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50+ Popular Reads for your Secondary ELA Library

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The winter holiday vacation has begun here in Bratislava, and today I had the joy of dashing from an ice skating rink below the Charles Bridge in Prague to the Prague Municipal library to see something VERY special. VERY bookish. VERY unique.

Inside the hallway of the library is a tower of books called “Idiom.” Thousands of books are glued together into a tunnel rising up to the ceiling, with mirrors embedded inside to make it look like the book tower goes on forever. When you stick your head inside, the books rise and rise and rise above you, and swoop apparently to the center of the earth below. The library didn’t open until 1 pm on our last day in Prague, and I was so happy we were able to squeeze in a quick visit!

It was a magical experience. My ten-year-old and I just kept leaning in over and over and taking more and more pictures. He might even have liked it as much as the ice skating. But of course there was warm apple cider at the ice rink and a new friend met that day from Luxembourg.

How I wish every student had a tower of books to choose from. A beautiful tower full of the very best books, just waiting for them to stick their head in! With that in mind, today I’d like to share some top student favorites from the last few years. These are some of my own top recommendations combined with those of other educators that have shared they were absolute top favorites with their students.

Let’s jump into the booklists. Heads up, lots of these titles have some mature moments – if your school is highly conservative, you may need to give parents a heads up about your choice reading program so they know their students will have access to books that do sometimes touch on subjects such as teen love and substance use.

Top YA

YA is a fabulous way to help students move toward reading. YA books generally feature a protagonist in middle or high school, dealing with many of the same issues and challenges as our students today. Even if you haven’t personally fallen in love with YA, it’s still a wonderful and important addition to your shelves. If you’re not familiar with the books below, the very first author I recommend you get to know if Jason Reynolds. His work is incredible, and his books frequently shoot to the top of student favorites lists.

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

When I was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

Dear Evan Hansen, by Steven Levenson

All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

I am not your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika Sanchez

Dear Martin, by Nic Stone

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepety

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Simon and the Homosapien Agenda, by Becky Albertelli

Refugee, by Alan Gratz

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Solo, by Kwame Alexander

They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera

The Thing about Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin

Five Feet Apart, by Rachel Lippincott

Darius the Great is not Okay, by Adib Khorram

Bronx Masquerade, by Nikki Grimes

Top Memoir

Memoir can be a powerful way for students to experience the world beyond their own neighborhoods, building their understanding of complex issues and their empathy along the way. Below are some great options for the memoir shelf of your reading library.

Persepolis, by Marjane Satropi

All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

My Underground American Dream, by Julissa Arce

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Night, by Eli Wiesel

Educated, by Tara Westover

Hey Kiddo, by Jarrett Krosoczka

A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah

I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

I Was their American Dream, by Malaka Gharib

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Antonio Vargas

Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are a fantastic way to reach many readers. They’re approachable, vivid, and unique. Having several in your library will help make it appealing to even more of your students.

Persepolis, by Marjane Satropi

Orange, by Ichigo Takano

A Girl Called Echo, by Katharena Vermette

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier

New Kid, by Jerry Craft

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Hey Kiddo, by Jarrett Krosoczka

I am Alfonso Jones, by Tony Medina

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

I was their American Dream, by Malaka Gharib

In Verse

Verse novels have been increasingly popular in recent years, and there are a lot of great ones. Gather some of these together to share with kids who are drawn to this lovely genre.

Swing, by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange

Chlorine Sky, by Mahogany Brown

Works by Ellen Hopkins

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Bronx Masquerade, by Nikki Grimes

Dystopian Novels

The rise of dystopian novels has been meteoric. Here are some of the most popular from the last few years.

The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Scythe, by Neal Schusterman

The Hunger Games Series,, by Suzanne Collins

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett

The Selection Series, by Kiera Cass

Legend, by Marie Lu

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

I hope you’ve found some new titles to add to your list. Be sure to bookmark this post for the next time a student asks for a new graphic novel, novel in verse, memoir, etc.

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I'm Betsy

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