Amy and I have been talking a lot lately about how to help our students connect meaningfully to the books they’re reading independently. This focus on personal connections stems from our recent reading of Louise Rosenblatt’s work, our effort to make our instruction authentic, and our noticing of the ease with which our students disconnect from the world.
One activity we gave our students the option to complete was the creation of their own Top 10 Lists, like this one. Emily’s list is titled “Life and How to Live It,” and it is full of her own personal connections. It’s reflective of Emily’s desire to become a published other, full of her love for literacy and learning about the world through reading. I hope her passion spreads to your students when you share this list with them.
Emily’s Top 10 List: Life and How to Live It
Here, I present to you my top ten favorite books all loosely based around my personal favorite theme to read about: life and the different outlooks different people have on life. Some see the good in life, some see the bad, and others get to see both. Each one of us will face hardships throughout our lifetime while later on finding that one thing that makes us feel as if we have a purpose to exist. When we first open our eyes at the beginning of each day, we are faced with the option to treat this day like a curse, hiding away from this beautiful life we are given to live, or to focus our attention on the positives we have. The choice is yours.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is hands down my favorite book of all time. I first read it in middle school and have been in love with it since then. The idea is basically that Jonas, the main character, lives in a utopian society with no bad whatsoever. At age 12 everyone in this society receives their career, and Jonas has a difficult time dealing with the career he has been given. I love this book for a few reasons: one is the way that the book itself is written, and the other is the story behind it. I love the idea that Jonas is the only one who gets to see the bad in the utopian society, because to me it sends the message that what may seem perfect, deep down has repressed secrets we all can’t see.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men: a classic. In this tale Steinbeck tells the story of George and Lennie, two friends who take on the hardship of the Great Depression. Lennie, however, takes on more considering he is practically a father figure to George. Times get hard, but they don’t give up on each other. In the end, Lennie realizes that sometimes no matter how much you love something, if it’s not what is best for you then you can and will be able to survive without it, no matter how hard it is. I think overall this is the reason why I love this book so much.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
This book brings me to tears–a lot of tears. Based on the true story of a young man who is happy in his life, living a life full of money and materialistic things. On the other side of the story, his old college professor Morrie is diagnosed with a deadly disease and must reunite with Mitch to teach him the things in life that are truly important. I love the idea behind this story, that in life we get lost in materialistic things and lose sight of the things that are most important in this short life we are given.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
The relationship between myself and this book is remarkable. I can honestly say that I personally connect to it more than most other readers. This book is about a young man who deals with severe depression and one night decides to admit himself into the hospital after contemplating suicide. He then spends a week in a psychiatric hospital, learning things about himself and everyone else. Vizzini actually spent time in a psychiatric hospital before writing this book which makes it that much better considering he can grasp the inside look on what it’s really like. I, myself, have spent time behind the doors of a psychiatric hospital, and strangely enough my story started off almost the same way Craig’s did.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Yet another amazing book that has the ability to bring tears to my eyes. The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the story of Charlie, a freshman in high school who is struggling with depression and anxiety issues. Through letters, he talks about the good days and the bad, along with what is going through his mind. Charlie befriends Patrick and Sam who being to show him that it is okay to be different from everyone else.
Looking For Alaska by John Green
Looking for Alaska by John Green is a beautifully written story of a young boy who develops the nickname Pudge at a private high school where he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Alaska Young. So much happens while they are there together and he learns a life lesson. She teaches him to not be afraid of life, to go out and grab it because it can be a lot shorter than we expect.
Paper Towns by John Green
Paper Towns tells the heart-warming story of Quentin Jacobson who has secretly been in love with the girl next door, Margo. Margo taught Quentin a lesson which is the main reason I love this book so much – she taught him to go through life without being afraid of adventure. This is one of my top favorite books because I relate to Margo and her adventurous personality. I love Morgantown but I have always wanted to move somewhere where I can start completely over – the idea of recreating myself in a new place is thrilling.
Skinny by Ibi Kaslik
Many teenage girls face a deadly mental illness – anorexia. Skinny tells the story of Giselle and how her battle with anorexia has flipped her life around. It also tells the story of her younger sister, Holly, and how her sister’s disease is effecting her life as well. The writing in this book was not my favorite, but it was still a great read. I love the idea that someone would want to put the issue of anorexia into words. My favorite part of the book, and the main reason it made my list of favorites, is the fact that it not only goes into the mind of the person facing the anorexia but someone close to her as well.
Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
When I first started reading this book I didn’t think I would make it through but I’m glad I decided to finish it. Afterparty follows the story of a quiet girl who moves to a new town and decides it’s time for a change. She meets new people and gets to experience new and exciting things. This is something I have always wanted to do, which is why it made this list. Getting into a new place where you get to start completely over is more than exhilarating.
Everyday by David Levithan
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else for a day? To get inside of their minds and read their deepest secrets? A, the main character in Everyday, gets to wake up in a new body each and every day. To me, the idea of this is both terrifying and fascinating. When I was reading this I was thinking about the psychological aspects of this because I want to become a psychologist one day so I will be in people’s mind, understanding then, just as A does.
What other titles teach readers about life and how to live it? Please add your recommendations in the comments!