Best activity of the year

so so happyEvery year, I call one activity the “most important” of the year. I usually have a big ceremony commemorating the important activity where I present it with a statuette and it stands on a stage in front of an audience of its most prestigious peers and tearfully thanks its mother and the academy and its agent and god.

Today, you will learn how to create your very own personalized, high-interest reading lists. If you master this activity, you’ll never be alone again. Think of all the times you find yourself sitting on a bus, or in the school lobby, or locked in a dark closet with cockroaches skittering across your toes and a broken pipe in the ceiling drip-dripping onto the top of your head, with nothing to do. What wouldn’t you give to avoid that feeling of creeping boredom, and the terrible feeling that the clocks are not just slowing, but have actually stopped? How far would you go? Would you consider actually completing a homework assignment?

Because this assignment solves all that: Books are portable, harmless, thoughtful, don’t eat much, and are easy to clean up after (a simple wipe-down with a disinfecting cleanser, and you’re on your way!).

To make your own reading list, open this worksheet: (reading list worksheet), go through the 5 steps described below, and write your answers on the worksheet. Don’t skip any steps! If you skip steps, I’ll skip you!! And your little dog, too!!! Print the document and hand it in by Friday for precious, precious points.

Personal Reading List

1. Your interests

To make a list of interesting books, you have to know what your interests are.

  • On the worksheet you have open, make a list of at least 10 topics, events, activities, people, places, etc., that you are interested in finding out more about.

2. A book you like

Think back through your whole reading life and the list of interests you just made and come up with one book you have happy memories of–any non-picture book will do. If you don’t remember one, ask me for help.

  • Write the title and the author of the book you liked on your worksheet.

3. Misuse tools of capitalist oppression (

This next technique is devious. We’re going to use Amazon to find books, but then we’re NOT going to buy them. Bwa ha ha. Ha.

  • On, find the book you listed under activity #2.
  • Scroll down below the details of the book to the section of the page labeled “Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought
    • On your document, write the title of one additional book that looks interesting from that list. Click on it and read about it on its own Amazon page before writing it down. (Feel free to write down any other good books you find here on the LIST part of your worksheet.)
  • Read a few of the editorial reviews that show up on the main Amazon page for one of the books you’re researching. These reviews tell you what it’s about, and whether it’s worth reading.
  • Scroll almost all the way to the bottom of your book’s Amazon page and click on at least one of the LISTMANIA links. These are lists made by nerds who like the same books you do.
    • On your document, write the title of one additional book that looks interesting from a Listmania list. (Feel free to write down any other good books you find here on the LIST part of your worksheet.)

4. Get more help from nerds

Plug some of the terms from your “interest” list into Google, in a search like this: “best books about <yourinterest>.” For instance, if you’re interested in squirrels, you might search for “best books about flying squirrels.” If that doesn’t work, make it more general, like “best books about small animals.”

  • On your own document, write down the URL for the webpage of at least one helpful list of books a friendly nerd made. (Feel free to write down any other good books you find here on the LIST part of your worksheet.)

5. The list

  • On your own document, make a reading list of at least 15 books appropriate to your grade level that you think you’d like to read. Use all of the techniques you just practiced to come up with a high interest list.

That’s it. Print your list and hand it in for points by Friday.


Downloads: reading list worksheet

One response to “Best activity of the year

  1. Hey Matt. I was looking through my bookmarks, saw your page, and decided to take a quick visit. Which may or may not happen again… Well… life’s interesting. The first thing I did at my new/old/thing school was freak out about how big it was…. And some weird things have come up, so my life might take a drastic change in a month that will shock me and people close to me and cause my life to get messed up completely, again.

    But don’t listen to me. I’m just feeling intense fear and dread of the future.


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