Book Recommendations (Vol. 01)

Reading is my favorite hobby.

At the end of 2016, I posted a wrap up of the year and when I wrote it, I wanted to include a top 5 books list. Two things stopped me – first, it didn’t seem like it fit with the theme of “professional top fives”, I just really wanted to make book recommendations to people. Second, I had read too many books to choose five from the whole year.

So this year, I’m going to try making these book recommendations posts every 3 months (a quarter of a year). They say “everyone is a teacher of literacy”, so here’s math teacher me, trying to convince you to read more for fun. Amazingly, the first three months of 2017 have already passed?!

As a disclaimer, the summaries are probably going to be pretty vague because I don’t like to go into books knowing too much about them, but I’ll give you the gist!


I’ve already read 15 books this year – here are my 5 favorites:


The Problem with Forever – Jennifer L. Armentrout

Mallory is starting her senior year, returning to public school for the first time in several years after being homeschooled following a trauma she endured while living with a previous foster family.  She encounters a face from that time that she never expected to see again, who was a light in the darkness of that home.

This book hit me really hard emotionally and I ended up crying through much of the last third or so. It is a very realistic portrayal of many of the hardships that our underprivileged, at risk, and traumatized students face on a daily basis. It is very painful to read at times, but it is also full of hope and the path of rebuilding trust and connection after it has been lost.

We Are Okay – Nina LaCour

Marin left her entire old life behind when she left California for college in New York. It’s now winter break and she finds herself alone in the dorms, the only one who didn’t go home or on a vacation. Her best friend from California, Mabel, shows up to visit and forces her to confront everything she left.

This book is such a short read, and is a really raw examination of everything that comes with grief and change. It’s another one that’s about broken connections and how to rebuild them, and how to re-imagine your life when you discover that things aren’t exactly as you thought they were. It’s written so that you feel all of the emotions along with Marin, and go on the journey with her of confronting what happened.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

This book was inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement and starts out with high schooler Starr witnessing one of her good friends be shot and killed by a police officer. The rest of the story follows the unrest in Starr’s neighborhood, her struggles to reconcile the world of her mostly white and privileged school with her friends and family in her mostly black and lower class neighborhood.

This one is really powerful – I read the whole thing in pretty much one sitting. “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” It really calls into question how you can sit in your privilege and not address something that really matters, and shows you the people who don’t have that choice. This is one I think everyone, but especially every teacher, should read.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing begins with the stories of Effia and Esi, half sisters who have never met and don’t know of each other’s existence, at the start of the slave trade in what is now Ghana. It follows the trail of their descendants to present day.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and I keep raving about it to everyone who will listen to me. Every chapter gives you a brief glimpse into the next descendant down the line and in every chapter I found myself wanting to read a whole book about that character. In the end, it’s not a spoiler to say the two lines find a way to intertwine again and it is lovely and wonderful. It also gives a very interesting glimpse into different perspectives on the slave trade and the history of some of the ancient (and modern) Ghanaian people. But wow, is this book lovely to read.

The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life – Alex Bellos

It’s basically various stories about the histories of different math concepts – including how Kepler and Galileo used to send each other anagrammed riddles of their new discoveries, a giant survey to discover the world’s favorite number, and more!

It was just a really fun read. I had previously read and loved Bellos’ Here’s Looking at Euclid and also loved it. As is evident from those titles, he’s great at puns, and I also think he’s pretty great at explaining the math from a layperson’s perspective – so if you find math fascinating, but don’t feel super confident in your skills, this one’s for you! It’s just really interesting and will make you think about things you never considered. I know a lot of people don’t love nonfiction, but this is a pretty easy read for nonfiction.


So there it is – my top 5 books of the first quarter of 2017. Please, if you’ve read anything great, leave me a comment and hype it up for me – I love recommendations! Also, if you end up checking any of these out, report back and tell me if you loved it as much as I did!


Author: missmastalio

Math teacher at an alternative high school. Living the best life.

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