Whether we’re in a hammock, on a boat, in a beach chair, or on the back porch swing, a book is often our summertime companion. Summer is the time to catch up on literary treasures and, of course, our guilty reading pleasures.
Teachers and school staff especially relish time to read books that are not job related. We asked the faculty and staff at Westtown School for some of their favorites.
Here’s what they said:
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – Fiction
A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.
“Haruf’s writing is spare but eloquent and makes me want to read Plainsong and Eventide, his other books. The resolution of the story is heartbreaking; yet I would love to read it again.”
Kristin Trueblood – Lower School Principal
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – Fiction
The Invention of Wings is a powerful and sweeping historical novel. Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household.
Lynn Clements – Lower School Library Media Specialist
Mountain Story: A Novel by Lori Lansen – Fiction
“’Dear Daniel, A person has to have lived a little to appreciate a survival story. That’s what I’ve always said, and I promised that when you were old enough, I’d tell you mine.’ So begins the letter from a father to his son telling the story of Wolf Truly’s life and the five unforgettable days and nights he spent on the (always unnamed) Mountain.”
Tearson Morrison – Admissions
Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977 by James Miller – Nonfiction
“I love music all kinds, that is why I love this book. It is organized not as an argument but as a cultural chronicle of the development of rock and roll from its roots in postwar popular music, both black and white, through the advent of punk. There are great stories about Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles and The Sex Pistols. People of a certain age will take a trip back in time and remember what it was like back then. Younger folks will get a history lesson about where rock and roll came from and what all the fuss was about. It will make you want to break out your old 45s and start a line dance on the back deck!”
Andy Fetzer – 5th Grade Teacher
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – Fiction
Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. “It was a riveting book that explored a number of topics in detail.”
Lisa Cromley – Middle School English Teacher
The Children Return: Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker – Fiction
“I truly enjoyed these Murder mysteries set in small town France, with a smattering of history and romance, and a ton of luscious descriptions of rural French gardening and cooking.”
Nancy VanArkel – Middle School Principal
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – Fiction
“This Young Adult novel won the Printz award this year. It’s told from alternating perspectives of twins whose seemingly normal lives are struck by a tragedy that is a puzzle throughout the novel, as each twin only has half of the story. While the story itself is amazing, the way it is told is unique and powerful.”
Abigail Lausch – 7th Grade Teacher
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett – Fiction
A provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest–a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.“This was my favorite read last summer, as was Bel Canto by the same author several summers ago.”
Mary Brooks – Archivist
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx – Fiction
This Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winner was published in 1993, but this captivating story about a North American family is timeless. “I love the writing in this book, especially the characterization. Proulx’s characters feel like real people, the likes of which you’ve never met before!”
Ellen Abbott – Upper School English Teacher
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – Fiction
No stranger to the injustice of racial hatred, five-year-old Peekay learns the hard way the first secret of survival and self-preservation – the power of one. “I just read it for the second time this spring and found it a great read, again!”
Marc Dear – 3rd Grade Teacher
Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden – Biography
“I really like history, so I very much enjoyed reading this book about two brave women (Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood) who left their high society lives in New York State to start a school in the rugged environment of northwestern Colorado. I admired their courage and loved reading about their adventure and dedication to their students.”
Vicky Shelter – 3rd Grade Teacher
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – House & Home/Self Improvement
“After five weeks of following Marie Kondo’s advice and applying her eponymous “KonMari” method to each junk-filled corner of my home, I can say I’m a convert. Read this book if you’re ready to organize your home for the last time (and weirdly) have fun while doing it!”
Samantha Jordan – Admissions
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan – Memoir
“This memoir is an extraordinary well-researched and very personal exploration of Susannah Cahalan’s rare neurological illness. A very gripping and intense read.”
Stephanie Ziemke – Annual Giving
And finally, my own recommendation is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This wartime novel wrestles with morality, survival, and love. This is an ingeniously told, intricately rendered story about a blind girl, her locksmith father, and a young soldier. The prose is beautiful and affecting – have your tissues ready!
Is your next book on this list? What books would you recommend? Enjoy these last days of summer and happy reading!