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Reading is a cornerstone of a young person’s development, teaching them not only literacy skills but about the philosophy of the world around them and what society is like.

When choosing the right books, you need content that will challenge the reader intellectually and engage them with a fascinating subject matter. Learn more about some ideal books for 9th graders and why these are perfect for students in that age bracket. Or, check out these 35 must-read books.

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Books for 9th graders

Ideal books for 9th graders span a range of genres and subject matters. The more variety you can introduce to a young person’s reading, the more comprehensive their views of wider society. Learn more about a series of books for 9th graders and why these are ideal for developing young minds.

Looking For Alaska

“Looking For Alaska,” by online personality, author, and educator John Green is a challenging read for people developing major parts of who they are. The book focuses on Miles and a young woman named Alaska, with themes including the search for meaning and grief when some main characters reach challenging moments. Despite some districts banning the book, it’s a key text for someone in their formative years struggling with discovering who they are.

Animal Farm

This book garners a lot of controversies, partially through people misunderstanding the book’s intentions. “Animal Farm” is a book that tells the tale of farm animals rebelling against an overarching power, in this case, the farmer, and trying to create a better society. Where some see this as a socialist piece of work or propaganda, they miss some of the nuances. This includes the parts in which a new form of tyranny rises after the revolution. A warning against tyranny and unchecked power in all its forms, Animal Farm is the ideal read for people with interest in politics and society.

Persepolis

“Persepolis” is less of a read than it is a look. This book is a comic series by Marjane Satrapi depicting childhood in revolutionary Iran through the 1980s. A warning against religious extremism while being set in the background of real-world events, readers are taken through the struggles that ordinary people deal with in a power struggle. The autobiography is an intense work covering nationalism, family, religious themes, and the role of refugees in society. To understand how geopolitics affects ordinary people, consider this deep dive into the real experiences of an active civil war.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Many people may not have heard of Philip K Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” with more people being familiar with the “Blade Runner” films from it. This book is a must-read sci-fi classic, delving into important ideas such as the nature of sentience in a twisting, turning, and weaving plot that brings the reader on an intriguing adventure. Consider combining a “Do Androids Dream…” reading with viewings of the “Blade Runner” films and asking students to tell you the differences in themes, events, and how characters are portrayed.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Another book with famous film adaptations and another book with dark historical themes. “All Quiet on the Western Front” follows Paul, a German soldier who joins the army at a young age with his friends to seek adventure. This moving story demonstrates the horrors of war to readers with underlying themes such as the pain of loss and the potential damage of unchecked nationalism. Erich Maria Remarque’s work also teaches students about empathy, as students that may otherwise see German soldiers as the enemy of the time instead consider the more human side of their lives and the emotional toll on both sides of a war.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a far lighter tone than many of the books in this list, bringing a classic splash of British humor to the reading options available. The tale follows Arthur Dent, an average man forced out of his home and into an intergalactic adventure after Earth’s surprisingly bureaucratic and mundane destruction. Douglas Adams’ delightful playfulness with language and phrasing is a major takeaway from this series, as readers engage with the intriguing method of writing and translate some of the techniques into their work.

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring figures in human history, after standing up for his rights in Apartheid South Africa. “Long Walk to Freedom” is his autobiography, chronicling the first part of his life that leads up to his time in captivity. An inspiring yet, at times, dark piece of writing due to its references to a deeply racist society, Mandela conveys the triumph of the human spirit over those that seek to impose harm on people for reasons as simple as the color of their skin—a must-read for anyone with interest in the history of race relations.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” is another book that many people will recognize more for its contribution to the film industry than as a book in its own right. Michael Lewis’ work discusses the tale of the Oakland A’s and their general manager Billy Beane and how data science took over the baseball world. This is both a challenging read and an intriguing introduction to the role of data in our lives. Consider recommending this as a read to anyone interested in the professional sports industry or data science.

The Big Short

Another Michael Lewis book about a famous historical event, “The Big Short,” dissects the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Rather than looking at a relatively bland economic case, Lewis examines the perspectives of several different people inside and outside the economic system, taking the relatively dry background to the financial crisis and turning it into an engaging page-turner with high stakes and fascinating characters. Anyone interested in economic phenomena and how seemingly small financial events can trigger huge shifts in global markets will benefit from reading “The Big Short,” with a supporting film providing a broader overview of the book’s content.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne is a masterful work. Based on World War Two and taking place through the eyes of two eight-year-old boys, Bruno and Shmuel, this book examines the dichotomy between the absolute horrors of war and childhood innocence. The war crimes in this era are things that 9th-grade students are old enough to learn and important lessons to pass along the generations. The book itself veils the truth of the Holocaust from the reader and Bruno as the curtain gradually pulls back to reveal the dark nature of events.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Few books actively seek to explain the minds of people with neurological conditions that differentiate them from the average person. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a British novel centered around Christopher, a teenager with autism. Upon finding a dog that has died, Christopher chooses to investigate and unravels a series of truths about his life. An intricate read that succinctly demonstrates what experiencing life with an issue such as autism is like. This is the ideal read for young people looking to broaden their horizons and walk in the shoes of someone with a disorder that they will never have.

The Chronicles of Narnia

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis is a series of books examining a young family’s interactions with a spectacular fictional realm. Rather than the content itself being complex, examining the themes and origins of this series could be an ideal alternative. In 9th grade, students can pick complex meanings from books and use them to form their conclusions about a writer’s intention. The world of Narnia is an incredibly intricate space with layers of hidden meaning available for the reader to delve into and find all the hidden meanings C.S. Lewis placed in the work.

The Hunger Games

A recent classic, Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” tells the tale of a dystopian state in the future, in which a Capitol district forces the children of a dozen other districts to fight for entertainment. While the film adaptations tell an interesting story, the book goes into a further level of depth that the other version can’t reach in a limited runtime. This series, set in the politically fractious Panem, is the perfect alternative to some older classics for students interested in growing their library without delving into excessively complex books.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

“Nineteen Eighty-Four,” or 1984, is George Orwell’s most famous work. This dystopian novel is set in a distant future, with an overpowering state using the media as a disinformation tool and comprehensive surveillance to keep the people in check. Orwell’s book has had a major cultural impact, with references throughout music, television, and film. Throughout the book’s history, several governments have banned it for its subversive messaging. It is a necessary read for anyone seeking a greater understanding of geopolitics and the way that overpowering states and dictatorships deal with dissidents. The subject of unending analysis, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,”  is a must-read.

The Fault in Our Stars

Ending the list with another John Green novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” discusses death, illness, and self-discovery. It focuses on two main characters, both with serious illnesses and both looking to make the most of the time they have left. An intricate story that explores the delicate subjects of loss and knowing that you only have a limited amount of time left. This isn’t the best story for people who have recently suffered a loss, but it is a good tool for teaching people about the finite nature of life and how to approach the time we have.