The 2023 Summer Reading List
[One required for all grades]
by Bill Bryson
The world we live in, to put it succinctly, is weird. The history of why it is this way is weirder. In this non-fiction piece, the author brings the reader room by room, going through the weird historical facts of why our Western civilization homes look the way they do. If you love fun facts, random information, or have ever wondered about our world [but in the not-depressing-history way], then this is a great book for you.
Borderland Blacks: Two Cities in the Niagara Region during the Final Decades of Slavery
by Dann J. Broyld
“In the early nineteenth century, Rochester, New York, and St. Catharines, Canada West, were the last stops on the Niagara branch of the Underground Railroad.” The populations of these two key cities held liberal views on several 19th century issues: women’s rights, temperance, and the abolition of slavery. Read this exciting book of history and learn how Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, among other Black leaders of the UGRR, possessed “transnational identities and used political agency to pit the United States and British Canada against one another for the best possible outcomes.” The UGRR did not just flow in one direction out of the United States. This newly published historical outlook will reveal “a two-way movement and social collaborations” between St. Catharines and Rochester.
Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916
by Michael Capuzzo
Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly recreates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.
by Edward Abbey
This is a collection of essays from Abbey’s experiences as a park ranger in the mid 1950s. Covering Arches National Monument and other parks, it addresses industrial tourism and the erosion of wilderness by humans, including the devastating loss of Glen Canyon to the Glen Canyon dam. Some have said this book contains some of the most beautiful nature writing in American literature.
How to Change Everything: A Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
by Naomi Klein
Specifically written for young readers, this book offers a comprehensive look at climate change today while also providing the information and tools required to join the fight to protect the environment and planet we all depend on.
I’m Not Dying with You Tonight
by Gilly Segal & Kimberly Jones
Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school. When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together. They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.
Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus
The book follows a chemist in the 1960s who doesn’t get the respect she deserves. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she becomes the host of a famous cooking show. With her platform, she encourages viewers to push the boundaries the same way she did at work.
by John Scalzi
This murder mystery, set in the near-future, is told by the junior detective on the case. The twist? The detective has been paralyzed since childhood, and remotely pilots a robot body around the city. And somebody has it in for those who use such robots...
Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History
by Penny Le Couteur
Napoleon’s Buttons is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history. Each chapter involves a new molecule and a new story of how history changed because of that molecule. These molecules provided the impetus for early exploration, and made possible the voyages of discovery that ensued. The molecules resulted in grand feats of engineering and spurred advances in medicine and law; they determined what we now eat, drink, and wear. A change as small as the position of an atom can lead to enormous alterations in the properties of a substance...which, in turn, can result in great historical shifts.
Our Missing Hearts
by Celeste Ng
In this somewhat dystopian novel, a twelve-year-old boy is living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the years following a series of laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. This is a book about what happens when we stop following our hearts and thinking for ourselves. [This is a modern 1984, or Fahrenheit 451]
A Psalm for the Wild-Built
by Becky Chambers
A Psalm for the Wild-Built, bestselling Becky Chambers’ delightful new Monk and Robot series, gives us hope for the future. It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They’re going to need to ask it a lot. This is a wholesome adventure into self-purpose, identity, and the simpleness of just being.
Sapiens: A Graphic History: The Birth of Humankind [Vol. 1]
by Yuval Noah Harari
This is the first volume of the graphic adaptation of Yuval Noah Harari’s smash #1 New York Times and international bestseller recommended by President Barack Obama and Bill Gates, with gorgeous full-color illustrations and concise, easy-to-comprehend text. Renowned historian Yuval Harari tells the story of humankind’s creation and evolution, exploring the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court
by Renee Knake Jefferson & Hannah Brenner Johnson
According to Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Supreme Court, “This fascinating book reconstructs a chapter of women’s history that has been hiding in plain sight: the numerous qualified women whose names were floated for the Supreme Court but who never got there. Just as they were overlooked, so have their individual stories been—until now.”
by Neal Stephenson
Authored over thirty years ago by the man who invented the term “metaverse,” this science fiction story is set in the not-so-distant future. Warring corporate factions have taken over the world, with rival gangs fighting to maintain control. People escape to a digital world—the metaverse—to escape the grind of daily life. But a mysterious drug served to people in the digital realm is killing people in real life. Can the villains be stopped, or will they conquer the virtual world [and the real world along with it]? We’ll explore how ideas from a story written before most people knew what “the internet” even was are still relevant in the modern era.
The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self
by Michael Easter
Discover the evolutionary mind and body benefits of living at the edges of your comfort zone and reconnecting with the wild. In many ways, we’re more comfortable than ever before. But could our sheltered, temperature-controlled, overfed, under-challenged lives actually be the leading cause of many of our most urgent physical and mental health issues? In this gripping investigation, award- winning journalist Michael Easter seeks out off-the-grid visionaries, disruptive genius researchers, and mind-body conditioning trailblazers who are unlocking the life-enhancing secrets of a counterintuitive solution: discomfort.
The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster. The Great Believers has become a critically acclaimed, indelible piece of literature; it was selected as one of New York Times Best 10 Books of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Buzzfeed Book of the Year, a Skimm Reads pick, and a pick for the New York Public Library’s Best Books of the Year.
The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting novel, Nora Seed finds herself facing this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist, she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
The Myth of Repressed Memory
by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus & Katherine Ketcham
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus is one of the world’s leading experts on the phenomenon of false memory. Through experimental design, Loftus has explored the nature of memory, seeking to explain how a cognitive process can feel subjectively real despite its innate fragility and failure. From changing the details of crime scenes to implanting entire false memories, Loftus’ work has challenged both the justice system’s reliance on eyewitness testimony and psychiatry’s once strongly held belief that a repressed memory of a tragic event can be “recovered” via psychotherapy.
The Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay
As the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams, which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.
The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern Black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the same Southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple [But Not Easy]
by Admiral William H. McRaven
Admiral McRaven is a retired Navy SEAL who has written several books that illustrate leadership lessons learned from his storied military career over four decades. This latest book looks at specific leadership traits required to be at the top of your game while making difficult ethical decisions, managing a crisis, or working through a life transition.
This is How You Lose the Time War
by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
This epistolary-style novella is about two agents on opposite sides of a time war who slowly, reluctantly, fall in love. [Classified as science fiction and sapphic romance]
With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
From the New York Times best-selling author of the National Book Award-winning title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright. Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
Woman of Light
by Kali Fajardo Anstine
This novel tells the story of five generations of Indigenous-Chicano women in the American West. It is about family, love, secrets, and the challenges of living in America. There is one every generation, a seer who keeps the stories. Luz “Little Light” Lopez, a tea leaf reader and laundress, is left to fend for herself after her older brother, Diego, a snake charmer and factory worker, is run out of town by a violent white mob. As Luz navigates 1930s Denver, she begins to have visions that transport her to her Indigenous homeland in the nearby Lost Territory. Luz recollects her ancestors’ origins, how her family flourished, and how they were threatened. She bears witness to the sinister forces that have devastated her people and their homelands for generations. In the end, it is up to Luz to save her family stories from disappearing into oblivion.