WSIRN Ep 19: Great literary fiction, inspirational favorites, and high school English with Brian Sztabnik

It’s Tuesday, which means a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

Today I’m talking with Brian Sztabnik. Brian is an English teacher, basketball coach, and podcaster who lives on Long Island with his wife and two sons. Brian and I discuss great literary fiction, books about creative pursuits, reading with others, and high school English.

Our talk took me right back to AP high school English with Mr. Kalb, and I mean that in the best possible way.

What Should I Read Next #19: Great literary fiction, inspirational favorites, and high school English with Brian Sztabnik

Connect with Brian on his site Wisdom of Man, and check out his podcast Talks with Teachers. You can also follow him on twitter and instagram.

Books discussed in this episode: 

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Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lincoln’s Virtues by William Lee Miller
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Euphoria by Lily King
The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

Also mentioned in this episode: 

Our boys need us, an article from edutopia.
• The documentary Man on Wire.

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  1. Kristen says:

    Loved this conversation. Great job, Brian! To this day I count my 8th-12th grade English teachers as some of the most influential people in my life, so thank you for approaching your job with so much passion and intention. I just requested Extreme Ownership from the library for my husband, so thanks also for mentioning that!

  2. Simone says:

    Loved listening to this. My son is loving the “Beyonders” series by Brandon Mull. He’s read and listened over and over to all the books, and has even gotten my husband hooked on them.

  3. Sarah R says:

    I want Mr. Sztabnik to be my high school English teacher! What a blessing to have such a dedicated professional in our schools.

    I’m glad you liked City on Fire, Anne!

  4. Laura says:

    Great conversation- loved the concern for boys in schools since they have now become the ones falling through the cracks. This discussion also reminded me that I may have had a crush on my high school English teacher (tee-hee), completely due to the fact that he introduced me to many of my favorite books!

  5. Cathy Hughes says:

    I enjoyed this podcast. In August I will begin my first high school English teaching position, and I must admit that I’m nervous about having to teach books that I may not enthusiastically enjoy. That was the case during student teaching when I was teaching a film history course, and some of the films on the course list weren’t in my normal genres nor in the students’ normal genres. I had to work hard to find genuine enthusiasm within myself for showing these films.

    And keep trying on Slaughterhouse-five. It took me a while to get through as well, but I had the motivation of reading it for a college class.

  6. Kathryn says:

    Great conversation!

    I also definitely have a recommendation for Brian, given his interests. It’s called ‘Star of the Sea’ by Joseph O’Connor and takes place during the great famine. The novel follows several different characters aboard a coffin ship bound to New York City, developing both their backgrounds through flashbacks and also detailing their lives on the ship.

    I would not recommend reading this novel on a kindle, as it’s peppered with letters, captain’s logs, songs, and news clippings. These details, combined with O’Connor’s fantastic storytelling, really made me feel as if I had been transported back in time. It’s a story that stayed with me for a long time after I had finished reading it.

  7. Katie Toffey says:

    Fantastic episode! I love hearing from the perspective of a high school teacher and what literature works and doesn’t work with students. His comments on authenticity are spot on! My daughter completed an IB program for High School where Heart of Darkness is one of the books they read and study senior year. I have forwarded the link to this podcast on to my son who is studying to be a History teacher and to some of the IB teachers from my children’s high school.

  8. Jocelyn says:

    Wow! Brian sounds like an awesome teacher. I think he might like The Mosquito Coast, a set book in my final year of high school which everyone in the class hated and the teacher was indifferent to. I loved it and read it 4 or 5 times in those few months. I hadn’t even heard of Heart of Darkness back then but if I had I think I might have compared the two and my teacher would have thought I was a genius. hahaha ^_^

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