Book Signing Experience: John Green

By: Kylie Widseth

Image-1It’s quite remarkable to me that, yet again, I’ve been in the presence of one of my favorite authors, but somehow it keeps happening.

I had the amazing privilege to attend the book tour of the one, the only, John Green for his latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down. (Please don’t ask me if I’ve read it yet. I have a very busy life, and I want to give it the adequate time that it deserves.) I can still hardly believe that I can say I have been in the same room as not only one of my favorite storytellers, but also one of my all-around favorite people.

IMG_0823Oh yeah, his brother, Hank Green was there too, and that was quite a treat. The pure bond between those two is really fun to witness. At one point, he even came out in a turtle costume, but he also played some music.

The event was held at Hank’s high school, Winter Park High School, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that the venue itself added to the experience of the event. It was obviously very nostalgic for Hank to visit a place that he hadn’t been in for 20 years.


I also got interviewed before the event by the high school broadcasters there because I was guilty wearing an “Okay? Okay.” shirt. I was quite literally wearing my allegiances on my sleeves. But hey, when else can you fully appreciate this novel than at an event. I’m also still knocking myself because right off-the-bat they asked me how John Green has impacted my life. Phew. That’s quite a loaded question and one, to be honest, that I have never fully processed, believe it or not. I know he’s impacted me in an incredible amount of ways, but I’ve never thought about it outright, and I also don’t think I could ever adequately explain it even if I tried. But, on a side note, I’m also pretty mad that I didn’t mention that I named my dog Hazel after Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars. It’s also quite ironic that she embodies this character in so many ways. Most specifically, she is incredibly sassy. In my defense, they didn’t even prepare me for this type of question, they just fired away with probably the hardest question they could have asked.

It’s amazing to me just how successful Hank and John both are from their podcast, to their YouTube channel, to their Crash Course videos, Hank’s music, John’s writing, and the list could go on and on. I want to be even half as successful as they are, and I will be satisfied with my life.

IMG_0813I was thinking during the show about how nice it was to be laughing about things John was saying instead of crying like his books are known to do. But then he goes and does some pretty emotional things and says some things to make me emotional. (I don’t want to fully go into detail because it’s an a) kind of had to be there thing and b) I don’t want to ruin the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.) But just the idea that he can have me laughing one minute to crying the next just speaks volumes about his way with words, and the way he crafts what he says.

John_Green_Turtles_All_The_Way_Down_Book_CoverI could go on for ages about the show, but all around, I was incredibly pleased with the event, and I’m so glad I was finally able to say that I’ve seen Hank and John. It’s also still incredibly weird for me to process that John Green finally has a new book out.

Now, excuse me, while I go read Turtles All the Way Down.


A Book Worth The Struggle

By: Fiona Schneider

Now, I don’t come upon books I dislike very often. Whether it’s my tendency to not take recommendations seriously, my low standards or my picky nature of not trying out books I don’t think I’ll like, I can’t pin point the real reason. I just tend to like the books I read from the get-go. However, when it comes to a book assigned for school, I often find I don’t care for them as much. I never hate them, but they are often so much more tedious to read. Especially since most books required by classes tend to be either in or on their way into the classics genre, and while I’ve read a significant number of classics, I can’t say they are anywhere near my favorite genre.

So, when in my senior year of high school my teacher had us read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy the summer before class started, I could have been a bit more thrilled. It’s a book about a family in Kerala, India, who used to be rich, and now just act like it. Roy mixes some fantastical elements into the otherwise realistic narrative, and delves deep into familial, religious, cultural, societal, and even gender stereotypes. There’s all sorts of individual stories mixed into the narrative. Murder, scandalous affairs, runaway children, and other dark events. The God of Small Things is not for the faint of heart, it’s gritty and real, even with the slight magical undertone.

I honestly did not like it at first, mostly because I couldn’t understand any of what was going on. The book is told through two timelines that interrupt and contradict each other, almost as if they fight for dominance on the pages for who gets to tell which part of the story next. It’s confusing, deliberately confusing. Especially when the section is told from the eyes of one of the family children who don’t understand what is happening around them. The reader is shown things that are answers, to questions which haven’t even been asked yet, so you are left with information you at first believe is irrelevant.

The graphic scenes and jolting transitions did not sit well with me when I was first reading the novel, but by the end I was fully on board. It was like a switch flipped, and while I still did not quite understand all that was going on, I was finding snippets of interest to latch onto and enjoy. I fell in love with Roy’s peculiar writing style and her equally weird characters.

I had to read it twice before I was able to pick up on half of the social critiques, cultural jabs, and other conversations Roy stowed away within the text. Even still, after an entire year of studying the novel (as it was one of my teacher’s favorite novels, and we kept coming back to study it before our IB exams) I believe if I read it again, I would only find more. It is the oddest little blend of grotesque and beauty I believe I have ever read, and I highly recommend it to anyone willing to read a novel that doesn’t tip toe around the darker parts of life.


Book Signing Experience: Joey Graceffa

By: Kylie Widseth

It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that I’m obsessed with YouTube. But if you didn’t know. Hi, I’m Kylie, and I’m obsessed with YouTube. It’s what I spend all my free time doing, well the free time that I still have.

img_0535.pngSo when I heard that Joey Graceffa was going on a book tour, I knew I had to go. Because come on, YouTube and books? What more could I ask for?

While Joey Graceffa isn’t my personal favorite, I knew my friend would be interested in going since he is one of her favorite YouTubers, and I didn’t want her to have to go alone. I mean what kind of friend would I be? Also, his dogs are way too cute, I mean just look.

If you don’t know who Joey Graceffa is, he’s a YouTuber who started out vlogging and making video game videos. But now he’s branched out to make all kinds of videos, written books, written songs, and starred in shows. He’s even been on the Amazing Race (one of my dream shows to be on).

IMG_0604This particular book tour was for his book, Elites of Eden, which is the second book in his Children of Eden series. Guiltily, I haven’t read the first book yet, but the covers are just stunning. I promise it’s been on my never-ending TBR pile.

Children of Eden is about a world that is under population control which makes the main character, Rowan, an outlaw. She essentially has to live in hiding. After so many years in hiding, Rowan longs to go on an adventure in the real world. This book follows her adventures.

img_0536.pngWhen my friend, Mikayla, and I got the bookstore where the event was at, the line was already out the door. Mikayla had kind of expected this to happen because she had seen him the year before, and the line was the same way. I was shocked because while I like popular YouTubers, I don’t think any of those I like are the same kind of caliber that Joey is. We waited in line to meet Joey and his boyfriend, Daniel, for about an hour, which really wasn’t too bad. I mean our line queue was in a bookstore, how bad can it be when you’re surrounded by books? Disney, take note.

The meet-and-greet process was quick and kind of lackluster, but I think that’s the way most meet-and-greets are. That’s not to discredit Joey by any means, it’s just the nature of the way these events are. It was a quick “hi, hello, how are you guys?”. But I do have this pretty cool photo to show for it, and I can finally say I’ve met Joey Graceffa. (I had wanted to go to his book tour last year, but it just didn’t work out.)

IMG_0544As I’ve said, his book covers are stunning, and I’m so excited to have a signed copy of his book.

I love supporting YouTubers through and through. And Joey, if you happen to write a third book, I’ll be there.

UPDATE: Joey Graceffa ended up having to cancel the rest of his tour because of an infection, so this may explain why he wasn’t all that I expected him to be because he was clearly under the weather. He canceled the remaining dates shortly after his stop in Orlando. He is planning on rescheduling these dates, but in the meantime, feel better, Joey!

Book Signing Experience: Rick Riordan

By: Fiona Schneider

ricknme.jpgEver since I first read the Percy Jackson series as an elementary school kid (albeit WAY out of order) my love for Rick Riordan, affectionately called Uncle Rick in the fandom, has only grown. The chance to get a booked signed by him, or possibly see him in person, was an out-of-reach dream tucked away in the recesses of my mind. However, early this year, Rick Riordan announced he would be going on a book tour for his latest book, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Ship of the Dead, and for the first time ever he was including a Florida location! Tampa! I madly checked the website over and over again for details on tickets, time, and location. It was almost painful, until one day in September when I was checking the website and FINALLY information was released about the Florida event. I rushed to my mother in a panic, told her I was going, no questions allowed and marked it down on the family calendar.

Flash forward to last night, after a day of driving to Tampa and a hurried visit to Sonic because I was starving after only eating a croissant the entire day due to nerves, I made it. I managed to snag a seat toward the front and waited an hour for the event to begin. I started to get antsy when 6:10 p.m. hit, 10 minutes after the event was supposed to start, and all the activity in the auditorium furthered my giddiness. Everything officially began when two actors dressed as Magnus and Alex, characters from the book, performed a skit and threw goodies into the audience. Then came the time when Riordan was introduced.

Not going to lie, my initial reaction was, “Oh, that’s not what I expected him to sound like.” I quickly forgot this, though, and enjoyed his wonderful presentation on how he came into writing as a profession in 7th grade from an English teacher who gave him a little push. His career in publishing was the typical story of getting rejected numerous times before a single one of his ideas was picked up and published. He transitioned from adult murder mysteries to focusing on middle-grade books when he realized this was the age group he knew best. This was in conjunction with stories he made up for his eldest son, who struggled to read as a kid because of his ADHD and dyslexia.

bookThe presentation transitioned from personal history to discussing characters from the books, as well as future releases. One, in particular, I am excited about is the series of books coming from the “Rick Riordan Presents” Disney Hyperion Imprint where Riordan is promoting the work of other authors who write about their native mythologies.

This, in turn, led to the Question and Answer section, which was equally informative as funny. I’ll take this time to comment on the actual personality of Rick Riordan, and how who he is as a person has only solidified him as my favorite author. Riordan loves to play the comedian and make people laugh. The presentation was so much fun to watch and listen to, I don’t even mind that it wasn’t a live signing, and I wasn’t able to speak with him one-on-one. He’s also incredibly genuine, despite the majority of the presentation probably being scripted, I can’t help but feel there was a large portion of him ad-libbing and interacting with the audience as he wished. He admits to not knowing everything about his universe and what’s going to happen, but that he’s continually researching and planning to try and give us readers something worthy.

To a question, “Would you ever do a collab with J.K. Rowling?” he laughed and answered, “I don’t really think Ms. Rowling needs any help. Besides, why would she want to work with me?” That spark of humility, jabbing humor, and strange sense of confidence is a wonderful summary of why I love him as both an author and person.

The free merchandise at the end of the event was a pure bonus.


A Letter to Meggie Folchart

By: Fiona Schneider

[Meggie Folchart is the main character of the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke.]

Dear Meggie Folchart,

I think I forgive you. Or maybe I don’t. I still struggle to discern my feelings about you since they have festered since I was eight. Maybe it’s a bit odd to hold a grudge against a fictional character, but when you’re a child, none of that matters.

First and foremost, I love you. Or rather, perhaps I want to be you, and thus envy you. You could read a few simple words and whisk yourself into the very books I so desperately wanted to be a part of. My young mind may have thought you took this for granted, I don’t remember. I just remember initially loving your character. You had faults, but you were not weak. You did not give in or stand by when someone of a supposed “higher authority” told you to wait. My own desire to act and never quite be satisfied with where I am in life made me see myself in you.

And that, is perhaps why I can’t forgive you for wanting peace. At the end of a fantastical, epic trilogy filled with adventure, trauma, and character development you decided on the calm. You were so young, and yet you decided on not the boy with the most beautiful eyes that shined like starlight, but the kind inventor from an unpublished book. Doria was pleasant, serene. For my heart, he was just too perfect, too good, too right for a girl who previously sought out treachery.

I have read practically every official explanation to this plot point from Cornelia Funke to date, but I have never REALLY wanted to understand it. I feel like my own contempt for your decision has blinded me to the choice, but nevertheless, I still feel you chose wrong. Of course, I realize I may be wrong. Farid had a lost-child attachment to Dustfinger and a growing love for fire-play. He would never settle and had the charisma of any smooth-talker, but by the end he was willing to grow with you.

Maybe you set him free for the better, but I guess my main argument is not even about your love life, but about settling into complacency on your journey. The Silvertongue I so admired and wished I could be had lost her spark. No longer did you seek out danger or vie for quests of wonder. Barely out of your teenaged years and you desired a simple, carefree life.

Perhaps my fear of giving in to that same peace made me view you differently. I still loved you, but no longer wanted to be you. It was like losing a role-model or life path. It was a stark reality that I could not be the Silvertongue. So perhaps if I re-read your story I could forgive you, or maybe I have already forgiven you in some small part of me. I don’t know, but I will not lie in saying that I will always be a bit curious to know how your life turned out.

Decent Wishes,

The Heart of a Young Bookworm

What to know before National Bullying Prevention Month

By: Kylie Widseth 

shutterstock_627623021I write this with the hope that you won’t be able to relate to anything that I’m about to say. The sad reality of today is that so many kids are bullied at school, and it’s become something of an epidemic. Over 77 percent of students have been bullied verbally, mentally, and physically.

But this isn’t something that you should ever have to deal with.

Here are some tips on how to stop bullying:

Tip #1: Be a Friend

shutterstock_631705451You don’t have to hang out with the kid that gets bullied everyday. I mean, you can if you want to go above and beyond, but you don’t have to.

Something as simple as a kind word (and I mean a genuine, kind word) can make someone’s day.

Being nice to the bullied kid is one of the best things you can do to make a change. Saying “hello” when you see them and asking them what they thought of that really hard test in physics is all it takes.

Tip #2: Include the Victim

shutterstock_303372821Sit with the kid at lunch; sit with him on the bus. If you’re doing a group project, make sure you’re keeping that person in the loop.

If you’re having a birthday party, invite the victim.

Make sure you aren’t leaving that person out on purpose. If you are, that makes you a bully, too.

Tip #3: Tell an Adult

If you’re too afraid to do something in the moment, find an adult and tell them what’s happening.

Again, make sure it’s someone you trust. If there’s a teacher or administrator who seems like they hate their job or could really care less, they might be the best person to tell. Not every adult knows how to handle situations like this.

If you do tell an adult, and they don’t do anything, tell another. Keep asking for help until someone steps in. Don’t give up until you know you’re making a change.

Tip #4: Suggest Change

shutterstock_590602571Sometimes, adults need a kick in the butt. Maybe they don’t realize that bullying is such a problem.

If you really want to make a change in your school, suggest it.

Talk to your principal or teachers about having a school-wide presentation.

Start an anti-bullying petition. Send it around at your school, and have everyone sign it.

Tell your principal that National Bullying Prevention Month is in October. Ask him to honor it by doing something to raise awareness.

Let the adults know that there is a problem, and that there are steps you, as a school, can take to make a difference.

National Bullying Prevention Month is right around the corner.

shutterstock_645658207If you personally want to show your support for this month, you can participate in Blue Shirt Day, which will be happening on October 2nd of this year. You can wear any blue shirt to show your support on STOMP Out Bullying has made one for the cause; all of the proceeds for this shirt go to STOMP Out Bullying.

You should never have to feel like bullying is something you just have to live with. Hopefully, these tips will help you work to end the bullying epidemic.

Tips for Writing a Good Research Paper

By: Fiona Schneider.

With school comes the inevitable need to write research papers. They can be about any subject, much to the chagrin of every student on the planet, especially when the math teacher decides it’s cool to assign one on the history for a particular theorem. Who really wants to mix math with more letter variables than already exists, much less blend this further with history? Nobody, but if you don’t want to fail the assignment, here are some tips to writing a stellar research paper your teacher won’t cringe while reading.

Tip #1: Avoid First or Second Person

This tip has varying levels of importance depending on the subject you are writing about. A general rule of thumb, though, is to always avoid second person in research papers and be careful when using first person. For science research papers where hard facts are valued over opinions, it is best to stick to third person no matter what. However, if you are writing a research paper on a piece of literature where your interpretation needs to be included, first person can be applied as appropriate. If you are not sure whether you can use a particular tense in an essay, the safest bet is to simply ask your teacher. I can say from experience, though, that teachers find student papers that avoid first or second person to sound more refined, formal, and compelling since third person often gives a voice of omnipotent authority and thus sounds more convincing.

Tip #2: Properly Cite Your Sources

Perhaps the biggest mistake any student can make is not properly citing their sources. Not only is plagiarism simply illegal, but also it can be easily avoided with proper citations. The first step to properly citing sources is to know what type of style the essay is written for. Common essay formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago. Each style has unique requirements and different ways to cite sources whether they use footnotes or in-text citations. A properly cited essay also has a separate page at the very end of the paper reserved just for the “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” page where the writer will list in alphabetical order every source of information used within the essay. If you find yourself struggling with how to properly cite a source, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources out there to make sure you don’t accidentally plagiarize someone else’s creative or intellectual property like the ones mentioned in the next tip!

researchpapers1Tip #3: Use a Style Guide or Help Reference

Many books are written just for the purpose of helping students learn and understand how to cite their sources in a research paper and to make the research paper be more noticeable/memorable as a finished product to the teacher. Atlantic Publishing has helpful resources for both high school and college students in the following: A High School Student’s Guide to Research Papers: 101 Ways To Make Your Work Stand Out and A College Student’s Guide to Research Papers: 101 Ways To Make Your Work Stand Out. These guides were designed to help you figure out how to correctly write a research paper. Without the next tip, though, formatting the paper correctly is irrelevant.

Tip #4: Avoid Noncredible Sources

We have all heard the speech about using Wikipedia as a source in a paper, and the same goes for many other sources that can be found on the internet as well. Even printed books can be noncredible sources if the information they contain is now outdated. It’s important to do your research (no pun intended, apologies) and determine whether or not a source material is actually providing you with true material. This is especially important for science papers, but even for English papers as well if the source writes about events that may never occur in the novel it describes. For web sources, typically cites that end with .gov/.edu/.org are considered credible as they are typically sponsored by credible organizations. However, online newspapers and other regular .com sources with real information can be found just as easily as long as you cross-reference information to make sure it really is the truth.

Tip #5: Write a Cyclical Paperresearchpapers2

As a final tip on how to write the essay, write a cyclical paper. This may not make sense up front, so let me explain. A cyclical paper starts by introducing an idea, either supports or debates this idea in the body, and then affirms or negates the original idea in the conclusion from the evidence drawn from the body. An introduction paragraph should only explain the initial idea and give background, it should not begin the debate of evidence. This should be left in the body. And finally the conclusion should not feature any new ideas not discussed in the introduction or body, but rather give a summary of the findings from each. A successful conclusion paragraph also brings the introductory statements directly back into mind, thus creating a “circle” in the writing.

Hopefully, with these tips you feel more confident in tackling your next research paper and are eager to get the best experience out of it you can. After all, research papers are predominantly about learning new information and discussing it, so you may just surprise yourself with your findings.

Reflecting on My Reading Year

By: Kylie Widseth


Often what my TBR pile looks like.

I used to always want to be able to report that I’d read 50 books this year, or I wanted to be a person that averages a book a week. But, that’s not me. I don’t know if that will ever be me, and that’s okay.

I think as readers we can’t help but compare ourselves to our reader friends, even though that’s not really fair to do. We don’t have the same exact lives as our friends, so how can we compare our reading habits with theirs?

Even though I haven’t read every single book I planned to get to so far this year, I still do very much consider my reading year to be accomplished thus far.

This year has been one of my most successful reading years outside of actually physically reading. I personally consider my reading year to be more about my reading journey than the number of books I’ve read over the course of a given year rather than just about the number of books I’ve read.

IMG_5973I’ve made so many new book friends, not only in my college town, but also people all over the country! I’ve been able to meet some authors I never even dreamed of meeting. I’ve discovered all kinds of new books that I’ve now already read, or I’m very eager to read! I got to go to BEA and BookCon, something I’ve only dreamed about! I’ve been able to talk to all kinds of people in the publishing industry. Heck, I even started working at a publishing company (thanks, Atlantic!), I mean how much more real can it get.

IMG_6033Never ever ever would I have thought that I’d would get the opportunity to meet Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and somehow that happened? I recently got to see a screening of the film for an early celebration of National Banned Book week, and I had to resist from squealing throughout the movie when all my favorite lines were said.

Back to the original thread, though, I know everyone is probably looking for that infamous number, how many books has Kylie read this year? While I know everyone is looking for it, I do want to emphasis that I don’t know the number off the top of my head, and I think that’s the way it should be for all readers. Don’t let your reading goals drive you mentally insane. Remember to enjoy reading because that’s really what it’s all about. There’s no need to rush through a book just to get to the next one (this also tends to allow you to remember what actually happened in the book when you slow down and simply read).

But, if you really want to know, Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 20 books this year. Or at least that’s the number of books I’ve remembered to log on Goodreads.


Proudly hugging my most treasured items — books.

I’ve been able to branch out and read books from all genres, books by new authors, books for school, I’ve been reading classics now, and I even got to reread one of my favorite kid’s books (thanks, Atlantic, again!).

Regardless if you’ve read one book this year or 100, be proud of yourself! That’s at least one more book than you read last year!

Remember that the only person you should be comparing yourself to is well, yourself!

With that, keep on reading and enjoy the literary journey!

Good Jobs for Teens in School

by Fiona Schneider

High school is a time where many students want to branch out and get their first job. It’s a personal choice, but when considering a job, you need to think about your options. Whether it is because you purely want the experience, or you just don’t want to keep asking your parents to pay for things, finding a job while still being a student can be intimidating. Below are some job choices that will work with a student’s schedule and allow you to gain better personal skills, such as communication or courtesy.

#1 Cashier

Being a cashier is a common entry-level job for teens in school. The hours tend to be more flexible so working around your school schedule is no problem, especially if you only work part time and don’t dismiss working on the weekends. Cashiers are present everywhere in your local grocery store, movie theater, clothing departments, and many other areas. Depending on where you work, cashiers often get an employee discount, so this may be a factor when deciding where to apply. Nothing beats bragging to your friends about revamping your entire closet with the latest clothes without breaking the bank.


#2 Camp Counselorshutterstock_452513506

If you are more time-constricted during the school year, consider becoming a camp counselor for the summer. Not only will you be able to get away from your parents asking about summer homework for a few weeks, but also get to participate in many outdoor, water, and other fun recreational activities. The best part is you get paid for every second of it. There are all kinds of summer camps so look for ones in an area you take interest, such as a science, music, or a purely summer get-away camp. Make a note that many camps often require their counselors to get certified in CPR or other health and leadership areas to ensure the safety of the other non-counselor campers in attendance.


bookcover#3 Waiter/Waitress

Waiting tables is a frequent job many teens take while in school. With all the walking and food lifting entailed, it could likely double as your work out time and save you a gym membership expense. You can pick your favorite restaurant (or least favorite, depending on how easily you get tired of food) and work with a variety of other people to keep a business running. A unique aspect of this job is the tipping system where for each customer you serve, you get a tip in return for your service. This can seem intimidating since you may not be confident in your professional or courtesy skills, but our book The Young Adult’s Guide to Being a Great Waiter and Waitress: Everything You Need to Know to Earn Better Tips lays out how you should conduct yourself as a waiter/waitress and how to earn great tips to add to your paycheck.


#4 Barista

This job is perfect for students looking to improve their time management and ability to work under pressure. Which is honestly something most students could improve upon, if we’re being real. You will also gain great communication skills between customers and your fellow employees to balance the work and get the right orders out. The skills you learn on the job may also help in the future when you can make all the smoothies, teas, coffees, and other drinks that were on the menu. This is great leverage for choosing roommates later in college when everyone asks you to be their roommate, and you get to choose who you think you won’t want to kick out after the first week.


#5 Receptionistshutterstock_410739736

Receptionist jobs are good for teens who love directing people around. If you are passionate about fitness, you can apply to a gym or if you love animals, watch for front desk openings at the local animal shelter. Communication and organizational skills are the top priorities for this kind of job where you will be likely scheduling appointments and distributing information such as open hours to customers as well as relaying these to your coworkers in other departments. Most of your time will be spent at a desk, so it doubles as a way to sneak in any last homework you may have procrastinated on between work tasks.


Taking on a job while still in high school will present you as a hard-working, responsible individual down the road on college applications, so don’t shy away from the opportunity. Not to mention having the extra cash isn’t awful, especially if your friend group is the kind who constantly likes to go out to eat or see a movie when they meet up. So start looking around your area to see what possible jobs are out there for you.

Teaching My Dream High School Class

By: Martha Pointer

I’m a history major with an interest in teaching in the future. I think about classes I would teach, develop potential lesson plans, and have even taught some of my favorite teachers’ classes for a day when I’m home on break. My ideal teaching job would be a position teaching high school history. If I could teach any class, it’d be on the history of World War II. The Second World War is such a defining event of the 20th century, and its impact is still felt today. I think it’s important for the next generations to learn about this tragedy: what led up to it, what occurred, and why.

As an avid reader, I’ve read quite a few books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction. Here are a few of the books I’d put on my class reading list, as either recommended or required reading.

25614492Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

One of the most incredible books I’ve read. It captures the experience of war from four young adult perspectives, and it’s brilliant. The war feels real, and so do the emotions and backgrounds of the characters, like the reader is right there along with them. It also covers an event not well known in history: the Allied sinking of the German refugee ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is the greatest maritime tragedy in history (yes, greater than the sinking of the Titanic). It is estimated that approximately 9,600 people, including about 5,000 children, were killed in the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff; the death toll after Titanic was under 2,000. The tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff is often forgotten because the Allies won World War II and it’s an embarrassing blight on their victory. As they say, history is written by the winners.

19063The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book is a slow build, but it’s worth it. It follows a lower middle class family in a small German town during WWII and the difficulty in hiding a Jew during that time. Narrated by Death and providing perspective from German civilians and the home front, it is eye-opening, unique, and focuses on the choices of individual people (and families) during war.

1971304City of Thieves by David Benioff

Written by one of the writers of Game of Thrones (the show, not the book series), City of Thieves is a humor-filled adventure novel about two young men during the Nazi siege of Leningrad in the Soviet Union. The two main characters show the readers the hardships of life in the USSR, especially during war; the realities of living in a sieged city; and the cruelty of the Germans towards Russian civilians, all while making them laugh at their ridiculous banter and escapades across the Russian countryside. The ending will make you realize why Benioff is a writer for Game of Thrones.



All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This. Book. Is. Beautiful. The writing is magnificent, and it’s a story about a blind French girl and a German Hitler Youth boy finding their way through the war. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such an eloquently written novel, especially about such a violent and devastating topic as war. What more can you ask for in a novel?

168668Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Another brilliant read. It takes place at a U.S. military base on a fictional Italian island, has a ton of hilarious characters (I recommend keeping a character chart), and is filled with humorous commentary on the corruption of the government, military, and capitalism.

1617Night by Elie Wiesel 

This memoir really enlightened my perspective of the Holocaust and provides an excellent real-life narrative of the horrors that Jews and other persecuted groups endured at the hands of their neighbors and National Socialism. Wiesel discusses the failure of human beings to prevent the Holocaust while remaining positive about humanity as a whole. It’s a vital read for everyone.

It was difficult to narrow down the reading list for my dream high school class, but I think all of these books provide different, yet essential perspectives on the war. If you don’t know much about the Holocaust, the first book I’d recommend you start with is Night by Elie Wiesel, but all of these books are excellent World War II reads.

If you could teach a high school class, what would it be?