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Recent Booktalks

Early last week, I had the opportunity to booktalk to the three 11th grade English classes at my school. I thought it would be interesting to share this experience, as a very informal case study in appeal.

The English teacher kicked off each class by encouraging the students to read over the holidays. I booktalked first, then turned it over to the students, asking them to recommend books to the group. We left time at the end of each period for students to browse and check out books.

I placed books on display all around the room, and on the tables where students were sitting, so they had plenty of choices.

I have starred the books that were checked out over the three class periods. (And a quick reminder–this is an all-girls school.)

My booktalks:

Section 1
Room by Emma Donoghue *
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Little Bee by Chris Cleve
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz *
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld *
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
Soulless by Gail Carriger

Section 2
Little Princes  by Conor Greenan (arc)
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris *
The Help by Kathryn Stockett *
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver *

Section 3
Room by Emma Donoghue*
Little Princes by Conor Greenan * (arc)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak *
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell *
The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig
Eagle Blue by  Michael D’Orso *
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce*

Books recommended by students:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver *
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett*
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard*
Blink and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
Beautiful Boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction by David Scheff*
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher*
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
The Red Leather Diary: reclaiming a life through the pages of a lost journal by Lily Koppel  *
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
The Hate List by Jennifer Brown *
Open by Andre Agassi
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Million Little Pieces  by James Frey
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls *
anything by David Sedaris
Looking for Alaska by John Green *
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Help by Kathryn Stockett *
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Books on display in the room, and checked out:
The Big Short by Michael Lewis*
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien *
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow *
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok *
One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan by Pen Farthing*
The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore *
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz *
Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story by Charlotte Smith *
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs *
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers *
Brother I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat *

The books that students fought over, or were recommended more than once:
The Help
Thirteen Reasons Why
Before I Fall
Little Princes

One of my favorite moments was seeing students get excited when someone checked out the book they had recommended.  I feel the same way.

I would love to hear your comments.

Is this valuable information?
What are your most successful booktalks?
Which adult books are popular in your library?

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Priscille Dando says:

    Fascinating! When I booktalk, I give the kids a rating sheet–not interested, maybe later, and want to read now. Helps me see which books I should drop from rotation or which need additional copies.


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