It’s that time of year again, when teachers are putting together summer reading lists for their students—but don’t parents deserve to do some great reading over the summer too? With that in mind, we asked Heathwood teachers and staff what great books they’ve read lately or what books they’re looking forward to picking up this summer.
We suggested a few categories: great literature, great beach reads, great parenting books, and great nonfiction. Here’s what our faculty and staff suggest:
I just read a really great psychological thriller… Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline. Fabulous writer and her books are not the same.
Fun reads: anything by Daniel Silva, Jeffrey Archer’s The Clifton Chronicles, the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross, Low Country authors C. Hope Clark or Susan M. Boyer, and the Mitford Series by Jan Karon
This would fall under the beach read category, but I’m going to read Big Little Lies by Laine Moriarty.
I am reading Elephant Company by Vicki C. Croke – NY Times Bestseller about the role of elephants in WWII in Burma. It is wonderful.
Not sure if it’s been mentioned, but I loved The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.
"Reading that right now, and it is wonderful." -Gigi Dawson
The Prince of Tides or The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (my two favorite books).
Brain Rules by John Medina
Good Enough Parenting by John Phillip Louis
Recommend two websites: Book Bub and Robin Reads. Both offer free e-books daily.
My go to book for all parents is The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogul – wish I had read it 17 years earlier than I did!
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Great way to gain perspective about how much we have to be thankful for!
Non-fiction: Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
And if you enjoy that slim volume (as I assuredly did), you might tackle a longer novel that tracks along some of the same lines of thought, Harry Mulisch’s The Discovery of Heaven.
And despite that travesty of a movie adaptation, I will continue to recommend Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Playbook for an Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Is It Wise to Specialize?: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Sports Specialization and its Effect Upon Your Child’s Athletic Performance by John O’Sullivan
The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey
Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing by Rushworth M. Kidder
Fiction: Play for a Kingdom by Thomas Dyja - a story of spies and baseball during the American Civil War
Non-Fiction: Bad Days in History by Michael Farquhar — interesting anecdotes about “bad days in history”, Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery by Richard Hollingham, and Dead Wake by Erik Larson — story of the Lusitania sinking, 1915 (anything by Erik Larson is great)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
I start every summer by re-reading Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz.
Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is another annual “go-to”, if only to be reminded that “Everybody is talented and original and has something important to say”.
Right now, I’m enjoying The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. I recently finished The Big Sleep. Loved it. May do James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice next, may not. The noir rabbit hole can get pretty dark.
I’m also interested in Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels. My brother, a prolific reader (among other things…), highly recommends them.
Any or all of the above should be enjoyed while reclining in the shade on a sweltering day. Add a tall iced coffee or a Moscow Mule in the largest copper tankard you can find, and you’ve got a stay-cation worth actually staying home for.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (nonfiction essays but ones that I think might be on their way to literature status)
Wittgenstein’s Poker by David Edmonds (a mix of history and history of philosophy that is far less boring than it sounds)
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman (a pretty thin novel about a 1980s North Dakota town that manages to fulfill midwestern stereotypes as well as make those stereotypes seem real and human)
All the Light We Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr)
Me Before You (by Jojo Moyes—it’s coming out as a movie and is more of a beach read, but a real page turner!)
A Fall of Marigolds (by Susan Meissner—about halfway through and can barely put it down!), Boys Adrift (by: Leonard Sax)
Girls on the Edge (by Leonard Sax)
How to Raise an Adult (by Julie Lythcott-Haims)
Excellent Sheep (by William Deresiewicz—a great way to remind us that we don’t want to raise our students/children to be sheep but rather to be individuals and that they don’t all have to be great at everything, they can be passionate about one thing and they will stand out from the crowd!).
"I second All the Light We Cannot See! I haven’t read the others that Cate mentions, but I think I will over the summer :)" -Sally Plowden
For beach reading or airplane reading, you can’t beat PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series—or any of his other 90 or so comic novels, for that matter.
The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. A book during civil rights based in Charlotte. Similar to The Help.
The Longmire series by Craig Johnson and the Cork O’Connor series by William Kent Kruger are my current favorites. Both series are “lawman” mysteries set in wide open, beautiful parts of the country (Longmire in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and Cork O’Connor in the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota) that have connections with Native American characters, reservation life and folklore. I just finished a stand alone book by Kruger entitled Ordinary Grace that was very good, too.
In the education section, I really enjoyed reading John Medina’s Brain Rules last summer.
In the great literature/must read category, I recommend Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.
For an easy beach read, The Martian was really good.
beach reading (fun reads) - Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (5oth anniversary!) or, if that is too racy, The Guest Cottage, Nancy Thayer (broken hearts and second chances on Nantucket)
great literature (must-reads) - Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (your middle schoolers will read it next year) or, if you haven’t read it, how about The Odyssey, Homer (adventure, ocean voyages, expats abroad, cannibalism!)
education/child rearing - new(er) books on parenting - The Opposite of Spoiled Ron Lieber (talking money) or How to Raise an Adult Julie Lythcott-Haims (how to loosen the ties that bind)
nonfiction - You’ll Grow Out of It Jessi Klein (comedian + memoir = always funny)
Robert Evans - The Human Side of School Change - In this insightful look at school reform, Robert Evans examines the real-life hurdles to implementing innovation and explains how the best-intended efforts can be stalled by educators who too often feel burdened and conflicted by the change process. He provides a new model of leadership along with practical management strategies for building a framework of cooperation between leaders of change and the people they depend upon to implement it.
And in reference to our efforts to establish a SEED program:
1. The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It) - Charles Sayan - At a time when wild places everywhere are vanishing before our eyes, Charles Saylan and Daniel T. Blumstein offer this passionate indictment of environmental education—along with a new vision for the future. Writing for general readers and educators alike, Saylan and Blumstein boldly argue that education today has failed to reach its potential in fighting climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. In this forward-looking book, they assess the current political climate, including the No Child Left Behind Act, a disaster for environmental education, and discuss how education can stimulate action—including decreasing consumption and demand, developing sustainable food and energy sources, and addressing poverty. Their multidisciplinary perspective encompasses such approaches as school gardens, using school buildings as teaching tools, and the greening of schoolyards. Arguing for a paradigm shift in the way we view education as a whole, The Failure of Environmental Education demonstrates how our education system can create new levels of awareness and work toward a sustainable future.
2. Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louve - “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in-and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation-he calls it nature deficit-to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (Add), and depression. Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind. Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they’re right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development-physical, emotional, and spiritual. What’s more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and Add. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature.
Happy reading, y’all … we’ll expect those book reports on the first day of school in the fall :)