Essential Literature Circles Book List for Grade 5 (18 Amazing Books)

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You’ve decided to run literature circles. Awesome! But now you have to figure out the best books for your 5th grade students. We’ve got a fantastic literature circles book list for you, filled with a variety of classics and new, fiction and non-fiction, challenging and easier novels.

Choosing Books for Literature Circles

Before we dive into the novel recommendations, I’d like to remind you to take this, or any list of novels, with a grain of salt!

Ultimately, you should be choosing a selection of books for your class based on their interests and reading levels – and probably the books your school has available! I like to select around double the amount of books I’ll need, then do a mini book cafe to allow my students to select their top 3 book choices. From there, I make even groups giving each student as close to their first choice as possible.

When picking book options for your class, be sure to consider:

  • your students’ reading levels – make sure you have books ideal for your lowest reader and highest reader,
  • a mix of genres – include a variety of fiction, non-fiction, historical novels, science fiction, dystopian, comedy, …
  • your students’ interests – do you have some graphic novel fans? historical fiction fans? fantasy fans? sports fans?
  • representing a variety of populations – try to have main characters that encompass different races, genders, abilities and cultures,
  • books in a series or by popular authors – this is an incredibly powerful way to hook students in and foster a love of reading (especially in reluctant readers!)

Feel confident you have a comprehensive and engaging literature circles unit without spending hours creating all the things with our complete Literature Circles package!

You’ll get instructions, student pages, rubrics and assessment projects!

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5th Grade Literature Circles Book List

This list includes a few classic books that you’ll probably find on many book lists, and a few that you may not have heard of! Amazon links are included so you can easily learn more and order if you want – but I’d highly recommend scouring your school library for free options first!!

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Students who enjoy feel-good stories of friendship will enjoy Fish in a Tree. This uplifting novel is about Ally, a girl with dyslexia who has managed to hide her inability to read for years. Until Mr. Daniels.

Get your copy of Fish in a Tree here.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio


What a heart-warming, tear-jerker of a story about embracing our differences, kindness and courage! Students will learn about the experiences of starting 5th grade when you don’t look like anyone else. At a time when bullying is a serious problem, this favourite book for literature circles will kindle meaningful conversations about friendship and inclusion.

Get your copy of Wonder here.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen


Described as a ‘page-turning, heart-stopping adventure’, this survival story has received the Newbery Honor. Students will be excited to know it’s the first of 5 books in the series Brian’s Saga.

Get your copy of Hatchet here.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell


This classic survival story is based on the true story of a girl living alone on an island off the coast of California. It’s a tale of courage, self-reliance and grit that will keep students reading.

Learn more about Island of the Blue Dolphins here.

I Survived… by Lauren Tarshis


The “I Survived” series of books is a must-have in any classroom library, in my opinion. Fictional stories set around real-life events, the books include 9/11, D-Day, Hurricane Katrina, the Titanic, shark attacks and so much more. Choose a title that covers something relevant to your students or that they are interested in.

Find the complete set here.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry


Number the Stars is a historical fiction set during the Danish Resistance during World War II. Told through the eyes of a 10 year old girl who helps to hide her best friend, a Jewish girl.

Learn more about Number the Stars here.

Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins


This autobiography is a great option for your history and non-fiction lovers. Rosa Parks, known for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus, talks about her role in the civil rights movement.

Get your copy of Rosa Parks: My Story here.

Holes by Louis Sachar


This action-packed novel is always a student favourite! An adventure story with plenty of lessons on character and strength. Students that enjoy this book can easily explore more Louis Sachar books such as ‘There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom’ and ‘Sideways Stories from Wayside School’ which are wonderfully funny books!

Learn more about Holes here.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli


It’s hard to go wrong with a Jerry Spinelli book. Maniac Magee tells the story of an orphaned runaway who ends up in a racially divided town. There are many twists and turns to keep students interested, and plenty of opportunities for discussions around race and equity.

Learn more about Maniac Magee here.

The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli


The Library Card is actually four short stories that follow a different character, connected by a magical library card. In each section, the child has a problem that is solved by the library card.

Learn more about The Library Card here.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


Set in 1930’s Michigan, ten year old Bud has decided to run off to find the father he’s never met.

Learn more about Bud, Not Buddy here.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke


I discovered this novel while preparing for around of literature circles and, even as an adult, I loved it. Kind of a modern day Oliver Twist, it tells the story of two orphaned brothers who have run away to the misty alleyways of Venice. They try to survive on the streets while avoiding the detective on their tail. Honestly, this book made me want to visit Venice!

Get your copy of The Thief Lord here.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling


This series needs no introduction. Stronger readers with a love for fantasy novels may enjoy these books. Of course, that is if they haven’t already read them…

Get the complete paperback set here.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket


Another student favourite and part of a series to hook readers in for more. This book combines adventure with mystery, comedy with tragedy and a healthy dose of intelligence and grit overcoming darkness.

Get a copy of Book 1: The Bad Beginning here.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis


Many students might be familiar with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe but did you know it is actually the 2nd book in a seven book series? With magic, adventure and battles between good and evil, your students with a love of fantasy fiction will love this!

Get all 7 books here.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau


Fans of dystopian novels will be intrigued by City of Ember. In a post-apocalyptic world, Lina and her friend race to save their city, the last human refuge. For students that are hooked, there are 3 more in the series.

Learn more about City of Ember here.

My Life as a Fifth-Grade Comedian by Elizabeth Levy


This joke-filled comedy includes a message about the power of laughter and that jokes can hurt. Students will enjoy following Bobby, the class clown, in his quest to prove to everyone that he can be taken seriously.

Get your copy of My Life as a Fifth-Grade Comedian here.

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar


Another hilarious read, my students always love this book! Bradley Chalkers is a bully, fighter, liar and all-round behaviour problem. That is until the new school counselor sees the good in him and knows he could change. If he can find the courage.

Get your copy of There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom here.

What are your favourite novels for grade 5?

Let me know in the comments your recommendations to add to this literature circles book list. There are so many amazing books out there that are perfect for literature circles or novel studies!

Save this list of 5th grade literature circle books for later!

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