The best books about popularity

10 authors have picked their favorite books about popularity and why they recommend each book.

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By Jonan Berger,

Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Creative ideas are nothing without distribution. Social recognition plays an essential role in the creative process, but ideas can’t get recognized without people being exposed to them. Berger’s book provides a manual and framework for how to get your ideas seen, heard, or experienced. He also (successfully) leans on his professorial background to use research to help explain why these tactics work.

Who am I?

I have been addicted to reverse engineering things since I was a kid. I wrote The Creative Curve to reverse engineer the science of creativity. What could academic research teach us about creativity? If we talked to some of the world’s leading creatives, what would they tell us? My goal is to help readers unlock the part of them (that, as I argue, we all have) that is creative. When I’m not writing, I invest in tech startups that I think will leverage the principles from my book. I live in New York City with my mischievous, but incredibly adorable corgi Maven. 

I wrote...

The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

By Allen Gannett,

Book cover of The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

What is my book about?

Overturning the mythology around creative genius and revealing the science and secrets behind achieving breakout commercial success in any field. Including interviews with everyone from the Broadway team behind Dear Evan Hansen, to the founder of Reddit, from the Chief Content Officer of Netflix to Michelin star chefs, The Creative Curve reveals the four laws of creative success and identifies the common patterns behind their achievement.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

By Jeff Kinney,

Book cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

My son, who is now eight, despised reading—to the point where he would do anything to avoid it. Seeing him re-read an entire series is beyond exciting for me—not to mention, the stories and characters remind me of the students I teach: Goofy, curious, naive, inquisitive, and caring.

What I like about The Dairy of a Wimpy Kid is that Jeff Kinney mixes in doodles and comic-like drawings to add to the main character’s wild thoughts, concerns, ideas, and accounts.

It’s also very funny. I love hearing my son laugh out loud as he turns each page. He’ll even stop and share some of the hilarious moments with the entire family.

So, why am I making note of this? Because one thing I haven’t focused on in my writing is humor—something I want to try in my future works.

Who am I?

Somehow, I’ve always been drawn to stories with elements of the paranormal. From children’s picture books, chapter books, middle-grade, to young adult, I feel compelled to include hints of a supernatural world mixed in with everyday life. I’ve always connected with stories with realistic content—content I can relate to—content that, in my mind, could really happen. However, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there, beyond what we can see, hear, feel, taste, and touch. This ‘wonderment’ excites me, and I want to find ways to share this curious buzz with my readers. 

I wrote...

Screaming Ridge: Remembering Kaylee Cooper

By Christopher Francis,

Book cover of Screaming Ridge: Remembering Kaylee Cooper

What is my book about?

Kaylee Cooper is certain that Alex will become friends with a ghost this year. But he doesn’t care.

He simply wants her to leave him alone and stop jeopardizing his important sixth-grade social life. But Kaylee Cooper won’t stop. She doesn’t care either. Fed up, Alex develops a strategic plan to ultimately get rid of Kaylee Cooper for good. However, Alex soon learns about the mysterious legend of Screaming Ridge that pulls an unlikely group of friends together, including the girl of his dreams, and the school’s meanest bully. When the group discovers Kaylee Cooper is at the core of the mystery, Alex stares death in the face and helps save her from an eternal life of misery and confusion.


By Jerry Spinelli,

Book cover of Stargirl

I know there’s a movie, a play, and a comic book at this point. But read the original book – Stargirl! It’s still the best. “Stargirl” Caraway shows up at Mica High School after being home-schooled her whole life. She does her own thing in an honest, uninhibited way. She brings her pet rat and ukulele to school every day and plays and sings “Happy Birthday” to any and every student on their birthday. She wears kimonos and pioneer clothes. At first everyone else is not sure what to make of her and she is kept at a distance, but eventually she wins people over. Then things go terribly wrong and Stargirl has to decide if it’s best to fit in or be true to herself. 

Who am I?

I was an elementary classroom teacher for more than thirty years and my favorite thing to do with my students was “read alouds,” which of course meant I got to read a lot of books. Then I read them to my kids and now my grandkids. I always wanted to read the best because time is so precious in a classroom. My daughter was born very premature and only survived thanks to God and her innate feistiness. She is an overcomer and inspires me to share similar stories. Of the books I’ve written for kids, 2 of the 3 protagonists are girls!

I wrote...

Love Puppies and Corner Kicks

By Bob Krech,

Book cover of Love Puppies and Corner Kicks

What is my book about?

Change, while challenging, often drives personal growth, as 13-year-old Andrea discovers. When her father announces the family is relocating to Scotland for a year, Andrea fears her new schoolmates will uncover her secret: She stutters. At home in the States, Andrea’s stellar soccer skills and occasional use of her fists have enabled her to suppress her insecurities. At Dunnotar Academy, Andrea faces the dual stressors of new surroundings and social situations. A place on the Tough Girls Football Club soccer team seems a perfect opportunity for Andrea to rely on familiar strategies to conceal her speech issues. However, a blossoming friendship with a less popular girl and a fledgling romance give Andrea the courage to confront her anxieties. Andrea can literally stay quiet and fit in or risk all by speaking up for herself and others. 

Diamond Willow

By Helen Frost,

Book cover of Diamond Willow

This is my new favorite book. It takes place in a remote town in Alaska where residents must travel by dog sled. Each page has a poem written in a diamond shape that contains a hidden message. Not many books have such a unique format. But what really made the book exciting were the many twists and turns in the plot. (I also learned about diamond willow, but I won’t spoil it for you!)

Who am I?

Sled dog racing? I knew nothing about it most of my life. I became interested after writing a nonfiction book on the history of sled dog racing. So interested, I wrote a novel on it—Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners. I attended local sprint races and even traveled to Alaska to see the start of the Iditarod. I learned so much watching the mushers prepare and the excitement of the dogs. I still enjoy watching the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest, and local sprint races. I’m excited to share a list of great sled-dog books. What I like about my list is that all the books are so different! 

I wrote...

Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

By Natalie Rompella,

Book cover of Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

What is my book about?

For years, Ana and Lily have been looking forward to writing and selling their own cookbook for their middle school project. So when her teacher assigns her to a different partner, Ana is devasted.

Worse, Ana’s partner, the new girl from Alaska, wants to do their project on sled dog racing in the Midwest. There’s no way Ana can tell Dasher about her obsessive-compulsive disorder, or why even watching Dasher work with drooly, germy dogs makes Ana want to wash her hands. Then Dasher sprains her ankle, and the only way to avoid getting an F on their project is for Ana to take her spot in the race. Can Ana learn to mush—and overcome her anxiety—in time to save her friendships, finish her project, and compete in the sled dog race?


By Hope Larson,

Book cover of Chiggers

Chiggers is both funny and painful in the way it captures that terrifying turning point of growing up: when your former besties become strangers, when you go out on a limb befriending someone new, and when falling in love complicates everything. (Oh, and it teaches you how to make a friendship bracelet!) Camp was intense for both of us: Laurence went to one where they forced the kids to watch a horror movie and when he tried to cover his face with his sweatshirt, a counselor literally yanked it away. Susan went to Korean-American camp, where everyone was supposed to be learning about their culture, but instead focused on what all kids do: first crushes, ghost stories, and intense friendships and betrayals. 

Who am I?

Both of us grew up in the suburbs, which were honestly kind of boring, especially in the summer—so early on, we turned to books and telling stories to entertain ourselves and others. Susan writes stuff that relies on imagination, fantasy, and creepy stuff—and because she’s kind of immature (what nice people call “a kid at heart”), she also writes a ton of kids’ TV. Laurence’s imagination is more about mysteries and humor—he’s written detective novels and short stories. Writing together is awesome: despite minor differences, we share anxiety, similar senses of humor, and a love of storytelling. In addition to Brain Camp, we wrote the graphic novel City of Spies, as well as the YA dystopian trilogy, Wasteland.

I wrote...

Brain Camp

By Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, Faith Erin Hicks (illustrator),

Book cover of Brain Camp

What is my book about?

Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who've been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.

But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious... and a lot afraid.

Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver,

Book cover of Before I Fall

This is a creepy version of Groundhog’s Day (that old movie with Bill Murray). I love anything with a hint of ghosts or the afterlife. To me this is a story of a girl learning how not to be a bitch before she gets to go to heaven. That sounds almost humorous, but it’s not. It’s a story of friendship breakups and friendships gone wrong and the consequences of the actions you choose. Creepy atmosphere. I read this twice when it came out, and probably will give it another read at some point. They did make this into a movie!

Who am I?

My mom always read creepy paperbacks and left them around for me to gawk at the covers but not actually able to read the words inside. I probably started with all the Nancy Drew mysteries and then switched to Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining, Misery, etc.), Flowers in the Attic books by V.C. Andrews, Jaws by Peter Benchley, and anything I could get my hands on! I’m a devoted fan of all creepy and scary books! I’ve never been bored reading this genre, whether it’s adult or YA and that is what I think reluctant readers need–creepy page-turners!

I wrote...

From Where I Watch You

By Shannon Grogan,

Book cover of From Where I Watch You

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Kara is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Her cookies are masterpieces, her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara cannot stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited older sister Kellen drowned.

But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces an anonymous terror: Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what she’s doing. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.


By Ayun Halliday, Paul Hoppe (illustrator),

Book cover of Peanut

A graphic novel for teens, Peanut tells the story of a new girl in town who decides that she needs something to make her interesting to her new high school classmates. So Sadie pretends to have a peanut allergy. Sure, that might make her interesting, but when her lie starts to grow like a snowball rolling down a mountain, Sadie’s not sure how she’ll get out of this disaster of her own making.

Who am I?

I’m a kidlit author myself. I’ve written two middle-grade novels, one of which is all about having a food allergy, but my interest in food allergies is all due to my first kid. Amelia was born with multiple allergies to common ingredients like eggs and dairy. At first it was hard! Figuring out how to cook for her at home and keep her safe when she was in school or at a friend’s house felt daunting and frightening, so we turned to books for advice, recipes, and education for the entire family. Even if your reader isn’t the one with allergies, they’ve no doubt got a classmate or family member who does. 

I wrote...

My Year of Epic Rock

By Andrea Pyros,

Book cover of My Year of Epic Rock

What is my book about?

A funny, relatable tale about friendship, first crushes, and...anaphylactic shock? When Nina's BFF ditches her on the first day of 7th grade, Nina is banished to the peanut-free table where she forms a band with the other allergic kids called The EpiPens. A rollicking debut from journalist Andrea Pyros, whose spot-on tween voice rings with authenticity.

Hit Makers

By Derek Thompson,

Book cover of Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction

Consumers have greater control today over what they read, what they watch, and what they buy. If you want to be successful, you need to understand how people decide what they see. Derek Thompson takes us through research and examples to help reveal the psychology behind why we like what we like. In an age of media distraction, this is more important than ever. No marketing strategy will succeed if you can’t get people’s attention. Studying what makes a hit can give us clues to how to be seen. Hit Makers really puts into perspective the real challenge today of reaching a mass audience. You can’t. There are no more mass audiences for advertising or public relations. We have become a society of niche audiences. Until you realize and accept this your strategies will fail.

Who am I?

After 17 years in the advertising industry, I became a professor to teach what I learned in practice. Only then did I start reflecting, researching, and discovering why we were successful in some efforts and not in others. From that perspective, I’ve been crafting new ways to approach marketing that are not based on what worked in the past, but on what works now in light of the dramatic changes to the field. Within marketing, I focus on social media strategy, digital marketing, and storytelling.

I wrote...

Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution

By Keith A. Quesenberry,

Book cover of Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution

What is my book about?

Marketing communications is changing and what used to drive results doesn’t work today. Old methods are waning while new methods like social media become more important. But the concepts and techniques of the past don’t apply to the new. To understand marketing on social media you need to understand how marketing is changing and why. Otherwise, you’re using old strategies in new realities and chasing short-term trends that fail to produce lasting results. To be successful you need a process and framework that creates a social media strategy unique to your company’s situation, competitors, and customers. This book is that blueprint for digital marketing, advertising, and public relations practice in a world where the consumer has taken control.

The Prettiest

By Brigit Young,

Book cover of The Prettiest

I remember struggling with body image when I was the age of these characters. (Actually, if we’re being totally honest, I still do.) The main characters in this novel, however, triumph over the physical expectations placed upon young women by finding kinship and support from one another. The characters themselves are diverse, realistic, and smart. It’s difficult not to see yourself or the young people in your life in them.

Who am I?

My novel choices were part of the Afterschool Literacy & Building Modules for an organization called LitShop. It encourages growth in literacy, making, building, and leadership in girls ages 10-15 in St. Louis, Missouri. I’m honored to lead the writing classes. All of the LitShop books feature strong girls who believe they can make and build their way to a better world, and I aim to include similar characters in my stories. Stories can provide us with motivation, inspiration, and companionship, and all of these books have done just that… for the girls of LitShop as well as myself.

I wrote...

The Ghost and the Wolf

By Shelly X. Leonn,

Book cover of The Ghost and the Wolf

What is my book about?

Penelope, a student reporter, struggles to find her identity after a childhood of tragedy. Desperate to prove herself to her peers, she chases a story tip on a secret organization of teen urban explorers called “The Broken.” The group demands she complete a test before they let her write the story. While following the clues of their twisted scavenger hunt, she encounters Lex, a young paranormal investigator with a knack for computer hacking, and together they work to uncover the organization’s darkest secrets. As they tag along, they become entangled in the group’s inner fighting and their leader’s plans that turn out to be much more nefarious…and deadly…than they’d believed. Realizing her mistakes too late, Penelope will have to fight for her own life and the lives of her friends.

This Song Will Save Your Life

By Leila Sales,

Book cover of This Song Will Save Your Life

When I was pitching my book, I used this book as a comp: it’s like This Song Will Save Your Life, but at raves! There are definitely some similarities (credit to Leila Sales: hers came first). They both feature geeky girls, and Sales’ Elise Dembowski is one of the truest awkward-teen first-person voices I’ve ever read. They’re both set against the backdrop of underground music scenes, and the way Sales describes indie dance parties made me feel like I was back in the basement of NYC’s Lit trying to look cool while bopping around awkwardly to Joy Division. Both of our protagonists have weird relationships with older guys, and they both learn lessons that suck at the time but make them stronger. So is there room in the world for two girl-DJ books? Yes! Check out This Song Will Save Your Life and you’ll see exactly why. 

Who am I?

I was a painfully awkward teenager, two years younger than the rest of my class and a little too “extra” to fit in anywhere. I spent all of high school desperately seeking my weirdos—people who would accept me the way I was, rabid-puppy enthusiasm and all. One night I met a colorfully-dressed trio on the street who invited me to a loft party that changed my life. That night I fell in love with NYC’s underground party scene: the high-energy music, grimy locations, and most of all the people. I had found my weirdos. When the Beat Drops is my love letter to discovering your people and finding your scene. 

I wrote...

When the Beat Drops

By Anna Hecker,

Book cover of When the Beat Drops

What is my book about?

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing… and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. 

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