We asked and you answered! Welcome back and happy 2018! Special Events Coordinator Katherine Minevitz: Season 1 and Season 2 of “This is Us,” a really great tv show about a family and all the personalities, inner relationships, twists and turns that are all a part of life—well-acted drama with lots of “lighter” moments as well—really complex but relatable characters! Chinese Teacher Dao Liu: I watched “Stranger Things” on Netflix over the break. Actually, it was highly recommended by my students before the break, and they were very into it. I like the show! I like all mystery novels and movies, no matter where they are from (American, Japanese, British, Chinese, etc.). I also like the idea to salute to the popular culture of the 1980s. The acting skills of the young actors are absolutely amazing (I wonder how they found those amazing kids!). I am so looking forward to Season 3 coming out. Math Teacher Efe Osifo My favorite new show is a Netflix show called “Black Mirror.” (It’s rated R, unfortunately, so sorry to the young folks.) The show is a horror/sci-fi about humans interactions with various types of technology. The “twist” in each episode is how the technology combined with flaws of humans leads to (usually) the downfall of humans. In one episode, it starts with a young mother losing her young daughter in the park. After finding the daughter, the mother implants a GPS tracking system in her daughter. The GPS chip allows the mother to always know (via app) her daughter’s whereabouts geographically but also tells mom anytime her daughter is worried, afraid, scared, or upset via an app alert. The app also allows the mom to literally see through her daughter’s eyes whenever she wants. The episode gets a bit crazy because as the daughter gets older, she wants a bit more privacy and the mother is unwilling (for reasons shown in the show) to give it to her. The ending… is wild. If you’re old enough, I hope you watch and enjoy! P.S. Apparently the show is called “Black Mirror” because when you turn off a screen (tv, phone, laptop) you see your reflection on the now black screen. Hence, it’s a black mirror. Director of Instrumental Music Antonio Berdugo: I started Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Great input on how income inequality and wealth could impact everyone in the future. English Teacher Alden Mauck: Stoner by John Williams. This novel follows a young man from a hardscrabble farm to the University of Missouri so that he can become an agronomist and then return to his family farm to help his parents run it. However, he discovers a love of literature and becomes a college professor at the University of Missouri, falls in love once…falls in love twice, suffers a complicated relationship with his only child, and endures the palace intrigue of an English Department headed up by his chief rival. A quiet tragedy in the “campus novel” genre, beautifully written. Sidnie Kulik ’21: I read the book Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck. I loved the book because it was an action-packed dystopian novel. It also was interesting to see how the author perceived the dangers that could occur from the UN trying to create a utopia, but instead, the effort created a corrupt world. Spanish Teacher Cam Marchant ’02: I thought that Wind River was an amazing film. In addition to stunning cinematography of Wyoming/Utah and a suspenseful crime mystery, it examines the major issue of domestic violence and sexual assault on (and off) American Indian reservations. It’s pretty heavy so I’m not sure that it would be appropriate for a lot of students, but a film certainly worth watching for adults. NPR’s Podcast “How I Built This” did an awesome episode on Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of Vermont-based Burton snowboards, which is one of the largest brands in the world of action sports. In addition to a deep dive on the entrepreneurial aspects of the Burton story, the podcast goes into depth on the tragedies and triumphs of its founder’s own life. There’s even a connection to the ISL (Independent School League)! Science Teacher Bob Kern: During break, I started to watch a series called “Good Behavior.” So far there have been two seasons of this series on the TNT network. It is about a streetwise woman who is a thief and “con artist,” and a man who is a professional “hit man” with a conscience. Their “careers” lead them into some unusual and sometimes comical (depending on your sense of humor) situations and an unlikely love affair. Though their behavior is often “bad,” they do have some redeeming qualities, and I found myself cheering for them to succeed/survive in spite of their failings. There are some mature themes and some violence, so caution is advised for young viewers. Maddy King ’21: I started watching “Game of Thrones” over break and I’m already addicted. All the action and drama inspired by the Rose Wars is deeply entertaining. I’d recommend it for any that loves family drama, fight scenes and dragons. English Teacher Vicky Seelen: I read two incredible books: 1. The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish. A brilliantly written novel which moves between the 16th Century Jewish community in London, featuring an educated and orphaned young woman who seeks to defy the expectations of home and hearth, while also weaving in the story of two scholars, one an aging English professor and one, a young American who is stalled in his doctoral dissertation during 2001, who find papers hidden in a home that tie them to Esther of the 1500s. 2. Reading With Patrick, Michelle Kuo. A profoundly moving memoir of a Chinese woman (raised in Taiwan) who defies her immigrant parents’ desire for her to makes something more of herself and goes to the Mississippi Delta on a Teach for America assignment where she works in a school “at the margins” (understatement). While there, she teaches a young man named Patrick with whom she (ultimately) guides him through many poems while he awaits his trial for murder from prison. Dean of Enrollment Management Jen Hines: I devoured Dan Brown’s Origin. I’m fascinated by the ways that science and religion do and don’t intersect and this book did not disappoint. It’s hard not to find the questions “where do we come from?” and “where are we going?” intriguing and concepts introduced in the book were the source of a lot of my conversations over the break. History Teacher Michael Polebaum ’08: I read Brunch is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party, which is an amazing satirical look at why brunch truly is destroying our collective soul and how to combat this threat by throwing the perfect dinner party. Complete with playlist recommendations and recipes, this book is a superb guide to not only the perfect dinner party, but a perfect life. English Teacher Chris Burr: I saw The Lady in the Van, a true story about an aged, homeless woman who is both cantankerous and desperate for the company of others. Maggie Smith from “Downtown Abbey” and the rest of the cast are wonderful. Head of School Catherine J. Hall, Ph.D: I read Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. The book follows the story of one woman’s family and journey over four generations as her family emigrates from Korea to Japan in the 1920s. I found its portrayal of the complex cultural and political issues of that region during a very tumultuous time globally to be eye opening and also heart wrenching. There is a lot of sadness and suffering in this book, but also a tremendous amount of hope and optimism. History Teacher Jennifer Carlson-Pietraszek: BOOKS: The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama. Well worth a read—and even a reread. We all have so much agency, so much power within ourselves, to influence and design our life experiences. Choose compassion. The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan. Beautiful, interesting, great character development. This is an enjoyable read to be sure. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson. I heard Jenny Lawson on a podcast and thought she was hysterical. Then I found that I had already downloaded one of her books (this one) through Audible. Funny! She apologizes early for the possible/probable offense she assumes you will take at some point along the way. Insights into living with significant depression and anxiety. TV SHOW: “Ozark” on Netflix. Wow. Only one season (so far). Totally gripping and addictive. As of last night I am waiting for a second season! MOVIE: Fences (2016). Incredible performances by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in this adaptation of an August Wilson screenplay. Powerful. Race in our nation has deep roots. Working class family in 1950s Pittsburgh trying to survive and striving to thrive but held back by past and present realities. Science Teacher Dr. Regina Campbell-Malone: Black Panther Books I and II by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I loved reading the story of a strong, black, male hero in his own story. See #allthetime #blackpanther for a 26 second video explaining the power of the panther right now. Ava DuVernay retweeted it. We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I loved reading the elegant explanation of why we should all (truly all) be strong heroes in the fight for equality. Librarian Ella Steim: I read Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan. Really interesting family/community drama set around New York City before and during World War II. Also looks at some lesser-known aspects of the war for civilians—very well researched. I also enjoyed Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. Crazy (but believable!) novel about intersections of food and technology cultures in the Bay Area. Fun and thought-provoking. Max von Schroeter ’19: I read Killing England by Bill O’Reilly and Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans by Brian Kilmeade. These books went in depth about each battle of The Revolutionary War (Killing England) and The War of 1812 (Andrew Jackson). They talked about the reasons for fighting behind both factions, and they also talked about the leaders of each army and battle, their strategies, successes and failures. Assistant Controller Rachel Weinstock: I read Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir in Family & Culture by JD Vance. This autobiography by a Yale Law School graduate with roots in Appalachia is a firsthand account and analysis of a segment of the white underclass that helped Trump to get elected. Vance writes about his culture as only an insider could—naked truths and harsh judgements. This makes for a good read. While his commentary and conclusions are disturbing and debatable, I always appreciate getting a new viewpoint. Librarian Emily Tragert: I read A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. This book is the third in the Kingsbridge series, which started with The Pillars of the Earth. It’s set in 16th and 17th century Europe and follows an expansive cast of characters over about thirty years as they confront the political and religious conflicts of the period. Although it’s over 900 pages long, I sped through it–it’s a real page-turner! Director of Theater Dan Halperin: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It was very fun and easy to get into and ready, yet it really packed a punch, exploring themes of family, class, race and more.
Assistant Director of Communications Kim Neal: Love, Simon, the film based on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli I broke my cardinal rule of not seeing the movie before reading the book (though friends who did said the screenplay was faithful). Immediately loved this story of a gay, closeted teen struggling with his sexual identity, even though he knows he’s surrounded by supportive family and friends. Interesting to see the role social media plays in the perception of self and others. Strong character development shows that good people can make bad decisions that hurt others; they can also redeem themselves by stepping up for those whom they care about. As painful as some moments were for the characters, this film was really hopeful—about love, making yourself vulnerable, and being authentic. Plus, there is a fun dance number. 😉 Assistant Controller Rachel Weinstock: To add to the excitement of my trip to Iceland, I read The Perfect Landscape by Ragna Sigurðardóttir and Burial Rites: A Novel by Hannah Kent. While I really enjoyed the cadence of the language, and visualizing the environment and lifestyles while reading both books, I would recommend Burial Rites, regardless if you plan to visit Iceland or not. It is a gripping historical fiction about the last woman executed in Iceland (in 1830.) The narrative detailing the rural Icelandic way of life was as interesting as the plot line regarding the murder. A page turner to the end! Math Teacher Efe Osifo: I’ve been reading Children Of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s a super interesting read so far. It’s a dystopian novel but it’s about African magic and African folklore. A group of Magicians have had their powers destroyed by a Mad King. The King is going from town to town killing any Magicians and children of Magicians. So the story follows the child of a Magician who, with the help of the Mad King’s daughter (awwwww SNAP) goes on a quest to bring their power back. It’s beautifully written with a plot that is super refreshing. Highly recommended. Chief Advancement Officer George Maley: “The Crown.” It’s filmed exceedingly well and tells the story of England, through the experience of the royal family, from roughly 1920-1970 (I’m not finished yet so maybe it goes longer). I highly recommend it. English Teacher Alden Mauck: Lincoln in the Bardo… I know that everyone is reading it, but there is a reason why! It is one of the most amazing novels that I have read in a long time. Saunders combines history and primary sources and some of the most original characters you will ever encounter, really breathtakingly sad and, in a way, genuinely uplifting. One of the best movies that I have seen was The Florida Project… everyone who goes to Florida for the sun and fun should watch this poignant depiction of the underside of Florida that we all choose to ignore. Lauren Kelley ’20: Over spring break I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and really enjoyed it! I liked how it addressed issues of mass incarceration, racial profiling, wrongful conviction, and life after prison integrated into a fictional story about a classic love triangle. Gustave Ducrest ’18: The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku: this is the most I’ve ever learned reading, and it’s exciting to look at the future. One of the contemporary greatest physicists takes us on a journey exploring what mankind has achieved, can achieve, and plans to achieve in order to expand our species across the universe, such as the invention of the rocket, all the way to sails that approach the speed of light. Science Teacher C.P.: We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter. Historical fiction based on the life of a Jewish family in Poland between 1939-1947. The characters found their way into my heart; a powerful human story. Anna Perez ’21: Over the break I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I really enjoyed it because there were a lot of very prosperous moments for the main character and also a lot of moments where he hit rock bottom, and I think that it was an accurate portrayal of what someone who went through what he did would be like. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story! History Teacher Brian Day: I binged “Lilyhammer” on Netflix and read Russian Roulette. “Lilyhammer” is comedy involving a member of the New York mob whom at his request is placed in witness protection in Lillehammer, Norway. The show focuses primarily on his new life and assimilation in a new culture as well as how he influences his newly-made Norwegian friends and colleagues. Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump is an attempt to bring greater clarity to the still-undetermined relationship between Putin and Trump. Prior to getting into the history of Trump and Russia, the book also provides a critical analysis of Russian espionage and what Putin did throughout Obama’s time in office. The book reads like a spy thriller. Associate Director of Academic Support Sara Masucci: I read Alafair Burke’s The Wife, and immediately followed that with her earlier book, The Ex. She actually wrote The Ex first, but the order doesn’t matter. These books were suspenseful (but not scary; I don’t like scary) and just fun to read. They twist around enough to keep you guessing, but not so much that it gets confusing. Burke is an NYC attorney, and the plots involve complicated criminal cases. I watched Netflix’s new cooking competition show, “Nailed It!” SO MUCH FUN. In each episode (there are only 6), novice home bakers try to recreate incredibly detailed baked goods under time pressure—think three-tiered, ombré-colored wedding cakes with handcrafted sugar flowers—in two hours. The results, and the judges, are hilarious. As the Netflix writeup says, “it’s part reality contest, part hot mess.” History Teacher Nahyon Lee: My favorite book this break was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This novel was a National Book Award finalist. If follows the lives of one family from 1905-1989 during Korea’s Japanese occupation and then later their lives in Japan as Korean-Japanese immigrants. It’s an incredibly touching story about sacrifices we all make for our families. Two thumbs up! Read it! Associate Director of Academic Support Gia Batty: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender This was a funky little book—I actually listened to it and it’s narrated by the author which is always an added bonus. Amy Bender is one of my new favorite writers. People don’t really know how to classify her—sometimes her work is called speculative fiction or fabulous fiction and some of her short stories are more like modern fairy tales. She’s great! The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake follows Rose Edelstein who lives in Berkeley, California with her quirky family. On her tenth birthday, Rose discovers her magical gift when she takes a bite of the cake her mother made her. She can actually taste her mother’s sadness in it. Finding out her mother was sad was just the beginning, and we see Rose learn to understand and control her gift and, in the process, figure out who she was. The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich This is dystopian novel written in diary form by a young pregnant woman trying to make sense of her world, a world where evolution suddenly begins to go backwards. The book got mixed reviews, but I thought it was an interesting book to read right now. In some ways, it was a more modern version of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you do read it, I’d love to talk to you about it! On Writing by Stephen King I’ve always wanted to read this half-autobiography/half-writing handbook by one of America’s most beloved authors. King tells the story of how he became a writer in short little vignettes about his life and then breaks down some of his writing rules. The last section addresses his near-fatal accident and the transformative role writing played in his recovery.