Summer Reading Book List
In addition to reading Trevor Noah's memoir BORN A CRIME, each Taft student must sign up for a second book chosen from this list of books offered by individual Taft faculty. We will gather for discussions of these books early in the new school year. Please note: Because we must limit the number of students who sign up for each book, we encourage you to sign up as soon as possible to have the best chance of getting your first choice book. If you have any questions or problems with sign-up, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New students: Follow the steps below to sign up.
- Go to TaftNet at http://taftnet.taftschool.org/tiki/tiki-index.php
- Click on the Summer Reading Sign-up link (beneath the bold red headline "Click below to join one of the summer reading book groups.")
- Log in using your Taft network username and password.
- Select one book from the list and click Submit.
BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay
Sponsored by: Ms. Klein, Mrs. Danaher, Franny Hough '18, Hanna Murphy '18, and Julia Laico '18
"Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I'm not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue."
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys
Sponsor: Mrs. McCabe and Ms. Valdez
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives…
BORN TO RUN by Bruce Springsteen
Sponsored by Mr. Shotwell
In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl's halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That's how this extraordinary autobiography began.
Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.
Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star's memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.
Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs ("Thunder Road," "Badlands," "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "The River," "Born in the U.S.A," "The Rising," and "The Ghost of Tom Joad," to name just a few), Bruce Springsteen's autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.
THE BOYS OF WINTER: THE UNTOLD STORY OF A COACH, A DREAM, AND THE 1980 U.S. OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM by Wayne Coffey
Sponsored by Mr. Traina, Mrs. Silverman, and Sidney Molnar '18
Once upon a time, they taught us to believe. They were the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a blue-collar bunch led by an unconventional coach, and they engineered what Sports Illustrated called the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century. Their "Miracle on Ice" has become a national fairy tale, but the real Cinderella story is even more remarkable.
Wayne Coffey casts a fresh eye on this seminal sports event, giving readers an ice-level view of the amateurs who took on a Russian hockey juggernaut at the height of the Cold War. He details the unusual chemistry of the Americans—formulated by their fiercely determined coach, Herb Brooks—and seamlessly weaves portraits of the boys with the fluid action of the game itself. Coffey also traces the paths of the players and coaches since their stunning victory, examining how the Olympic events affected their lives.
Told with warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, The Boys of Winter is an intimate, perceptive portrayal of one Friday night in Lake Placid and the enduring power of the extraordinary.
CAESAR'S LAST BREATH: DECODING THE SECRETS OF THE AIR AROUND US by Sam Kean
Sponsored by Mr. Hostage and Ben Roberts '18
It's invisible. It's ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell.
In Caesar's Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.
With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you're probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra's perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe's creation...Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar's Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second. Note:This book will be published on July 18, 2017.
THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO by Steven Galloway
Sponsored by Mrs. Borken
In a city under siege, four people whose lives have been upended are ultimately reminded of what it is to be human. From his window, a musician sees twenty-two of his friends and neighbors waiting in a breadline. Then, in a flash, they are killed by a mortar attack. In an act of defiance, the man picks up his cello and decides to play at the site of the shelling for twenty-two days, honoring their memory. Elsewhere, a young man leaves home to collect drinking water for his family and, in the face of danger, must weigh the value of generosity against selfish survivalism. A third man, older, sets off in search of bread and distraction and instead runs into a long-ago friend who reminds him of the city he thought he had lost, and the man he once was. As both men are drawn into the orbit of cello music, a fourth character—a young woman, a sniper—holds the fate of the cellist in her hands. As she protects him with her life, her own army prepares to challenge the kind of person she has become.
A novel of great intensity and power, and inspired by a true story, The Cellist of Sarajevo poignantly explores how war can change one's definition of humanity, the effect of music on our emotional endurance, and how a romance with the rituals of daily life can itself be a form of resistance.
DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA by Erik Larson
Sponsored by Mr. Fifer
On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship -- the fastest then in service -- could outrun any threat. Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige... As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small -- hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more -- all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.
EQUIPMENT FOR LIVING: ON POETRY AND POP MUSIC by Michael Robbins
Sponsored by Mr. Lamson and Natalie Waldram '18
Brilliant, illuminating criticism from a superstar poet—a refreshing, insightful look at how works of art, specifically poetry and popular music, can serve as essential tools for living.
How can art help us make sense of the world? With the same intelligence that animates his poetry, Michael Robbins addresses this weighty question while contemplating the idea of how strange it is that we need art at all.
Ranging from Prince to Def Leppard, Lucille Clifton to Frederick Seidel, Robbins's mastery of poetry and popular music shines in Equipment for Living. His singular ability to illustrate points with seemingly disparate examples (Friedrich Kittler and Taylor Swift, to W.B. Yeats and Anna Kendrick's "Cups") will change the way you listen to music and read poetry. He weaves a discussion on poet Juliana Spahr with the different subsets of Scandinavian black metal, inspiring deep thoughts on the subject that few scholars can achieve. Equipment for Living also is a wonderful guide to the essential poetry and popular music.
THE FISHERMAN by Chigozie Obioma
Sponsored by Mrs. May
Told by nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fisherman is the Cain and Abel-esque story of a childhood in Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river, they meet a madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of the book's characters and readers. Dazzling and viscerally powerful, The Fisherman is an essential novel about Africa, seen through the prism of one family's destiny.
FORDLANDIA: THE RISE AND FALL OF HENRY FORD'S FORGOTTEN JUNGLE CITY by Greg Grandin
Sponsored by Mr. Shuman
"Detroit in the Amazon. What could go wrong??" -- Mr. ShumanIn 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets. Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash.
THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood
Sponsored by Mr. Tellis, Mrs. Benedict, and Raveeno Douglas '18
In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
HILLBILLY ELEGY: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS by J. D. Vance
Sponsored by Ms. Leal
Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love," and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America.
THE IMMORTAL IRISHMAN: THE IRISH REVOLUTIONARY WHO BECAME AN AMERICAN HERO by Timothy Egan
Sponsored by Mr. Dethlefs
In this exciting and illuminating work, National Book Award winner Timothy Egan delivers a story, both rollicking and haunting, of one of the most famous Irish Americans of all time. A dashing young orator during the Great Hunger of the 1840s, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony for life. But two years later he was "back from the dead" and in New York, instantly the most famous Irishman in America. Meagher's rebirth included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War. Afterward, he tried to build a new Ireland in the wild west of Montana—a quixotic adventure that ended in the great mystery of his disappearance, which Egan resolves convincingly at last.
IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS: LOVE, TERROR, AND AN AMERICAN FAMILY IN HITLER'S BERLIN by Erik Larson
Sponsored by Mrs. Valenti, Sydney Gerbel '18, and Milan Moudry '18
In the Garden of Beasts is a vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler's reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, who in 1933 became America's first ambassador to Hitler's regime, and his scandalously carefree daughter, Martha. Ambassador Dodd, an unassuming and scholarly man, is an odd fit among the extravagance of the Nazi elite. His frugality annoys his fellow Americans in the State Department and Dodd's growing misgivings about Hitler's ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers, who are content to "give Hitler everything he wants." Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin's salon society—and flings herself headlong into numerous affairs with the city's elite, most notably the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy. Both become players in the exhilarating (and terrifying) story of Hitler's obsession for absolute power, which culminates in the events of one murderous night, later known as "the Night of Long Knives." The rise of Nazi Germany is a well-chronicled time in history, which makes In the Garden of Beasts all the more remarkable. Erik Larson has crafted a gripping, deeply-intimate narrative with a climax that reads like the best political thriller, where we are stunned with each turn of the page, even though we already know the outcome.
INSANE CLOWN PRESIDENT: DISPATCHES FROM THE 2016 CIRCUS by Matt Taibbi
Sponsor: Mr. McNeill
In twenty-five pieces from Rolling Stone—plus two original essays—Matt Taibbi tells the story of Western civilization's very own train wreck, from its tragicomic beginnings to its apocalyptic conclusion. Years before the clown car of candidates was fully loaded, Taibbi grasped the essential themes of the story: the power of spectacle over substance, or even truth; the absence of a shared reality; the nihilistic rebellion of the white working class; the death of the political establishment; and the emergence of a new, explicit form of white nationalism that would destroy what was left of the Kingian dream of a successful pluralistic society...Insane Clown President is not just a postmortem on the collapse and failure of American democracy. It offers the riveting, surreal, unique, and essential experience of seeing the future in hindsight.
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick
Sponsored by Mrs. Bertuglia
ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come together...in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
...Told in both words and pictures. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it is not quite a picture book, and it is not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things. Each picture (there are nearly three hundred pages of pictures!) takes up an entire double page spread, and the story moves forward because you turn the pages to see the next moment unfold in front of you. Note: This title can be found at the bottom of the TaftNet book sign-up list.
JAWS by Peter Benchley
Sponsored by Mr. Bender and Mr. Cesarz
The classic, blockbuster thriller of man-eating terror that inspired the Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again -- or for the first time!
LA TABLA DE FLANDES by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Sponsor: Sra. Santos
La tabla de Flandes: Un enigma del pasado y un misterio del presente se unen en un apasionante juego de trampas
A finales del siglo XV un viejo maestro flamenco introduce en uno de sus cuadros, en forma de partida de ajedrez, la clave de un secreto que pudo cambiar la historia de Europa.
Cinco siglos después, una joven restauradora de arte, un anticuario homosexual y un excéntrico jugador de ajedrez unen sus fuerzas para tratar de resolver el enigma. La investigación les conducirá a través de una apasionante pesquisa en la que los movimientos del juego irán abriendo las puertas de un misterio que acabará por envolver a todos sus protagonistas.
LOVE IS A MIX TAPE: LOVE AND LIFE, ONE SONG AT A TIME by Rob Sheffield
Sponsored by Mr. Delloro
Mix tapes: Stick one into a deck and you're transported to another time in your life. For Rob Sheffield, author of Turn Around Bright Eyes that time was one of miraculous love and unbearable grief. A time that spanned seven years, it started when he met the girl of his dreams, and ended when he watched her die in his arms. Using the listings of fifteen of his favorite mix tapes, Rob shows that the power of music to build a bridge between people is stronger than death. You'll read these words, perhaps surprisingly, with joy in your heart and a song in your head—the one that comes to mind when you think of the love of your life.
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
Sponsored by Mr. Cassano, Maddie Savage '18, and Juliana Yamin '18
Meet Ove ("pronounced ooh-ve. ve as in
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.
MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor Frankl
Sponsored by Mrs. Ganung
When the Library of Congress asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" Man's Search for Meaning was among the ten most influential books in America.
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
MERCIES IN DISGUISE: A STORY OF HOPE, A FAMILY'S GENETIC DESTINY, AND THE SCIENCE THAT SAVED THEM by Gina Kolata
Sponsored by Mrs. Guidotti
If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you'd inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible?
...A work of narrative nonfiction, Mercies in Disguise is the story of a family that took matters into its own hands when the medical world abandoned them. It's a story of a family that had to deal with unspeakable tragedy and yet did not allow it to tear them apart. And it is the story of a young woman―Amanda Baxley―who faced the future head on, determined to find a way to disrupt her family's destiny.
THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Sponsored by Mrs. BouffardHere is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, The Mists of Avalon will stay with you for a long time to come....
NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles
Sponsored by Mrs. Serafine and Ms. Adler
It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land….
OECONOMICUS by Xenophon
Sponsored by Mr. MacKay
Xenophon has often been dismissed as a light-weight essayist of considerable charm but limited analytical capacity. His dialogue, Oeconomicus, tends to be perceived primarily as a ragbag for social historians in pursuit of a reference. Both deserve better, and this Sarah Pomeroy’s new commentary now provides. As its full title promises, it constitutes an invaluable supplement both to the study of Xenophon and to ancient social history. Discussion is well informed throughout, and many fundamental questions arise for consideration regarding modern perceptions of the ancient economy, Xenophon’s own economic viewpoint, and the true nature of the dialogue. -- Allison Buford, University of North Carolina
ONCE A RUNNER by John L. Parker, Jr.
Sponsored by Mr. Guthrie, Calvin Palmer '18, and Barrett Wong '18
Inspired by the author's experience as a collegiate champion, the story focuses on Quenton Cassidy, a competitive runner at fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the staid recesses of his school's athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes' protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team. Under the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Bruce Denton, a graduate student and former Olympic gold medalist, Cassidy gives up his scholarship, his girlfriend, and possibly his future to withdraw to a monastic retreat in the countryside and begin training for the race of his life against the greatest miler in history.
A rare insider's account of the incredibly intense lives of elite distance runners, Once a Runner is an inspiring, funny, and spot-on tale of one man's quest to become a champion. Note: This title can be found at the bottom of the TaftNet book sign-up list.
OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ by Stephen Kinzer
Sponsored by Mrs. Foley
A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit.In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers. He also shows that the U.S. government has often pursued these operations without understanding the countries involved; as a result, many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences. In a compelling and provocative history that takes readers to fourteen countries, including Cuba, Iran, South Vietnam, Chile, and Iraq, Kinzer surveys modern American history from a new and often surprising perspective.
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks
Sponsored by Mrs. Frew
The bestselling novel, inspired by a true story, that follows a rare manuscript through centuries of exile and war. Called "a tour de force" by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.
READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN: A MEMOIR IN BOOKS by Azar Nafisi
Sponsored by Ms. Williamson
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; some had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they removed their veils and began to speak more freely–their stories intertwining with the novels they were reading by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi's living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Azar Nafisi's luminous masterwork gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny, and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
Sponsored by Ms. Monti and Mr. Clifford
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
SACRED HOOPS: SPIRITUAL LESSONS OF A HARDWOOD WARRIOR by Phil Jackson
Sponsored by Rev. Ganung
"Not only is there more to life than basketball, there's a lot more to basketball than basketball." --Phil Jackson
...When Phil Jackson first wrote these words in Sacred Hoops, he was the triumphant head coach of the Chicago Bulls, known for his Zen approach to the game. He hadn't yet moved to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he would bring his total to an astounding nine NBA titles. In his thought-provoking memoir, he revealed how he directs his players to act with a clear mind--not thinking, just doing; to respect the enemy and be aggressive without anger or violence; to live in the moment and stay calmly focused in the midst of chaos; to put the "me" in service of the "we"--all lessons applicable to any person's life, not just a professional basketball player's.
SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys
Sponsored by Ms. Taylor and Alli Kalvaitis '18
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN by Jill Lepore
Sponsored by Ms. Ryan and Ms. LaSala-Goettler
Wonder Woman, created in 1941, on the brink of World War II, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, she has lasted the longest and commanded the most vast and wildly passionate following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike others, she also has a secret history. In Jill Lepore's riveting work of historical detection, Wonder Woman's story provides the missing link in the history of the struggle for women's rights—a chain of events that begins with the women's suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.
A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles
Sponsored by Mr. Magee
An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to World War II. Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult
Sponsor: Ms. Birnbaum, Grace Dreher '18, and Mary Alice Ewing '18
Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things is about racism, choice, fear, and hope. The novel is based on the true story of a labor and delivery nurse who was prohibited from caring for a newborn because the father requested that no African-American nurses tend to his baby. In the fictional version, Ruth, the African-American nurse in question, finds herself on trial for events related to the same request made by a white supremacist father. Using the narratives of Ruth, the baby's father, and the female public defender who takes Ruth's case, Picoult examines multiple facets of racism. The topic of race in America is difficult to talk about, but in in an honest and revealing way Picoult allows readers to draw their own conclusions about how we see ourselves and others in the world. Small Great Things is an important and thought-provoking novel about power and prejudice that deserves to be read, digested, and shared with others.
STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel
Sponsored by Mrs. Orfitelli
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band's existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova
Sponsored by Ms. Stoughton
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer's, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember. At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease…
THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE LAST TRUE HERMIT by Michael Finkel
Sponsor: Mrs. Palmer
In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food...Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
SUBLIMINAL: HOW YOUR UNCONSCIOUS MIND RULES YOUR BEHAVIOR by
Sponsored by Mr. Antonucci, Steve Samaroo '18, Dennis Kennedy '18, and Jack Sheehan '18
Over the past two decades of neurological research, it has become increasingly clear that the way we experience the world--our perception, behavior, memory, and social judgment--is largely driven by the mind's subliminal processes and not by the conscious ones, as we have long believed. In Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow employs his signature concise, accessible explanations of the most obscure scientific subjects to unravel the complexities of the subliminal mind. In the process he shows the many ways it influences how we misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates; how we misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions; and how we misremember important events--along the way, changing our view of ourselves and the world around us. Note: This title can be found at the bottom of the TaftNet book sign-up list.
UNDEFEATED: JIM THORPE AND THE CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM by Steve Sheinkin
Sponsored by Mr. Willson
Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American
Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League gradBefore these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called "the team that invented football," they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work. An astonishing underdog sports story―and ...an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat
UNDERGROUND AIRLINES by Ben Winters or THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
Sponsors: Mrs. Traina and Ms. Gray
Students will read ONE of the above novels and will participate in a joint discussion about how these two reimaginings of the Underground Railroad continue contemporary conversations about race and power.
Underground Airlines: A powerful look what might have been, Ben Winters creates an alternate reality based on the absence one of our most important historical events: The Civil War. Slavery has infected the United States, permeating the everyday lives of most Americans without much thought until a group of citizens come forward to try and make a difference. This trailblazing and well thought out novel plays the role of mystery-thriller while poignantly illuminating the many ways life today is more like Winters' alternative world than we may want to admit. --Penny Mann, The Amazon Book Review. Note: this group will join in discussion with The Underground Railroad group.
The Underground Railroad: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, The Underground Railroad is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. The twist: the Underground Railroad is a real railway with stations, cars, and engineers.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape...[but] matters do not go as planned...
...The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share. Note: this group will join in discussion with the Underground Airlines group.
WAKING UP WHITE, AND FINDING MYSELF IN THE STORY OF RACE by Debby Irving
Sponsored by Mrs. Hincker
For twenty-five years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she didn't understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one "aha!" moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan. In Waking Up White, Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with such openness that readers will turn every page rooting for her-and ultimately for all of us.
WOODEN ON LEADERSHIP by John Wooden
Sponsored by Mr. Calore and Billy Dobensky '18
"Team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, determination. . . . Acquire and keep these traits and success should follow."--Coach John Wooden
John Wooden's goal in 41 years of coaching never changed; namely, to get maximum effort and peak performance from each of his players in the manner that best served the team. Wooden on Leadership explains step-by-step how he pursued and accomplished this goal. Focusing on Wooden's 12 Lessons in Leadership and his acclaimed Pyramid of Success, it outlines the mental, emotional, and physical qualities essential to building a winning organization, and shows you how to develop the skill, confidence, and competitive fire to "be at your best when your best is needed"--and teach your organization to do the same.
THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN'S UNION by Michael Chabon
Sponsored by Mr. Hawes
For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.
Homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.
At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.
ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: AN INQUIRY INTO VALUES by Robert M. Pirsig
Sponsored by Mr. Brown
One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear -- of growth, discovery, and acceptance -- that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life's fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward. Robert Pirsig died in Maine on April 24, 2017. Note: This title can be found at the bottom of the TaftNet book sign-up list.
THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE: A WAR STORY by Diane Ackerman
Sponsored by Mr. Koshi, Mr. Chandler, Mrs. Surber, Wilson Hafner '18, and Maggie Robertshaw '20
A true story in which the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these "guests," and human names for the animals, it's no wonder that the zoo's code name became "The House Under a Crazy Star." Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story―sharing Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism.