Reading List for 8th Grade: 37 Must-Reads Before High School

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Search no more. Here is an awesome reading list for 8th grade that you’ll definitely want to check out before heading off to high school. 

What are good books for 8th graders to read?

8th grade can be an exciting time! Kids at this age are turning into teenagers and undergoing a lot of changes in their life both mentally and physically. 8th grade is a time of self-exploration, learning what the true meaning of friendship really is, and contemplating different world-views that nurture [or challenge] their personal views of the world.

When you are looking to build a good reading list for 8th graders there are a few things to consider. Books 8th graders should be reading are ones that allow them to gain access to other world-views. Biographies such as I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai allows 8th graders to see how culture impacts lifestyles of teenagers, particularly of those who live in different parts of the world. 

Many good books for 8th graders who seek to broaden perspectives also fall under today’s contemporary fiction category. These books are written from the perspective of teenagers with relatable lifestyles or relatable cultural values. Often times the conflict of the story deals with serious topics like bullying, mental illness, or finding one’s place amongst their peers and in the world. Although the reader may not have personal experience with these topics, these books seeks to provoke deep-thinking within their reader or even contains an indirect call to action influencing their reader to think or act a different way.

Books 8th Graders Read in English

The books and short stories that are assigned to 8th graders in English often showcase differing world-views and influence students to analyze questions of morality and the establishment of societal values. The themes of these books range from friendship and family relationships to minority identities and societal expectations. 

Common Reading List for 8th Grade English

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

This list alone is a great place to start when it comes to finding good books for 8th graders to read, especially if they do not make an appearance on the 8th grade English syllabus.

Book Series for 8th Graders

Reading the first book of a series is a great way to get invested in characters and the worlds they live in… it also helps reluctant readers because it provides them with something they can hold on to for longer than 150 pages. Here are some great book series that 8th graders love:
 
 

We hope that you find something here that is relatable to you and your life at this moment. 8th grade can be challenging but it can be a lot of fun as well. We made sure to include books that are diverse and lend themselves to the 8th grade narrative.

Be sure to check out other posts on this website like Goodreads’ best middle grade books OR

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Table of Contents

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.

I read this book when I was in 8th grade and it continues to impact me today (19 years later ._.) I lent my beloved copy to a friend and she never returned it to me. At the time, I thought that she was being uncouth but I now like to think she kept it because she loved it so much. I definitely don’t have a problem with that! Now, I buy copies I find at thrift stores and independent book stores just to lend them to my students… and don’t mind if I never see them again. 

Jerry Spinelli

On Dead Wednesday, every eighth grader in Amber Springs is assigned the name and identity of a teenager who died a preventable death in the past year. The kids don black shirts and for the whole day everyone in town pretends they’re invisible—as if they weren’t even there. The adults think it will make them contemplate their mortality. The kids know it’s a free pass to get away with anything.

Worm Tarnauer feels invisible every day. He’s perfectly happy being the unnoticed sidekick of his friend Eddie. So he’s not expecting Dead Wednesday to feel that different. But he didn’t count on being assigned Becca Finch (17, car crash). And he certainly didn’t count on Becca showing up to boss him around! Letting this girl into his head is about to change everything.

This is the story of the unexpected, heartbreaking, hilarious, truly epic day when Worm Tarnauer discovers his own life.

Maybe He Just Likes You
Barbara Dee

Read more about Barbara Dee and her book, Maybe He Just Likes You, here

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?
But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.

It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

S.E. Hinton

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.

This book is the definitely of found family! The Outsiders handle some deeply complex topics such as loyalty, gang violence, and other coming-of-age dilemmas. The story of Ponyboy and the gang is sure to stick with you for a lifetime.

Neil Shusterman

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Laurie Morrison
Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.
Jason Reynolds

Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of the acclaimed Track series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Also by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Look Both Ways
Cindy Balwin

When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.

With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.

But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

Richard Adams

Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time.

Set in the Hampshire Downs in Southern England, an idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of “suspense, hot pursuit, and derring-do” (Chicago Tribune) follows a band of rabbits in flight from the incursion of man and the destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they travel forth from their native Sandleford warren through harrowing trials to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society. “A marvelous story of rebellion, exile, and survival” (Sunday Telegraph) this is an unforgettable literary classic for all ages.

Just the mention of Watership Down makes my heart jump. How Richard Adams was able to provoke such visceral emotions within me – those of fear, anxiety, celebration and despair – through a pack of rabbits’ journey to the new land will never seize to amaze me. 

Dusti Bowling

One year after a random shooting changed their family forever, Nora and her father are exploring a slot canyon deep in the Arizona desert, hoping it will help them find peace. Nora longs for things to go back to normal, like they were when her mother was still alive, while her father keeps them isolated in fear of other people. But when they reach the bottom of the canyon, the unthinkable happens: A flash flood rips across their path, sweeping away Nora’s father and all of their supplies.

Suddenly, Nora finds herself lost and alone in the desert, facing dehydration, venomous scorpions, deadly snakes, and, worst of all, the Beast who has terrorized her dreams for the past year. If Nora is going to save herself and her father, she must conquer her fears, defeat the Beast, and find the courage to live her new life.

Laurie Halsie Anderson

Freshman year at Merryweather High is not going well for Melinda Sordino. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends—and even strangers—all hate her. So she stops trying, stops talking. She retreats into her head, and all the lies and hypocrisies of high school become magnified, leaving her with no desire to talk to anyone anyway. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either—there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. She can’t just go on like this forever. Eventually, she’s going to have to confront the thing she’s avoiding, the thing that happened at the party, the thing that nobody but her knows. She’s going to have to speak the truth.

Melinda’s trauma is beautifully captured by Laurie Halsie Anderson. As a survivor herself, Anderson speaks loudly for all those girls and women who cannot. Parental advisory: This book does contain scenes of rape and the effects it has on mental health. 

Margaret Owen

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love―and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Lisa Epps

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules—like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space—her swimming pool—where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world.

In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Margaret Haddix

The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?

Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

Nicola Yoon

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Also by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star
Sandra Cisneros
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
Veera Hiranandani

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Rainbow colored banner with Spend More time Reading and subscribe now prompt
Jewell Parker Rhodes

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.

Roshani Chokshi

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

Walter Dean Myers

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout.

Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of “the system,” cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.

Wesley King

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Told from three different points of view, this fast-paced adventure novel explores how group dynamics change under dire circumstances. Do the students of Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark.

Jacqueline Woodson

For Lafayette and his brothers, the challenges of growing up in New York City are compounded by the facts that they’ve lost their parents and it’s up to eldest brother Ty’ree to support the boys, and middle brother Charlie has just returned home from a correctional facility.

Lafayette loves his brothers and would do anything if they could face the world as a team. But even though Ty’ree cares, he’s just so busy with work and responsibility. And Charlie’s changed so much that his former affection for his little brother has turned to open hostility.

Now, as Lafayette approaches 13, he needs the guidance and answers only his brothers can give him. The events of one dramatic weekend force the boys to make the choice to be there for each other–to really see each other–or to give in to the pain and problems of every day.