English Department Summer Reading Suggestions
Considering the unique circumstances we find ourselves in during these challenging times, English teachers did not see a viable way to address all of our students’ needs in the usual manner in terms of summer reading assignments. That being said, this summer there will be no formal reading assignments and these “suggestions” will not be tied to any academic grade or assignment when we get back to school in the fall. Instead, we encourage students to explore these purely optional selections as selected with thought and care by the individual teachers in our department. We release these suggestions in good faith and hope that our academic community might benefit in the joy of reading.
- READ ON! -
The Malibu High School English Department
Summer Reading Recommendations
Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor.
I recently discovered Okorafor, a Nigerian-American fantasy and science fiction author, and I LOVE her writing. The Akata Witch series (she is currently writing the third book) features a 12 year old girl whose sense of not fitting in is turned on its head when she discovers a parallel magical world in which one’s supposed disabilities are actually the source of personal power. If you love Harry Potter, these books pose a very interesting contrast to Rowling’s magical universe.
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire series) by Naomi Novik.
These books reimagine the Napoleonic wars with dragons as the airforce. The dragon Temeraire is extremely intelligent, stubborn and fiercely bonded to his human companion. If you like this book, there are nine others in the series, which fully develop an alternative world history with dragons.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.
The book has a tight time frame -- the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina -- in which 14 year old Esch is coming to terms with being pregnant, while also helping her three brothers to survive the upcoming storm. After their mother died in childbirth, the children largely take care of each other since their alcoholic father does very little to help the family. The book is beautifully written and poetic; at times you may find yourself “speed reading” through the pages to find out what happens next.
Summer Reading Recommendations
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell’s mentorship turned rivalry over the use of magic lies at the center of this unparalleled tale, in which the foibles of humans, our relationship to the fantastic, and the lengths and limits of faith and science are told in measured wit. This book is so deserving of the many awards it has received and of its devoted and diverse fan base, for inside Clarke’s intricately constructed world of magical realism is a treasured nucleus crafted of caution, passion, intellect, and madness; Susanna Clarke has written one of the great fantasy literature crossover works of our time. Powells.com
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
At the heart of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are Sammy Clay and Joe Kavalier, two cousins who forge a comic book empire in forties New York. What's so extraordinary about Chabon's novel is how much ground he is able to cover. Sprawling across several decades and a handful of continents — from war-torn Prague to New York City, California, and even Antarctica — Chabon's remarkable characters provide a virtual tour through the classic themes of the human experience: good, evil, romance, friendship, longing, despair — the whole package. Like all artists, Chabon accesses the power of the universal through the idiosyncrasies of the particular. And it's fun, to boot. Kavalier and Clay was both a critical success, receiving the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and an international bestseller, and is widely regarded as one of the best novels published in the past ten years. Farley, Powells.com
The White Album by Joan Didion
First published in 1979, The White Album is a journalistic mosaic of American life in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. It includes, among other bizarre artifacts and personalities, reportage on the dark journeys and impulses of the Manson family, a visit to a Black Panther Party press conference, the story of John Paul Getty's museum, a meditation on the romance of water in an arid landscape, and reflections on the swirl and confusion that marked this era. With commanding sureness of mood and language, Didion exposes the realities and dreams of an age of self-discovery whose spiritual center was California. "All of the essays manifest not only [Didion's] intelligence but an instinct for details that continue to emit pulsations in the reader's memory and a style that is spare, subtly musical in its phrasing and exact. Add to these her highly vulnerable sense of herself, and the result is a voice like no other in contemporary journalism."—Robert Towers, The New York Times Book Review
Summer Reading Suggestions
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
When people ask me what’s your favorite book I often either say To Kill a Mockingbird because that was the first “adult” book I really loved as a kid, or this Steinbeck classic because it’s perhaps the most compelling novel I’ve read as an adult. East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: The mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis. - Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee
Now, of all the books I’ve read recently, this is the book that I recommend the most often. I found myself mysteriously drawn to these wild animals in reading about their families, their victories and defeats, and I think there’s a reason for that. In exploring the details of their behavior, wolves, in the way they cooperatively survive in a harsh environment have much in common with humans. This is the story of wolves’ reintroduction to Yellowstone, the conflict, triumphs, and epiphanies that follow. Blakeslee, in a true analysis of conflict in nature and what happens when that conflict infringes upon the human world, paints a complete picture of wolves’ struggle for survival in America today.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a series of essays, written as an extended letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. At its heart, the purpose of literature is to help the reader understand the human experience. Coates’ insights help us to understand the complexity of the most important challenges our country faces.
Summer Reading Recommendations
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A long, wonderful narrative that follows two boys growing up in the 60’s, weaving contemporary history from the 1960’s - 80’s with all the trials and tribulations of growing up. From the New York Times: “life is miraculous, fraught with meaning and loaded with booby traps.”
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony
The true story of a South African wildlife conservationist and his efforts to save a renegade elephant herd. It is filled with challenges, heart breaks and victories as he works to create a bond with the elephants and save them from death. You will have a newfound appreciation for elephants, and wildlife conservationists, after reading this!
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
One of the few books that truly is a joy to read. A classic fairytale with a lot of action and unexpected twists, this book hooked me on reading. It has comedy, satire, love, pirates, intrigue….
The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations by Toni Morrison
I love this woman's style, grace, power and intelligence as she explores art, culture, identity, and society. James McBride of the New York Times raves, "This book demonstrates once again that Morrison is more than the standard-bearer of American literature. She is our greatest singer. And this book is perhaps her most important song. Close your eyes and make a wish. Wish that one of the most informed, smartest, most successful people in your profession walks into your living room, pulls up a chair and says "This is what I've been thinking...That's The Source of Self-Regard."
Summer Reading Suggestions
In the Mood for something Dark and Prophetic?: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Written after the 1992 LA riots, this dystopian novel takes us to a Los Angeles that has no water, the police and fire departments demand payment for help, and a deadly drug is ravaging the streets. One young woman navigates this world to search for a safe place and a new way of thinking.
In the Mood for light magic?: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morgan Crow by Jessica Townsend
The first in a series of books about a young girl who is considered cursed by her entire town. Yet she is taken to a magical world where she must pass a series of trials to save herself.
In the Mood for some love and conflict?: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
In the Mood for some good, old, plain fun?: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Arthur Dent has no idea what's happening as he gets scooped up into a space adventure with only his odd friend Ford from the planet Betelguese and his handy guide to the galaxy there to help him.