15 Sep 2014
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HS Summer Reading List: How Many Have You Read?

Newtown HS English teachers suggest students read at least two from this list over the summer vacation.

HS Summer Reading List: How Many Have You Read?

The summer is the perfect time to get lost in a really good book. The balmy evenings are longer and the days sunnier, perfect for curling up in a park or a hammock. And there is nothing better than devouring a novel during a beach holiday.

It can be tough to know where to start, though. Luckily, Newtown High School is here to help. They recently posted a summer reading list of English teachers’ picks, from which they suggest their students read at least two books over the course of the summer. Patch thinks it’s not a bad idea for adults to do the same.

Let us know in the Comments section: what's your pick for the summer? Have you read any of these books? We want to hear your reviews, too.

Here are Mrs. Diaz’s recommendations:

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
    This is a beautifully heartbreaking tale of two young Afghani girls and their journey to an unlikely friendship and adulthood. This story, too, has something for everyone: love, romance, history, etc.

  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
    One of my all-time favorite pieces of non-fiction! This is the story of Jeannette's nomadic childhood, and her bizarre experiences with her dysfunctional family. A touching, poignant memoir - one that truly speaks to the topics of family and unconditional love.

Here are Mr. Keylock’s recommendations:

  • The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath New York City, by Jennifer Toth
    Thousands of people live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels that form the bowels of New York City and this book is about them, the so-called mole people. They live alone and in communities, in subway tunnels and below subway platforms and this fascinating study presents how and why people move underground, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the “topside” world they’ve left behind. This is an absorbing and absolutely fascinating read.

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
    Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

Here are Ms. Swift’s recommendations:

  • Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
    I continue to recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. I love the writing and the fact that this novel tells the same story of a missionary’s family going to Africa from four different perspectives (like Yellow Raft on Blue Water which I also loved). Her writing is full of imagery and the story is fascinating. If this long book is intimidating, consider her earlier work The Bean Trees.

Here are Mrs. Marks’ recommendations:

  • 11/22/63, by Stephen King
    A departure from King's trademark horror books, this work of historical fiction takes English teacher Jake Epping from his 21st century high school in Maine back in time via a "rabbit hole" in the local diner to the late 1950s where he attempts to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK. King's ability to create dynamic, relatable characters is enhanced in this story with his nostalgic and vivid descriptions of a time in our history when life was simpler.

  • The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
    This book is a collection of essays and short fiction written by Marina Keegan during her tenure at Yale, prior to her untimely death just after her graduation last year. The title comes from the final article she published for her fellow graduates in the Yale Daily News and speaks to the spirit she believed her generation is capable of. The introduction by her writing professor alone is one of the most inspiring pieces you'll read this year!

Here are Ms. Parsons’ recommendations:

  • How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
    This collection of short stories is filled with those hold-your-breath moments, when you just know Orringer is exposing truth after truth about childhood and adolescence. The stories are challenging and bizarre and satisfying, kind of like, you know, life. I've read her story "The Isabel Fish" with ninth graders since I first discovered this collection.

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
    One of my favorite writers, Barbara Kingsolver, decided to move her family to Appalachia to live off of the land for a year. They renovated an old family home, began to garden, raise chickens and eat seasonally, surviving off of only what they grew or could get from other local farmers. Kingsolver's chapters are interspersed with chapters from her daughter, who shares recipes highlighting local ingredients, and her husband, an environmental studies professor. Together, they shape a portrait of the ways what and how we eat have changed over time while providing rationale and suggestions for returning to locally grown, homemade food. She's a beautiful writer; there's a passage about asparagus growing that will stop your heart.

Here are Dr. Brooks’ recommendations:

  • American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
    What happens to gods when belief stops and their influence wanes? Widely regarded as one of the world’s best storytellers, Neil Gaiman does not disappoint in this novel. Drawing elements from Norse, Egyptian, and Christian mythology, in American Gods, Gaiman explores contemporary culture and the changing nature of spirituality in modern life.

  • The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck
    Buck’s timeless classic about a poor Chinese peasant who becomes a wealthy landowner and whose rise to riches is accompanied by preoccupations that bring no peace - greed, gluttony, hedonism, and self-centeredness - still sounds true and relevant

  • In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
    This novel transports us to the Dominican Republic when the country struggled under the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. In this work of historical fiction, Alvarez describes the lives of Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal, who became symbols of freedom and women’s rights when they were assassinated for their role in the underground movement against Trujillo’s regime.

  • Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich
    A novel about passion, family, and the importance of cultural identity. In Love Medicine Erdrich examines the struggle to balance Native American tradition with the modern world. Using various comic and tragic voices, Louise Erdrich leads the reader through the lives of two Chippewa families living in North Dakota. This modern classic is both a sad and funny look at the ways family and tradition bind us together.

  • The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
    This is a fabulous detective novel. It’s also a brilliant literary work, as well as a thriller, a love story, and a comedy. The only criticism one could offer Hammett is that the book is so much fun to read, it might be hard the first time through to realize what serious questions it raises about people and their lives.

  • Sun, Stone, and Shadows, by Jorge F. Hernandez
    Mexico and the United States share a long border and a common history. Although our two nations remain separate and independent, they are also deeply connected not only through economic and political ties and culture, but also by flesh and blood through the many millions of Mexican-Americans.There is perhaps no better way for two nations to learn about one another than through sharing their stories. Sun, Stone, and Shadows presents an amazing selection of short stories.

  • A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea has become a classic coming-of-age novel, so engaging and psychologically deep that it continues to captivate readers of all ages.

  • The Thief and the Dogs, by Naguib Mahfouz
    Naguib Mahfouz is not only Egypt's most respected writer. He is also the most influential novelist in the history of Arabic literature. I would say that none of his novels is more exciting or original than The Thief and the Dogs. Situated in the wealthy suburbs and crowded slums of Cairo, this thrilling crime story combines stream of consciousness technique with the narrative style of detective fiction to try to address the issues of crime and punishment.

  • The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick
    Rosa Lublin is a Holocaust survivor whose memories of a Nazi death camp continue to traumatize her thirty years later. Cynthia Ozick's heartbreaking novel makes us understand to what extent suffering is a part of the human condition - regardless of our station in life.

  • Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
    When Ruth and her sister Lucille are abandoned in the isolated Idaho town of Fingerbone, they begin to learn details about their family’s past. Marilynne Robinson’s writing does not disappoint and this absorbing novel is both philosophical and entertaining.

  • Old School, by Tobias Wolff
    At a New England prep school where keeping up appearances is everything, Tobias Wolff's young narrator learns the painful difference between truth and fiction.

Here are Mrs. Hanna’s recommendations:

  • Stephen King novels
    I tend to read in cycles of authors. Since last summer I’ve been working my way through Stephen King, and so far I’ve read Pet Sematary, Dolores Claibourne, Misery, 11/23/63, Lisey’s Story and Joyland.

  • “Old school feminist writers”
    Other authors I’ve read include Anita Shreve, Wally Lamb and Maeve Binchy. Once I get into the author’s work I just read everything they’ve done. I also have a penchant for biographies and old school feminist writers.

Here are Mr. Rovello’s recommendations:

  • The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
    The novel mixes a lot of genres, like Gothic, Romance, Mystery, Comedy, and Horror. It takes place during and after the Spanish Civil War, featuring a teenage protagonist who tries to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his favorite author. It has a little something for everyone.

  • Generation Kill, by Evan Wright
    Wright was an embedded journalist with a Marine Recon Force during the initial Invasion of Iraq in 2003. It's not a book about glorifying war, but shows the realities of being a soldier, like the general boredom, confusion, or chaos that dominated daily life in a war zone. It also touches upon the unintentional soldier and civilian casualties that result from both avoidable and unavoidable events. Since Wright follows 18 & 19 year-olds who are serving our country, the book is at times funny, thought-provoking, and juvenile (in no particular order).

  • The Forever War, by Joe Halderman
    For those who enjoy Science Fiction like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, this is an allegory for the Vietnam War. First published in 1974, the novel offers a fictional future where soldiers fight off an alien menace. Told from the perspective of a conscript, William Mandella, soldiers suffer from “time dilation” while traveling to distant battlegrounds. This means that a few months traveling in space equates to several years passing on earth. As the war continues, the distance traveled becomes longer and longer. What will home look like for returning veterans when everyone they know and love is elderly or gone? Through science fiction, Halderman attempts to make sense of the same Vietnam veterans who came home to a very different America than the one they left.

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