Both students and faculty have put thought into the books that go onto the list, and have read books from the list that they have enjoyed immensely.
To continue to expand the Summer Reading Guide, Teresa Picarazzi, an Italian teacher and a member of the Summer Reading Committee, said, “I like to recommend books ... if they’ve spoken to me, perhaps they will speak to others. I think it’s important that the diversity of our student body and faculty is also reflected in some of the books we put on the reading list.”
Diversity is an consideration to many when choosing books to add to the list. For this summer, a group of students and English teachers changed the required summer-reading English book from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger to The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Lilly Delise ’20 helped choose The Secret Life of Bees: “I approached my teacher [Alissa Davis] wondering if there were any opportunities for more diversity in the English curriculum. In my three years at Hopkins I had read two books with African American protagonists (To Kill a Mockingbird and A Raisin in the Sun), one with an Asian protagonist (When the Emperor was Divine) and no books which had a Middle-Eastern or Hispanic protagonist.”
The Classics, English, and History departments have required reading for their classes. In order to choose what books to assign for the next year of history, Liz Gleason, Chair of the History Department, said, “We usually try to choose books [specifically for the History Department] that cover content that falls near the beginning of a course and we look for books that we think might provide a new sense of history.”
But the books are not chosen solely because of the content in the course. Gleason said that, “if our summer reading leaves a lasting impact on our students – finding a new great author, learning about a new part of the world, raising good historical questions – we are making the right choices.”
For the three non-required books, Delise ’20 recommends I Have Lived A Thousand Years, by Livia Bitton-Jackson, described by Delise as “an autobiography of a young girl retelling her story from first being suspended from school for being Jewish, to being sent to Auschwitz, and completely recounts her life during that period.” This book had a lasting impact on Delise because, “it is necessary to remember and hear their stories and these stories should be passed on to everyone so we can all learn from the past.”
Kaitlin Forman ’20 read the required reading for the Latin III class, Imperium, by Robert Harris. She enjoyed it because, “It was a story instead of just the history, and I learned a lot about the Roman government.” Even if a book is a reading requirement for a class, it is still a good option for the three additional, chosen books.
Noah Sobel-Lewin ’19 recommends I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou and The Pastures of Heaven, by John Steinbeck. He enjoyed these books because, “The writing is nice and the books made me think.”
As summer approaches, it is also a good time to free read. Picarazzi said that, during a busy school year, read- ing is a break from other schoolwork and “is food for the soul and liberating: for me, it has become a luxury at any time of the year, one that is too easy to lose sight of in light of all of life’s other responsibilities.” Librarian Jenny Nicolelli empha- sized the importance of reading year-round: “Repeated studies demonstrate reading reduces stress, increases vocabulary, im- proves empathy, and keeps the brain in good shape as you age."
The Summer Reading Guide gives guidance on book choices for the summer, that can be used during the school year as well. Nicolelli remarked, “Hopkins students may think they only benefit when they read books with which they can just barely grapple. I’ll let everyone in on a librarian secret - all reading is good and beneficial. The most beneficial reading is not a challenging book you hate, but any book you love.”