My mom had a saying at Christmas time when my brother and I sat down to make our lists for Santa. We were to include items in the following categories: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read”. She sticks to these same parameters today, as do I when buying for nearly everyone in my life, not just my kids. Therefore, books are always part of my Christmas lists. And if you have kids they should be part of yours too – yes even for your teenagers.
I know as a teacher that teens will read if they have access to engaging material. This semester alone, I’ve watched more than one student who has never finished a book before dive into the daily practice of reading because they have found a variety of texts they enjoy and can relate to.
So, what to buy for your teen reader? Here’s a list to get you started. It’s been compiled based on my students interests and my observations of what they are reading and asking me to buy for my classroom library. Some of these titles are old, others are brand new, but what they have in common is the interest of my students. These are the books they talk about, recommend to others and re-read. I have divided my list into interest based categories to help parents and gift givers in their selections.
When I know I have a student who is an avid outdoorsman, I send them straight to anything in my library by Gary Paulsen. What’s listed above is just a sample of his work. His most popular book is Hatchet, but that is only the first book in his ‘Brian’ series; images above show the sequels. He’s also written many other books – all focusing on the outdoors.
The Amulet series by Kazy Kibuishi and Bone series by Jeff Smith are both loved by many of my students who are gamers. Usually, I suggest these types of books to students who enjoy gaming and haven’t read a book in a long while as they are quite easy to read. As graphic novels they have lots of images and are fantasy based, which helps gamers relate to their themes and characters.
Any of my students who enjoy fantasy love these books: the I Am Number Four series by Pittacus Lore and the Maze Runner series by James Dasher. Both series have recently been made into movies which also helps their popularity. If your reader has already sped through these selections – check out anything else by James Dashner – he has a vast repertoire of fantasy series and books for teens.
ATTENTION SHOPPERS FOR TEEN GIRLS: THESE ARE THE HOTTEST BOOKS IN MY CLASSROOM LIBRARY! Yes, poetry is cool again for teen girls – really cool. They begged me to buy these books for my classroom library and I can’t keep them on my shelves. I cannot express how much all my teen girl readers love these books – so much so that I’m actually contemplating starting a poetry reading and writing club at lunch. For real. You can’t go wrong with any of these selections this Christmas season. Warning: some mature content – which is probably why they like them so much. In the words of one of my female students: ” this books says everything I want to say but don’t know how to”. Powerful.
When it comes to horror – King still rules. Hands down. I have a large collection of Stephen King novels that were graciously donated by a colleague and they are well used. Although occasionally I’ll have a student who enjoys horror pick up something else, often it is only after they’ve read most of King’s work in my library. If you haven’t read King before or seen any movie adaptations, please be aware that it can include mature content.
John Green still rules the teen drama category. His new book, Turtles all the Way Down is currently a best seller on any online book store. My students regularly read through any book he’s written in my classroom library. Although many girls enjoy his work, I have had boys who also pick up John Green books due to the action and suspense in some of his work. The fact that many John Green books have also hit the big screen is an automatic draw for many teen readers.
It’s funny, as I selected books for this section I realized the one thing they all had in common was that they had all been banned at one point or another from school libraries. Well, that alone should tell you enough about why teens want to read them. These books are hot reads in my classroom because they are about issues many teens are dealing with: finding themselves, drug, sexual and alcohol experimentation, violence and turf wars, bullying, depression, etc. The four books listed above are pretty self explanatory based on their titles and reputation, but the series in a box below are less know by parents. They are easy reading, short teen issue books by a publisher called Orca Books. I have many of their collections in my classroom library and they are hot commodities. You can purchase individual books and series on their webstore: www.orcabooks.com.
Hot teen romance reads in my classroom often lie with two authors: Jenny Han and Nicholas Sparks. Although, John Green’s work could also be categorized in this genre. All these authors have many titles to choose from and all come highly recommended by students.
The best book I’ve read this year is Refugee, by Alan Gratz. Actually, I liked it so much that I am buying an entire class set for my department. It’s about the fictional stories of three adolescents: a boy in Nazi Germany, a girl in Communist Cuba in the 90’s and a Syrian boy in present day. Each of their families are escaping their circumstances and searching for freedom. Any student or teacher I’ve given this book to has loved it. Enough said. Ok, so for the other suggestions in this category, you’ll see anything with a WW2 theme is still very interesting for student readers. I’ve included a Tom Clancy book because many of my boy readers who enjoy history and military action love his books. Although his work is often focused on events my students have never heard of, they learn so much through reading his fictional text that they end up doing some research of their own to learn more.
The non-fiction section of my class is often very busy, in terms of one specific category: biographies and autobiographies. My students love reading about other peoples lives. Often, they are drawn to the lives of other adolescents in dangerous or interesting situations (see my top list of images in this section). The bottom list of images is very topic specific for my students who live in Northern Ontario. They love hockey – so, logically they love reading about hockey players and their lives. I probably couldn’t bribe one of them to read a basketball player’s biography, but I can’t keep hockey player bio’s on my shelf.
I wasn’t sure where to categorize this book, but I couldn’t write this blog without including it somewhere. Recently made into a motion picture, Wonder by R.J. Palacio is probably the hottest book in the Young Adult genre this Christmas season. A tale of struggle, bravery and hope – this book is a must read.
The Final Word
Regardless of what book you buy for your young adult reader, as long as you are providing them with something to read this Christmas season, you are helping their development as a ‘reader’. As previously stated in my blog, Why your Teen Needs to Read, providing engaging reading materials to teenagers is necessary both for their academic and emotional development.
What can you add to this ‘hot teen reads’ list for Christmas 2017? Comment below!