Off the Shelf: Graded’s Book Clubs & 21 Must-Reads

The Graded Gazette

Grade 4 students discuss a novel.

The year is 1634, and you're setting sail from England to embark on a new life across the seas. The prospect of spending two months confined aboard a ship might sound monotonous. However, one passenger, Anne Hutchinson, "a woman of a haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit, and an active spirit," had an idea.

She invited her fellow travelers to what history would recognize as one of the earliest book clubs. In the confines of the ship's quarters, they explored religious texts, engaged in spirited debate, and found camaraderie.

More than 300 years later, in 1996, Oprah Winfrey launched her book club with her first pick, Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean. It was an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking a resurgence in reading and book clubs.

Reading can feel like a solitary activity, but many people find joy in sharing their experiences with others. Graded is full of book clubs—from the High School Book Club led by passionate junior Sofia Z., to the PTA Book Club guided by Graded parent Janaina Dobbeck Fiorini, and even a Faculty and Staff Book Club organized by Upper School Librarian Colleen Boerner. 

The PTA Book Club meets monthly in the Lower School Library.

Why are so many of us drawn to the book club experience? PTA Book Club member and Graded parent Katherine Evans offers some insight. Initially, she admits, joining was about socialization; the books weren’t her priority. But now, she finds herself diving into each book, many of which she wouldn’t have picked herself. She explains, “I enjoy discussing and debating each book's merits. It's best when we get to explore uncomfortable or controversial topics with people from different backgrounds and with varying points of view. It's an intellectual stimulation that is hard to find within a traditional friend or family group setting."

Since immersing herself in a world of picture books as a young child, High School Book Club Leader Sofia Z.'s love of reading has grown each year. She approached Mrs. Boerner in seventh grade to seek her assistance in founding the Middle School Book Club. Sofia was motivated by a desire to create a space where “students could share their voices, perspectives, and opinions through the power of books.” When she entered ninth grade, Sofia established the High School Book Club to “prompt even more students to discover (or even rediscover) their love for reading."

Fourth-grader Sofia R. says, “My homeroom book club gives me a chance to get to know my friends better. They encouraged me to read the book, and I understood the book better with different perspectives in our discussions.”

Graded's Middle School Battle of the Books is a perennial hit. After reading five titles, teams of students participate in rounds of trivia, showcasing their knowledge of the books. The top teams vie for first place in a heated grand finale.

When students were asked why they had entered Battle of the Books, sixth-grader Alexia R. responded, "My older brother participated. When he said the books were amazing, I thought he was joking. Turns out he wasn't!"

Middle school students compete in Battle of the Books.

Graded's multiple book clubs offer more than a good read. They provide a chance to connect with others, encounter fresh perspectives, develop empathy, and engage in lively discussions with fellow bibliophiles. 

Interested in joining a Graded book club?

High School Book Club meets once a month during lunch. Contact Ms. Boerner in the US Library. 

Faculty and Staff Book Club meets approximately once per month during the school year. Interested Graded faculty and staff may Contact Colleen Boerner at colleen.boerner@graded.br

PTA Book Club meets on the third Thursday of each month at 1:30 pm in the Lower School Library. Interested Graded parents may contact Janaina Dobbeck at jdobbeck@gmail.com.


Graded Book Club Recommendations

Battle of the Books Picks

  • The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh 
  • The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea 
  • Starfish by Lisa Fipps
  • Two Degrees by Alan Gratz 
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson  

Faculty and Staff Book Club Picks

  • Come Fly the World by Julia Cook
  • Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior 
  • Liberation Day: Stories by George Saunders
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  • The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka 

High School Book Club Picks

  • All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir 
  • A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

PTA Book Club Picks

  • Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles 
  • Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult 
  • None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell 
  • Solito: A Memoir by Javier Zamora
  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin 


Grade 4 students enjoy independent reading in class.


Associated Press, editor. "Oprah Winfrey Reflects on Book Club, Announces 100th Pick." WHYY, PBS, 14 Mar. 2023, whyy.org/articles/oprah-winfrey-book-club-100th-pick/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2024.

LaPlante, Eve. American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans. HarperOne, 2005.