If Someone Could Write a Book Just for You: Slice of Life #sol18 27/31

Process Note: I got the idea for this piece from Trina’s post about obsessive reading.

I like to survey my readers at the beginning of the semester to find out a little more about them and start getting some ideas for books to recommend. Sometimes I ask them, “If someone could write the perfect book just for you, what would it be like?” Every so often, a student will describe a book that actually exists, and it’s wonderful to be able to place it in their hands. (Like my student a couple of semesters ago who basically described G. Neri’s Yummy and couldn’t believe it when this book he thought he was imagining showed up on his desk at the next class.)


If someone could write a book just for me….

It would be about a big, quirky family.

It would be about a young artist trying to find her way.

Or an older artist reflecting on a life spent making things.

It would definitely be someone’s journal.

It would be a novel about robots gone rogue.

Or about sentient dragons.

It would be full of white space.

It would be a collage text with illustrations or lists or encyclopedia entries or photographs or recipes or maybe all of the above.

It would be a spare story, slightly underwritten.

Unless it happened to be the first in a series of lushly written fat fantasy novels about sentient dragons.

It would definitely be nonfiction.

Unless it happened to be a novel about Victorian magicians.

It would be a book about writing.

Or teaching writing.

Or reading writing.

It’s probably about mindfulness and motherhood.

It’s a travel narrative to a country I’ve never visited.

It’s a travel narrative to a country I’ve been to many times.

It’s about teaching social justice.

It’s about living an activist life.

It would be a new book of poetry by Billy Collins.

It would have to be a picture book with spare text and lush illustrations.

There have to be cats. Hundreds and hundreds of cats.

(But they don’t have a big catfight and—all except for one—die!)

There might be dogs. If they’re pit bulls.

Unicorns and sparkles are always a plus.


What’s in your reading wheelhouse?


38 responses to “If Someone Could Write a Book Just for You: Slice of Life #sol18 27/31”

  1. What a great idea and a perfect way to get to know a reader. I will need to give this some thought. I do know that for me a perfect book has to have lots of action, unless it delves into the reasons people do what they do.

    • So interesting! I think I’m going to ask my preservice teachers to answer this question again at the end of the semester and see how their answers have changed. Many of them struggled at the beginning of the semester, but I don’t think any will struggle at the end!

  2. Love this idea. I wonder what my first graders would say if I asked them this. I’m going to have to try it. I’ve never even thought about this for myself. You’ve left me with something to think about. Thank you

  3. i loved the idea and the style of your writing in this. all over the place, yet tied to a central idea somehow staying tethered, yet helium ballooning in different colors and shapes every which way. really cool!

  4. I’m totally honored! I couldn’t think of what to write so I was thinking about what I knew…it was reading books! BTW, Yummy has reached more of my reluctant hs readers than any other book so far…

    • When I was a high school teacher, Yummy was the second-most purchased title for my classroom library (Stanley Williams’s Life in Prison is my number one most purchased title.) Because it disappears and I have to keep replacing it! Kids fall in love with it and won’t give it up! Which is fine by me….

  5. So cool! I really like this prompt and even the suggestion of a book written just for me got my creative juices flowing. Isn’t funny how that appeal to the uniquely personal can be made so inviting and encouraging? Some of the best interactions with students involve offering them (or ourselves) the right question. This seems like one of those questions.

    • Love these thoughts about the right question. I need to think about that more. I think you’re absolutely right, and I know I don’t put enough time into thinking of those right questions and making sure they get asked.

  6. I love this idea! And I haven’t written my slice for today. And I’m feeling like my slices are a teeny bit, ok maybe more than a teeny bit, boring. Hmmmm….It’s interesting to me that cats AND dragons AND nonfiction AND motherhood all figure prominently on your list. If someone could write a book for me right now, I think my first choice would be about parenting young adults.

    • Carol, your slices are never boring! You’re the kind of writer who can make virtually any topic interesting to read about. That writer’s voice is there in everything you write. As I keep saying, I’m ready for your book!

  7. When you mentioned the prompt, I never thought that we could weave all the different things we like into it. Perfect fun! Not much time left (and for the first time ever, I have a future post written), but I may try to squeeze this one in. If not, there’s always Tuesday.

    • I was also thinking about a prompt from Laini Taylor actually as I wrote this–a writing exercise where she has writers write down all the things they love to find in books. This is definitely one I could do again–as the day went on, I kept thinking of other book types that I hadn’t squeezed into this post.

  8. Love love love – what a fantastic prompt. I was dreaming as I read it – imagining the perfect book for you, dreaming of my own list, wondering what book I would recommend for you, and hoping that my students would enjoy responding to a similar prompt. Love it – all of it!

  9. wonderful idea…although my book might change by the week. A friend from grad school teaching at a FL college does something similar — but without the questionnaire. At the end of intro to literature semesters, he hits the second hand book stores to select “the” book for each student based on the students responses to readings during the semester. He always nails it it too.

  10. Long ago I envisioned a book about myself in the mode of Erma Bombeck, whose books I read hungrily in high school. I have a title, which I’ve had since around 1979: Confessions from the High Risk Bracket. I was thinking about actuary tables at the time and my own dysfunctional family, which always makes me think about Frank McCourt’s description of his Irish family in Angela’s Ashes.

    • That’s a brilliant title, and the actuary tables make me think of some of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s work with its inclusion of weird tables and charts and graphs. I think you should start writing….

  11. What a wonderful idea to add to my reading survey. I absolutely love the prompt, “If someone could write a book just for me…” Thanks for sharing.

  12. I adore this description of your perfect book! When I started reading your post, I was a bit intimidated, thinking, I cannot narrow down my perfect book to just one kind of idea! This, however, is my kind of list! How about a sentient dragon’s journal about battling robots gone rogue?

    • That’s why I had to come up with a crazy list like this because I have about 60 different just right and perfect for me books. I think that’s the beauty of an obsessive reading life–so many different things in our reading wheelhouses! And yes, I’ll take that dragon journal with the battling robots!

  13. Also, I assume by “novel about Victorian magicians” that you have read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (although I suppose they are a tad pre-Victorian). What about The Prestige? It’s also avery good novel with dueling Victorian illusionists.

    • Yes, I have read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and was thinking about that book and Zen Cho’s magnificent Sorcerer and the Crown. I think I had a book in mind for every different “perfect book” on the list. I haven’t read The Prestige but now it’s on my list! I love discovering a new-to-me book that’s perfectly in my reading wheelhouse.

      • I haven’t read Sorcerer and the Crown, but I will go look for it now! I love books about magicians! I had a book in mind for most of the categories on your list too. I wonder how many of them were the same?

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