The first year of middle school can be a tumultuous time for many students as they transition to middle school and have to start learning some things all over again- where their classes are, what their schedules will be, and what to expect from a new set of teachers. Help your students navigate the school year by providing literature that encompasses a variety of topics, levels, and formats.
The following 6th grade books are just to get you started- a list full of diverse, compelling characters and a plethora of genres to captivate even your most reluctant reader.
1. Stargazing by Jen Wang
In this graphic novel, Moon and Christine are unlikely friends who become close when they end up as neighbors. Christine lets Moon's confidence lead her, but when Moon ends up sick, can Christine step up and be the one who inspires?
2. El Deafo by Cece Bell
Cece goes to a new school and quickly discovers that her giant hearing aid does two things- repels other students and lets her hear her teacher ANYWHERE in the school. Will this new power help or hurt her quest to find a true friend?
3. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Braces aren't comfortable for anyone, but Raina seems to have a harder time than most- fake teeth, headgear, and surgery! Students will love the artwork and see how Raina deals with issues that many of them will face in 6th grade and beyond.
4. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
Middle school has its own set of rules, as Peppi quickly finds out. To protect her reputation, she quickly rejects those who have been kind to her. But she soon comes to realize that some things are more important than the rules.
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The first in a long series of graphic novels, Diary of a Wimpy Kid introduces Greg Heffley to the world. While he doesn't keep a typical diary, his version of one tells entertaining tales of entering middle school and growing up.
6. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kabuishi
Continuing in the graphic novel trend, The Stonekeeper tells the story of Emily and Navin, two children who have experienced a great deal of loss. In order to save their mother, they must enter a new world and face all sorts of awful monsters, learning to be brave all the while.
7. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
The Apothecary weaves together history, adventure, and drama into a story that 6th grade students will devour. Two tweens must rescue a kidnapped apothecary while avoiding Russian spies and discovering new potions.
8. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols
Sam loves to learn and wants to know anything about everything. Most of all, he wants to learn about dying because he has leukemia. This poignant and powerful story gives children a chance to explore death in a realistic but safe way while looking at death from the perspective of many of those involved with Sam's life.
9. Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Three friends enter seventh grade and find the bonds of their friendship tested by new interests, social media problems, and what happens as people grow up. This book deals with real issues in a way that they and their parents can relate to.
10. Grenade by Alan Gratz
A young Japanese student is drafted and told to go kill an American soldier. A Marine finds himself on Okinawa, unsure of what to expect. As they both cross the island, what choices will they make when they finally meet?
11. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Brian is on a trip to see his dad when his plane crashes. He is the only survivor. After 54 days on his own, Brian has learned not only how to survive, but how to deal with the ramifications of his parents' divorce. Paulsen's Newberry Honor book will inspire and challenge middle-grade students.
12. Parked by Danielle Svetcov
Jeanne Ann lives in a van. Cal lives in a giant house. What could these two possibly have in common? This touching story of friendship and generosity will help middle schoolers see a real-world problem in a different light while encouraging them to reach out to those who are different.
13. Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha
Robin Ha's memoir of unexpectedly moving from South Korea to Alabama will teach students a great deal about immigration, dealing with tough emotions, and the importance of finding something you are passionate about.
14. Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai
Mai and her grandmother head to Vietnam during summer vacation, even though Mai has no interest in the trip. Once there, however, she slowly comes to realize the importance of knowing where she came from and finds relationships that challenge and encourage her.
15. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
The first book in the beloved Lord of the Rings series introduces readers to a world of elves, dwarves, and men in which young Frodo must destroy the One Ring. This is a great book for advanced readers.
16. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Another series beginner, The Hunger Games introduces the world of Panem, where the Capitol makes the districts send children to fight to their death in a country-wide spectacle. Readers will be intrigued by the story of Katniss Everdeen, whose bravery and skill help her greatly when she is sent to the arena.
17. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow is a brilliant 12- year old medical genius who loves counting by 7s and her adoptive parents. When her parents are killed in a car crash, Willow must seek out a different type of community as she learns to deal with her grief.
18. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
The author of the Percy Jackson series does it again with a new series featuring Norse mythology. Magnus has made it on his own for quite some time, but when his Uncle Randolph reenters his life, it sets him on a course of action that he cannot turn back from.
19. Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell
In this historical novel written in verse, readers will learn about the importance of the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court Case. Richard and Mildred Loving's story paved the way for couples of different races to wed and inspired many to fight for what is right.
20. To Catch a Cheat: A Jackson Greene Novel by Varian Johnson
Jackson has stayed clean for a while, but now he's being blackmailed- someone wants him to steal a copy of an important exam. Will he cave to the pressure, or use his cunning to defeat the blackmailers?
21. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L' Engle
Meg, Charles, and Calvin are on a mission to save Murry's father from the Dark Thing. They must travel through time, risking their lives, to defeat an evil leader in this classic and beloved sci-fi novel.
22. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
The Outsiders is a classic story for middle-grade students detailing the rivalry between the greasers and the socs. The story centers on Ponyboy, a greaser who thinks he knows how life works- until tragedy strikes.
23. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Every family has its problems, but Doug can't seem to escape the problems his family reputation brings. He's new in town, acting tough, but soon realizes that the most unexpected people truly care for him.
24. The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming
Most know Charles Lindbergh as the first person to fly over the Atlantic, but Fleming's biography reveals much more about his beliefs, flaws, and past. Advanced readers will enjoy a deeper look into who Lindbergh truly was.
25. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lupita's mother has cancer, so she must care for her seven siblings. She finds an escape under a mesquite tree where she has space to think and write. The emotional story shows the importance of resilience and hope.
26. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Readers worldwide love this story of sweet but precocious Anne, an orphan who comes to live with an old brother and sister at Green Gables. Anne's penchant for mischief, fiery temper, and fierce love have made her a favorite heroine for decades.
27. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is one of Alcott's most beloved novels, a classic coming of age story about 4 sisters growing up, growing apart, and figuring out their dreams as they navigate the world around them.
28. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
This is a great novel for book clubs; it weaves ten different stories that any student could experience into a book that shows how detours are a part of life.
29. Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
Now that Palmer is almost ten, he knows he'll have to be a wringer at the annual town Pigeon Shoot. But when he starts hiding a pet pigeon in his room, can he go through with it? Will he stand up for himself or cave to peer pressure?
30. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Dewey goes to live with her dad, who's working on a secret project- the Manhattan Project. Though she doesn't realize the magnitude of what her father is doing, she begins making friends with others at the compound as their parents work to change the course of history.
31. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons are a normal but quirky family who figures out life together. But when they take a trip to Birmingham just before a church bombing, Kenny and his family must figure out how to deal with what they've seen and how to help stop it from happening again.
32. A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
When the Berlin Wall goes up, Gerta's family is divided. Though she's trapped in East Berlin, somehow her father seems to communicate to her that he wants her to go under the wall to West Berlin. Though they're facing huge danger, can Gerta's family be reunited?
33. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This mystery thriller will captivate 6th graders as they read about Miranda, a girl who keeps receiving strange notes that seem to predict the future. The note-writer gives Miranda a mission, but will she successfully carry it out in time?
34. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
When Winnie is kidnapped by a family in the woods with a mysterious secret, she must ask herself an important question- "Would I want to live forever?" She learns about consequences, greed, and the power of choice in this modern classic.
35. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Charlie's life has been turned upside down. When his somewhat crazy family embarks on a cross-country road trip, he searches for birds to remind himself that things will be ok.
36. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Another classic middle school book, Black Beauty tells the life story of a horse who is loved one moment and abused and mistreated the next as he is passed from owner to owner.
37. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
Tiger Eyes is a beautiful story of learning how to deal with grief and the power of empathy. When Davey loses her father and her family relocates, she must learn to move on, even through horrific pain.
38. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson has been a beloved character for years. Students who have yet to meet him will enjoy the story of his learning about his true parentage and his first adventures at Camp Half-Blood.
39. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Miri and her family live simply until the king decides to choose a bride from her village. The girls all head to Princess Academy, where the competition to be chosen begins.
40. Renegades by Marissa Meyers
A different take on a superhero novel, Renegades tells the story of one girl's quest for vengeance, a group of people with special abilities, and how the world figures out who to trust.
41. Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
Mary Lou Finney thinks her summer journal project will be super boring. But when she starts recording the craziest summer ever, she realizes the project is way more interesting than she expected!
42. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
When Artemis Fowl stumbles upon a group of fairies- fairies with loads of advanced technology- he quickly makes several enemies in his mission to steal fairy treasure. This modern-day twisted fairy tale will have students craving more!
43. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
What happens when a pretty normal family faces the world after an apocalyptic event? This book tells the story of what Miranda and her family do in this exact situation, using journal entries to show what they face and conquer. This would be great for more mature middle school students.
44. Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand
The story of Louis Zamperini, Olympian, soldier, and survivor, will challenge and inspire 6th grade students as they read about his courage and determination in the face of almost insurmountable odds.
45. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Fairy tales meet real life in this middle grades novel. Alex and Conner learn that the book their grandma has given them will transport them to fairy tale world for new adventures and surprising encounters with characters they've only read about.
46. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker turned library designer who has created a new library that kids can't wait to check out. When they step into this library, they'll find it's a lot more difficult to get out than they thought!
47. Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Milo is ready for Christmas break at his adoptive parents' inn, but when strange guests start arriving, he must put his break plans on hold and begin to investigate the strange disappearances happening around the inn.
48. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Harry Potter fans will recognize the name Flamel, so this separate series from Michael Scott should pull them right in! Twins Josh and Sophie get caught up in a thrilling adventure when they start their summer jobs. They are quickly recruited to help save Flamel and defeat the evil Dr. Dee, but will they be able to pull it off?
49. One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
This historical novel introduces us to sharpshooter Georgie, a 13-year-old who may have just lost her sister. Refusing to believe it, Georgie sets off to find her sister and prove everyone wrong.
50. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir, shown as a collection of Woodson's poems. She shares about growing up during the Civil Rights era and being shuffled between homes in the North and South.
51. Keeper of the Lost Cities (1) by Shannon Messenger
Sophie has always felt out of place. When she finds out that she is a telepath or mind-reader, she thinks that will help explain things. But as she enters a new life, she finds that the questions are just beginning.
52. H. I. V. E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden
When Otto's brilliance gets noticed by the wrong people, he soon finds himself at a 6-year school for villains. But he doesn't want to stay. Will he and his new friends be able to escape?
Check it out: H. I. V. E.
53. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost is fast- really fast. He's a runner with the potential to make the Junior Olympics IF he can stop running from his past. With the help of his mentor Coach, will he reach his full potential?
54. Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages
Katy is the neighborhood's best pitcher, but the rules don't allow her to join the Little League team. Katy must learn to stand up for herself with a bit of research and a great deal of tenacity.
55. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Life in Nazi Germany doesn't offer much hope. But Liesel finds a way to bring joy to others by stealing one thing- books. Told from the perspective of Death, this story will pull readers in and teach them how one person can bring light to such darkness.
Thankfully, we live in a time where there is a massive range of books to satisfy all of our students' interests and levels. These books are just a sampling of literature you can use to teach important lessons and open up great discussions. Remember that level is not as important as interest; the important thing is to get students reading as much as possible!