There’s nothing better than spending the summer getting lost in a really good book! So, now’s the perfect time to decide which titles you’ll be reaching for when the holidays begin.
Whether you want to escape into a different world, relax at home or you’ve run out of series to binge on Netflix, picking up a book will help to keep your brain in gear and dispel boredom over the coming months.
For students preparing to start their GCSEs or A Levels – or those thinking about university applications – now is the perfect opportunity to start with some wider reading around favourite subjects.
To inspire and motivate you to get reading this summer, the team members at Save My Exams have collaborated to produce this bitesize guide packed with the best recommendations for 2021 reads for teens. So whether you’re looking to broaden your knowledge, strengthen your personal statement or just have fun, this list will help you find the right choice for you.
But I’ve never liked reading!
Most students think that they don’t like reading because either they have never found the right book to enjoy, or they are lacking the necessary skills to ‘get in’ to a book.
If you find that you are easily bored by the books you are given at school, don’t give up! Rather than feeling pressured to read ‘academic’ or ‘classic’ novels, let yourself choose the books which you genuinely want to read.
If you’re not a habitual reader, start off gradually, setting yourself a target of one chapter or twenty minutes per day, then building up to longer spells.
Once you’ve exercised your reading muscles enough, moving on to more challenging texts will be a breeze.
Books every teen should try
Normal People (Sally Rooney): This emotional novel charts the relationship of young students Connell and Marianne as they pass in and out of each other’s lives. Touching on themes of loneliness, belonging and love, it will have you reaching for the tissues long before the final page.
The Midnight Library (Matt Haig): Uplifting and inspiring, this story follows Nora Seed, who has given up on life and ends up in a place between life and death called The Midnight Library. Here, she gets to visit her parallel lives and see how her life would have turned out if she’d made different decisions. What she finds might surprise you…
Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman): The first story of a brilliant series, Noughts and Crosses tells the story of a forbidden friendship in a dystopian Britain. Can Sephy and Callum breach the divide between the black elite and white underclass? You’ll be hooked from the first page.
Northern Lights (Phillip Pullman): This rich and imaginative fantasy novel follows the story of Lyra and her animal daemon as they journey to the Arctic in search of a dangerous truth. Multi award winning and widely popular amongst teens, this book is the first in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy.
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini): This moving story follows the tragic and tumultuous life of Amir, a boy from Kabul who loves to fly kites but has his life turned upside down by the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
The Life of Pi (Yann Martel): After an accident at sea which leaves his family dead, Pi Patel must find a way to survive in a lifeboat. His fight against the odds is heightened by the company of a hyena and a male Bengal tiger.
Maus (Art Spiegelman): Maus is a darkly comic, totally captivating graphic novel about the experiences of the author’s family as Jews during the Holocaust. It’s been called the greatest graphic novel ever written and would be a great read for someone who struggles to engage with text-heavy books.
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban (Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb): As you can tell from this self-explanatory title, this book tells the inspiring autobiographical story of the youngest Nobel Prize winner’s fight for girls’ education in Pakistan.
Books for science students
A Series of Fortunate Events (Sean B. Carroll): If you’ve ever wondered whether everything happens for a reason, then this is the book for you. Carroll explores the fascinating role of chance in the existence of the world and everything that happens in it.
Great Adaptations (Kenneth Catania): One for all you adventurous Biologists! Catania takes a look at some of the weird and wonderful animals that have evolved across the world. Exploring the lives of creatures including star-nosed moles, electric eels and zombie-making wasps – you’ll be amazed by Catania’s discoveries.
A Life on Our Planet (David Attenborough): At 95 years of age, David Attenborough has had an incredible life, and in this book he takes a look back at his experiences exploring the natural world. He explains the biggest threats facing our planet and advises the things we need to start doing now in order to protect it.
Fermat’s Last Theorem (Simon Singh): This fascinating and well-written book is frequently recommended for maths and science students – and for good reason! It tells the true story of how mathematics’ most challenging problem was made to yield its secrets.
The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (Simon Singh): Also by Singh, this book is a must-read for any true Simpsons fans! The author explores and explains the mathematical references in the cartoon, and it’s been described as a “readable and unthreatening introduction to various mathematical concepts”.
When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi): An essential read for any aspiring medics, this powerful autobiographical novel follows the transformation of a young medical student into a neurosurgeon and then a patient himself.
How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog (Chad Orzel): This laid-back, humorous Physics book written by a professor manages to explain a number of sophisticated concepts without the reader ever feeling out of their depth. A good one for Physics or Maths students.
The Wonders of the Solar System (Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen): Based on the popular TV series, this book is about the universe, cosmology and our Solar System. It’s guaranteed to make you go ‘wow’ at least once!
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (Oliver Sachs): This book reads like a collection of short stories, all bizarre but true tales about the patients of the neurologist author. This will be of interest for Psychology and Biology students.
Books for humanities students
Humankind: A Hopeful History (Rutger Bregman): Ever heard that you should look for the good in everyone? This book explores the theory that humans are innately kind, re-evaluating key events in history from a new perspective and demonstrating the impact of believing in the power of kindness.
Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights (Helen Lewis): This book aims to tell the truth about feminism and the battles fought for women’s rights, with shocking and fearless honesty.
Ask a Philosopher: Answers to Your Most Important and Most Unexpected Questions (Ian Olasov): Got some burning questions you need answering? You might just find them in this book and it will definitely get you thinking. Be prepared for some in-depth conversations with family and friends once you’ve finished reading!
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (Stephen Fry): With his characteristic flair, Stephen Fry re-tells the classic Greek myths in a smart, funny way. Accessible for everyone, and no prior knowledge required!
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner): If you thought that sumo wrestlers and drug dealers had nothing to do with economics, this book will prove you wrong! It’s a thought-provoking, funny introduction to some of the key theories which underlie academic economic thinking.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (Reni Eddo-Lodge): Described as the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today, this book spans history, sociology and politics.
No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference (Greta Thunburg): This book is a collection of 11 speeches from teenage climate activist Greta Thunburg. It frames the defining debate of the 21st century, and should be compulsory reading for any student.
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics (Tim Marshall): If you’re looking for answers to important questions like ‘Why do we go to war?’ ‘Why are some countries rich and others poor?’This book makes a great starting point. Tim Marshall uses this book to reveal how interconnected ideology, politics, history and geography are, and why it matters to all of our lives.
Which books have we missed? What are your recommendations?
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If you’re looking for strategies to become a better reader, you’ll find them here.