Upper School Summer Reading


Please click on the link below to find out summer reading information for your grade.  All book titles link to the Goodreads page for more information.  All required reading can be purchased from the online bookstore unless otherwise noted.

**PLEASE NOTE: The edition linked to through the online bookstore is the CORRECT edition to purchase.  All Goodreads links are meant to just give you more information about a particular title and do not necessarily reflect the correct edition of the title you should read.**

Students entering Class IV

Students entering Class III

Students entering Class II

Students entering Class I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All students entering Class IV are required to read four books:

  1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse for HHC and English IV.
  2. Three books from the choice list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All students entering Class III are required to read four books:

    1. The Great Gatsby  by F. Scott Fitzgerald for English III.
    2. Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger for U.S. History
    3. Two books from the choice list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All students entering Class II are required to read four books:

  1. Purple Hibiscus: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for English II.
  2. Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz by Thomas Harding if you are taking AP European History

OR

A book from this list for your history elective
(students will be notified of their history placement on August 1st)

OR

Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger for U.S. History

3.Two books from the choice list.

 

NOTE: If you are not taking a history elective or AP European History then you MUST read Three books from the choice list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All students entering Class I are required to read four books:

    1. A book from this list for your English elective. (students will be notified of their English placement by June 19th.)
    2. Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz by Thomas Harding if you are taking AP European History

And/Or

              A book from this list for your history elective.
(students will be notified of their history placement on August 1st)

 

3. Two books from the choice list.

 

NOTE: If you are not taking a history elective or AP European History then you MUST read Three books from the choice list.  If you are taking AP European History and a History elective then you must read FIVE books (including two from the choice list.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper School Choice List

  1. Literary Fiction
  2. Historical Fiction
  3. Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  4. Science Fiction/Dystopian/Fantasy
  5. Graphic Novels
  6. Identity
  7. Memoir
  8. History
  9. Sports
  10. Science/Food
  11. Spirituality

 

Literary Fiction

26A by Diana Evans
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

A wonderful, haunting novel following the lives of Georgia and Bessi, twin daughters of an alcoholic English father and a Nigerian mother who talks to spirits. Their story weaves in and out of shared memories, African myth, pop culture and childhood fantasy as they try to maintain their uncanny bond, while adult realities and dark secrets from the past threaten their identities, separate and together.

 

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

This book tells the story of a young Arab-Indian hacker who goes by the codename of Alif. Alif helps protect his clientsmostly outlaws and dissidents in the unnamed Arab state where he livesfrom surveillance. But when the woman Alif loves becomes engaged to the state’s head of security, Alif is driven underground and must seek out help from forces he previously believed were only myths. A great story that explores the interactions between technology, magic and politics.

 

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

After Rashad is beaten by a local policeman who (wrongly) suspects him of shoplifting, his classmate Quinn, who saw the beating, wrestles with what he’s seen. As Rashad recuperates in the hospital, he’s appalled to find himself the center of attention, in a spotlight he doesn’t want. Quinn’s reaction is complicated by the fact that the cop who beat Rashad is a close family friend. Quinn can’t believe the man he knows would beat anyone if the person on the receiving end didn’t deserve it. He’s always seen police as protectors. Ultimately Quinn and Rashad each have to make a decision, and those decisions are at the heart of this powerful book.

 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Recommended by Lisa Jacobson)

One of my favorite novels in a while. This story of love, race and nationality is told while the protagonist is getting her hair braided. So thoughtful and funny with endearing characters.

 

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
(Recommended by Liz Benjamin)

Explores the mysterious family history and disappearance of a daughter’s Burmese father. The daughter traces her disappeared father from NYC back to his homeland, learning about his life and path that eventually led him to America. A story of true love, beauty, and the power of sight. I loved this book mainly because it intertwines insight on a fascinating and unfamiliar culture with a story of indestructible love.

 

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
(Recommended by Kim Libby)

Brilliant and layered rendering of interconnected worlds and stories. A master of style.

 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

Great coming-of-age story set in a small Southern town during the 20th Century. Flagg looks at issues of race and gender, bringing the civil rights movement(s) alive.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

 

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

A heartwarming, mind-bending little novel about a brilliant mathematician who has lived with only 80 minutes of short-term memory since he suffered a traumatic head injury. Enter, a young housekeeper, who is hired to care for him, and her 10-year-old son, whom she brings to work with her. Although, they start from scratch, reintroducing themselves every morning, the housekeeper gradually builds unlikely common ground with the professor, who connects with Root (her son) through baseball and math. You will love this story!

 

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
(Recommended by Kim Libby)

Raw, lyrical and memorable. “Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.”

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
(Recommended by George Blake)

Follow Ursula Todd as her multiple lives play out in war-torn 20th century England—that’s right, she keeps dying and being reborn. The concept may sound a little gimmicky, but it works really well: Atkinson’s narrative is tight, and her gifts as a writer and storyteller make this a quick and rewarding read.

 

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

By turns hilarious and heart-rending, this novel tells the wonderful story of a zealous daughter of an oppressively evangelical mother who, in coming of age, discovers she not only loves God, but also loves women. My favorite “coming out”” story, this somewhat autobiographical first novel won Jeanette Winterson the coveted Whitbread Prize in 1985.

 

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who has long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

 

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
(Recommended by Gia Batty)

One of the best books I’ve ever read, this is really the story of two friends­­the narrator and the small statured, good natured and very remarkable Owen Meanygrowing up in small town New Hampshire, but, in classic Irving style, it’s about so much more than thatit’s the story of friendship, class, race, politics, religion and fate. Full of believable, memorable characters and so many beautifully written scenes that will stay with you forever, this is a great summer read for anyone who loves a good story.

 

Summer Book by Tove Jansson
(Recommended by Dick Baker)

Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.

 

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
(Recommended by Gia Batty)

This is a great book of linked stories that address very current issues with our changing society and how technology is connected to the way we see the world. I loved how the stories and characters shift back and forth in time—from the late ’60s to the present and near future—all along focusing on the youth culture, the music industry and how we communicate with each other.

 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
(Recommended by Kim Libby)

The story begins with one man’s search for a missing cat and launches into an intriguing, strange, page-turning world.

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Historical Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
(Recommended by Dan Halperin)

Marie-Laure is a blind girl growing up in Paris on the eve of World War II. Werner is an orphan born in rural Germany whose talent with building and repairing radios earns him a place in the brutal Nazi regime. Their lives unfold in parallel and opposition–until they meet for one day in 1944 during the bombing of a town on the the northern coast of France. Marie-Laure and Werner “are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival.” (Amazon review)

 

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life in 1939—until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father’s prison camp. But will strength, love and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

 

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. Hiroko Tanaka watches her lover from the veranda as he leaves. Sunlight streams across Urakami Valley, and then the world goes white.In the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, Hiroko leaves Japan in search of new beginnings.

 

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

Arguably Ngugi’s crowning achievement, this epic novel set in the wake of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, at the dawn of the country’s independence from Great Britain, follows the lives and hard choices of a group of villagers whose lives will never be the same after the Emergency. Full of tangled webs of stories and lies and terrible secrets, you won’t be able to put this one down. One of my favorite novels of ordinary people in extraordinary times, when the choices one believes should be black or white necessarily become blurred and gray.

 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: “Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.”

 

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

 

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
(Recommended by Bob Henderson)

A masterpiece and epic novel of the American frontier, this novel tells the story of a small town, Lonesome Dove, and all of its colorful inhabitants.

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker
(Recommended by Kate Blake)

A companion piece to Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is told from the perspective of Sarah, the Bennet family’s housemaid. Austen’s original text surfaces but Sarah owns the tale, taking us to the very real world of the servant class. Her voice and story propel this work, providing a compelling version of Austen’s classic.

 

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together in this book. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

 

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

A beautifully understated first novel set in colonial Rhodesia. In this gripping coming-of-age tale, narrator Tambu tells the story of how she leaves her rural home to attend the missionary school run by her British-educated uncle. As she grows and her understanding of the world around her deepens, Tambu becomes a poignant, eloquent commentator on the complexities of a modern life in which grabbing opportunity can strain one’s sense of identity.

 

Novels by Chaim Potok
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

I am not sure that I have learned more from any one author than I have learned from Potok.

 

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

“Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.”

 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
(Recommended by Anne Carberry)

The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time.

 

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
(Recommended by Jenny Carlson-Pietraszek)

For upper schoolersphenomenal tale. A fantastic, gripping story that brings you into a new world. Strong female characters. Excellent read.

 

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
(Recommended by Kate Blake)

Amor Towles, a Nobles graduate, takes his cues from F.S. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby with Rules of Civility, a novel that presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, 25-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, sits down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society, where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility is an entertaining, sophisticated read.

 

The Silver Pigs and Poseidon’s Gold by Lindsay Davis
(Recommended by Dan Matlack)

I like two of the Lindsay Davis set of historical mysteries I read a while ago. Set in or around Rome they include The Silver Pigs and Poseidon’s Gold. I love historical fiction anyway and I enjoyed her protagonist Marcus Didius Falco’s tone and way of operating.

 

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: Kidnapped from Africa as a child, Aminata Diallo is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan she becomes a scribe for the British, recording the names of blacks who have served the King and earned their freedom in Nova Scotia. But the hardship and prejudice of the new colony prompt her to follow her heart back to Africa, then on to London, where she bears witness to the injustices of slavery and its toll on her life and a whole people. It is a story that no listener, and no reader, will ever forget.

 

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
(Recommended by Kat Amano)
Set in 1954 on an island off the coast of Washington, this novel follows the investigation of a fisherman’s murder and the ensuing trial of Kabuo Miyamoto, which is colored by post-WWII anti-Japanese sentiments. Flashbacks to the early 1940s offer glimpses into the secret relationship that Kabuo’s wife and the newspaper reporter, who covers Kabuo’s trial, shared as teens before the Japanese Internment.

 

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
(Recommended by Dick Baker)

The story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth centuryan ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

 

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
(Recommended by Alden Mauck)

Michael Chabon may be the preeminent Jewish writer of the last decade; here he creates a detective story in the Post World War II community to which European Jewry has relocated: ­ Sitka, Alaska. Chabon’s novel takes on the language and atmosphere of the film noir tradition to imagine a world of troubled detectives, bad guys and dolls. One of my favorite books to give to other people!

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Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

 

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black
(Recommended by Bill Bussey)

“There was another version of him,” Black says of his attractively flawed hero, “a personality within a personality, malcontent, vindictive, ever ready to provoke.” Great mystery involving a Dublin pathologist. “Crime fiction is a good way of examining evil,” says the author. This book fits the bill.

 

City of Thieves by David Benioff
(Recommended by Bill Bussey)

Impossible to put down. Set in Leningrad in 1945, the novel, based loosely on a true story, is told through the eyes of a young Russian man who is given one week to find a dozen eggs to be used for a wedding cakeor be executed.

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
(Recommended by Erin Twohig)

Everything I Never Told You begins eerily with the following, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…” What actually happened to sixteen-year-old Lydia? A bit of a mystery, this is a gripping novel about love, loss, belonging and how life unravels for a Chinese-American family in small-town Ohio.

 

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
(Recommended by Alden Mauck)

Michael Chabon may be the preeminent Jewish writer of the last decade; here he creates a detective story in the Post World War II community to which European Jewry has relocated: ­ Sitka, Alaska. Chabon’s novel takes on the language and atmosphere of the film noir tradition to imagine a world of troubled detectives, bad guys and dolls. One of my favorite books to give to other people!
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Science Fiction/Dystopian/Fantasy

 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

“Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.”

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
(Recommended by George Blake)

This is science fiction with a philosophical bent. What happens in post-apocalypse San Francisco where it’s hard to tell the difference between human and machine? Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter in such a world, trying to “retire” rogue androids and wrestling with his own humanity in the process. This is a gripping story that makes you think.

 

A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle
(Recommended by Thomas Forteith)

A near-future, pseudo-dystopian novel about environmental disaster with a fool for a hero…very funny and very not at the same time. If you have never read T.C. Boyle, check him out.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the dangers of being a woman under this new regime, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression.

 

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

Lozen and her family lived in a world where the Ones (people augmented with technology and genetic enhancements) ruled over everyone else.  Then the Cloud came, tech stopped working and the world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun… Lozen is meant to be a hero.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir
(Recommended by Ross Henderson)

Some of you may be familiar with the summer blockbuster movie based on this book starring Matt Damon.  If you liked the movie, you will love the book.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, it is about an astronaut who accidentally gets left on Mars and he has to “MacGyver” his way to survival until NASA can figure out if they can get him back.  It is a fascinating story of ingenuity, grit and hope.  If you love science, this book is for you.  If you don’t, this book might change your mind.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
(Recommended by Paulina Jones-Torregrosa)

Kathy H, Ruth, and Tommy are friends from boarding school, but why can’t their school be found on a map?  This dystopian novel takes the “coming of age” and “boarding school” genres and turns them both upside down. Never Let Me Go is a fast-paced read that will stimulate your imagination while engrossing you in the story of three friends.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

Almost twenty years after a deadly flu wiped out over 90% of the population, a troupe of actors and musicians travels the wasteland left behind, trying to carve out a life for themselves. This beautiful novel moves backwards and forwards in time, telling the stories of half a dozen people affected by the flu and asks profound questions about the nature of art and humanity. After such a devastating event, is survival sufficient, or should we still strive for more? This is a book that will stay with you for a long time after you read it.

 

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)
“What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.”

 

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

One of my favorite graphic novels, this tale tells the story of Evie, a woman living in a dystopian version of London and her relationship with a terrorist/revolutionary named “V.”

 

Watchmen by Alan Moore
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

In this classic graphic novel, a group of superheroes are pursued by an unknown assassin. Part mystery novel, part horror story, this book deconstructs the idea of the superhero as its cast of characters fall prey to their own human failings and the killer who is after them. While it is not for the faint of heart, this meditation on heroes and villains is beautiful and compelling.

 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
(Recommended by Kim Libby)

The story begins with one man’s search for a missing cat and launches into an intriguing, strange, page-turning world.

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Graphic Novels

 

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

This graphic novel tells the story of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in the city of New Orleans. The tale of this historic storm and the drowning of an American city is one of selflessness, heroism, and courage—and also of incompetence, racism, and criminality. This book tells both sides of the story with compelling images and text.

 

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together in this book. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

 

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

This graphic novel is a collection of stories from African American history that celebrate success in the face of great adversity. The art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable story and opens a window into an important part of American history.

 

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

One of my favorite graphic novels, this tale tells the story of Evie, a woman living in a dystopian version of London and her relationship with a terrorist/revolutionary named “V.”

 

Watchmen by Alan Moore
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

In this classic graphic novel, a group of superheroes are pursued by an unknown assassin. Part mystery novel, part horror story, this book deconstructs the idea of the superhero as its cast of characters fall prey to their own human failings and the killer who is after them. While it is not for the faint of heart, this meditation on heroes and villains is beautiful and compelling.

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Identity

 

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

After Rashad is beaten by a local policeman who (wrongly) suspects him of shoplifting, his classmate Quinn, who saw the beating, wrestles with what he’s seen. As Rashad recuperates in the hospital, he’s appalled to find himself the center of attention, in a spotlight he doesn’t want. Quinn’s reaction is complicated by the fact that the cop who beat Rashad is a close family friend. Quinn can’t believe the man he knows would beat anyone if the person on the receiving end didn’t deserve it. He’s always seen police as protectors. Ultimately Quinn and Rashad each have to make a decision, and those decisions are at the heart of this powerful book.

 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Recommended by Lisa Jacobson)

One of my favorite novels in a while. This story of love, race and nationality is told while the protagonist is getting her hair braided. So thoughtful and funny with endearing characters.

 

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young people and here provides portraits, family photographs, and candid images that follow the emotional and physical journey each has taken. Each interview, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the others because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves. Fascinating and honest.

 

Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in race, gender, civil rights and the experience of those on the forefront of the civil rights movement in this country in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
(Recommended by Paulina Jones-Torregrosa)

Kathy H, Ruth, and Tommy are friends from boarding school, but why can’t their school be found on a map?  This dystopian novel takes the “coming of age” and “boarding school” genres and turns them both upside down. Never Let Me Go is a fast-paced read that will stimulate your imagination while engrossing you in the story of three friends.

 

Novels by Chaim Potok
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

I am not sure that I have learned more from any one author than I have learned from Potok.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
(Recommended by Shannon Clark)

By turns hilarious and heart-rending, this novel tells the wonderful story of a zealous daughter of an oppressively evangelical mother who, in coming of age, discovers she not only loves God, but also loves women. My favorite “coming out”” story, this somewhat autobiographical first novel won Jeanette Winterson the coveted Whitbread Prize in 1985.

 

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

A former editor for People magazine’s website, Janet Mock is one of the leading advocates today for transgender rights. In this memoir she describes her experiences growing up in Hawaii and her transition as a teenager.

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Memoir

Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, by Richard Meryman
(Recommended by Alden Mauck)

One of the best biographies that I have ever read and a must for any student interested in American Art during the 20th Century. This biography not only explores Andrew Wyeth’s place in American Art, it also looks at his place in a family that for three generations influenced and confounded the American Art world. N. C. Wyeth : A Biography (Andrew Wyeth’s father) by David Michaelis is fantastic companion read.

 

Ballad of a Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
(Recommended by Bill Bussey)

A tale so bizarre that Johnny Depp bought the movie rights to this story about Attila Ambrus, a horrific Hungarian goaltender (he once gave up 88 goals in six straight games), who found greater success when he decided to rob banks. Using poor disguises but still keeping his identity unknown, Ambrus often left roses after each robbery and never hurt a soul. As a result, he became a cult hero to the people of Hungary. Very funny and all the more so because it is true.

 

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young people and here provides portraits, family photographs, and candid images that follow the emotional and physical journey each has taken. Each interview, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the others because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves. Fascinating and honest.

 

Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in race, gender, civil rights and the experience of those on the forefront of the civil rights movement in this country in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
(Recommended by Chris Burr)

The true story of an Ivy League professor who discovers she is pregnant with child with Down’s Syndrome. A story about her choice, a choice that describes the collision between her head and heart.

 

The Family: A Journey into the Heart of the Twentieth Century by David Laskin
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

Spanning multiple generations, David Laskin’s The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century chronicles his family’s triumphant and tragic history. Beginning with his great-great grandfather Shimon Dov HaKohen, a Torah scribe in 19th century Russia, Laskin traces three branches of the family, including the stories of Ida Rosenthal, the founder of the Maidenform Company, Sonia and Chaim, two Zionists who immigrated to Israel/Palestine, and much of the rest of his family who stayed in Europe and perished in the Holocaust. Deeply personal, Laskin’s narrative is beautifully written and quite moving, offering a window into some of the twentieth century’s most amazing and horrific moments. The Family is one of those books I could not put down.

 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
(Recommended by Kate Blake)

Jeannette Walls’ memoir is honest and heartbreaking, but somehow never hopeless. Walls’ family is alive on every page: her parents live a life of non-conformity, carrying their children to the depths of poverty and the heights of creativity. It is a startling, moving, and thankfully fast-paced text; at times, it would have been difficult to dwell.

 

H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

 

Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin (Nobles graduate)
(Recommended by Vicky Seelen)

From Amazon: Nina MacLaughlin N’97 spent her twenties working at a Boston newspaper, sitting behind a desk and staring at a screen. Yearning for more tangible work, she applied for a job she saw on Craigslist—Carpenter’s Assistant: Women strongly encouraged to apply—despite being a Classics major who couldn’t tell a Phillips from a flathead screwdriver.

 

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

A former editor for People magazine’s website, Janet Mock is one of the leading advocates today for transgender rights. In this memoir she describes her experiences growing up in Hawaii and her transition as a teenager.

 

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
(Recommended by George Blake)

Cruise ships, tennis, state fairs, and more—this is a collection of essays by the late David Foster Wallace whose wit, humor and prose can’t be beat.

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History

 

The Big Short  by Michael Lewis
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

“From the author of The Blind Side and Moneyball, The Big Short tells the story of four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predict the credit and housing bubble collapse before anyone else. When the crash of the U.S. stock market became public knowledge in the fall of 2008, it was already old news. The real crash, the silent crash, had taken place over the previous year, in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn’t shine and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread. Who understood the risk inherent in the assumption of ever-rising real estate prices, a risk compounded daily by the creation of those arcane, artificial securities loosely based on piles of doubtful mortgages? In this fitting sequel to Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis answers that question in a narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor.”

 

Bomb: The Race to Make—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

A vivid, compelling tale of science, war and espionage. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon, the atomic bomb.

 

Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
(Recommended by Brian Day)

If you like early 20th century history, you will enjoy this book that chronicles the last voyage of the Lusitania.  Including others, the book is written from the perspectives of the ship’s captain, crew and passengers, the German U boat’s commander, President Wilson, and British Naval Intelligence.  Even though the reader knows how the story ends, tension still builds throughout this very well-written and researched book.  

 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

This engrossing book tells two intertwined stories. First is the story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, an amazing feat of planning, architecture and ambition, driven by some of the most fascinating personalities of the age. The other half of the book tells the story of H.H. Holmes, later known as “America’s first serial killer,” who killed somewhere between 27–200 people at the fair. This book shows the glory and the horror of turn-of-the-century America and is a supremely entertaining read.

 

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
(Recommended by Emily Tragert)

This graphic novel tells the story of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in the city of New Orleans. The tale of this historic storm and the drowning of an American city is one of selflessness, heroism, and courage—and also of incompetence, racism, and criminality. This book tells both sides of the story with compelling images and text.

 

The Family: A Journey into the Heart of the Twentieth Century by David Laskin
(Recommended by Michael Denning)

Spanning multiple generations, David Laskin’s The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century chronicles his family’s triumphant and tragic history. Beginning with his great-great grandfather Shimon Dov HaKohen, a Torah scribe in 19th century Russia, Laskin traces three branches of the family, including the stories of Ida Rosenthal, the founder of the Maidenform Company, Sonia and Chaim, two Zionists who immigrated to Israel/Palestine, and much of the rest of his family who stayed in Europe and perished in the Holocaust. Deeply personal, Laskin’s narrative is beautifully written and quite moving, offering a window into some of the twentieth century’s most amazing and horrific moments. The Family is one of those books I could not put down.

 

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
(Recommended by Laura Yamartino)

Part journalism, part history, part mystery. This story tracks a murder investigation at the turn of the 20th century through the eyes of the police detectives while also revealing the developing role of tabloid and newspaper reporters in solving the crime.

 

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
(Recommended by Jenny Carlson-Pietraszek)

A fascinating read that illuminates the rich texture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict using both historical facts and personal narratives. This is the latest “must read” for those interested in the region, and it’s well worth the time.

 

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

This graphic novel is a collection of stories from African American history that celebrate success in the face of great adversity. The art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable story and opens a window into an important part of American history.

 

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Russell Freedman tells the story of Austrian-born Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie. They belonged to Hitler Youth as young children, but began to doubt the Nazi regime. As older students, the Scholls and a few friends formed the White Rose, a campaign of active resistance to Hitler and the Nazis. Risking imprisonment or even execution, the White Rose members distributed leaflets urging Germans to defy the Nazi government. Their belief that freedom was worth dying for will inspire young readers to stand up for what they believe.

 
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Sports

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
(Recommended by George Blake)

You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate this true story about running really long distances. McDougall takes you into Mexico’s forbidden, isolated, and deadly Copper Canyons in search of the secrets of the Tarahumara tribe. These amazing “super-athletes” can run hundreds of miles at a time and never feel pain. Along the way, you meet a cast of unforgettable characters and enter a fascinating subculture.

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Science/Food

Cooked by Michael Pollan
(Recommended by Lisa Jacobson)

A look at the cultural history of cooking foodsthrough water, air and fire. I couldn’t put this nonfiction book down. I never thought I’d be so fascinated by yeast and mold!

 

Food and the City: New York’s Professional Chefs, Restaurateurs, Line Cooks, Street Vendors, and Purveyors Talk About What They Do and Why They Do It
by Ina Yalof
(Recommended by Talya Sokoll)

“In Food and the City, Ina Yalof takes us on an insider’s journey into New York’s pulsating food scene alongside the men and women who call it home. Dominique Ansel declares what great good fortune led him to make the first Cronut. Lenny Berk explains why Woody Allen’s mother would allow only him to slice her lox at Zabar’s. Ghaya Oliveira, who came to New York as a young Tunisian stockbroker, opens up about her hardscrabble yet swift trajectory from dishwasher to executive pastry chef at Daniel. Restaurateur Eddie Schoenfeld describes his journey from Nice Jewish Boy from Brooklyn to New York’s Indisputable Chinese Food Maven. From old-schoolers such as David Fox, third-generation owner of Fox’s U-bet syrup, and the outspoken Upper West Side butcher “Schatzie” to new kids on the block including Patrick Collins, sous chef at The Dutch, and Brooklyn artisan Lauren Clark of Sucre Mort Pralines, Food and the City is a fascinating oral history with an unforgettable gallery of New Yorkers who embody the heart and soul of a culinary metropolis.”

 

Partners of the Heart by Vivien Thomas

This is the autobiography of Vivien Thomas, the first black man to hold a professional position at one of America’s premier medical institutions. Thomas’s dreams of attending medical school were dashed when the Depression hit. After spending some time as a carpenter’s apprentice, Thomas took what he expected to be a temporary job as a technician in Alfred Blalock’s lab at Johns Hopkins University. The two men soon became partners and together invented the field of cardiac surgery. This book traces the beginnings of modern cardiac surgery as well as the great partnership between Thomas and Blalock, which persisted over the rest of their careers.

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Spirituality

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living—Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating by Thomas Keating
(Recommended by Chris Burr)

If you’re curious about the transforming disciplines of meditation and prayer, this volume will guide you every day of the year.

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History Elective List

 

Class Title Author
History of Ancient Greece Gates of Fire Steven Pressfield
Politics and Ethics The American Spirit:
Who We Are
David McCullough
Utopia and Terror:
Twentieth Century Soviet Union, China, and Cuba
Storm of Steel Ernst Junger
Modern America at War Tribe Sebastian Junger
Macroeconomics Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance
Race Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art History Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling Ross King
South Africa My Traitor’s Heart:
A South African Exile
Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
Rian Malan
We the People V for Vendetta Alan Moore

 

 

 

 

English Elective List

 

Class Title Author Notes
Ethics and Literature Constellation of Vital Phenomena Anthony Marra
The Epic Song of Achilles Madeline Miller
Modernist Movement A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway
Madness in Literature The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Oliver Sacks
The Novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Michael Chabon
Shakespeare I The Meaning of Shakespeare I Harold C. Goddard Read only the intro and the chapter on Henry IV pt. 1
Creative Non-Fiction The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
Philosophy and Literature Black Dogs Ian McEwan
Satire and Humor Brave New World Aldous Huxley