It’s that time of year when high school graduates walk across that stage and out into the world, whether that is straight into the workforce or perhaps onward to college. We asked Rioters to recommend books for new high school graduates to read and here’s what we came up with.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
A short book that can be read in one sitting, written in verse, about the epidemic of gun violence in America. This should absolutely be required reading for so many reasons, but most of all because Reynolds created a story that’s current with so many of the hallmarks we find in the classics that are taught over and over again. Our nation’s students are literally on the front lines of this widespread conflict and they deserve to have authors like Reynolds there to articulate what’s happening and open an avenue for discussion and understanding.
Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
This might seem like an odd choice, since hooks’ intended audience are college teachers, but students can learn so much by considering education from the teacher’s perspective. Particularly in this collection of essays, where hooks explains how college professors need to be more subversive — from leading discussions that confront class/race/gender differences to encouraging confessional narratives. Ultimately, she argues for a feminist classroom, and I think by reading this students can learn how they as students can engage with their professors and the question what they’re learning. I would recommend this for high school grads going off to college.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Leaving high school and heading into the adult world means that you are going to start being a part of more nuanced conversations on big topics, including the issue of race. This book is a particularly great resource for learning about your own privilege and about the complexities of this topic.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Let me start by saying yes, I recognize and disagree with the TERF-y nonsense that this author has said and it is not to be taken lightly. In regards to this book in particular, I think there are many things that every new adult should know about the society we live in and ways we treat and support each other. Feminism is for everyone and the earlier we can get that message across in someone’s life the better off society will be in the future.
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves
After high school, I was curious about the world outside of my hometown, but travel was just an abstract concept until I stumbled upon an opportunity to study abroad in college. Now I’m the biggest evangelist for travel after high school of anyone I know. In this book, Rick Steves talks about the why behind travel by going on the ground in different countries and examining perspectives that seem foreign to a lot of Americans. I think it’s a great book for anyone who hopes to travel abroad at any point, and for those who don’t, I think it will convince them why they should if they get a chance. If anything, just by reading the book, the reader gets to try on ideas from cultures all over the world, which will give them a broader perspective on their surroundings and the world at large.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Though only 150 pages, Between the World and Me is the most powerful book on race in America that I have ever read. I’m pretty sure my high school self would have struggled with it, because, yes, it’s heavy, and because there are so many layers to it, so much to unpack and explore–and that’s exactly why I think every high school graduate should read it. It’s the kind of book that teenagers should struggle with. Coates does something exceedingly rare: this book is written in stunningly beautiful prose, full of perfect sentences that took my breath away, and it is also incredibly smart and deeply relevant. It’s not a book written for white people, but it’s one that white people absolutely should read, and so teenagers of different races will have vastly different experiences reading it. That’s another reason this book should be required reading for high school grads: it will spark real, hard, and honest thought and conversation.