The Best Summer Reads For Teens

The summer holidays are just around the corner, and one thing which certainly won’t be cancelled this year is your chance to get reading

 If you want to escape into a different world, relax at home or you just can’t stand watching any more 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 2020 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

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 Help (Katherine Stockett): Set in 1960s Mississippi, this inspiring and funny story follows the lives of three women navigating racial and social prejudices as they try to make a difference. 

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. 

The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time (Mark Haddon): This is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boon, a 15 year old boy who knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. This book will make you laugh and think in equal measures. 

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

Fermat’s Last Theorem (Simon Singh): This fascinating and well-written book is frequently recommend 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.

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (Matt Ridley): This popular science book is the perfect introduction to human biology and evolution. The chapters cover genetic disease, the theory of natural selection, advances in genetic technology and more. 

50 Chemistry Ideas You Really Need To Know (Hayley Birch): In 50 short instalments, this accessible book discusses everything from the arguments of the key thinkers to the latest research methods, using timelines to place each theory in context. It’s ideal for A Level Chemistry students. 

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

S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient Rome (Mary Beard): Famous Classicist Mary Beard uses this book to narrate the history of Ancient Rome in such a way that makes it fascinating, understandable and colourful. 

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. 

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Jung Chang): This true family history charts the life of three generations of women living in China during the last century. It’s shocking, painful and will open your eyes to a whole new era of history. It’s still banned in China today! This book is perfect for A Level History students. 

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