2015 summer read list from some of Charlotte’s English teachers

2015 summer read list from some of Charlotte’s English teachers
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As a teacher, I look forward to summer every year. As nerdy as it sounds, one of the things I look forward to the most is getting to read what I want to read. For 10 months out of the year when school is in session, I read what my kids are reading. Whether it’s books I’ve assigned (many of which I’ve read year after year), or books my students recommend, I do what I can to connect with my students through books. I am an English teacher after all.

But whether you’re a teacher or not, summer is a time to catch up on all that reading you tell yourself you’re going to do, but never quite get around to. Vacations with family and friends offer a unique opportunity to read freely without judgment.

So, in the spirit of the old fashioned summer reading list, here are some book recommendations from some of my fellow English teachers. If you’re looking for literary inspiration before packing your bags, or even enjoying a staycation this summer, hopefully this list will serve as motivation to get out and get reading! Enjoy!

books

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

Clay Morrell – English I, Yearbook, Contemporary Young Adult (YA) Literature & its Literary Roots

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I believe in magic.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. Though I LOVE the whole series, #3 is my favorite because of Sirius Black. He is far and away my favorite character. As a child, I hated reading. It wasn’t until I read Harry Potter that I began to understand the magic of books and their ability to transform my world and take me to entirely new worlds. It is because of Rowling and her stories that I love to read and do what I do.

harry-potter

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

The Selection series by Kiera Cass. A guilty pleasure, this YA series is a reality-show competition meets Cinderella story. My students chose this series this year in a new elective I’m teaching. I was skeptical. Now I’m hooked. The most recent book, The Heir, came out in May, and I devoured it last week. I can’t wait for the final book in the series due out in 2016.

The Cuckoo’s Calling & The Silkworm, both by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling). That’s right, you read that correctly. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two years, you may have missed that J.K. Rowling recently published two adult crime thrillers under the pen name Robert Galbraith. The first two in a series of books that follow Cormoran Strike, a private detective living in London, these novels don’t just pull you in and keep you guessing, they are smart, and intriguing, and all-around fascinating. According to Robert-Galbraith.com, the next book in the series is due out this Fall, so now is your chance to read and get ready!

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Though this isn’t new, per se, it is, in my opinion, the ultimate beach read. Light, hilarious, quick, and honest, this memoir of one of Hollywood’s biggest names will not disappoint.

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

Beyond the stack of maternity/baby books on my current to-read list, I’d love to finally tackle Nobody is Ever Missing by my high school roommate, Catherine Lacey. Cited as “the next Gone Girl” upon its release a year ago, this debut novel sounds like an awesome escape and a fascinating read.

catherine-lacey

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

Ashley Owens – AP Literature

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I am unapologetic about being a lover of “serious” literature. My colleagues at school make fun of me because I won’t read anything that hasn’t received critical acclaim—but the dissertation I almost wrote was, in short, going to explore the ways the American canon became the canon. So I really do enjoy the classics, and I enjoy reading (and assigning) contemporary fiction that makes me think about what the classics of the future might be. (This all works out pretty well, given the class I teach. If it’s on the AP Literature “Suggested Reading” list, I’m probably into it.)

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth—for three reasons. I think Lily Bart is one of the most fascinating and complicated heroines in all of American literature; Wharton’s gift with language—just the pure stylistic feat of the novel; and, lastly, the fact that I encountered it for the first time with my favorite professor at Vanderbilt, who became a profound influence on my career and on my life.

house-of-mirth

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History—sort of a philosophical thriller, I guess? I love it because it finally broke the chokehold that academic reading had on my brain for about 5 years. It’s absolutely a page-turner, and I read it right after I finished taking my candidacy exams in a Ph.D. program. It was the first book that I allowed myself to simply INDULGE in after that grueling process, and probably the first book that kept me up late reading under the covers since I was a teenager.

Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love—I teach this book now in AP Lit as part of that whole endeavor of exploring the future of the canon. It’s a beautiful and unbelievably original love story/Holocaust remembrance. It’s been published in 20-something languages but makes for a wonderful pleasure read.

I pretty much always recommend A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving, just general contemporary fiction, I guess?) when people ask for book recommendations. It’s a novel of epic proportions and satisfies every emotion we seek to have when we read… it makes you cry, it makes you laugh (out loud), and it makes you wonder about the extraordinary possibilities of humanity.

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

Well, I’m just doing my AP Lit “homework” along with my kids this summer. I’ll be reading Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar, the nonfiction book about the Chilean miners that has been getting a lot of buzz. I assigned it to help introduce AP Lit students to our study of characters”… it’s fun to do that with a nonfiction title and make them think about the boundaries of “fiction.”

deep down dark

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

F. Hurtado – English IV currently, but I’ve taught a bit of everything from 9th-12th grade

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I do not read for pleasure; I read to understand human beings and our struggle to be.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. See above for reason why it’s my favorite.

Brothers Karamazov

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

Three other all-time favorites must-reads:

Orwell’s 1984 because we have to understand the human person in conflict with the forces that strip our humanity.

Peter Kreeft’s Love is Stronger than Death. Though not a novel, this should be required reading because so far we are all going to die so we better do some timely thinking about death now.

And, Carlos Eire’s Learning to Die in Miami because I am Cuban and this is story of a Cuban-American refugee boy.

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

This summer I am reading James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom which deals with Civil War times (1840s-1860s) in the U.S. because the Civil War is the central event of our history as a nation.

battle-cry-of-freedom

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

Jessica K. – English II

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I’m an interactive reader – I always have the “movie” playing in my head of how the characters should look, sound, and act and tend to get lost in those visualizations.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee because it continues to be an excellent, relevant commentary on injustice, empathy, and human nature. Atticus Finch is an iconic character who symbolizes all the goodness man is capable of possessing. Every time I read it, I discover another invaluable life lesson.

to-kill-a-mockingbird

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

11/22/63, Stephen King (alternate history/science fiction) – I’ve always been fascinated by the events surrounding JFK’s assassination, so the possibility of manipulating that outcome is very intriguing. This book is the “butterfly effect” on steroids.

Carry On, Warrior, Thoughts on Life Unarmed, Glennon Doyle Melton (spiritual memoir) – funny, authentic, inspirational – this book delves into the struggle and the beauty of life’s twists and turns while learning how to turn our messes into uplifting, positive messages.

All the Women’s Murder Club books (1st to Die, 2nd Chance, etc. – 14 total), James Patterson (suspense) – Patterson does a tremendous job of character and plot building with four independent, strong female personalities who work together to solve crimes. They are a great mix of suspense, crime investigation, and romance.

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee – I’m dying to see what has become of Jem, Scout, and Atticus some 20 years later after TKaM. It will be interesting to see how Lee handles the political and social issues of the 1950s.  

go-set-a-watchman

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

I’m Mark Dunn. I teach Upper School English.

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

As a reader, I tend toward darker fiction. Really, I’ll read anything from police procedural novels to thriller to straight-up horror.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

My all-time favorite novel is IT, by Stephen King. It’s epic, and it’s nostalgic. It covers the lives of its protagonists from childhood in the 50s all the way to adulthood in the 80s. And then there’s the fiercely imaginative horror aspect, all of which plays into your hopes and fears for each of the major characters. I reread it, or re-listen to it, at least once a year.

stephen-king

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

Three books I’d recommend to readers? Easy.

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, for one. It’s a mystery, but a literary mystery, and the stuff about learning Greek language and culture is different than anything I’ve ever read.

Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s the best apocalyptic novel of all time, partly because the catastrophe that ends humanity is so plausible, and partly because it’s huge and full of characters you fall in love with as you go.

Any (or all) of John Sandford’s Prey series, featuring Lucas Davenport. Davenport is smart, funny, violent and conflicted. It makes for great reading, and Sandford just gets better as he goes. Probably my favorite repeat character of all time, with Virgil Flowers, another Sandford regular, taking a close second.

book

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

At the top of my to-read list is Clive Barker’s new book, The Scarlet Gospels, a continuation of the Hellraiser story. I got into Barker pretty heavily in the early 90s, and he really influenced me as both reader and writer. Can’t wait to see what Pinhead’s up to now.

scarlet-gospels

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Who are you and what do you teach?

Sarah Miller – English

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I love to learn new things in books and to escape to fantastical worlds with horses and magic and lyrical descriptions of the landscape.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein, fantasy. I love this book because it extols courage and friendship, though perfection of character is not a prerequisite for goodness.

the-hobbit

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss, Fantasy. This is one of the coolest fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. The main character Kvothe (“quothe”) has such an authentic voice, and there’s an entirely original system of magic. The plot is also very real and heartbreaking, and not your average lords and ladies and dragons fantasy novel.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig, Fiction. This book is boring and incredibly insightful—just like sitting meditation, and just as good for you. Read it if you like philosophy, Buddhism, psychology or, duh, motorcycles.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, nonfiction. One of the first books I read that got me interested in food politics and the local food movement. The writing here is just fantastic and worth a read.

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby, fiction. This is a murder mystery set in Classical Athens, two things I just can’t resist.

I’m also excited to read A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, by Nicholas Drayson, because it looks like a cute novel dealing with both wildlife and people with their various relationship entanglements.

books

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Who are you, and what do you teach?

MarkUpper School Librarian/Film Studies Teacher

Describe yourself as a reader in 1 sentence:

I’m a reader who is interested in discovery – discovery of self, discovery of others – and the process of the protagonist. I am a reader who schedules time to read. It is that important to me. I read in the mornings to start my day and reflect on what I read as my day unfolds. I read books, but I also read on an iPad and a Nook.

What is your all-time favorite book & why is it your favorite?

Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck. I read this book as a freshman in high school in 1982, and it made me question what was going on during the 1980s. What would Steinbeck have to say about 21st Century America?

travels-with-charley

Other than your all-time favorite, what 3 books would you recommend to readers?

The Travels of Marco Polo – one of the greatest travel books ever written. I read this in 1991 and have been traveling the world ever since.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse presents the search for the ultimate answer to one’s role in the world. This is a search every individual should undertake in his/her life.

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut focuses on the fire-bombing of Dresden during World War II. A classic anti-war novel that shows the futility of war and its impact on those who witnessed the horrors.  “And so it goes.”

books

What’s the one book you’re hoping/planning to read this summer (that you’ve never read before) and why is it at the top of your to-read list?

I am looking forward to reading Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman when it is released in July. This long anticipated novel will be the talk of the summer.

go-set-a-watchman

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That’s all for now. Now, go read a book!

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