The 54 books I read in 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to revisit the 54 books I had the pleasure of reading (and then recommending to my students) over the past 52 weeks.

In short, all 54 are phenomenal. I have no problem quitting on a book  (life’s too short to read books we’re not into), and all of these kept me hooked from beginning to end.

Whether it was to help us empathize or escape or to allow us to better understand others or ourselves, my students and I are better people because of these books.

Perhaps the best part of putting together this list was thinking about the students that I now associate with each book. For example, I know that Selena loved Pax and that Jakaylia sprinted through Ghost, while Rodrea adored Full Cicada Moon and Zach devoured The Serpent King. Chelsea read everything by Kiera Cass, David loved Response, and Adrian and Sean read everything by Matt de la Pena. Lauren’s favorite was Copper Sun, Desiree enjoyed The Absolutely Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Jay flew through Boy 21, and Kiara is now a huge fan of Kwame Alexander.

While I know many of you are just scrolling down to the list, so you can add books to your “TBR” pile or classroom library (and I don’t blame you one bit), here are a few final takeaways:

  • By exposing my students to the books on this list (along with hundreds of others), they are now much more likely to see the lifelong joy and value of reading.
  • By giving my students TIME to read in class + CHOICE in what they read, I’ve seen their reading attitude & ability improve dramatically.
  • My passion for reading rubs off on students. My students know (and see) that I’m a reader, which makes it easier for me to sell them on it, too. They trust my recommendations and appreciate that I practice what I preach.
  • I love playing the role of matchmaker: connecting students with books that I know they’ll fall in love with.
  • Here’s a sequence that never gets old: Step 1. Student asks, “Mr. Amato, what should I read?” Step 2: Knowing that student, I suggest two or three books that I think he/she will enjoy. Step 3: Student picks one, and begins reading it (both in class and at home). Step 4: When student gives the book back a week or two later, I ask what he/she thought of it. “I loved it. Any recommendations for what should I read next?” Step 5: Repeat!
  • We have a responsibility to expose ALL of our children to diverse books. Our students need to see themselves in the books they read, and that can only happen if we give them the opportunity. The list below is a perfect place to start!

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Before you go to Amazon or your local bookstore to order some of these books, I have two final requests:

1. Let me know what books my students and I need to read in 2017!

2. Order one (or more) of these books for Project LIT Community, an organization my students and I started this year to increase book access and spread a love of reading in Nashville. You can ship them to:

Maplewood High School (attn: Jarred Amato)

401 Walton Ln

Nashville, TN 37216

Happy holidays!

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Author: Jarred Amato

High school English teacher who is passionate about improving TN education, one book at a time.

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