Our Reading Lives

Book-Talking Tips That Will Make You A Hero

Lucas Maxwell


Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Okay, maybe Book-talking won’t make you a “crawl through a burning building to save a basket of kittens” kind of hero, but a Library Hero nonetheless.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with book-talking lately. In my experience it’s been one of the best ways to get books into the hands of students and teachers alike.

Book-talking gives the audience what they want. A short synopsis that gives them the juicy bits but not all the juicy bits.

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This book talk’s got me seeing…wait, what’s the five one called?

For me, I found the shorter the book-talk the better. This is how I came up with an idea for a competition around book-talks. Feel free to apply it to your school, library or party.

Okay, maybe I didn’t come up with it, maybe I stole it from super librarian Carol Webb and then twisted into my own thing. I stand by my theft because of all the good I’ve seen it bring.

I call it, “A Book A Minute.” Full disclosure, I also stole part of the format from the popular BBC radio show, “Just A Minute” but I’m guessing they don’t care either.


Here’s how it works:

You start by asking the class / group to imagine they’ve just finished a book that knocked their socks off. This book is so amazing that they are compelled to tell their best friend all about it.

If there’s anything better than reading a great book it’s talking about a great book with your friends.

Then I ask them to imagine that they’ve only got one minute to convince their friend that this book is the best thing ever written because the bell’s about to go or their bus is about to arrive or a meteor is plummeting towards them, whatever.

I ask them, in that one minute, what are the things they should cover in order to turn convince their friend to read that book? These include, plot (no spoilers), characters, title, author, setting and so on. I get them to name as many things as they can, writing them all on the board.

Then comes the hard part. Without looking at the board, they must face the class and book-talk their face off, hitting all of the points that were listed in under one minute. Whoever hits all the points the fastest wins. Bonus points are given to anyone who doesn’t say “Ummm” or repeats the same thing over again.


This is one of my favourite things to do now, some teachers even got involved and had a little mini competition amongst themselves. The fastest was an English teacher who book-talked The Secret Garden in 16 seconds!


This year I’ve been asked to take part in a world-wide Book-Talking tournament created by another super librarian, Jennifer Lagarde  and Dr. Brad Gustafson.  This time around it’s a 30 Second Book Talk. I’m glad I’ve been honing my skills because this tournament’s going to be epic and tough!

So try out a Book a Minute, won’t you?

You’ll find out about new books, have a good laugh and be a hero at your next book party.