Book Club Suggestions?
October 6, 2010 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions on books for a school book club that's half staff half students?

A little more information:

I work in an inner city school in upstate new york. I am a chemistry teacher, and I have never been in a book club before. I'm going to the first meeting tomorrow and I'm supposed to bring suggestions for books we could read. I'm not exactly sure of the makeup of the students that will be in the club. Our school is grades 7-12, but it will most likely be the older kids that join. Many of our students read below grade level.

I lean towards sci-fi and fantasy, so I was thinking of suggesting Ender's Game. I asked an English teacher friend of mine, and he suggested The Lovely Bones.

What other books do you think would be enjoyable for both staff and students to read and discuss?
posted by mikeweeney to Education (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Elegance of the Hedgehog might be good - it's told from the points of view, alternately, of a hotel concierge with a secret life of the mind and a twelve-year-old girl who plans to kill herself on her 13th birthday.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2010

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
posted by lucy.jakobs at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2010

Monster by Walter Dean Myers got stolen from my classroom library so often, I think I bought it five times. A *lot* of meat for discussion there.

Also recommend:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA, Luis Rodriguez (also had to be replaced many times)
Maus, Art Spiegleman
posted by smirkette at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2010

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
posted by francesca too at 4:58 PM on October 6, 2010

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (not quite as sci fi/fantasy, but is narrated by Death, great opportunity for good discussions)

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel (suggesting because it's readable and a good opportunity to talk about a lot of themes and symbolism)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (definitely sci fi, recommended more for older kids, and I'd have one of the teachers read it first so as to make sure it would line up well with personalities/school preferences)
posted by questionsandanchors at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perhaps Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm?

How about Lois Lowry's The Giver?

And, there's Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy.
posted by elmay at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2010

Skinned, by Robin Wasserman. Very easy to read, so it'll be good for your reluctant readers, and adults can guiltily snarf down all four books in the trilogy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:50 PM on October 6, 2010

There's a lot of great YA coming out these days which is plenty meaty enough for adult readers to enjoy. You could also try graphic novels, which by their nature are lighter on the prose. (Unless we're talking Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, but Alan Moore seems a bit heavy for a club that could include seventh-graders.)

- Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief (book one of a so-far four book series, stands fine on its own). A sort of heist/political thriller in a fantasy setting roughly based off of medieval/Renaissance Greece. The characters are complex and likeable, the plots are complex but straightforward enough not to be a drag if you're not too into political machinations, and the narration is honest and completely unreliable.
- Scott Westerfeld's Uglies (again, first book in a four-book sequence, the first three being a trilogy). In a dystopian future, everyone gets compulsory plastic surgery at age 16 to match the ideal of beauty. The 15-year-old protagonist is looking forward to this operation (and her coming of age); her best friend is not so sure. Things get complicated. (Fans of the recent Hunger Games trilogy, recced above, will probably like this one, but that's assuming they haven't read it already.)
- Gene Yuen Lang's American Born Chinese. It's really hard to describe this one, but it's my favorite standalone/one-off graphic novel, period, and I think it'd be accessible to younger and older readers alike.
posted by bettafish at 6:02 PM on October 6, 2010

Speak is an absolutely amazing book and the 8th graders at my inner city school in Chicago love it.
posted by allthewhile at 6:16 PM on October 6, 2010

Ender's Game.
posted by quodlibet at 6:18 PM on October 6, 2010

I would recommend against The Lovely Bones -- it's exceptionally hokey and sappy. I think White Teeth might bee a good choice. It's multi-layered but not sluggish and I don't remember it being written in language that's too difficult. And it would give you TONS to talk about on the major themes of race, religion, diaspora, as well as several others. it is a bit long, though.

I think Enders Game would be a good choice too.
posted by frobozz at 6:40 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like Ender's Game and Maus. Maus was appreciated by my (gifted) 5th/6th grade class. Depending on the kids and the teachers and parents and the age of the youngest participants, also consider Ringworld and Starship Troopers. And again depending on the audience, The Screwtape Letters.
posted by SMPA at 7:09 PM on October 6, 2010

Came in to suggest Maus. Too.
posted by carsonb at 7:16 PM on October 6, 2010

Seconding The Hero and the Crown.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:18 PM on October 6, 2010

Feed might be a good choice for the Y/A crowd.

I went to a low-income urban high school, and something I noticed is that a lot of people were really into anything post-apocalyptic. I think it comes from the environment, partly. We really identified with nuclear wastelands. Anyway, writers seem to be aware of this, and if science fiction is your thing, there is no dearth of apocalyptic young-adult sci-fi.

Ray Bradbury's short fiction might be a fun way to kick things off, or helpful if people seem less inclined to read longer books. Same deal with graphic novels - a lot of the older kids might get really into Y: The Last Man.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 8:29 PM on October 6, 2010

The trilogy by Susan Beth Pfeffer - Life as we Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In. The first one was one of my daughter's summer books to read, and all of the parents starting reading it as well. It is a young adult book, but it has so many great opportunities for discussion for all ages.
posted by maxg94 at 5:22 AM on October 7, 2010

Seconding Ender's Game. Actually, third-ing it I see!

Also- apocalyptic is a good instinct, I think, as are graphic novels.

Other possibilities: Epitaph Road, by David Patineaude. It's an apocalypse for YA, along the lines of Y: The Last Man, but neither gender comes off looking terribly good.

So You Want To Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane. Like Harry Potter, but not so whimsical, more of wizardry = social responsibility. Maybe a little mature for the youngest in the group.

I love the idea of this book club! Post more about it, please. Or is there any chance someone in it is blogging about it? I'd love to know what you're reading, how discussions are going... voyeuristic of me, but can't help it, am intrigued.
posted by SaharaRose at 6:06 AM on October 7, 2010

This book about salt is awesome. It is a condensed children's picture book version of a novel sized book, but it is still very interesting. In fact I like this better than the novel version because that just had too much banal minutia for me. I would reccomend this book if you have a shorter than usual session (like say maybe the last book club meeting before Thanksgiving break or something).

I would also reccommend "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. I found that it dealt with heavy themes while having a very readable style.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2010

I LOVED LOVED LOVED The Ear, The Eye and The Arm when I was 12 years old (reading at a higher level). It's sci-fi/fantasy/futurism and involved themes of social responsibility/sustainability/growth in a thriller/mystery type plot.

At about 12 (so, might be quite too young for your kids) I also loved the book A View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. Smart book about 4 outsider type kids coming together and embracing their outsider-ness (sort of).

Both great books for adults as well.

Also, The Giver has an awesome non-sequel/counterpart book called "Gathering Blue" that you could read in tandem to increase the difficulty. I think it would be great to discuss them both because they are set in similarly oppressive versions of the future/parallel worlds/whatever but they oppressive in very different ways...would make for interesting discussions of personal liberty, what is freedom?, etc.
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:41 PM on October 7, 2010

I thought of a couple more:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow A young adult novel about teens sticking it the man (dept. of homeland security) for attacking their constitutional rights in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Involves issues of privacy and tech stuff and spunky kick-ass teens.


The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch Story set in the pacific northwest about an outsider-type kid who spends many hours collecting marine life on the shores of puget sound when the tide is down. He discovers what may be a giant slug/sea monster and he becomes the center of unwanted attention of many kinds. Coming of age story, environmental themes, I read it as an adult and really liked it. Some sexual themes (teenage boys discussing girls, you know).
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:39 PM on October 7, 2010


"THE UNIDENTIFIED, a dystopian YA novel about education tranformed into a giant, heavily sponsored game" by Rae Mariz

I found this one on BoingBoing today, they often post interesting sounding YA literature but it's only a small fraction of their overall coverage.
posted by dahliachewswell at 3:51 PM on October 8, 2010

Sorry, I got my teenage dystopias wrong. I meant Uglies, not Skinned. The Uglies trilogy is potato-chip good, while Skinned I couldn't get through more than one book.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:14 PM on October 9, 2010

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