Teachers: Need a Book for Break?

Ah, December. We’re getting closer and closer to winter vacation and all those Monday holidays of the new year. There are more and more great days for the whole family to curl up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. If you’ve got a cold day, a long plane ride, or just a few hours of down time in your future, consider taking a library book with you! I am always happy to provide personalized recommendations from our library collection, but here are a few great places to start.


What’s Trendy: Dystopian Fiction

The Hunger Games trilogy has taken over the teen pop culture landscape of late–if you haven’t read them yet, they’re a great choice! If you are interested in different visions of our bleak, disturbing future, you might try these:

  • the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men). The first book is a fascinating examination of what it means to be a man in a town that no longer has any women. The next two books delve more into the ethics of war and terrorism. This is your choice if you want a more political series.
  • the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant). This future-Chicago is divided into five factions, each with a different idea of how to achieve lasting peace. The main character, Tris, was born into the humble Abnegation faction, but she is tempted by the risky, adventurous lifestyle of the Dauntless. This is a great choice for a fast-paced story with a strong romantic subplot.
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. This one stands alone, for those who don’t have time for a trilogy! (It does have a companion, The Drowned Cities, but you can read it separately.) This is a darker story about a boy who makes his living by scavenging parts from old oil tankers… until he gets caught up in something bigger.

Books That Take Place in the ’80s

The ’80s have had a resurgence in the last few years; my theory is that people don’t want to worry about integrating cell phones, Facebook, etc., into their characters’ lives. If you miss the ’80s, read these:

  • If you also enjoy horror books, you might try Scowler by Daniel Kraus, which combines the realistic terror of domestic violence with the fantasy horror of malicious stuffed animals come to life.
  • If you’d rather have a realistic novel, take home Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This has been a huge “crossover” hit this year–I think more adults may have read it than teenagers. This book features two misfit teenagers who bond over some great ’80s music and their respective home life issues.
  • One of my favorite books last year was Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It does a great job of capturing those intense high-school friendships that are so much made up of just sitting around and talking, figuring out what life is going to hold for you.

Nonfiction That Won’t Make You Drowsy

Nonfiction sometimes gets a bad rap, but students love a really fascinating true book. Try one of these:

  • I recommend John Hubner’s Last Chance in Texas quite frequently, but always with the caveat that it will make you an emotional wreck. Hubner spent a year in a youth residential facility with teenage girls and boys who were about to have a momentous decision made for them: would they transfer to adult prison when they turned 18, or would they be allowed to return to the outside world?
  • You’ve probably noticed that we have many students with a passion for soccer. If you share their interest, you’ll want to get in line for Chris Anderson and David Sally’s The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong. Your hold may not come in before winter break, though; while you wait, try Outcasts United by Warren St. John or The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World by Jere Longman.
  • If you prefer your nonfiction humorous, you might come check out our many books by essayists Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris. Tina Fey’s Bossypants has also been popular this year.

Learn Something New (maybe?) About History

A lot has happened in this world! Depending on where you got your historical education, these books may reveal some stories you’ve never heard in history class:

  • Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop tells the story of hip-hop and hip-hop culture; in doing so, Chang writes a cohesive history of the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s in the United States with an emphasis on events that influenced the development of hip-hop. Highly readable.
  • Bomb by Steve Sheinkin was the toast of the librarian world last year. There’s something for everyone: the awkward science life of Oppenheimer, a high-speed adventure as a Norwegian team tries to delay the German bomb effort, and the major ethical questions raised by the destructive capacity of this new invention.
  • If you like your history local, you might be interested in Alison Stewart’s new book, First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black High School. (I actually haven’t read this one yet, but it’s been reviewed well, and I’m looking forward to reading it in the new year.)

Don’t Forget Your Comics!

We’ve got graphic novels and graphic nonfiction for everyone. Biographies of Richard Feynman and Malcolm X, teenage ghosts, high fantasy, wartorn nations, DC history… it’s all here. In lieu of making a list, I’ll invite you to come browse our small collection or seek out a personalized recommendation from me or your favorite comics-reading student.