All-school read

If you could make all the students in grades 8-12 (plus faculty) at an all-girls prep school read one book, what would it be?


  • It can be fiction or non-, all one author or essays by multiple authors, on just about any subject.
  • It should be available in paperback by May, to keep costs down.
  • This book will be part of next year’s summer reading. That means they have to read and understand it on their own; they won’t talk about it in class until the fall.
  • It has to be engaging enough to hold the interest of 13-18-year-olds, including English-language learners, with as varied reading levels, interests, and backgrounds as you can imagine.
  • If the author might be available to speak (and not insanely expensive), that’s a huge plus.
  • Last year we read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I think was about as well-received as can be expected for something everyone had to read. This year we want something that won’t feel like a re-tread of that style and those themes.

    I spent some time Googling all-school read programs, and it doesn’t seem terribly common after middle school. I was surprised at how few lists and suggestions were already out there. Let’s start a resource the whole internet can use!

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    3 Responses to All-school read

    1. Thomas Colthurst says:

      Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Seriously. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn. It’s free, and has something for everyone: psychology, statistics, humanism, an extended discussion of sexism in fantasy literature, questioning authority, thrilling fight scenes, game theory, and the scientific method. I don’t know what Eliezer’s speaking fees are, but I can put a good word in if that helps.

    2. Martha says:

      When we did Zeitoun as a town read, there were definitely some teenagers who were into it, although I don’t have a good feel for what works with your full age range. And just glancing through other suggestions we’ve gotten for that, things that might work for teens (I haven’t read all of them): A Long Way Gone: memoir of a boy soldier, Persepolis, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Sarah’s Key, The Glass Castle – huh, mostly memoirs. Maybe some college first-year common reads could give you ideas for high schoolers?

    3. Greg says:

      Ender’s Game.

      I’m always suggesting this for our Common Reading at TCU and nobody ever takes me seriously. But I am. One of the problems with school readings is that anything too preachy just isn’t going to get read by many of the students. Yes, in a perfect world we’d all read the Kite Runner, but it’s not something that interests the students. So I always say that foremost we have to pick something entertaining. It can have some interesting discussion topics, but that shouldn’t be the overwhelming characteristic of the thing. I’ll admit (sexistly, I suppose) that I don’t know if Ender’s Game will be as big an entertainment draw for girls as for boys, but there are certainly things in there to talk about in a discussion group (if nothing else, you could use the whole Locke/Demosthenes thing to teach them some philosophy).

      Second choice: The Hunger Games (I’m still serious – think about the conversation you can have about modern reality television).

      Or of course you can make everyone read To Kill a Mockingbird (which I do think is one of the greatest books ever written), but I’m assuming you’re making them do that at some other point anyway (if not, you should be).

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