The Need for Big Books: A Top “Ten” List by Stephanie Severson

I read a lot about reluctant readers and how to get boys to read.  This is definitely an issue I see in my classroom.  However, I have also encountered the opposite problem — the boys that burn through books, boys that read so much they need a new book every few days, boys that crave longer books, or a series that they can read for a few weeks.  I’m not a big believer in boy books and girl books, but I do know that by thirteen and fourteen boys and girls have very different interests and novel choices.


I teach in a seventh and eighth grade classroom, but my classroom bookshelf is also visited by fifth and sixth graders who know I have good books.   I try to be very careful balancing middle grade and the younger end of young adult.  However, I know that I have some books that skim the PG-13 and above line.  All of it comes down to knowing your students and knowing your library shelves — and then matchmaking!


This is my go-to list of long books for voracious readers who happen to be boys…


chaos walking

Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and The Monsters of Men  I often will tell the kids that this book will change the way they think books work.  The way Ness use fonts to help tell the story often will show up later in my student’s writing.

Suzanne Collins’ Underland Chronicles series: Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of the Secret, Gregor and the Code of Claw.  Students who have read The Hunger Games trilogy often tell me that this was a better book.  Kids love these books!

the maze runner

James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy: The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure and The Kill Order.  If this series isn’t on your shelf, rectify immediately!  Although these books have been out for a while, with the movie that was out in September, I’ve seen a surge of interest in these books.  James Dashner is also an engaging speaker and active participant on twitter — kids are thrilled with his response to class tweets that are sent.


Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB books.  The Recruit, The Dealer, Maximum Security, The Killing, Divine Madness, Man vs Beast, The Fall, Mad Dogs, The Sleepwalker, The General, Brigands M.C. and Shadow Waves.  Readers have told me that you don’t HAVE to read this series in order, that each books is a different mission. This is helpful for fast readers so they don’t have to wait for someone else to finish books.  There is also a second series called Aramov that is a new cast of CHERUB agents.  Cherub fans have also shared the fantastic website with me



The next recommendation should come with a warning — you will need several copies of this book for your shelf!  But I know that the boys love this book and often will pass it to each other instead of ever returning it to the shelf — a definite sign of a good book!  It is S.J. Kindcaid’s books, Insignia, Vortex and the end of the trilogy, Catalyst. Try suggesting Ready Player One if the student loved it.  One of my students is part of a book club and received the advanced reader copy of Catalyst (release date October 28) and raved about it.


For the advanced reader, I’ve found that the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books keep them busy for a while.  I haven’t read these myself, but I have the first six on my classroom library shelves and several students finished reading the next seven books by visiting their local library.


These are my go-to books for recommendations.  These are the books that students don’t usually discover on their own.  It takes a book talk and a recommendation from me, a gentle, “Just give it 25 pages and see if you like it.”  The voracious readers in the classroom also are the ones who other students will look to for a book recommendation — so don’t be surprised if you see your reluctant reader with The Knife of Never Letting Go in their “to be read” list.

Stephanie Severson is a seventh and eighth grade language arts teacher at DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science, a charter school in Blaine, MN.  She is an avid reader herself and a book evangelist to all readers in the school.  She tweets as @stephaseverson.  Her class blog, Leonardo’s Bookshelf, features book reviews written by students.