While there is always a lot of diversity in the books that my students pick as their choice reads, these books have been our “most read” and “must-reads” this year.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Despite it being adult-targeted science fiction, this has been the most popular book in our classroom this year by miles. Space scares me. I didn’t want to read this, but after I read the first sentence, I was hooked. (You will be too.) Mark Watney is one of the greatest characters to ever exist, and even though I was terrified for him the entire time, I loved.this.book. I bought two copies because I left mine on my desk over a weekend and couldn’t face the weekend without it.
Winger/Stand-Off by Andrew Smith
I’m not shy about my gigantic author crush on Andrew Smith. Winger and its sequel, Stand-Off, have been read by almost everyone in my classes at this point. Winger begins with its protagonist, Ryan Dean West, beginning boarding school as a 14-year-old junior. It’s hilarious, and then it ruins your life. My students tell me that Stand-Off makes you feel a little bit better about life, but I haven’t read it yet because I can’t keep it on my shelf. This summer!
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
This makes the list of “most popular books” every.single.year. This memoir was published in 2002, but I can’t keep it on my shelf for more than a day. It’s popular with both genders, and I think that’s because it has some crazy passages, inappropriate language, and risque chapters. It’s also stolen from our classroom library every year, which to me, is the mark of a great book.
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
This book is about a Jewish boy in the 1930s who experiences 10 different concentration camps. It’s (obviously) sad, but because it’s not as excruciatingly graphic as a book like Night, it makes for a great choice read. This short novel is actually intended for middle-grade students, but my high school students have enjoyed it all year. Many students who read military history and military memoirs pick this up as an “easy” read.
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Despite being an LGBTQ advocate, I never truly understood what it’s like being a transgender person until I read this book about a person who is born male, but identifies as female. This book gives a much-needed voice to transgender teens while also providing emotional moments and plot twists. Plus, because it’s British, it makes you feel super fancy while you read it.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Our classroom copy of The 5th Wave has been well-read this year because of the film release. I hesitated in picking this up (because, remember, space scares me), but I’m glad that I did, even though I had nightmares for two weeks. This science fiction book has a storyline that’s grounded in reality, with an average teenage girl discovering that her world is about to be destroyed by aliens. Because it’s science fiction combined with romance, all kinds of readers liked this one, including me.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before/PS I still Love You by Jenny Han
These are so popular in my classroom and I loved them too. In this series, sixteen-year-old Lara Jean writes love letters to all of the boys that she’s had crushes on, and locks the letters in a box in her closet. When her younger sister finds and mails them, she’s faced with a lot of awkward explanation, and then finds herself in a love triangle. At the end of the second book, most of us threw it across the room.
Escape from Camp 14 by Blane Harden
I gratefully received my copy of this book at the NCTE convention in Boston a few years ago, and it’s been a hit with my students ever since. This biography details Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known person to escape from an internment camp in North Korea. Because it gives readers a glimpse into what life is really like in North Korea, it instantly hooks readers. This book has appealed to many students who are interested in military history, but it’s also been read by students who enjoy realistic fiction and memoir.
(My students helped me write and edit this post through writing workshop!)