Whether in class or learning from home, the 2020-21 school year promises to be a weird one. But as always, reading will still be a major part of students’ education. So to help overwhelmed kids, parents, teachers, and administrators during this unprecedented time, we’ve put together a list of the most common assigned summer reading books available in the public domain. You can read all of these popular titles, categorized by grade level, entirely for free. And they are easy to find and download in multiple formats at Project Gutenberg.
We constructed this list by looking at summer reading titles from school districts around the country as well as online lists. Then we consulted with current high school English teachers who offered more titles and helped us mark them according to grade level.
This is also a great resource for readers of all ages looking for their next book.
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How to Use These Lists for School
These lists can be used for both summer reading and in-school assignments. Make sure you consult with your teachers and get specific titles pre-approved for any formal work. However, this list also provides great ideas for supplemental reading material options. Read a lot even outside of class! And because all these titles are available for free they are perfect for creating book clubs, either with classmates, friends, or family.
Grade breakdowns cover wider ranges than you might realize though. There can be a huge difference between a book appropriate for a fifth grader and one for an eighth grader. The same is true for books read by high school freshmen and seniors. Ask your teachers about finding the exact right reading level for you.
Grades 5 to 8
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
The Red Badge of Courage (Stephen Crane)
The Call of the Wild (Jack London)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll)
Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells)
Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss)
The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving)
Graded 9 to 12
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Walden, and On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience (Henry David Thoreau)
Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin (Benjamin Franklin)
Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
The Jungle (Rudyard Kipling)
The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone (Sophocles)
The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy)
A Doll’s House and An Enemy of the People (Henrik Ibsen)
The Grapes of Wrath (Boyd Cable)
Les Misérables (Victor Hugo)
Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)
Beowulf (Old English Epic Poem)
Dubliners (James Joyce)
Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
Hamlet and King Lear (William Shakespeare)
You can also find other free titles with our previous lists of classic books in the public domain. They include:
Sci-Fi Books You Can Read For Free Right Now
Fantasy Books You Can Read for Free Right Now
Horror Books You Can Read For Free Right Now
Mysteries You Can Read for Free Right Now
Adventure Books You Can Read for Free Right Now
Also check out our list of Eight Ways to Listen to Audiobooks For Free.
And the best way to read Shakespeare is by listening to it at the same time. The internet is full of ways to download entire plays for free. Find a version that works for you. The Bard is far less daunting when you hear his works being performed as you read along.
We know this school year is going to be weird, but remember, reading is always going to be an important part of your education. And it’s easier—and freer—than ever to do it.
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