Saturday, August 6, 2016


Dollar Store Books

On Instagram I recently shared a picture of a book I'd bought.

The caption read, "Just grabbed this book at the #TheDollarTree! So perfect for my journalism class! This has so many great articles!! One after Lincoln's assassination, one after the San Francisco earthquake, one after Watergate... And so many more. There are serious articles, comedic articles and ones that strike the balance. Really great resource." (wow...I use a LOT of exclamation marks)

I was surprised to read so many comments from teachers who never buy books from the dollar store. The vast majority of the time I leave the dollar store, I have purchased at least one book (many times I leave having purchased only books). My personal and classroom libraries are filled with books I have snagged from dollar store shelves.

So, this post will look over ten books I bought this week at the dollar store. This is meant to show that you can get GREAT books at super affordable prices. This is by no means a complete list, but it will hopefully show you the variety and quality found. Shopping dollar stores is like shopping at a thrift store. You probably won't have the same titles in your store that I have in mine. So, if you fall in love with one of these books, I have inserted affiliate links to Amazon (that means that if you click through and purchase I will make a very small percentage which will probably end up going towards me buying more books)

Below I include the name of the book, a brief summary of the book, why I bought it and the stars on Amazon. If the book is particularly amazing, I'll write a full blog post on using it in the classroom later (and link below).

1. News Articles for all Occasions
The second I saw Deadline Artists--Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs:: More of America's Greatest Newspaper Columns I grabbed it.

I just began teaching Journalism this year. I was a high school journalism nerd, and freelanced a bit while working abroad, but other than having students enter writing contests online I don't have many materials for teaching journalism.

This is GREAT. It is basically a collection of amazing articles. Some are pure news, some opinion, others are feature stories. These are great as mentor tasks (and I'd imagine history or social studies teachers would love it too as it covers big events).

Amazon reviewers seem to be fans too with an average of 4.8 / 5 stars.

2. As Seen on TV
OK, I am cheating here and putting in two books because I grabbed both for exactly the same reason.

I picked up these for my classroom library because students LOVE books that are related to movies or television shows. I also love having discussions about which was better (they almost always love the book more than the movie). This time I grabbed: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (confession, I already bought one of these at the dollar store, so now my class library has two) and a book from the Pretty Little Liars series: Wanted (Book 8) (another confession, I already bought a few of these for my class library, so it will compliment other books on the class bookcase quite nicely).

Abraham Lincoln is 4.2/5 stars and Wanted is 4.7/5 stars by Amazon reviewers.

3. Sports and Journalism
I felt really lucky when I found The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports, and Friendship in my dollar store. Remember I mentioned earlier how I am taking over the journalism department? This is a GREAT book for all my sports announcers in training!

The book follows JT the Brick's career as a sports broadcaster and his relationship with his mentor Andrew as he stays by his side as Andrew goes through cancer.

This book kills three birds with one stone. Students get an introduction to the world of radio journalism, football references for my sports lovers, and a reminder that empathy and compassion are not barred from those who enjoy sports.

Amazon reviewers give it 4.8/5 stars

4. Celebrity Endorsement
I'll be totally shallow and admit that I mainly got this book because: a. I LOVE the title: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President and  b. Jon Stewart's review on the cover, "If War and Peace had a baby with The Breakfast Club and then left that baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it."

Josh Lieb (A New York Times Bestseller) writes about Oliver Watson, who lives a double life. While he is a rich supergenius, he convinces everyone else that he is a normal (below average) student.  In an effort to win his dad's approval he runs for class president.

This story is filled with pictures and photo essays making this great for weaker readers. Perfect for my class library.

Amazon reviewers say 4.2/5 stars

5. Please be Nonfiction
So many times I read the back of a book and wonder if it is fiction, nonfiction or "based on a true story." When I read the back of this book, I was SOLD. In 1986 two fathers got together and created a basketball team that mixed black kids from an inner city school with white players from an elite private school.  

With a little research I confirmed that yes, The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White is based on a true story! The author was on the team in the 90s and wrote the story after meeting up with past teammates. The story will discuss the lives of his ten teammates and will look at the way that race, money, and opportunity mold lives.  

I look forward to reading this one and think it's a topic my students will love.

Amazon reviewers give it 4.7/5 stars.

6. Digital Citizenship Anyone?
I am an America's Next Top Model binger. I like watching entire seasons in a day while organizing my garage or going through a closet. Nonetheless, when I read that the author was an America's Next Top Model contestant, I'll admit it meant very little to me. What struck me as interesting is that Unfriending My Ex: Confessions of a Social Media Addict is about digital overload in today's society.

As a teacher at a 1:1 school, this is always on my mind. Are my students being overexposed to technology? Am I hurting, or helping? This book contains references to Thoreau, and Emerson (which may make it worth it for anyone who teaches transcendentalism) which are well done. It also contains sources varying from dictionary definitions to scientific journals. While it is told mainly in a narrative, it is a nonfiction that is easy to read and on a topic that I feel many students would be interested in. 

This has some of the lowest average Amazon reviews on this list at 3.4/4 stars.

7.Not Another Sports Book
What can I say? I know my class library lacks "boy books" so if I find something sporty that seems vaguely interesting I grab it. To be honest,  Out Of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs is a book that I picked purely because the back of the book mentioned that he was a pitcher for the San Diego Padres (woot!).

However, once I got home and started researching  the author a bit more this is REALLY interesting. He was a minor league player who started a newspaper column that gained interest. His column gained popularity and he is probably better known for his journalism career than his sports career. He has been on Sportsnet Toronto, ESPN, ESPN 2, and TBS's as a sports announcer or analyst. In addition he continued his writing career! The story is about his transition from the minors to to majors and his transition from dating to marrying.

So wait a minute? I picked up this book because it mentioned the Padres, and ended up getting a great example of a professional journalist who can show students it's OK to be sensitive. #winning

I haven't had a chance to read the whole book, but Amazon reviewers average 4.5/5 stars

8. Fact and Fiction
I am a HUGE fan of historical fiction. Something about the way fiction meets fact just makes me happy.

TransAtlantic is a mix of three different historical events: In 1919 two brothers fly to Ireland for their attempt at the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1845 Frederick Douglass finds support for the abolitionist cause. In 1998 Senator George Mitchell goes to Belfast for  peace talks in Northern Ireland.  As this factual events are happening we read about three women who connect these three separate events.

The syntax is odd, which is part of the reason I picked it up. I don't see this as a read for reluctant readers, but for examples of varying sentence length or students who are into history, this may be a great book.

On Amazon reviewers rated thisan average of 4/5 stars.

9.  Make a Wish

My students and I do a lot of crowdfunding. I use it as a way for them to research, assemble data, and create persuasive texts. My students get very good at researching data, and sometimes they lose focus of the heart.

Wish Granted: 25 Stories of Strength and Resilience from America's Favorite Athletes is a great coffee table book. If I ever get a coffee table in my classroom (it's on my to do list), I'll definitely sit this on it. It's filled with short reads easy for students to digest while waiting for someone to finish a mini-conference with me, or for their parents to pick them up.

As stated before, this focuses on athletes which is great for my students. They need to realize that they are so blessed and even if they aren't famous athletes they can help make a difference.

Reading the stories is humbling and encourages students (and teachers, and parents) to help others when possible.

This doesn't have many Amazon reviews, but right now it has a 5/5 stars average!

10. Coincidence? I think not!
Do you believe in coincidences? The premise of Coincidence is that a woman feels like too many events in her life are coincidences especially those surrounding Midsummer's Day. Too many in fact. It seems as though her life, unlike others, is not random but rules by some more powerful element. She goes to a professional "debunker" who believes that her life really is as random as everyone else's.

This book felt like the type of page turner that I could finish on a beach weekend, and I am hoping it will be a fast paced book that encourages students to just keep reading. I would like to actually read it before I put it on the bookshelves, but the reviews make it seem pretty appealing thus far.
Amazon reviewers give this book an average of 4.1 / 5 stars.

There you are. For the full price of just one of these paperbacks (Coincidence is selling for 13.48 I was able to purchase 11 great books. I even had enough to get a BBQ cook book for my summer pleasure.

Are you a dollar store shopper? What's the best book you've ever bought there? If not book, what's your favorite dollar buy?

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