Summer Reading Challenge #3: Read Diverse Books

Summer Reading Challenge #3: Read Diverse Books

We’ve blogged before about the importance of reading diverse books.  This summer, challenge yourself to read a book about an unfamiliar place, about an historical event you want to understand better, or by a new author.

For example, this summer I’ve read a book about the Sri Lankan civil war, called Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera.  I had no idea the tension between the Tamil Liberation Fighters and the government. This lasted for 25 years. How did I miss this in history class or in current events? This book takes you in the the daily lives of people impacted by the fighting. It even gives you both sides, reminding me a little of The Association of Small Bombs.

island of a thousand mirrors book

I also finally read The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which recounts the Vietnam war from the perspective of a North Vietnamese mole in the South Vietnamese army. The writing was so rich and metaphorical, and the content was fascinating.  (This book would also count as one from a list, if you recall our Summer Reading Challenge #2)sympathizer book

A third book I read this summer was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee. This playful YA romp/bildungsroman follows a privileged young man, Monty, his best friend, and his sister in the 1700s as they tour the continent before Monty must return to the responsibilities waiting for him at home. He’s a protagonist you’ll find flawed and frustrating at times, but since he seems open to change, you’ll stick with him to the end. As he slowly accepts his sexuality and his desire for Percy, he slowly understands both himself and the world.

gentleman's guide book

So try a new topic, a new author, a diverse book this summer. You may discover a new favorite author.


Posted by Kate, Blog Editor for PCTELA

Summer Reading Challenge #3: Read Diverse Books

Summer Reading Challenge #2: Read from a Prize List

Summer Reading Challenge #2: Read from a Prize List

A few years ago, I discovered the joys of reading from a Prize list, when I read a bunch of Pulitzer-prize winning plays (later this summer, I’ll be talking about that at the AP conference in Washington, DC). This summer, I’ve decided to dip my feet into a few lists: The Newbery Medal, The Printz Awards, and more Pulitzers.

The Newbery Medal is given annually by the American Library Association “to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Each year one book wins the medal and a few others are named as Honor Books, ones that had been considered for the medal. Some books you might recognize on this list include The Giver (1994),  Holes (1999), The Graveyard Book (2009), and this year’s, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill.

The Michael L. Printz Award ” exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.” Similar to the Newbery, one book wins the medal and others are named as Honor books. This year’s winner is John Lewis’s graphic novel March, Book 3. (I’ve read the first one, and really want to read two and three). Some of the books named as honor books this year include Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also A Star and Neal Shusterman’s Scythe.  

The Pulitzer Prize is awarded in 21 categories, but I’m most interested in Fiction, Drama, and Poetry.  This year, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, and Tyehimba Jess’s Olio were the winners for those categories (I’ve read the first two, working on the third now).

We all have to-be-read lists that are miles long, but looking at a prize list and reading a few off that list can give you a good place to start if you’re interested in book recommendations for a level of reading you may be unfamiliar with.–the runners up are also phenomenal.  If you’re looking to read more diverse books or expand your reading selections, these lists can be a great place to begin.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Summer Reading Challenge #2: Read from a Prize List

Friday Five: Reading Over the Summer

Guest post by Gina Motter:

This summer (with two courses, planning for block schedules, and a condensing of 39 family photo albums into something to manage digitally), I find I will not be able to read 28 or so books as I did last summer. For the reasons listed, I am determined to finish these and am currently on #3:

  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A classic coming-of-age title I should have read by now. My son, a resident of Queens, takes me to Brooklyn often when I visit. I been to the other boroughs many times, too, but Brooklyn is my favorite.
  2. The Boys in the Boat. Fabulous NF which celebrates the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing team’s quest for gold. Always some summer NF, often a sport for me! Recommended by a German teacher friend who admits to reading very little on his own.imgres
  3. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory. I love all that English “stuff” by her, by Hilary Mantel, and others.
  4. God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talks About Life on Sapelo Island by Cornelia Bailey with Christina Bledsoe. With retirement to Georgia one possibility for us, I wanted an “unusual” read and found this. Recommended by a tech support friend who rereads it periodically as it is a favorite.
  5. Teaching in the Block. That’s what’s coming up September 1st for our school. I have only one year’s experience (elsewhere) with this and look forward to this challenge.

Today’s post is by Gina Motter, a teacher at State College Area High School.

Friday Five: Reading Over the Summer

Up Late with Finders Keepers by Stephen King

This novel, the second in the Retired Detective Bill Hodges trilogy (which began with Mr. Mercedes ) had a strong story, but went too fast for my liking, as now I want another story with Detective Bill and his friends Holly and Jerome.

Basically, King crafts a story of a reclusive writer (I imagine he has crossed J.D. Salinger with John Updike for some of the details he creates for author John Rothstein). What begins in 1978 finishes over three decades later. Morris Bellamy, a lost young man with a semi-famous English professor mother and an absent father obsesses about Rothstein’s trilogy, which follows the maturation of Jimmy Cross. Bellamy decides to force his way into Rothstein’s life, looking for more stories about Jimmy, whose famous line, “shit don’t mean shit” becomes a sort of mantra for Bellamy. Decades later, Pete Saubers, who lives in Bellamy’s old house, becomes mixed up in the storyline. The difference between the two young men, however, is significant. There were times when I was reminded of King’s other novel about an obsessed fan, but this is remarkably different than Misery.

What I liked about this story was the attention to detail and strong characterizations. King knows how to draw you in and tell a story–you don’t want to leave once he begins to unravel the tale. Also, there are a number of Macbeth references in this one, which I particularly enjoyed. Near the end of the book, there are hints (supernatural ones, at that) about what the next (final?) book in the Detective Bill Hodges trilogy. It ends with a resounding click in the reader’s brain–the desire to have the third story immediately.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA


Up Late with Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Friday Five: 5 Books on My Summer Reading List

Here’s a list of what’s on my to-read list this summer–what about you?

  1. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain MaryAnne Wolf–I found this one at the thrift store for a dollar–the title alone was enough for me to buy this one.
  2. Quiet Susan Cain–as an introvert (no, really, I know it may be hard to believe) I am really looking forward to this book to verify some of my own ways of being.  After taking a Myers-Briggs personality test a few years ago, realizing I was an introvert and needed time to myself changed my entire perspective on life.  I’m not broken, just different.
  3. I Remember Nothing Nora Ephron–I love Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck so much that I’ve given it to 3 other women as a gift. Her essays are remarkable, so when I saw this one at the booksale, I snatched it up and put it in my summer read pile.
  4. God Help the Child Toni Morrison–This book has been making its way around our English department since one colleague read it for her bookclub.  I have heard it is a departure from her other books, but that it is fascinating.  Can’t wait to read this one, as Morrison is one of my literary heroes.
  5. Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog Kitty Burns Florey–I am thinking of starting my AP Lit class with sentence diagramming next year–the idea of being able to SEE style with a diagram may help my students understand author style better.  I was talking to another colleague, and she lent me this fun little book, which I am positive will come in handy in the fall.


Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Friday Five: 5 Books on My Summer Reading List