Tag Archives: book lists

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.

Part II. In an AP Class, Shouldn’t It Be about the Reading?

Angels sang to me again today. This doesn’t really happen too often, but when it comes to awesome adventures with students and books, the choir starts belting out in fff.

Based on the feedback to my post on Wednesday, I know many of my peers feel the same way as I do about AP students and reading–or not reading–as the case may be. I appreciate the comments and the emails and the encouragement. (I gave a student the Pulitzer Prize Winner Tinkers today, and another one asked for a copy of The Great Gatsby with no prompting from me whatsoever. I know I am doing something right here.)

I’m pretty much the advocate for independent reading on my campus. I talk about it every chance I get: slip it into a conversation here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes the words work their way into another teacher’s thinking, and Hallelujah! the angels bust out in song.

Read this email I got from my friend, Tess Mueggenborg. She teaches our gifted and talented Globesophomores in a special humanities course, which combines AP World History and Honors English II, and AP Literature. She and I share a lot–some things curriculum related, other things not. When we first worked together six years ago, it was as a team teaching the G/T course: me English/her history. I can tell you this:  Tess loves classic literature–some of which I’d never heard of. Gilgamesh, Horus the Hawk. Sigh.

For the past few years Tess’s heart’s been changing (I say that tongue in cheek because her heart is shiny gold), and she’s allowed for much more student choice in all her English classes. This fall she asked for funds to create a World Literature library of contemporary and complex books for her advanced students. Our ELA coordinator granted the request, and. . .

Read this. You’ll hear the choir.


Thought you might like to hear (and read) what’s going on with the new novels in World Experience … Last Friday, we had a day of “book speed dating.”  The students had about 60 seconds with each novel, and if the book interested them, they put a sticky note with their name on the back cover.  Then we divvied up the books, which proved to be arduous but entertaining.  Some of these kids were REALLY passionate about which book they ended up with! Today, they had their first assignment (other than “start reading!”) – a blog post.  Here are the questions I posed:

By now, you should be 1/4 to 1/3 through your novel (if not more!).  Based on what you’ve read thus far, answer the following questions on your blog.

1. How many pages are in your novel?  How many have you read?

2. Who is the protagonist (main character) of your novel?  What is the main conflict this person faces?  What are some possible outcomes that you foresee for this person?  (In other words: guess the ending.)

3. In a well-developed paragraph (with text evidence), respond: so far, what do you like about your novel?  What do you not like about your novel?  Why? Explain.

4. Based on what you’ve read thus far, would you recommend this book to someone else?  Why?  Explain.

5. Pick ONE quote that has stood out to you from the novel.  Give the quote, then explain: what made this quote stand out to you?  How does this quote relate to the whole novel?

And here are the links to several of their blogs:

Chris is reading Transatlantic: http://keyboardandseafood.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/transatlantic-novels-assignment-part-1/

Neha is reading The Namesake: http://neha614.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/assignment-for-1024-the-namesake-part-1/

Nico is reading All the Names: http://nicolasrequena28.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/novels-response-1024/

Rafael is reading Enrique’s Journey: http://parrarafael872.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/enriques-journey-part-1/

Angelica is reading Girl in Translationhttp://perezangelica477.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/novels-part-1/

Aaliyah is reading The Secret Life of Bees: http://aaliyahgonzalez.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/novels-part-1/

Overall, I’m really pleased with the results I’m seeing thus far!  Many of the students aren’t as far into their books as I had hoped they would be, but they all seem genuinely interested to keep reading.  I’m definitely getting more traction with these novels than I have with the literature I’ve done in the past for this unit (“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” plus Islamic and Chinese poetry).  Next week, I’ll start having them tie the cultural content of their novel to the things they’ve learned about World History thus far.  I’m VERY curious to see how that goes!


I ran down to Tess’ room the first chance I got. I was too excited to respond in an email. The books Tess filled her shelves with are rich and diverse. Here’s her list: World Literature Library

As I left her room, one comment made me smile:  “I’d still be using the classic lit, if the students would read them.”

And that’s my point: In an AP Class, Shouldn’t It Be about the Reading?

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