Finding a Great Book

It can be tough to choose a great book. Do we look at the cover? Go off what our friends like? What if we simply hate reading? Learning how to choose books that engage us and challenge is us more than just what we do with our free time. It’s part of growing up and learning who we are.

“But I Hate Reading”

As a junior high English teacher I run into this all the time: I walk into the library with my class, introduce a genre and set the students loose to find something great. Inevitably a student is meandering, probably ending up deep in the Dewey decimal system next to “How To Use a Typewriter”.

When I ask them if they’ve found a book to read they often say something like “Mr. Sutherland, there aren’t any good books here.” This from the kid standing in the middle of a room stocked with thousands of middle-school level reads.

When I ask them what they like they usually will say “I hate reading.” And that makes sense. In their minds they do hate reading. It takes work. When there is time to ask them what they like to do it is often play sports or watch Netflix.

Both of those activities are really fun, and reading is a life skill that we develop over time.

A Great Book Will:

  • Engage the reader
  • Excite the imagination: A great book will make a movie in your brain! There is no image so vivid as one you see in your mind.
  • Build empathy: Reading helps us see situations from other points of view. Non-fiction helps us better understand our world and fiction helps us better understand ourselves.
  • Develop vocabulary: Learning new words is crucial for understanding others and being understood.

4 Steps to Choosing a Great Book

So how do we choose a great book?

  1. Find a topic that interests you: sports, dragons, history, a person, siblings, adventure, love.
  2. Choose a genre that covers that topic: Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Biography, Historical Fiction are a few of the favorites.
  3. Get a feel for the book. Read the:
    • back cover
    • inside the front cover
    • first page
  4. Read a review:

3 Rules to Remember:

  1. Never judge a book by its cover. Seriously. Some amazing books have weird covers.
    1. Like The Giver
    2. Or A Wrinkle in Time.
  2. Find your level: Many school districts test for reading level.
    • A nice rule: No more than 5 words on a page you don’t know.
  3. Give a book a shot. Use the 10% rule:
    • If you aren’t interested after reading 10% of the book, feel free to move on.

Great Book - Wrinkle in Time

Great Book: The Giver, Lois Lowrey


If you’re looking for a little more help, here is a great resource to start with. I’ve used this to get books for my own little people, and to make suggestions for young readers through middle school.

  1.  Honey for a Child’s Heart.





Interested in other great ways to unplug, have fun and exercise your mind? Be sure to also check out How to Choose a Great Board Game.