A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.


One of the first questions I ask someone that I’ve decided I want to get to know better is, “What was the last book you read?” Sometimes, people have answers right away and other times, people struggle to answer this question. They can’t remember the last time they read a book. I always ask them “Why?” and the answers come in about two varieties. There are the people who don’t have time. There are the people who don’t like to read. I immediately switch into my own book pusher mode. It’s as though in my mind I begin scrolling through lists of their likes and their dislikes and I try to match it up with books that I have at home.


My room is full of books. I can’t sit in my desk chair for all the books. I don’t have enough bookshelves for all my books and I have to stack them on my bedside table, my desk, my plant racks, my radiator (only in the summer because I don’t want to start a fire when it’s on). I have book hidden in every nook and cranny. If you look under my bed, I have a hat box filled with books and in my closet, there are more books on top of my dresser and yet, sometimes I worry that I don’t have enough to start a classroom library. I loved reading Allen’s article, “Potato Barrels, Animal Traps, Birth Control, and Unicorns: Re-visioning Teaching and Learning in English Class” and how Allen got kids to care about books. All of her students had a competition as to which class could bring in the most class and it’s a wonderful story of a shift in a classroom from dreading having to pick up a book to having books become something of great value. I want to do something like this for my own classroom. I’m curious as to what books the students would bring in.


I have a professor, Dr. Ellington, who started each school year with a book on every desk. She gave her students a minute or two with each book before they had to pass it to someone else. She did this ten times and by that time, almost every student had a book they seemed interested in reading. I want to do this with my classroom as well. I hoard emails from goodreads.com that have book recommendations in them and they become a bit like my summer reading list. I want to find each student a perfect match. I want to find their soulmate with books. I sometimes consider giving my students a questionnaire at the beginning of class and having a book ready for them by the next day – like online dating, but with books.


So, as of right now, the thirty books I would have out on my students’ desks on day one would be:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


2. Divergent by Veronica Roth


3. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak


4. Beauty by Robin McKinley


5. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


6. Youth in Revolt by C. D. Payne


7. Abarat by Clive Barker


8. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett


9. The Hobbit by Tolkien


10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


11. Frost on My Moustache by Tim Moore


12. Boy by Roald Dahl


13. Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen


14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


15. Marco Polo Didn’t Go There by Rolf Potts


16. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale and Shannon Hale


17. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


18. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell


19. Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry


20. Collection of Poetry by Emily Dickinson


21. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

sarah's key

22. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The Lottery

23. Drama by Raina Telgemeier


24. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Year of Secret Assignments

25. Submarine by Joe Dunthorne


26. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

alice in wonderland

27. Dracula by Bram Stoker


28. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


29. That Summer by Sarah Dessen

that summer

30. Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

archy and mehitabel

Which would you chose? What books am I missing?


4 comments on “How?

  1. kelseyempfield
    September 18, 2013

    Love your top 3 choices! I also love that you’ve included classic literature, too.

  2. Elisabeth Ellington
    September 18, 2013

    The most powerful thing I ever did as a teacher was to place a book on a student’s desk with a post-it that said, “I thought of you when I read this.” There was no pressure for the student to actually DO anything with the book, but students found it incredible that a teacher would make a match between them and a book. 9/10 of the work of getting kids to read is having tons of interesting books everywhere they look–having a classroom where students are literally tripping over books and being invited at every turn to READ. Of course then there is the other 1/10. Desks covered with books won’t be enough for them, but you will have other strategies to use for them. To your list, I would add sports books and verse novels–always very popular with all readers. Your post makes me want to do a blog post with a list of the surefire-can’t-fail books to hook reluctant readers. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Pingback: What Book Do You Give the Teen Who Refuses to Read? | the dirigible plum

  4. Pingback: Reading in the Writing Workshop | kelseyempfield

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