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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
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!
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!