The Top 25 Books Teachers Can’t Wait to Crack Open

By: Jeff Nazzaro

Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you, one of the things they most look forward to in summer vacation is the chance to finally kick back, relax, and read whatever the heck they want. No more pencils or dirty looks but lots and lots of brand-new books. Here are 25 of the best literary offerings that teachers from Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Val Verde Unified School Districts can’t wait to crack open come June.

1 - Anthem: A Novel by Noah Hawley

With incisive wit and satire, Hawley, creator and writer of TV’s Fargo, unleashes a precocious pack of would-be world savers on an all-too-recognizable landscape documenting contemporary societal ills.

2 - Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
3 - A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite

“Be forewarned: You won’t sleep until you finish the last page.”—Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World

4 - A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander Book 6) by Diana Gabaldon
5 - The Christmas Pig by J. K. Rowling

This may not be appropriate for all ages, and it’s probably not up to the legendary snuff of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and its sequels, but it is a hoot seeing the grand dame of tween lit working word magic in her wheelhouse again.

6 - Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
7 - Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom by Jeanie M. Iberlin

In today’s world, mindfulness is an effective, low-cost way for educators to help students improve their social and emotional wellness as they learn and grow. The authors share practical tools that align to the five key categories of mindfulness benefits—stress reduction, attention, emotional control, positive self-concept, and positive interactions—and offer a step-by-step process for establishing a formal school or classroom mindfulness program.

8 - Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis
9 - Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

A stunning collection of connected stories told in alternating voices that explores the intricacies of an enduring friendship between two Taiwanese American women, from second grade into their thirties, Ho’s debut offering is creating big-time buzz in the literary world.

10 - The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
11 - Game On: Tempting Twenty-Eight (Stephanie Plum Book 28) by Janet Evanovich
12 - The Hurricane Sisters: A Novel by Dorothea Benton Frank
13 - In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante, the masterful novelist behind The Lost Daughter, stuns with four essays that at once form a literary memoir and literacy narrative. At a total of 74 pages, both fans and those new to her work will be hard pressed not to devour it in a single sitting.

14 - The It Girl: A Novel by Ruth Ware
15 - The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel by Laura Dave
16 - Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith
17 - South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry

A Black woman born and raised in Alabama, Perry returns home from the perch of her Princeton professorship to untangle the interwoven web of culture and history that is the American South, an understanding of which she argues is crucial to any understanding the United States as a nation.

18 - The Witcher: The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga Book 1) by Andrzej Sapkowski
19 - Those Who Can, Teach by Kevin Ryan, James M. Cooper, Cheryl Mason Bolick and Cory Callahan

A new teacher or thinking about entering the field of teaching? This book's state-of-the-art and reader-friendly approach will help you make informed decisions, while inspiring and welcoming you to a rewarding, high-impact career. Using multiple sources, including biographies, narratives, profiles, and interviews with top educators and scholars, the text shows you the realities of teaching. Written by an acclaimed author team, the book's direct, conversational tone invites you to reflect on the satisfactions and problems of teaching in the United States, and casts a teaching career as a positive challenge.

20 - To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
21 - The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander

An eye-opening look at race as an ongoing force at the forefront of American culture, this is an expansion of the incisive essay Alexander, a renowned poet, first published in the New York Times at the height of 2020’s civil unrest.

22 - True Biz: A Novel by Sara Novic
23 - Wise Up: Irreverent Enlightenment from a Mother Who’s Been Through It by Karen Duffy
24 - Wish You Were Here: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
25 - Young Mungo: A Novel by Douglas Stuart

Scottish American novelist Stuart wowed the lit world and won the 2020 Booker Prize with his debut effort, Shuggie Bain. Set in working-class Glasgow, this highly anticipated follow-up portrays two young men from different backgrounds who in the midst of great strife become unlikely friends and even unlikelier lovers.

So, listen to the teachers…kick your feet up, grab a cold drink, and dive into a great read. And here’s a PS—don’t forget to pick up the recently published book by UCR’s own Stephen Graham Jones. My Heart is a Chainsaw is one of NPR's 2021 "Books We Love."