Check this out! West’s favorite books dive into contemporary issues
You can tell a lot about a person by their choice of books. The same is true for a school.
Unsurprisingly, the top ten most checked out titles in the LRC revolve around the lives of teenagers and the universal problems that they face, whether in the past, present, or future. “I think students want to read books that excite them and, more importantly, speak to them and their experiences,” librarian Geoffrey Greenberg said.
Over the past five years, students have gravitated toward young adult realistic fiction. Titles such as The Hate You Give, Eleanor and Park, and Looking for Alaska have all been checked out over 40 times in the past five years. Although Eleanor and Park are set in the 1980s, many students were still able to relate to the problems they faced. “Eleanor and Park are one of the best books I’ve ever read,” junior Gabi Krieger said. “Rainbow Rowell managed to expose the reader to real-life hardships such as domestic abuse, poverty, and forbidden love.”
Students also appreciated the honest depictions of life in high school author Rowell portrayed in Eleanor and Park. “I really liked how she doesn’t sugarcoat things and how it shows that things don’t always work out,” junior Madelyn Jones said.
On the other hand, The Hate U Give is centered around a very current issue: police brutality. “It tackled the issue in a way that doesn’t feel too heavy,” librarian Nicole Coover-Thompson said. This makes it an ideal book for high school students.
“I liked The Hate U Give because it emphasizes the racial tension that the black community experiences even after equality is actively sought after,” Krieger said. “I think it’s an important book that should be read in high schools because it’s entertaining as well as educational.”
My Bloody Life, the autobiography of a former gang member, is one of the most popular nonfiction titles the LRC offers, having been checked out 75 times in the past five years. “A lot of kids are interested in reading about true crime and serial killers,” Greenberg said. “Students find these books engaging and talk to each other about them, which I think makes them more popular.” Other genres experiencing surges in popularity include graphic novels and fantasy series.
One priority of the librarians is to make it easier for all types of students to find books where they can relate more directly to the authors’ point of view. “We have been pushing a lot of authors of color, queer authors, and stories that are representative of the students in the building,” Coover-Thompson said. “Those titles, in particular, have become very popular.”
Ultimately, the most popular books contain issues that are relevant to teens. Since all of the most checked out books were published after 2000, “it will be interesting to see, ten or twenty years from now, to see if these books will have stood the test of time.” Coover-Thompson said.