By: Suzannah Peckham
Summer’s around the corner and that means lots of free time to read. Whether you’re addicted to reading and it’s part of your everyday schedule or you have to plow through some books for next year’s classes, books are key. MPH teachers and staff members shared their top recommendations for summer reading.
Mr. Gregory, Physics Teacher:
Recommendation: “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Why: “It’s a comedic take on “The Omen.” Supernatural beings tasked with bringing about the Apocalypse discover that they rather like the Earth the way it is. It’s dark and hilarious.”
Señora Medina-Dooher, Spanish Teacher
Recommendation: “Cien Años de Soledad” (“One Hundred Years of Solitude”) by Gabriel García Marquéz
Genre: Magical Realism; this book was an important part of a literary phenomenon called “El Boom Latino” in the early 1960s.
Why: “I love the Magical Realism genre. It’s fascinating how the author makes you an active reader of his work. It is a story with twists and turns in the plot. I like the novel because it isn’t easy to predict or foreshadow. It’s where a dream and reality are one and you don’t know anymore if it is a dream or reality. Some aspects of the book are almost mythological.”
Mr. Preston, ELL Instructor
Recommended: “The Endurance” by Caroline Alexander
Why: “It’s the gripping true story—with astonishing photographs by the National Geographic photographer who went along on the voyage—of Shackleton’s Antarctic mission that became icebound. It’s one of the great stories of human survival. The author, (who alternates her prose with diary entries of the explorers), transports you a century back in time and a world away, making it all astonishingly vivid.”
Ms. Strickland, School Psychologist
Recommended: “Serena” by Ron Rash
Why: “I love the strong female figure she presents but I also abhor the way she goes off the deep end; think gender role reversal with similar tactics of MacBeth.”
Mrs. Morrison, Librarian:
Recommendation: “While I love connecting students with books – it is after all a major part of my role here – trying to think of just ONE book to recommend to all Upper School students is nearly impossible. I don’t think I can pick just one! Because I imagine, like me, MPH readers seek books that respond to their mood. When I consider what to read, I ask [myself]: Do I seek to understand something that is confusing? Do I wish to be transported into a world someone else has vividly and thoroughly imagined? Am I looking for a community to tell me I am not alone in what I am feeling or thinking? Or am I looking to be entertained as I escape the stress and woes of my normal life? Of course I have different books to recommend for each desire! Will you indulge me?
For pure escape fiction, “City of Thieves” by David Benioff. Benioff is probably best known for his screenwriting for the “Game of Thrones” television series. But this coming-of-age story takes place during the siege of Leningrad. It is funny and brutal and terrifying all at once.
On the other hand, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell is excellent nonfiction. I seek Gladwell out when I want to read excellent writing about everyday things that might be looked at more deeply. For example, what is racism really? Why and how do certain fads or trends come into being? Where do success and celebrity come from? He never fails to make me think.
Maybe biography and memoir? “Autobiography of a Face” by Lucy Grealy is a story about a girl with a type of facial cancer that leaves her scarred. She asks the reader to consider: what makes us lovable and accepted by the world? And why do so many of us seek perfection?
Maybe this summer you really want to read something timeless, something that connects you to western cultural touchstones — a classic. In that case, you can’t go wrong with Charles Dickens or Vladimir Nabokov. Any of their works, but I especially enjoy the writing in “Little Dorrit” and “Lolita.” These long-gone writers capture basic truths about being human and tell a “story of us” using beautiful language.”
Where do you read? “I would say ANYWHERE, but in the summer I love to read outside. If I am lucky enough to be at a lake, on a warm dock or on the beach is lovely.”
Mrs. Reeve, Math Teacher:
Recommendation: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
Why: “It shows how everyone can work together and use their talents to fight for the good of everyone. I love how everyone has their own talent that’s helpful in different situations. We aren’t all alike, we aren’t all good at everything, but we’re all good at something.”
Mrs. LaHaye, Assistant to Division Heads
Recommended: “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Why: “I just started reading this book and I’m really enjoying so far. I think the students would find it an interesting read.”
What makes a good book?
Susan Reeve: “A good book grabs my attention and makes me want to keep reading. Reading’s important to build your vocabulary, open your eyes to new things and build your imagination.”
Chad Gregory: “Anything the reader enjoys makes a good book.”
Sylviana Dooher: A good book is a book that challenges you to think along with the story. I believe all books are interesting and you can learn a lot from them.”
William Preston: “For prose, an interesting story that pulls me along is vital. That can happen when its prose is unselfconscious — the kind of writing we writers say “gets out of the way”— or when the prose is more stylistically obvious, calling attention to itself. But any writing that is clumsy, unclear or unnecessarily distracting is not worth my time. In poetry, I appreciate clarity of image, lyricism and an emotional thread that ties the work together.”
Joy Strickland: “A good book is anything that keeps you engaged and, when you are away from the book, wishing that you were reading it.”
Juhee LaHaye: “When the reader can relate to the characters, when the storyline is exciting and real and you can’t wait to pick up where you left off.”
What keeps you reading over the summer?
Chad Gregory: “I don’t need to be ‘kept reading’ over the summer—I never stop! I read a new book every week or two, depending on my schedule, all year. It varies from biographies to travel journals to histories to fiction, and I frequently revisit favorites.”
Sylviana Dooher: “I love reading. I have read most of the important literary works of Spain and Latin America. Some of my favorite authors are Elena Poniatowska and Isabel Allende. Allende writes in various genres, including magical realism. Summer is a good time to read and enjoy more literary works. I like to read during the year, but during the summer it feels like there is some extra time to read.”
William Preston: “When I taught literature, I sought out books that expanded my teaching repertoire or that helped me better understand a period of literature I covered. My goals are less focused now. I alternate between classic works and the hunt for something new that excites me, whether in poetry, fiction or nonfiction.”
Joy Strickland: “Summer is my time to read anything that peaks my interest and where there is no judgement from myself over whether it is a ‘good’ book or not. I am really just looking for a mental escape.”
Juhee LaHaye: “I love to ‘escape’ with a good book. Great way to relax!”
Where do you read over the summer?
Chad Gregory: “Wherever I happen to be, but usually in my favorite chair — everyone has one, where the light is just right and a table is close enough to set a snack on. ALWAYS for a half hour or so in bed before I go to sleep!”
Sylviana Dooher: “Uusually at home, or on the bus or subway in Mexico City. I also read in the airport in the USA, or Mexico or Europe. When I go to bed, I usually read for one hour before falling asleep. I even read at the beach in Acapulco, or Cancun, or Los Cabos, or on the front porch. I would say that I read everywhere.”
William Preston: “One of several living room chairs, the kitchen peninsula, the back deck, the front steps; if I’ve been sitting too long, I read while walking the circular layout of my first floor. I’ve even read while meandering my backyard.”
Joy Strickland: My favorite place is on the [the rest of this email was cut off, but a follow up has been sent out to Ms. Strickland.]
Juhee LaHaye: “I love reading outside, especially when we head to the beach or the Adirondacks.”