Hits with Reluctant Readers

In general I find the non-fiction books with tons of pictures in an area of interest: sports, cars, music are the most popular, the easiest sell.  Examples would be: Inside Monster Garage, VX: 10 years of Vibe photography, Big Men Who Shook the, NBA, MX: The Way of the Motocrosser, etc.  but this list is more textually based and primarily fiction (well, almost all fiction 9 out of 10.)


  1. Alex Rider series (Anthony Horowitz):  I am cheating again because this is a series.  The first book is Stormbreaker and rumor has it s being made into a movie.  This is teenage James Bond, complete with fun toys, grave peril, and evil villains.  In general boys read this, and get hooked.  The endings are always cliffhangers so it becomes VERY important to get the next one as soon as possible.  (It turns out Alex has 9 lives, at least.)
  2. The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan (John Flanagan):  This is a surprise.  It has a great opening line: “Morgarth, Lord on the Mountains of Rin and Night, looked out over his bleak, rain swept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed.”  It is adventurous, with enough magic to keep the fantasy kids interested but not enough to turn off other readers.  It has a bullying situation, outcasts, victory of good over evil, danger, maybe even a touch, just a hint of romance.  It is pretty fun.
  3. Son of the Mob (Gordon Korman): Funny books are hard to come by because, well I think there are several reasons, including funny being subjective.  But this one is a funny Romeo and Juliet type story.  The son of a mob bigwig is in love with the daughter of the FBI agent trying to arrest the mobster.  They manage to go on a date, although talking on the phone to your girlfriend can be difficult when her father is tapping your phones.  There is a dead body in the trunk on the date among other date disasters but there is no seriousness to this book really.
  4. The Last Domino (Adam Meyer): Another surprise to me.  Although I am not sure why since Give a Boy a Gun and The Brimstone Journals, which are also school shooting books have been popular.  So this is a school-shooting book, you know – why it happens explorations.  I think the reason why I was caught off guard by the popularity with reluctant readers is that I am over school shooting books (there is another one coming out this year.)   This one’s final scene is fairly gruesome which may be some of the appeal, but the exploration of responsibility is an interesting one.
  5. Boy Kills Man (Matt Whyman):  The title pretty much explains the appeal of the book, but it is also a slim title with a cover of a boy with a huge angel wing tattoo, and a nine mm in the back of his jeans.  It is set in Columbia, and has a 12 year old assassin which is an almost guarantee to get someone’s attention.
  6. The First Part Last (Angela Johnson): This is also in my top ten.  It has a very genuine voice of a teen father (one of a very few with a teen father, the other I know is Hanging On To Max).  The structure of Then and Now can confuse some readers but adds to the characterization.
  7. Emako Blue (Brenda Woods): Books that start out with a funeral usually aren’t my cup of tea but I did enjoy this one, plus it is great for kids who like sad books.   In some ways it is a eulogy for Emako Blue, but it is also about healing.
  8. Only the Strong Survive (Larry Platt):  A biography of Allen Iverson.  Surprised me how much I loved this, it fascinated me.  And I am not an AI fan, although I am a basketball fan.  This is the only non-fiction but I point out that I left off the fabulous nonfiction, picture heavy books.
  9. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (Carolyn Mackler): Another great first line – “Froggy Welsh the Fourth is trying to get up my shirt..”  Virginia has a lot of rules as a “fat girl”, although she probably isn’t fat.  This has a silver cover with pink lipstick mark, all the hallmarks of chick lit – which it is.  But there is some depth – beyond just the brand name, name-dropping glitz of the series fiction – Gossip Girls and A-List type stuff.  Virginia’s voice is funny and authentic, and if some of the characters are under-developed she makes up for it.
  10. Monster (Walter Dean Myers)- Also on my top ten.  The format is appealing, as is the story of a kid on trial for murder.  There is definitely some ambiguity as to the amount of his responsibility. This one has maintained interest since I’ve been here.

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