5 Lists of Books and More Space for Talk

I am a collector. I collect bookmarks I don’t use and tweets with headlines I think I’ll read later. I collect cute little pots I think I’ll eventually make home to plants, and notebooks I’m afraid to mess up with a pen (from my pen collection, of course.)

I also collect lists. Doesn’t everyone?

I collect lists of books thinking this will keep me from buying more books. Sometimes it works. Not often.

We’ve shared several lists of books on this blog:  Coach Moore’s list of books he read this summer, Shana’s Summer Reads to Stay Up Late With, Amy E’s Refresh the Recommended Reading List, and Lisa’s Going Broke List just to name a few.

I like reading lists about books. This helps me stay current on what my students might find interesting or useful. Often, I find titles that help me find the just right book for that one students who confuses “reading is boring” with “I don’t read well,” or “I don’t know what I like to read.”

With one heartbreaking event after another in our country lately, I keep thinking about the importance of reading to help our young people grow into compassionate citizens who more easily understand their world. Did you see the results of yet another study? Reading makes you feel more empathy for others, researchers discover.

Of course, we don’t need another study to tell us this. Many of us see it in our students.

I see it in my students. My students who enjoy reading also enjoy talking about their


My students chose from nine different books for their book clubs. Once they chose, we had five different book clubs happening in one class. At the end of our second discussion day, I had students combine groups and talk with one another about the major themes, make connections, and share a bit about their author’s style.

reading. They relate to one another more naturally as they talk about their books, the characters, the connections. They welcome conversations that allow them to express their opinions, likes and dislikes. They learn much more than reading skills through these conversations.

My AP Language students recently finished their first book club books. I left them largely without a structured approach to talking about their reading. My only challenge on their first discussion day was to stay on topic:  keep the conversation about the book for 30 minutes. They did. I wandered the room, listening in as I checked the reading progress of each student.

On the final discussion day (three total), I reviewed question types and used ideas from Margaret Lopez’ guest post Saying Something, Not Just Anything, and asked students to write two of each question types:  factual, inductive, analytical prior to their book club discussions. This led to even richer conversations around their reading.

I remember reading a long while ago about how conversations about poetry could invite opportunities for solving big problems. I don’t know if this is the article I read, but the poet interviewed in this article asserts it, too:

I think we know the world needs changing. Things are going awry left and right. I firmly believe that in our very practical, technological, and scientific age, the values of all the arts, but of poetry in particular, are necessary for moving the world forward. I’m talking about things like compassion, empathy, permeability, interconnection, and the recognition of how important it is to allow uncertainty in our lives.

. . .Poetry is about the clarities that you find when you don’t simplify. They’re about complexity, nuance, subtlety. Poems also create larger fields of possibilities. The imagination is limitless, so even when a person is confronted with an unchangeable outer circumstance, one thing poems give you is there is always a changeability, a malleability, of inner circumstance. That’s the beginning of freedom.

When we invite our students to read, and then open spaces for them to talk about their


This group had hearty discussions around Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It’s Western Days. They don’t always wear hats and plaid and boots, even in Texas.

reading, we provide the same opportunities that discussions around poetry do. Maybe not on the micro scale of ambiguity and nuance, but most certainly on the macro scale of possibilities. Our students are social creatures, and we must give them spaces to talk.

So I collect lists of books I think my students may like to read, with the hope of engaging them in conversations — with me and with one another — around books. (A couple of years ago, Shana and I had students create book lists as part of their midterm.)

Here’s five of the book lists I’ve read lately. Maybe you will find them useful as you curate your classroom libraries and work to find the right books for the right students, so they can have the conversations that help them grow in the empathy and understanding we need in our future leaders, right or left.

6 YA Books that are Great for Adults

50 Books from the Past 50 Years Everyone Should Read at Least Once

The Bluford Series — Audiobooks

20 Books for Older Teen Reluctant Readers

43 Books to Read Before They are Movies

Oh, and if you haven’t read Lisa’s 10 Things Worth Sharing Right Now post in a while, now, that’s an awesome list!!

Amy Rasmussen loves to read, watch movies with her husband, and tickle her five grandchildren. She’s in the market for a lake house and likes to shop thrift stores for books and bargain furniture. Someday she’ll be disciplined enough to write a book about teaching. For now, she teaches senior English and AP Lang and Comp at her favorite high school in North TX. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass, and, please, go ahead and follow this blog.


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18 thoughts on “5 Lists of Books and More Space for Talk

  1. […] you know me, you know I live by lists. I make them. I collect them. Sometimes I even stick to them. I raised seven children, you know. I had to keep track of who […]


  2. Jacqueline Hernandez November 3, 2017 at 9:25 am Reply

    Reading for multiple book clubs throughout the year is very important. We get to read different types of texts not just your regular old narratives. In reading expository, argumentative and descriptive books we get an idea on how to write in these forms for future essays. I love the idea of book clubs because you read and share your thoughts and questions on the book with classmates. Apart from that you get to know your classmates and see how they think and their opinions which don’t always turn out to be the same as yours. Not having the same partners for every book club also makes the discussions more interesting.


  3. […] moves, sentence structure, and more. Some of us collect them, storing them safely among other valuable collections.  We keep a stash for studying craft, earmarking books in the hopes of remembering why we saved […]


  4. Amie-Jo Piers October 22, 2017 at 9:58 pm Reply

    Book club discussions invite the opportunity to view your book from someone else’s perspective. Before having our first book club discussion, I was confused about many aspects of the book I was reading. However, after being able to discuss with classmates and hear their interpretations of the same book, I had a better understanding of what the author was trying to convey in her writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aaron Jackson October 22, 2017 at 9:56 pm Reply

    I can definitely attest to students learning new perspectives through discussing new books. I didn’t consider this before, but I have been able to catch a glimpse of another’s soul just by discussing books. During our book club meetings for our last books, I could understand other’s perspectives just by understanding how they interpreted the book that they read.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jack Duffield October 22, 2017 at 7:37 pm Reply

    Reading in a book club setting has made me read in a new way. Often I read for myself, as everyone should, but now I read in order to contribute my opinion of what we’ve read. I find other people’s opinions intriguing and reading in a book club can change my whole perspective on a topic. It is also interesting to see the reactions when I suggest and idea that someone may not have thought of until that point. Thanks to reading in a book club setting, I’m more motivated to read and I get a better grasp of what I’ve read.


  7. Ludivina Salas October 22, 2017 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Having the opportunity to participate in group club discussions allow students to get insight on how others interpret different sources of writings. It allows for the presentations of new understandings and the exposure of personal connections between those who participate (and the book). Book clubs allow groups of people to bond over the stories of strangers and in the end, results in a better connection between us students.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yesenia Regalado October 22, 2017 at 3:23 pm Reply

    Books talks are a great way to have a personal connection, see others point of view, and have a new perceptive on the authors writing. Reading with our classmates brought us to talk about different opinions, and views on the novel and try to think analytically in our discussions. Discussing with our groups definitely helped us think about how it relates to our life and the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bryan Lopez October 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm Reply

    Book clubs are a great way to help students understand or further learn more about a certain book. It reveals new viewpoints on the book and teaches the ability of argumentation. I am strongly for these types of activities since they are effective and have made reading much more interesting for me.


  10. Fallon Hale October 22, 2017 at 12:35 pm Reply

    The book clubs are a great way to see more sides of the book. Sometimes, when I’m reading I see a passage one or two ways and move one, but in a group, either people add to my scope or I am challenged to expand it further. It also helps connect things about the book when you are talking about it and coming to conclusions with others who have read what you have in addition to motivating some to actually read.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Par Hniang October 22, 2017 at 10:51 am Reply

    I love our book club groups. Reading in a group and having someone that understands and can have discussions about the book is great. There is so much more motivation when someone else reads with you. It’s exciting to talk about a character or event in story that really surprises you. I am able to learn different perspectives from our group discussion, which helps us understand others’ take on life.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gustavo Wences October 21, 2017 at 10:51 pm Reply

    I favor the idea of getting students to read and comprehend their reading by holding book clubs. I have never had a teacher make students participate in them, especially with a book of their choosing from a list of good varied books. The book club gave me the motivation to read with a purpose other than finishing it for a grade. These little activities definitely will help develop a greater desire to read in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Gary Anderson October 11, 2017 at 6:20 am Reply

    Wait a minute. You mean, book clubs in your class are pretty much the same as authentic, real-world book clubs that thousands of grown-ups choose to help them enjoy reading even more and connect ideas with other readers? Again, you are making a path for your students to follow as lifelong readers. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy Rasmussen October 11, 2017 at 6:49 am Reply

      Gary, it has taken me a long time to figure the book club thing out and get students to not think I’ve got a gotcha, but, yes, exactly like a real, outside of school, bona fide book club. It’s kind of glorious just listening to students talk about their books.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Shana Karnes October 11, 2017 at 4:58 am Reply

    I love that you are a collector. 🙂 I know we both read a ton of books, but I love these kinds of lists to help me know what else is out there that I might not have enough time to read!

    And…I LOVE your new classroom! Gorgeous and welcoming for your young readers and writers.


    • Amy Rasmussen October 11, 2017 at 6:51 am Reply

      Thanks, my friend. I just learned Donor’s Choose has a matching deal going on for all book projects this month. Guess what I created last night? Thanks for lists of books with new and exciting titles!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Terri October 10, 2017 at 11:06 am Reply

    Thank you Amy! Hard to believe a year has passed:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy Rasmussen October 10, 2017 at 11:57 am Reply

      Right?! I hope you are well, Terri. I think of you often — and I hope the teachers who worked with you, and me, made some changes that have engaged their students in more authentic reading and writing. How are you spending your time? You and I need to collaborate on something else. Any ideas?


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