia Lewis was a half Native American, half African American sculptor who worked after the Civil War. Not much is known about her in the historical record, so the author of this poetic novel in verse imagines Edmonia’s life, relying on facts when they are present and taking creative license when they aren’t. 

32. The One Memory of Flora Banks

by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Get it HERE.

Flora Banks has no short term memory, so her brain constantly resets to when she was 10 years old and had a brain tumor removed. The one thing she can remember is kissing her best friend’s boyfriend at sixteen. Flora becomes convinced this boy can help heal her memory, so she goes on a wild goose chase to make herself whole. 

33. Genuine Fraud

by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Get it HERE.

Jule and Imogen are best friends after they spend a summer together sharing intimate secrets. Months later, Jule shows up in Mexico using Imogen’s name as an alias. The question in this mystery is, where is Imogen? And what is Jule on the run from?

34. The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

Get it HERE.

Matt’s sister Maya is driven away by a band of bullies. Matt is determined to find out exactly what happened to his sister. He discovers that, if he starves himself, his body begins to manifest the ability to bend time and space. This is a really unique piece of science fiction for young adults. 

35. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Get it HERE.

Nick and Norah find themselves on the first date of a lifetime after Nick asks Norah to pretend to be his girlfriend for just five minutes to avoid his ex. Both teens are recovering from broken hearts, and both tell this quirky love story in alternating sections of the book. 

36. The Disenchantments

by Nina LaCour

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Get it HERE.

Bev and Colby are best friends. They are in the band The Disenchantments together. They plan to travel the world after graduation playing gigs anywhere that will have them. But Bev betrays Colby and lets the band down when she decides to go to college instead. 

37. Graceling

by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Get it HERE.

Kasta lives in the Seven Kingdoms and she is born with a special Grace – the power of killing. She is conscripted by the king who uses her powers as his own personal weapon. Then one day, she meets the prince and starts to learn some secrets about the Seven Kindgoms and her own destiny.

38. Winger

by Andrew Smith

Get it HERE.

This is a classic boarding school, coming-of-age novel about Ryan Dean West. Ryan’s problems include being in love with his best friend who has decidedly friend-zoned him, and rooming with the biggest bully on his rugby team. Winger is filled with Ryan’s illustrations, doodles, and annotations, so it reads a bit like a writer’s notebook. 

39. Shipbreaker

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Get it HERE.

The United States has been devastated by climate change in this dystopian thriller. Nailer is a teen boy who works as a scavenger, gathering copper wire from abandoned oil tankers being parted out. One day, Nailer makes an incredible discovery of a pristine ship beached during a storm. A lone survivor is inside. He must decide how to handle both discoveries.  

40. Fangirl

by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Get it HERE.

Twins Cath and Wren are now college freshmen. Both grew up as fangirls of the fictional Simon Snow books – like, mega fangirls. But now that college is starting, Wren wants to leave their childhood behind, and this means telling Cath they won’t be roommates, either. Cath must figure out how to live her own life on her own terms without anyone holding her hand. 

41. Like Water

by Rebecca Podos

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Get it HERE.

Savannah Espinoza finds herself stuck in her small town after her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. She takes a job working as a mermaid in a water tank at a water park. She is resigned to her medicore life until she meets Leigh, who quickly becomes more than a friend. 

42. Putting Makeup on a Fat Boy

by Bill Wright

utting Makeup on a Fat Boy by Bill Wright

Get it HERE.

Carlos is a gay fashionista with a style sense to die for. He lands his dream job working at the makeup counter at Macy’s. But while things might look perfect on the outside, Carlos has some troubles – his mother lost her job, his boss is awful, and Carlos has a crush on a straight boy. This is a fluffy read, but lots of fun. 

43. Stormwake

by Lucy Christopher

Stormwake by Lucy Christopher

Get it HERE.

This retelling of Shakepeare’s The Tempest features Moss, who lives on an uninhabited island with her possibly magical father and their dog. A storm brings in a boy who fascinates Moss and they become fast friends. But as Moss longs to leave the island, her father clings to it more tightly, and Moss begins to wonder what secrets he has. 

44. Why We Broke Up written by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman 

Why We Broke Up written by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman

Get it HERE.

This is girlfriend Min Green’s explanation to her now ex-boyfriend Ed Slaterton about why they broke up. This book, which has a larger trim size and feels like a scrapbook, contains full-color illustrations of the sundry items Min has placed in a box for Ed. Each item was a part of their relationship, and each plays a role in their breakup. 

45. Please Ignore Vera Dietz

by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Get it HERE.

Charlie and Vera were best friends, then more than friends, then enemies. Jenny Flick decides she wants Charlie to herself, but when Charlie rebuffs her advances in favor of Vera, Jenny broadcasts Charlie’s intimate secrets around the school and the school (and Charlie) thinks the secrets were leaked by Vera, not Jenny. In retaliation, Charlie tells everyone Vera’s secrets, and on it goes until Charlie dies. After his death, he haunts Vera, asking her to clear his name. 

46. Going Bovine

by Libba Bray

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Get it HERE.

Cameron is terminally ill. He is going to die – or at least, he thinks he is. That’s when Dulcie, an angel (or possibly a hallucination) shows up to (possibly) save him. Dulcie sets Cameron on a road trip scanvenger hunt of sorts, and the rest of the story is a darkly humorous ride. 

47. The White Darkness

by Geraldine McCaughrean

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

Get it HERE.

Antarctica-obsessed teen Symone “Sym” Wates gets to travel to the south pole on the trip of a lifetime with her uncle. The dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare in this gripping survival tale. 

48. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Get it HERE.

Frankie Landau-Banks doesn’t take no for an answer, especially when she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-boys club. No matter, her exlusion just means she now has the chance to pull pranks of the most epic nature imaginable. 

49. The Crown’s Game

by Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Get it HERE.

Two teenagers, Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov, must compete to be the Imperial Enchanter of Russia. They are locked in a battle they didn’t choose, for only one magician can have the official title – and the other must die. The enchanters fall in love and their magical displays become for each other, not for the Crown, as they grieve the end of their starcrossed love.

50. Vincent and Theo

by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

Get it HERE.

This award-winning book tells the story of the two Van Gogh brothers, Vincent and Theo. This novel is carefully researched based off a lifetime of letters between the two brothers and it tells the tale of a love, respect, and friendship that inspired great art. 

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

50 Must-Read Books for Tenth Graders

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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.

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