Just Another Day of Books Around the Room

5433e0b8b1ac3d5467881f5442b38b1a--eragon-quotes-christopher-paoliniFrom time to time, I like to compile a list of books my students are reading to see if I can discern any patterns or trends that will help me understand them as readers and possibly diagnose any situations that might need to be addressed. This year I’ve been working with four classes of high school juniors. Almost all of them reliably bring a book to class each day and read it for fifteen minutes at the beginning of each ninety-minute block.

Because students finish books regularly, the list changes every day, but here are the titles from a recent class, arranged alphabetically by author. (Numbers in parentheses indicate multiple students reading the same title.)

Kwame Alexander: The Crossover
Sherman Alexie: The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian
Bryan Anderson with David Mack: No Turning Back
M. T. Anderson: Feed
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong: Seinfeldia
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Derf Backderf: My Friend Dahmer
Paulo Bacigalupi: The Doubt Factory
Cris Beam: I Am
Frank Beddor: The Looking Glass Wars
Sam Bracken: My Orange Duffel Bag
Patrick Carman: Skeleton Creek
Joelle Charbonneau: The Testing
Joelle Charbonneau: Independent Study
Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Nyrae Dawn: Facade
Matt de la Peña: Mexican Whiteboy (2)
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The Strain Book One
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: The Strain Book Three: The Night Eternal
Sarah Dessen: Dreamland
Carl Deuker: Swagger (2)
Emma Donoghue: Room
Sharon M. Draper: Just Another Hero
Dave Eggers: The Circle (2)
Kathryn Erskine: Mockingbird
Michael Finkel: The Stranger in the Woods
Becca Fitzpatrick: Crescendo
Gayle Forman: Where She Went
Lisa Gardner: Touch and Go
Tim Green: Unstoppable
Charles F. Gritzer: Mexico
Alison Goodman: Eon
Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler: The Demon in the Teahouse
Ellen Hopkins: Crank
Nick Hornby: High Fidelity
Sherrilyn Kenyon: Invincible
Jo Knowles: Read Between the Lines (3)
Joseph R. Kozenczak and Karen M. Kozenczak: The Chicago Killer: The Hunt for Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy
Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians
Marie Lu: Prodigy
Chris Lynch: Hit Count
Michael Lewis: The Blind Side
Mike Lupica: The Underdogs
Zoe Marriott: The Name of the Blade
George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones (2)
David McCullough: 1776
Meg Medina: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Linda R. Monk and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide
Mike Mullin: Ashfall (2)
Mike Mullin: Ashen Winter
G. Neri: Knockout Games
Jennifer Niven: All the Bright Places (3)
Shana Norris: Troy High
Chase Novak: Breed
Joyce Carol Oates: Blonde
George Orwell: 1984
Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club
Joe Perry and David Ritz: Rocks
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely: All American Boys (2)
Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor and Park
Julie Shepard: Rosie Girl
Shel Silverstein: A Light in the Attic
Andrew Smith: Grasshopper Jungle
Tom Rob Smith: Child 44
Trenton Lee Stewart: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Tara Sullivan: The Bitter Side of Sweet
Angie Thomas: The Hate U Give (4)
Julia Walton: Words on Bathroom Walls
Paul Franklin Watson: Sea Shepard: My Fight for Whales and Seals
Scott Westerfield: Goliath
Various: 666: The Number of the Beast
Lauren Roedy Vaughn: OCD, the Dude and Me
Sean Williams: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Malcolm X and Alex Haley: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Emma Young: She Myself and I

The variety here is astonishing, but I think I see some patterns. The first one is something that probably wouldn’t be apparent to outsiders. Many of these titles were featured in our daily book-talks. Every day I tell students about a book that I think some of them might like. Those books are more likely than any others to show up in their hands. Sixteen of the books listed here have been the subject of book-talks earlier this year.

book talk slide 2

A slide like this is on the screen each day as students arrive in class.  After our independent reading time, I do a book talk on the title or titles.  In this case, we had a “two-fer” book talk on two thematically-linked novels, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

I also see a lot of books from the classroom library. Although the school where I’m working has an outstanding library and library staff, and many students are frequent visitors, other students rely on the classroom library. I’m not sure what makes the difference, but it’s an interesting question that has no wrong answer.

Authors from diverse backgrounds are important. I’m not going to do an ethnic tally, but I know that every title I mention written by an author of color shows up soon in our diverse classes.

Graphic novels are huge. In one class there is a small enclave who starts each block checking in with each other about what’s going on in whichever volume of The Strain they are currently reading. In addition, the most-read book in this still-young school year is Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer. (Nonfiction graphic novels, anyone?) The school library has 1,100 graphic novels in its collection, and those shelves get a lot of traffic.

My only concern is that a few students still choose books almost randomly, as if one book were just as good as another. Sometimes they even stick with those randomly chosen titles, even though they know they are welcome to abandon any book any time. Students know they are required to read, but some of them don’t know how to choose well. We can work on that.

I wonder if anyone sees other trends or patterns here? What am I missing?

Your comments and questions are always welcome, and as always, thanks for reading.

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5 Responses to Just Another Day of Books Around the Room

  1. Deborah Will says:

    Love this list, Gary. I noticed quite a few titles dealing with social justice as well as titles that have appeared on the Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award list. I love the work you are doing here and how interested you are in what these students need and like. I’m also wondering if they have seen you reading any of the books? Often, I don’t get to finish a book right away because it is literally taken from my hands.


  2. cricketmuse says:

    Over 1,000 graphic novels? How large is the library? Our high school library is barely visited since we have gone to the one-to-one program, a laptop for every student. I initiated SSR in my 10th grade class after a four year hiatus just to get students reading again. This means doing less in the curriculum, but some students have stated they only read in class. I will look at their list for trends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This school has 1:1 iPads. Even though the library offers books through the Overdrive app, we insist on students having physical books for SSR. Otherwise, the screen-reading is disrupted by notifications going off every few seconds. It’s like trying to read in a fireworks display.

      Liked by 1 person

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