Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books with a ________ Setting


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Favorite Books with a ________ Setting

Here are our favorites within each of these great settings! As always—no spoilers!

1. Post- Apocalyptic World

Ricki: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

This is an epic story that has always been a hit in my classroom. Many of my students list it as their favorite book, and they are often compelled to research about super-volcanoes after reading Ashfall. The imagery and setting details are fantastic, and readers will feel as if they are right there with Alex after the super-volcano erupts.

Kellee: Life as we Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book, like Ashfall, is so realistic and that is why it is on my list. In Life as we Knew it a meteor hits the moon, and all heck breaks loose! The description of the disasters that inflict Miranda, her family, and the rest of the world are so terrifying, it will give you nightmares!

2. Dystopian World

Ricki: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I love dystopian novels and try to read every book published within this genre. Even when the trend has long passed, I will still continue to devour books within this setting. It was difficult for me to choose just one book for this category because there are so many incredible choices. In the end, I chose Little Brother because it is a modern interpretation of 1984, one of my favorite classic novels. I love the lessons it teaches readers and think the setting is realistically interpreted, which allows it to be believable to students. I also think it would make for a great bridge for teachers to use alongside 1984, and it could lead to some great discussions/research about technology.

Kellee: Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is one of my favorite dystopian novels (series), but it is also one of my favorite settings. I think it is because it is actually set in Chicago, so I was able to connect to the setting thus making the book even more impactful to the reader. It is the dystopian novel that seems the most likely to happen in the future and I think it is because of the realism of the setting.

3. World War II

Ricki: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

If it is set in World War II, I will read it. With all of the books I’ve read that are set in this time period, this choice was very easy for me. I chose Between Shades of Gray because it doesn’t portray the Nazi Germany conflict, but instead, it teaches readers about Stalin and the Soviets. Lina, the main character, travels to Siberia, and readers won’t be able to put this book down. Students will feel a need for social justice after reading it. I have taught it to about fifty students (so far), and every single student fell in love with this story. Fellow teachers will know that this is a very difficult feat, with the varied tastes and interests of our students!

Kellee: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Like Ricki, I am fascinated by World War II. Because of that, this one was actually really hard to choose. I decided on The Boy Who Dared because I like the point of view which it is told. The Boy Who Dared is told from the point of view of Helmut Hubner, an actual member of Germany’s Hitler Youth, and tells us a fictionalized narrative of Helmut’s life (though all based in truth). I, unfortunately, had a very narrow history (thanks to Texas middle school Texas history and a high school where football coaches taught history), so I was not aware of the Hitler Youth and Susan Cambell Bartoletti became my teacher. This book is so informative yet so suspenseful and interesting!

4. School

Ricki: Nothing by Janne Teller

Pierre Anthon walks out of the classroom and climbs a plum tree. He yells down to his fellow classmates, “It’s all a waste of time […] Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you begin to die. That’s how it is with everything.” His schoolmates decide to prove Pierre Anthon wrong, and they set out to create a heap of meaning. This is a chilling allegory that readers will find utterly disturbing. It isn’t entirely set in the classroom, but the characters are all classmates and depict an average group of everyday children. When I think of this book, I can’t help but remember the door that smiled as Pierre Anthon walks out of the room.

Kellee: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

I. Love. This. Book! Such a classic and so hilarious! I’ve read is many, many times and I cannot wait to share it with new students each year and someday with my own children. If you haven’t read it, Sideways Stories is the first book of the Wayside School series. Wayside School is a 30-story school with one classroom per floor. Our story focuses on Mrs. Gorf’s class on the 30th story. Each student is such a character and tells a different chapter. For example, Calvin has a tattoo of a potato, Jenny wears a motorcycle helmet, and Kathy has a pet skunk.

5. Fantasy world

Ricki: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The wild, flesh-eating horses of this story make its mystical setting beautiful and bone-chilling. I can’t describe the magic of this world as well as Stiefvater does: “They came in with the tide. The moon illuminated long lines of froth as the waves gathered and gathered and gathered offshore, and when they finally broke on the sand, the capaill uisce tumbled onto the shore with them. The horses pulled their heads up with effort, trying to break free from the salt water.”

Kellee: Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy

I love Chris Healy’s Hero’s Guide books and it is only because of the fabulous world that he created. I LOVE retellings of fairy tales and this one is no exception. What is even better about this retelling is it is HILARIOUS! It reminds me a bit of Shrek except I liked the humor in Hero’s Guide better because I feel it is a very smart funny. Just the concept is funny and smart  (the four Princes Charming from the Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty stories star in this book – unlike the original stories where they don’t even get credit with their real name! – and the Princes each have such a fun, unique personality).  And just like Shrek, in Hero’s Guide our characters explore all the kingdoms that have been created and the uniqueness of the kingdoms adds another “character” to the story.

6. Urban

Ricki: Tyrell by Coe Booth

I teach in an urban setting, so this setting category is very important to me. My students adore urban fiction, and Tyrell seems to be their favorite. They love how realistic Tyrell’s world is in comparison with their own. Coe Booth does not soften the blow for readers who don’t understand what it is like to be homeless and broke. She describes Tyrell’s life in great detail, taking readers right into the projects. “We still got roaches on the bed, walls, and floors, but Troy ain’t even crying ‘bout them no more. He probably too used to them by now.”

Kellee: Yummy by G. Neri

Yummy takes place in the southside of Chicago in 1994 and explores gang violence. This story tells of Yummy who is 11-years-old and has become part of a gang.  He is given a task that changes his life and really effects his community. Yummy explores some really tough subjects and is quite a hard read; however, it is a read that many students connect with and passes from students’ hands to hands.

7. Rural

Ricki: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

I can’t help but turn to this book when I think of rural settings. I am not quite sure if it fits in the typical stereotype of the urban setting with the fields of hay and farm life, but to me, it feels rural. The book is comprised of a collection of interconnected short stories about characters who live on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Its depiction of life on the reservation is stunning, and readers will feel the humiliation, desperation, and conviction of its characters.

Kellee: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Shine takes places in a very small rural southern community. To be honest, I think this story would have almost not taken place without the setting. In Shine, Patrick, a gay teenager, is attacked and Cat knows that the town’s police is going to blame it on outsiders instead of investigate. In a larger community, this would be unacceptable; however, Cat’s town is filled with poverty and intolerance and breeds corruption.

8. Not America

Ricki: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Written in broken English, McCormick sheds light on the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s—the largest act of genocide of a country against its own people. Arn is separated from his family and works in the “Killing Fields,” where he bears witness to the dark side of man. Arn’s harrowing tale will stay with me forever.

Kellee: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This one was one of the hardest ones for me to choose because there is a LONG list of amazing books that take place outside of the United States; however, I chose A Long Walk to Water because I loved the story and the lesson that this book tells. It is about survival and resilience.

9. Early America 

Ricki: Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

This story begins in Africa in 1738, where Amari has a peaceful, beautiful life in her village, until she is captured and sold to an American man as a slave for his son’s 16th birthday. Polly is an indentured servant and feels superior to the black slaves. After her parents die, she is forced to take on their debt, as well, and she must serve for fourteen years until she is allowed freedom. As they travel from Africa to America, readers will learn much about the slave trade and will feel compassion and anger for the injustice that occurs in this excellently-researched story.

Kellee: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazing storyteller and though she is most famous for her contemporary fiction, her historical fiction is just as superb and I’ve enjoyed all 3 of her HF books. I chose Chains to share with you all because Isabel is one of the strongest and most determined young female characters I’ve ever read. On top of that, Anderson obviously did her research because in the backdrop of Isabel’s story is the American Revolution.

10. Civil Rights

Ricki: The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Sam struggles to decide if he should stick by his father, a powerful civil rights activist in the community, or join his brother, a Black Panther. The amount of frustration I felt while I read this book proves just how powerful it is. I highly recommend this text to readers who want to see the various sides of the civil rights movement, as Sam’s family is split in their ideals.

Kellee: Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down and Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney

If you have not read any of Pinkney’s nonfiction picture books, it is a must, and these two Civil Rights focused books are no different. Sit-In: The combination of the powerful story, poetic writing and a bright, colorful artistic style makes this book so powerful. Figurative language fills the book and the story is linked back to the Civil Rights Movement by the timeline presented in the back. Boycott Blues: Music and history intertwines in the Pinkneys telling of the Montgomery bus boycott.

 Did we miss any of your favorites? Please share!



3 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books with a ________ Setting”

  1. I love your list. This was a good idea to make a list of settings and pick one book in each setting. I had a hard time coming up with 10 books in my list. There are so many great books here!

    • I agree—it was a great idea. Ha ha, Kellee’s idea, not mine! It definitely made it easier for me, once she suggested it. 🙂

  2. Incredible list Kellee & Ricki. I have it printed, have read almost all & will see about new ideas although I think you’ve covered it very well. I love the Susan Beth Pfeffer books-thought she did them very well. Love Divergent, & Insurgent, and on and on. Thank you!


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