Summer Reading for Incoming Freshmen

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					Summer Reading for Incoming Freshmen

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd            The Curious Incident of the Dog in the
                                                    Night-time by Mark Haddon
Set in segregated South Carolina in 1964, The
Secret Life of Bees is that rare novel that can              ―It was 7 minutes after midnight. The
explore issues of racism, tragedy, and friendship   dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the
in ways that successfully dance the fine line       lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house…The dog
between cheesiness and real emotion. The story      was dead.‖
follows young Lily Owen, a 14 year old girl                  So begins ―the curious incident of the
trying to put together the pieces of her dead       dog in the night-time‖ by Mark Haddon. I
mother’s past, while wanting to escape the          thoroughly enjoyed this book and have
oppressive confines of her bitter father’s home.    recommended it to many friends. Why? It is a
Guided by little more than a few of her mother’s    detective story – sort of – so it has a bit of ―who
possessions, Lily runs away and finds the home      dunnit?‖ to it. The writing is clear and
of the Boatwright sisters, who despite their        straightforward. It also includes a journey,
differences in race (She’s white. They’re black)    which I always enjoy in a story. But, the biggest
and age, welcome her into their home. Once          reason why I liked this book so much was that I
there, Lily’s understanding of the devastating      felt drawn into the first person storytelling as I
impact of racism deepens, right along with her      read. I began to see his world through his eyes
capacity to love and be loved. This is a            and started to understand that, while his
powerful novel about friendship, healing, and       perspective of the world certainly differed from
the complex definitions of family. The author,      my own, that didn’t mean it didn’t make a lot of
Sue Monk Kidd, creates a believable narrator        sense.
who is honest, insightful, and a lot of fun to               What makes the storyteller’s perspective
read. Spend a little time getting to know Lily,     so different? If I told you that I would be ruining
and you won’t be disappointed.                      the book for you! Suffice to say that it is an
                             --Greg Puppione        enjoyable reading experience and I think I grew
                                                    as a person a little bit by the time it was done.
                                                                                      --Kent Hickey
Life of Pi by Yann Martel                              The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time
          Surviving 227 days as a teenager is hard     Indian by Sherman Alexie
enough. But try doing what Pi Patel did,
surviving and coming of age adrift on a raft on        Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of
the Pacific, with only a tiger named Richard           a Part-Time Indian is the moving but humorous
Parker for company. A typically irresistible           coming-of-age story of Junior and his successes
passage reads: ―I had a wet, trembling, half-          and failures growing up on the Spokane Indian
drowned, heaving and coughing three-year-old           Reservation. Although he has endured numerous
adult Bengal tiger in my lifeboat. Richard Parker      physical and emotional difficulties in his young
rose unsteadily to his feet on the tarpaulin, eyes     life, Junior is blessed with intelligence, wit, and
blazing as they met mine, ears laid tight to his       resilience. The central conflict of the story is
head, all weapons drawn.‖                              Junior’s decision to go to a predominately white
          Novelist Yann Martel’s compelling            high school off the reservation. There are several
narrative is, at its core, an adventure story unlike   pros and cons to his decision. On the one hand,
any you’ve ever read. Much of the story deals          his decision allows him to get a better education.
with the barely plausible adventures of the hero       On the other hand, his decision gets him
and the tiger, clinging to life together against       ostracized not only by his own people, but also
overwhelming odds. The beginning places the            by the majority of the white people at the large,
hero in a religious and cultural setting that          competitive, and often hostile high school,
explains just how the two mammals end up               Reardan. Nevertheless, Junior learns profound
together on the raft after an oceangoing freighter     lessons about himself, his people, and what it
sinks. In the end, Pi survives, as he must have to     means to be a Native American in a white world.
tell the tale, and you are left pondering the story    He makes valuable friendships along the way
itself, the stories about the stories that ensue       and gains the confidence to be a well-balanced
from the investigation into the shipwreck, and         person who will succeed in the world and help
the extent to which anyone can fully and               others.
accurately convey an experience to someone                                               --Chris Kiehn
else. Clear, spare, and direct in its writing style,
The Life of Pi will satisfy those who enjoy a          ***This book does contain some mature
page-turner and also leave the philosophers with
                                                       content. Parents who object to this
plenty to contemplate.
                                                       should have their child choose another
                                                       book to read.
—Andy McCarthy
        Summer Reading for Incoming Sophomores

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini                   Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
       Kite Runner offers a gripping
introduction to modern Afghanistan’s turbulent       This riveting true-life account of one man's
history through the story of Amir, a wealthy boy     adolescence in a war-torn Sierra Leone provides
who grows up in 1970’s Kabul, just before the        a rare glimpse inside the life of a child soldier in
overthrow of the monarchy and Russia’s               Africa. When his village is destroyed and his
invasion of Afghanistan. Amir enjoys kite            family lost, he is forced to join the government
running and inventing stories with his best friend   army, at only thirteen years old. You will follow
Hassan. He struggles with the typical challenges     his journey from a carefree teenager, living a
of growing up, especially trying to please his       seemingly normal life through the ways he must
demanding father. In the midst of a fairly happy     adapt and cope with the harsh new realities of
childhood, violent historical events and a           his world. Ultimately "rescued" and rehabilitated
traumatic personal test of courage change            by UNICEF, Beah tells a story that will give you
Amir’s life forever.                                 insight into the complexities, and sometimes
          Though Amir immigrates to the United       unintended consequences, of relief work, as well
States and embraces his new life, he eventually      as the transformative impact it can have on
must journey back to a dangerous, Taliban-           people’s lives. For such a heavy topic, this novel
controlled Afghanistan to face the ghosts of his     manages to convey a hopeful tone.
past. With a forward moving plot and many                                              —Matt Butler
twists and turns along the way, Kite Runner will
keep you guessing, anxious to find out the final
secret in Amir’s story.
                            --Susan Leaverton
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi                  Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
                                                     Are you haunted by the question of why good
I have to be honest that I had never heard of        people suffer? Does beautiful writing tug at your
Purple Hibiscus before volunteering to review it     heartstrings? Are you concerned with justice and
for the sophomore summer reading. Not really         reconciliation? Then Cry, the Beloved Country is
knowing what to expect from a book title that        a book for you. Published in 1948 and set during
referenced a flower, I was intrigued that it was     apartheid in South Africa (where it was banned,
set in the same context as the novel Things Fall     despite selling 15 million copies worldwide),
Apart; a work you will read next winter. The         Alan Paton’s novel tells the story of Zulu pastor
story is a coming-of-age journey of a young          Stephen Kumalo’s search for his prodigal son,
woman, Kambili, who searches for her voice and       Absalom. As Kumalo’s faith is tested in ways he
identity in a wealthy, paternalistic, and devoutly   never could have imagined, his journey reveals
Catholic family. It is a novel that examines the     the possibility of hope in love’s healing power
paradox of a father that is a hero for democracy                                  —Mark Mitchell
in the community, but is intolerant and
authoritarian in his own home. It examines the
thoughts, desires and emotions of his daughter
as she struggles with the love/hate relationship
she has with her father. I found it to be a quick,
yet very thought provoking work.
                           —Andy Hendricks
          Summer Reading for Incoming Juniors

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan                          Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound compellingly              I read Lonesome Dove for the first time at age
narrates the conflicts that arise when Laura        thirteen, and I’ve read it five or six times since
McAllan and her husband move from a                 then. You might be thinking, ―Really? A 900-
cosmopolitan life in Memphis to a ramshackle        page Western about a bunch of aging
farm in the deep South, where they encounter        cowboys?‖ Yes, it’s about old friends leading a
poverty, floods, and deeply embedded prejudice.     cattle drive from Texas to Montana and all the
Members of both the McAllan and the Jackson         lost loves, horse thieves, and poisonous snakes
families narrate the community crisis ignited       they encounter on the journey. But it’s also
when two sons – one white, one African              about the pangs of first love, the adventure and
American – return from the battlefields of World    uncertainty of growing up, and the sometimes
War II and form an unlikely friendship. The         unlikely friendships you make along the way.
characters’ struggle for love and acceptance in a   The characters are charming, stubborn,
brutal time and place draws the reader in from      awkward, reckless, loyal, and amazingly real.
the mysterious opening scene to the astounding      Lonesome Dove will crack you up and break
ending.                                             your heart – frequently on the same page – and
                        —Maura McCulloch            if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to revisit
                                                    that world and those people again and again.

                                                                                —Shannon Lynch
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer                         Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Do you ever get the feeling that there must be        Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes
something more to life than homework, soccer,         you on a journey with Henry Lee as he
college planning, material accumulation, therapy      remembers life as a young teenager in Seattle’s
and retirement planning? You may find Chris           Chinatown in the 1940’s. While attending an all
McCandless a fascinating study. A bright,             white school, Henry must wear a button
affluent college graduate who is terrified by the     declaring ―I am Chinese‖ to protect him from
possibility of living conventionally, Chris           the increasing prejudice against Japanese
pursues an idealistic fantasy of plunging into the    Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Alaskan wilderness to live off the land. With a       Complicating Henry’s life is that Keiko, his best
haunting rejection of relationships and a naïve       friend and fellow jazz lover, is Japanese
bravado that pitches money, proper outdoor gear       American. His loyalty to Keiko and her family
and food, we watch the inevitable happen.             allows him an insider’s view of the internment
Krakauer is a world famous climber himself,           of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast.
who shares both sympathy for Chris’ spiritual                  Alternating between the present day and
unrest and criticism for his failure to respect the   the 1940’s, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and
indifferent power of nature. A compelling story       Sweet captures a bitter historical chapter in
with a lesson for us all; we need both nature and     United States history, but ultimately remains a
civilization to be fully alive.                       sweet story of first love and its enduring power.
                                   —Tim Reilly
                                                                                —Susan Leaverton
          Summer Reading for Incoming Seniors
                                 Choose ONE of the following

The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle                    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Set in contemporary Southern California, this          Have you ever wondered what makes your
novel deals with one of the most sensitive issues      parents tick? Have you ever butted heads with
in the United States today—immigration.                Mom or Dad? Are you still perplexed by the
Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher live in Arroyo             questions of why good things happen to bad
Blanco, an upscale hilltop development with            people, or how one can believe in God and
swimming pools, tennis courts, and breathtaking        accept the reality of unjust suffering in the
views of the natural world surrounding them.           world? Perhaps you’ve always been fascinated
Deep in the canyon below live Candido and              by American foreign policy during the Cold
America Rincon, illegal Mexican aliens who are         War, or maybe you want to learn more about the
camping by Topanga Creek and working as day            devastating legacy of European colonialism in
laborers until they can scrape together enough         Africa? Believe it or not, The Poisonwood Bible
money to move into a cheap apartment. They             explores all of these questions through the eyes
have endured danger and degradation and even           of 4 American girls and their mother in the
risked death to reach the land of their dreams,        1950’s, as they try to make the best of life with
but most of what they encounter here will be a         an overly zealous Baptist minister who’s
nightmare. The lives of these two couples              decided that the family must leave the States and
collide on a hot and sunny California day, and         move to the jungles of the Belgian Congo in
set in motion a series of events that will literally   order to bring God to the pagan natives. With
have life and death consequences. This book is         each chapter, Kingsolver masterfully jumps
one of my personal favorites, and I have               from one unique female perspective to the next,
recommended it to others who have also liked           which helps to keep the novel lively and
it, including many students. It is a novel that        engaging. She manages to give us a beautifully
realistically depicts the world we live in now.        written novel that is both uplifting and
You might be able to recognize yourself or             challenging, and in so doing avoids
somebody you know in this story.                       oversimplifying the complexities of family,
                               --Susan Kennedy         faith, and coming to terms with one’s self. This
                                                       is a journey worth taking.
                                                                                   —Greg Puppione
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by                The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David
Jonathan Safran Foer                                  Wroblewski

This book reigns as the funniest, most creative                The premise of this story may sound
book I’ve read in the last decade. Two years          somewhat strange—a mute boy and his family
before the story starts, Oskar loses his father on    are dog breeders in northern Wisconsin. But
9/11. When Oskar discovers a key in a vase that       don’t let that or the length of this book put you
belonged to his dad, his quest in search of           off—it’s a winner. Edgar, the main character, is
memories of his father begins. Combining              unable to speak, but is quite able to
graphics and text to create the voice of a quirky     communicate with his family and the
nine year old, this story adds new possibilities to   exceptional dogs that they breed through a
what a book can be. The narrator is hilarious-        special form of sign language. His
my favorite kid character since Holden Caulfield      companionship with his own dog, Almondine, is
in Catcher in the Rye. His rambling but poignant      one of my favorite parts of this book. Edgar’s
adventures with strangers in post 9/11 New York       family’s life is dramatically changed when his
City will make you glad to be part of the human       uncle turns up after many years of absence.
race.                                                 Uncle Claude’s relationship with Edgar’s father
                                --Kris Johnson        has always been tense, and Claude has arrived at
                                                      the farm with a plan in mind. As that plan
                                                      unfolds, you will quickly be caught up in this
                                                      story. The novel is loosely based on
                                                      Shakespeare’s Hamlet (you might notice some
                                                      parallels in character names), but you don’t need
                                                      to know the play to appreciate this beautifully
                                                      written novel.
                                                                                     —Jen Freeman