You've Got to Read This!

The "Books That Matter" Project


Every syllabus for a literature class is designed around "must-read" books. I teach books that, I believe, people must read. But for students the "must-read" part can also become a matter of mere obligation and not a measure of a book's value or significance. In my classes, I try to share with my students my passion for certain books, I try to outline why the books that I have chosen to include on my syllabus matter, and I strive to show why it may be important to read these books today.

But what are the kinds of books that get students excited? What are books that matter to students? What are books that students believe we must read today? 

Over the course of each of my introductory classes, students will independently research and select one book that they will champion, a book about which they are truly excited, a book that matters to them, a book of which they believe that it is a must-read for others. Students are free to pick a book from any historical period, from any nation, and from any genre. Each student will compose a brief argumentative essay that outlines and defends the value and significance of the book of their choice. At the end of each semester, the class will discuss the arguments for the selected books and vote on the semester's must-read book. 

My pledge: I agree to teach the winning book in the following semester's class.



Below, you will find the winners of each round of the "You've Got to Read This!" Competition.

Additionally, you will find a selection of student essays that argue for the value of a wide range of books.

If you want to find out what kinds of books matter to students today, then visit our archive.