• Anqi Teng

5 summer holiday books for high school students which aren't BORING.

"Read more"


Of course you already knew that. It's been repeated by teachers, parents and tutors. It's supposedly the solution to weak vocabularies, wobbly sentence construction and runaway grammar.


But what exactly are you supposed to read?


It can be daunting to find a book to start. You must look at nothing but the cover and the blurb (and maybe a few reviews online) before deciding if it's going to be worth hours of your time. You probably have some PTSD from being prescribed thick volumes that you find unbearably dry (but will love when you're older!) such as Frankenstein or Great Expectations.


That's why we've done the hard work for you and condensed all the books you could be reading into the following 5 which we have organised based on what type of reader you are. Choose carefully - these books are highly potent at expanding your mind.


1. For the murder mystery lover - Murder Most Unladylike


You don't care about the metaphors and similes - all you want is action. You want a plot for heaven's sake, not just some guy sitting in a room and thinking about life. Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens has got you covered. Two school aged girls (so you can imagine yourself a detective too) crack a sinister murder case. What can two thirteen year old girls even do?


Well, I suppose you'll have to read it to find out.


2. For the one who wants to think more deeply about life (and death) - Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs


Perhaps Anqi (me, the writer), should curb her groupie energy for Caitlin Dougherty, best YouTuber who owns the channel Ask a Mortician which shared interesting stories about death, the singular most shared human experience (since the chance of it happening to you, at this time in history, is 100%). Caitlin's book Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs is a dip into the fascinating world of death. Caitlin offers hilariously candid answers to 35 of the most interesting questions children had about death: Why do corpses groan? What's up with dead bodies being green and orange? Why do hairs and nails appear longer after death?


And really, most importantly - will my cat eat my eyeballs? (the answer is yes and so will your dog).


3. For the one who doesn't mind a little magic - Before the Coffee Gets Cold


Have you ever wanted to travel in time? Perhaps to change something you've done in the past, or to check if you're rich and famous in the future. Either way, the cafe Funiculi Funicula can do that for you - just wait for the cafe's ghost to take a toilet break!


After being dumped by her boyfriend of three years, Fumiko decides to travel back in time to win him back. Kohtake goes back in time to learn the contents of a letter her husband with Alzheimer’s disease wrote for her and subsequently forgot to give her. Hirai travels back in time to speak to her dead sister. Kei travels into the future to speak to the daughter she will never meet. The four sets of stories seem unrelated, but they will leave the same deep marks in your heart even after the last page has been turned.


Toshikazu Kawaguchi spins stories that are more emotionally powerful than you could have ever guessed from their simplicity.


4. For the reader who wants their mind blown - Educated


Trigger warning: this memoir contains depictions of physical and emotional abuse. Recommended for older students 16 and above.


Raised in a secluded Mormon family, Tara Westover's lived in world where she did not have a birth certificate. No record in the country showed Tara's existence. Despite living in America, the country which prides itself on freedom and opportunity, Westover's life was restrained by her family's beliefs, toxic relationships and geographic isolation. She, against all odds, becomes accepted into Cambridge University where she completed a PhD in history. The events which shaped in Westover's childhood is shocking and difficult to imagine for the majority us who resides in the side of peace in a first world country.


Perhaps that's why it's worth reading. Non-fiction memoirs expand our perspective of the world, transporting us into lives we would have otherwise remained ignorant of. Having a broad understanding of different lives helps us evaluate our own, and the tale of a life in restrictive family values and a child who grew up with only morsels of opportunity helps the reader reconsider our own privilege and the relationship we have with our own families.


If you're motivated, you can also read Educating, which is a memoir written by LaRee Westover in response to her daughter Tara's book. It tells the same story from the mother's perspective, who seeks to debunk her daughter's claims. It's always good to hear the two sides to a story. Although, based on online reviews, you might choose not to.


5. For the really motivated - The Midnight Children


Warning: you may find this book impossible to read until page 150 - also recommended for students 16 and above.


You've read all the classics that you could get your hands on. You even have a favourite Shakespeare play. You're looking for something that teases your mind and broadens your perspective - and you're up for a challenge this Summer.


Reading the entirety of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children can be a Herculean task, but for the motivated it is a journey worth embarking. The climb is tough and requires dogged digging through the narrator's wild sprawl of stories and his rambling, unreliable thoughts. However, if you do manage to make it through the unhappy marriages and civil riots that preceded the birth of Saleem Sinai (our protagonist and narrator), you will be transported to a world where a thousand and one children, each with special powers, navigate the chaos that is the newly Independent India.


You will learn about the Indo-Pakistiani tension, realities of post-colonialism, the complicated meaning of family.


Happy Reading!


- Anqi


Send us a dm on Instagram (@simplyenglishtips) with any other amazing reads you wish to share with other students! We'll publish a new blog post with the top 5 recommendations - share the love 💓


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