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Summer 2021 Reading List

If your student hasn’t started already, here is our Summer 2021 recommended reading list. Research indicates that “Summer Slide” can cause students to lose between one and three months of school year learning. Consistent summer reading may mitigate some of these losses, and generally students that read more will read better, get smarter, develop more empathy, and lead more productive lives.

The National Council for Teachers of English states that:

“Independent reading leads to an increased volume of reading. The more one reads, the better one reads. The more one reads, the more knowledge of words and language one acquires. The more one reads, the more fluent one becomes as a reader. The more one reads, the easier it becomes to sustain the mental effort necessary to comprehend complex texts. The more one reads, the more one learns about the people and happenings of our world. This increased volume of reading is essential.”

While it is probably easiest for our students to read literature that follows their interests, it is also important for students to escape their comfort zone and sometimes read works to which they may otherwise never be exposed. The following list includes fiction and non-fiction literature from a variety of genres.

1) The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This 2021 debut novel from American poet Honoree Fanonne Jeffers is an historical fiction that explores the the chronology of an African American family through the generations of slavery, the civil war, the civil rights movement, and into the present day. Jeffers injects her narrative prose with themes of family, racism, and education, and intersperses poetic passages that provide insight about the family’s ancestors of African, Creek, and Scottish descent.

2) Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune is the first novel in the classic, science fiction franchise by Frank Herbert, with a new film adaptation set to release in September 2021. The story takes place thousands of years in the future on the fictional, desert planet Arrakis where a special life-extending drug called “spice” is produced. The drug also enables certain humans to perform complex calculations, navigate space-time, and control the direction of humanity. Centered around the rise of a messiah-like individual named Paul Atreides, the story explores the interactions between politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion.

3) The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

There have been five major extinction events over the past 500 million years, where the biodiversity on Earth has suddenly and dramatically decreased. Currently the Earth is going through a sixth major extinction event triggered by human activity, called the Anthropocene Extinction. This non-fiction masterpiece by Kolbert explores past extinction events and their causes, recounts the history of biological classification, and follows various researchers in their studies of threatened biodiversity across the world.

4) Forget the Alamo by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford

While many are aware of the call to “Remember the Alamo”, the 2021 nonfiction novel Forget the Alamo focuses on deconstructing the legends of Texas exceptionalism and pushing back against the “Heroic Anglo Narrative” of the past two hundred years. Through an examination of the importance of slave labor and racism to the early development of Texas, the authors seek to educate their 21st century audience about the 19th century American legend through primary sources and a refocused, more diverse narrative.

5) The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic is the first book in the iconic discworld series that vaulted Terry Pratchett to legendary status as a science fiction author. With satirical bravado and vivid imagery, Pratchett centers his story around a naive tourist and his vicious, walking suitcase on their vacation to Discworld, a flat planet balanced on the backs of four massive elephants, who themselves stand on the shell of a gigantic star turtle.

“Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her…

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. “

7) Wilmington’s Lie by David Zucchino

Written by the 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Zuccino, Wilmington’s Lie follows the story of a successful mixed race community in North Carolina during the 1890’s, and the terroristic white supremacy that rebelled against it. Zuccino “uses contemporary newspaper accounts, diaries, letters and official communications to create a gripping and compelling narrative that weaves together individual stories of hate and fear and brutality. This is a dramatic and definitive account of a remarkable but forgotten chapter of American history.”

8) The Night Watchmen by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich, a National Book Award winning author from Little Falls, Minnesota, based her novel on the stories of her grandfather and his journey as a national advocate against Native dispossession. Her grandfather was a night watchman in North Dakota and the story explores themes of love, death, and the complexities of human nature.

9) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Published in 1969, Andromeda Strain is a techno-thriller novel that details an investigation into a mysterious outbreak of a deadly pathogen. The recency of Covid-19 and the collective experience of living through a pandemic make this an interesting novel choice for the summer of 2021.


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