Summer Reading List

The Phelps School Summer Reading List


While all selections are grade-appropriate and many are award winners, the maturity level of students can vary widely. Some may contain content, language, or violence that you may deem inappropriate for your son’s current maturity level. If you have any question about a particular book, please check with your local library or bookstore.


7th & 8th


The Giver (Lois Lowry) Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. Newberry Medal.


Tears of a Tiger (Sharon Draper) A high school basketball star struggles with guilt and depression following the drunk- driving accident that killed his best friend.


Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) The Earth is under attack and the survival of the human species depends on a military genius who can defeat the alien “buggers.” Recruited for military training, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. First in a series. Hugo Award. Nebula Award.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne) A 19th century Sci-Fi tale of an electric submarine, its eccentric captain, and the undersea world it explores. Verne anticipated many achievements of the 20th century.


War of the Worlds (H. G. Wells) Martians invade England in the late 1800’s and create havoc.


Animal Farm (George Orwell) After realizing their desire for freedom, the animals of Manor Farm chase Mr. Jones off his property and take control. They learn many lessons as they struggle to define and create an ideal community. The novel, presented as a fable, uses animals to comment on human society and nature. Animal Farm satirizes the events of the Russian Revolution and the years following, from 1917 to 1943.


The Pearl (John Steinbeck) The story of a fisherman who finds a pearl beyond price, the Pearl of the World. With the pearl, he hopes to buy peace and happiness for himself, his wife and their little son. Instead he finds that peace and happiness cannot be purchased. The pearl brings only tragedy into his life.


Dragon’s Gate (Laurence Yep) This 1994 Newbery Honor Book, a prequel to Dragonwings, tells of 14-year-old Otter’s 1865 emigration from China and subsequent work on the transcontinental railroad. First of the Golden Mountain Chronicles.


The Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula LeGuin) After pride causes him to unleash a demon, Zed is compelled to chase or escape from the ever-pursuing shadow. First in the Earthsea Trilogy.


Horses Don’t Fly (Frederick Libby) Original memoir of the Old Wild West & flying in WWI


Sing Down the Moon (Scott O’Dell) about the Long Walk of the Navajo


A Pocket Full of Rye (Agatha Christie) A wealthy man falls dead shortly after having tea and the only clue is some rye found in his pocket. Miss Marple uses a nursery rhyme to help solve the murder.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll) The Mad Hatter, the Ugly Duchess, the Mock Turtle, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat—characters each more eccentric than the last that could only have come from Lewis Carroll, the master of sublime nonsense.


Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe) The tale of an English sailor marooned on a desert island for nearly three decades and his struggle to survive in extraordinary circumstances.


The Man With a Load of Mischief (Martha Grimes) Two pubs in the English village of Long Piddleton are the sites of two murders. Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury gets some help from Long Piddleton’s own Melrose Plant to root out evil in the heart of the village. First in a series.


Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls) A young boy living in the Ozarks works hard to fulfill his dream of purchasing some redbone hounds and training them up to be champions.


The Book of Three (Lloyd Alexander) Inspired by Welsh mythology, it follows the adventures of Taran, a boy in the care of the enchanter Dallben, as he enters manhood while fighting the forces of the evil Arawn Death-Lord. [The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1]


A Boy Called Slow: The True Story of Sitting Bull (Joseph Bruchae) The true story of a child so deliberate and methodical he was called Slow. He grew up to become Sitting Bull, the Lakota’s greatest leader.


Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer) Artemis, the main character, is a ruthless and extremely intelligent young criminal whose main goal is the acquisition of money through a variety of often illegal schemes (although his values change towards the 5th book). The author summed up the series as “Die Hard with fairies.” First in a series.


The Lightening Thief (Rick Riordan) Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. First in a series.


School’s Out—Forever (James Patterson) A great sequel to the first book The Angel Experiment. This book leaves the reader begging for more. Second in the series.


The Red Pyramid (Rick Riordan) Modern-day siblings discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are back…and they’re not happy. First in a series. [The Kane Chronicles, Book 1]


Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (John Grisham) A 13-year-old amateur attorney accidentally becomes involved in a high-profile murder trial.


The Call of the Wild (Jack London) The adventures of an unusual dog, part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, that is forcibly taken to the Klondike gold fields where he eventually becomes the leader of a wolf pack.


The Hobbitt (J. R. R. Tolkien) The adventures of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who lived happily in his comfortable home until a wandering wizard granted his wish. This stirring adventure fantasy begins the tale that is continued in The Lord of the Rings.


9th & 10th

While all selections are grade-appropriate and many are award winners, the maturity level of students can vary widely. Some may contain content, language, or violence that you may deem inappropriate for your son’s current maturity level. If you have any question about a particular book, please check with your local library or bookstore.



Candyfreak: a Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Steve Almond) Former journalist Steve Almond, admitting that he has eaten a piece of candy every day of his life, writes a memoir/report/travelogue about the history of candy in America. It’s a delicious and darkly funny read-without calories or carbs. Alex Awards 2005

Death Comes For the Archbishop (Willa Cather) First published 1927. In the mid-nineteenth century, two French missionaries make their way into the harsh, unexplored, mountainous region of New Mexico hoping to revive the religion brought by Spanish priests and then left to decay in the hands of an insubordinate and materialistic clergy.


The Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli)  Classic and often-quoted work about how to get and keep power. This little book lays out the “rules of the game” for better or worse.


Glory Road : My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever (Don Haskins) Texas Coach Don Haskins forever changed college sports when he chose to field five black players in the formerly segregated NCAA basketball tournament.


Slam (Nick Hornby) A story about a young Londoner whose life goes unexpectedly off the rails. Sam is obsessed with skateboarding and Tony Hawk, the world’s greatest skater. Life is going well and he has a beautiful girlfriend. Then he gets “slammed”.


Dune ( Frank Herbert) First published 1965. The Atreides family is banished to the desert planet Dune where the ferocious Fremen live. First in a series.


The Life of Pi: A Novel  (Yann Martel) Sixteen-year-old Pi Patel, his family, and their zoo animals emigrate from India to North America aboard a cargo ship. The ship sinks, and Pi finds himself sharing a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Man Booker Prize 2002


The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency ( Alexander McCall Smith) Precious Ramotswe opens a business as the first female detective in Botswana. Her first cases include tracking down a missing husband and locating a boy who may have been snatched by witch doctors. First in a series.


Elsewhere (Gabrielle Zevin) When a taxi hits fifteen-year-old Liz Hall, she ends up in “Elsewhere,” a place where you grow younger year by year, meet lost relatives, enjoy your service-oriented vocation, and are eventually re-born on earth.


Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment (James Patterson) A group of genetically enhanced kids who can fly and have other unique talents are on the run from part-human, part-wolf predators called Erasers in this exciting SF thriller. First in a series.


Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott) This story has all of the elements of a great read… deceit, honor, a love triangle, prejudice, castle sieges, Robin Hood, gallant knights, and battles to the death!


Days of Grace (Arthur Ashe & Arnold Rampersad) Biography of a highly respected tennis star who died of AIDS


A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway) Classic tale of two star-crossed lovers caught in the contradictions, deceptions, and brutality of the First World War.


Ghost Soldiers (Hampton Sides) True story of a stunning rescue mission from World War II. A combined Ranger and Filipino guerrilla force penetrated far behind enemy lines, attacked Japanese forces guarding Allied prisoners at a jungle outpost called Cabanatuan, and shepherded hundreds of prisoners to safety, with an angry Japanese army in hot pursuit.


Twinkie Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats. (Ettlinger, Steve) Drawing on interviews with industry professionals, Ettlinger reveals that snack cakes and other popular food products are concocted from byproducts of chlorine bleaching, gypsum mining, petroleum processing, and other non-food chemicals.



Twilight (Stephanie Meyer) In this suspenseful tale, Isabella moves to a small town in Washington state and finds more excitement than she had imagined. She falls for a classmate, who happens to be a vampire. First in a series.


Dragonflight (Anne McCaffrey) It’s been 400 years since the world of Pern has had to deal with deadly Thread falling from the sky to destroy whatever organic life it comes into contact with. Enter F’lar, the new leader of the dragon riders, and Lessa, who bonds with the newborn queen dragon. They struggle to get ready so that humanity can survive when the Thread begins to fall again. First in  The Dragonriders of Pern series.



My Empire of Dirt: How One Man turned His Big-city Backyard into a Farm (Manny Howard) Manny Howard has created a new job category, gonzo agriculturalist. The squeamish and the vegan-hearted shall enter at their own risk, for this is no gentle Farmer’s Almanac. It’s more like war reportage—on one side, angry rabbits, crazed chickens, and a patch of backyard clay so dry it makes concrete seem loamy; on the other, a Brooklyn-raised City Boy, who won’t take crop failure for an answer. Howard takes living off the land to an urban extreme that will make people think even harder about where their food comes from.


David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) This is a story of a boy who loses both parents at an early age, and who escapes the torture of working for his pitiless stepfather to make something of himself and, with any luck, find true happiness.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) With each spine-tingling mystery, the legend of Sherlock Holmes comes to life. Page by page, Holmes uses his uncanny deductive skills to solve the toughest of cases. After reading this classic collection, you’ll discover why this eccentric detective from 221B Baker Street in London rose to celebrity status throughout the world.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque) This is the classic WWI story of a twenty-year-old soldier who struggles between his duty as a soldier and his own value for life, regardless of which side of the trenches it comes from. The novel is quietly poignant and at times devastating, with moments of beauty and horror that could only have been told by someone who was an actual witness of that war. A true classic.

The Once and Future King ( T. H. White) This book is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot; of Merlin and Owl and Guinevere; of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war. It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad. It is a fantasy masterpiece.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien) The dark, fearsome Ringwraiths are searching for a Hobbit. Frodo Baggins knows that they are seeking him and the Ring he bears—the Ring of Power that will enable evil Sauron to destroy all that is good in Middle-earth. Now it is up to Frodo and his faithful servant, Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it can be destroyed: Mount Doom, in the very center of Sauron’s realm.

11th & 12th


While all selections are grade-appropriate and many are award winners, the maturity level of students can vary widely. Some may contain content, language, or violence that you may deem inappropriate for your son’s current maturity level. If you have any question about a particular book, please check with your local library or bookstore.



Roots: the saga of an American family (Alex Haley) Captured in Africa, Kunta Kinte, a tribal prince, becomes a slave, and eventually generations of his family survive to become free again. Haley is one of his descendants.


Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A. Heinlein) The story of an Earth baby raised by an existing, ancient Martian civilization who comes to Earth and broadcasts his ideas by forming his own Church. Hugo Award 1962.


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy (Ishmael Beah)  A twelve-year old boy first flees from attacking rebels with his friends, but later is transformed into a cold-blooded soldier. This is a heartbreaking personal memoir of a boy growing up in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 1998 and his rehabilitation. Alex Awards 2008


Go Tell It On the Mountain (James Baldwin) First published 1953. In 1935, in the tenements of Harlem, young John Grimes searches for God while struggling with his identity as the stepson of a stern evangelist preacher in a storefront church.


In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Truman Capote) First published 1965. The senseless, brutal murder of four members of the Clutter family by two psychotic young men shocked their small-town community of Holcomb, Kansas and the entire country. Edgar Award 1966


The Long Goodbye (Raymond Chandler) First published 1953. In this classic “hard-boiled” detective story, Philip Marlowe, private eye, deals with a cast of reprehensible characters in a doom-laden city. Edgar Award 1955


Murder On the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) On a three-day journey through the snowbound Balkan hills, Hercule Poirot tracks down a murderer among the passengers on the train, with a voice in the night as his only clue.


Water for Elephants: A Novel (Sara Gruen) Jacob Jankowski, a penniless orphan forced to drop out of veterinary school during the Great Depression, joins a traveling circus. He forges a bond with Rosie the elephant and Marlena, the beautiful star of an equestrian act, whose husband is a handsome circus boss with a violent temper. Alex Awards 2007


Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)   Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god, and he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider is about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting and more dangerous. Alex Awards 2006


Einstein: His Life and Universe (Walter Isaacson) The life of Einstein, the man and celebrated scientist, is explored, including some of the contradictions inherent in Einstein’s personal beliefs.

Gil’s All Fright Diner (A. Lee Martinez) Vampire Earl and Werewolf Duke stop at a diner in the desert town of Rockwood, Texas, where they help Loretta dispose of her zombie problem and agree to stay on to help the town with its other supernatural issues. Alex Awards 2006


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Alexander Solzhenitsyn) Although innocent of any crime, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is convicted of treason and sentenced to serve ten years in a Soviet work camp in Siberia.


The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) First published 1939. Forced out of their home in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl by economic desperation, a family of Okie farmers drives west to California in search of work as migrant fruit pickers. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 1940.


The Art of War (Sun Tzu) Twenty-five hundred years ago, Sun Tzu wrote this classic book of military strategy based on Chinese warfare and military thought. Since that time, all levels of military have used the teachings of Sun Tzu, and most civilizations have adapted these teachings for use in politics, business and everyday life.


Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison) A black man’s search for himself as an individual and as a member of his race and his society.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey) McMurphy, a criminal who feigns insanity, is admitted to a mental hospital where he challenges the autocratic authority of the head nurse.


Charles Kuralt’s America (Charles Kuralt) This is an exciting journey from one corner of America to the other, where you start your adventure in the uniqueness of New Orleans. Areas sampled along the way vary from the seacoasts of Maine and California to the mountains of North Carolina and the vibrant streets of New York. The reader discovers the warmth and beauty of our nation as shown in the diversity of people and activities that Kuralt revels in during his magical year.


The Natural (Bernard Malamud) A supremely outstanding baseball player is not supremely outstanding off the field and ends up having a lot of problems because of his stardom and his inability to cope with that.


A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) The story of two families and their struggle to control the Iron Throne dominates the foreground; in the background is a huge, ancient wall marking the northern border, beyond which barbarians, ice vampires, and direwolves menace the south as years-long winter advances. Abroad, a dragon princess lives among horse nomads and dreams of fiery re-conquest. There is much bloodshed, cruelty, and death, but fantasy fans will enjoy this book. [A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1.]


The Bonesetter’s Daughter: A Novel (Amy Tan) This book explores the deeply complex relationship between Ruth Young, a ghostwriter of self-help books, and her mother, LuLing. Realizing she is having problems with her memory long before her daughter suspects it, Luling painstakingly writes the facts of her life as best she remembers it, so that her story doesn’t die with her failing memory.


The Blind Side (Michael Lewis) Here we have an encouraging story of a young black boy who really has nothing in his life but his athletic ability. We have a good family that certainly does not need to exploit the boy. So they did what we all should want to do if our situations allowed, take the boy in and help. But the story is not just about that; it covers the evolution of football, these last thirty to forty years as marquee quarterbacks, or productive west-coast offense systems come into play.


Paddy Clarke Ha Ha (Roddy Doyle) The author takes you into the mind of Paddy Clarke, a young boy growing up in Ireland in the 1960s. All the doubts, fears, fun and games are there — and the result of Doyle’s prose and heartfelt descriptions of life for a ten-year-old whose world is falling apart is nothing short of magic. Booker Prize winner.


The Pacific (Hugh Ambrose) This book presents the Pacific War, from America’s first battle with the Japanese to the final shot. It blends eyewitness accounts into a larger perspective on the course of the war. However, this larger perspective is not solely provided by the historian, but also by the veterans themselves.


A Terrible Glory: Custer and The Little Bighorn—The Last Great Battle of the American West (James Donovan) Donovan collects the multiple threads that led to the 1876 massacre at Little Big Horn… Exhaustive research, lively prose and a fresh interpretation are blended into the narrative, and the author does a good job of synthesizing all the material (the Indian and white accounts, and the new archaeological and forensic research and analysis from the past few decades).


The Autobiography (Benjamin Franklin) Benjamin Franklin’s writings represent a long career of literary, scientific, and political efforts over a lifetime which extended nearly the entire eighteenth century. Franklin’s achievements range from inventing the lightning rod to publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack to signing the Declaration of Independence. In his own lifetime he knew prominence not only in America but in Britain and France as well. This volume includes Franklin’s reflections on such diverse questions as philosophy and religion, social status, electricity, American national characteristics, war, and the status of women.


Walden (Henry David Thoreau) Thoreau’s record of his “personal experiment”, living alone for two years near Walden Pond. His goal was to discover everything he could about human nature and the “deeper truths” of life.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) Desperate to escape his abusive father and the constraints of the civilized life, young Huck Finn fakes his death and, with the help of his slave friend Jim, embarks on a vagabond life rafting down the Mississippi River. Yet life is anything but carefree for Huck and Jim. Their travels bring them into contact with scores of rogues, rascals, ruffians, hucksters, and law-abiding citizens who would as soon seen Jim returned to his owners and Huck to his Pa. Looking out for each other, Huck and Jim forge a bond that protects them from the prejudices and bigotry of their time and place, and a society whose rules and regulations seem as perplexing as they are inflexible.


The Oregon Trail (Francis Parkman) Keen observations and a graphic style characterize the author’s remarkable record of a vanishing frontier. This book offers detailed accounts of the hardships experienced while traveling across mountains and prairies, vibrant portraits of immigrants and Western wildlife, and vivid descriptions of Indian life and culture. A classic of American frontier literature.


Foundation (Isaac Asimov) A classic of science fiction by a legendary writer in the genre.


Summer Reading List