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Take Five: Favorite Books for Reluctant Readers

It happens to all of us. We’re trying to help someone find a book, but they’re not interested in anything and say they hate reading. That’s when we pull out the big guns: the books that even the most reluctant of readers might give a try.

Take Five The Hub

What’s your favorite book to recommend to a reluctant reader?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman.  I read this book when I worked as a middle school librarian and the eighth graders were reading it for class.  I became obsessed with this book and thought it was completely amazing.  I remember making a book trailer to go with the book and thought it fit perfectly with Linkin Parks’ song Leave Out All The Rest.  I always recommend this book to reluctant readers because it has a fast pace and is very exciting. Unwind has an awesome storyline with amazing characters. – Kimberli Buckley


I have a handful, because I there are so many reasons that readers might be reluctant to read. I try to first get a hint of what they like, whether it’s movies, TV, or hobbies. I’ll often ask them what books they’ve hated the most, just to get a sense of what they don’t like.

But I do find myself reaching for several books over and over. I love Scott Westerfeld, and both the Leviathan and Uglies series have been hits with a wide range of readers.

I also like to try different formats to see what might click with a certain reader. Something like Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral which is told in a mix of artifacts, images, and text, and lots of teens who aren’t big readers have really been intrigued after booktalking it.

Books with images, like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, have also piqued the interest of reluctant readers.

Books that can be summed up in one sentence that have a good “hook” are often my go-to recommendations. For I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, I might say, “what if you were the son of the world’s most notorious serial killer?” For All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, I’ll say, “what if the only way to save the world was to go back in time to kill your best friend?” I’ve found that keeping it short and simple is the best way to entice readers. – Molly Wetta

This is a book that’s been around for a long time, but I still recommend Graham McNamee’s  Acceleration to anyone who says they’re not really into reading. It’s set in Toronto but has a universal feel to it and it’s a mixture of a mystery/thriller that’s action-packed and a thrill ride of a read.  – Sharon Rawlins

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I love this book because of the way Nelson incorporates poetry into this heartbreaking story about how people deal with grief. It’s one of those books that I recommend to everyone because of its quotable lines. – Ethan Evans

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman.  This book has two things boys and girls like: horror and technology.  I booktalked this book 3 years ago at several schools and this series is still one the highest circed books in my collection. – Dawn Abron

What’s your go-to recommendation for reluctant readers? I’m sure everyone reading would love more ideas! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

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Molly is the Senior Librarian for Youth Services, Programming, and Marketing at Santa Barbara (CA) Public Library. She is a former member manager of YALSA's The Hub.

One Comment

  1. Tricia Copeland Tricia Copeland

    I use Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper. Once I explain the premise, it’s gone!

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