Book List for Summer Reading 2018

Note that the following books are those currently not read during the school year. I will not cover them in class or test students on their content during the school year; they are completely optional.

High School

Marilynne Robinson. Gilead.

I believe that Philip Ryken, once pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and current President of Wheaton College, said that Marilynne Robinson was his favorite author. A winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the work is a fictional autobiography of a dying Congregationalist minister named John Ames. Written in the form of a long letter to his seven-year-old son, the work adeptly deals with issues of forgiveness, death, compassion, and true spirituality. Former President Barack Obama said it was one of his favorite books, and if that does not recommend the work, let me say that it was one of my favorites, too!

Desiderius Erasmus. In Praise of Folly.

My son, a classics and English teacher, read this work recently and recommended it to me. The title of the essay is in essence a play on words, as the word folly Moriae is similar to his good friend Thomas More’s name. The work, which Erasmus wrote while staying at More’s house in Bucklersbury, London, is a satire on the Church, to which Erasmus himself was personally devoted. In Praise of Folly is considered one of the most important works of the Renaissance Period.

Anne Brontë. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

It was just last year that I taught another Brontë novel (i.e., Charlotte), Villette, a work that I heartily recommend to high school students if they have not yet had a chance to read it. Closely following the details of Brontë’s own life, the novel concerns a lonely woman who becomes a teacher in a French Belgian school. My daughter, who read Anne Brontë’s novel this year, enjoyed it very much and recommended it to me. Like several of the Brontë novels, it deals with violent, passionate characters (think of Rochester and Heathcliff) and their love.

C. S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces: a Myth Retold. New York: HarperCollins, 1956.

I had not heard of this book (Where had I been?) until on Speech Night two separate people within ten minutes of each other heartily recommended it as one of the best renditions of the Cupid and Psyche myth.

Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth.

My favorite is Around the World in Eighty Days, but my daughter brought this Verne classic to my attention as her own recently read treasure.

William Golding. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1954.

This modern classic deals with the innate evil of man in a tale of shipwrecked boy choristers whose animal-like nature comes out. Set in the middle of World War II, the brutality of the island is a microcosm of what is going on in the world outside the island.

middle school/early high school

Amy Hest. P. J. Lynch, illustrator. When Jessie Came Across the Sea. 1997. Reprint. Candlewick, 2003.

In this fully illustrated book, a thirteen-year-old girl comes to the U.S. from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, leaving behind family members.

Rachel Field. Calico Bush.

Published in 1931, Calico Bush won the Newberry Honor Award. It has since become a staple reading for young readers from grade 5 and up.

Henrietta Branford. Fire, Bed and Bone. Walker, 1997.

Set in feudal England, this work of historical fiction is told from the perspective of a dog.

Judith Kerr. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. New York: Puffin Books, 1971.

My wife read this charmingly written book a few months ago. A friend had recommended the book, and she in turn highly recommended it to me. The title of the book might sound odd or juvenile, but it is a serious and well-told story.

Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. Boys and Girls of Colonial Times. 1917. Reprint. Yesterday’s Classics, 2008.

A series of fictionalized stories of children in colonial America. Children of the present will be able to relate to these stories and discuss the time period in which they are set.


Margaret Hodges. Trina Schart Hyman, illustrator. Saint George and the Dragon. 1984. Reprint. Perfection Learning, 1990.

A predecessor of Shakespeare, Spenser is one of the most important poets of the 16th century, most famous for his work The Faerie Queene. The popularity of the poem, which celebrates Protestant England’s victory over the threat of Spain, earned Spenser a stipend. Hodges‘ work is a richly illustrated and accessible adaptation of Edmund Spenser’s poem.

Sydney Taylor. All-of-a-Kind Family.

This book for 3rd to 5th graders centers around five girls living in New York in the early 1900’s. The book explores the culture of New York Jewish life. The author herself was born to Jewish parents and grew up in New York City.

Charlotte Craft. K.Y. Craft, illustrator. Cupid and Psyche. HarperCollins, 1996.

Here is another retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. (See C. S. Lewis’s work in the high school list.)

Mollie McClean and Anne Wiseman. Adventures of the Greek Heroes. New Tork: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1961.

This retelling of the Greek myths is not only accessible to third graders and up, but also engages readers without watering down language to the point of being insipid.

Aaron Shepard. Gennady Spirin, illustrator. The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend. 1997. Reprint. Skyhook, 2011.

This book for young readers is a beautifully illustrated retelling of a Russian folktale.

Audrey Wood. Don Wood, illustrator. The Napping House. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

A quietly humorous book for young children who are reluctant to go to sleep.

Mary Pope Osborne. The Random House Book of Bible Stories.

This classic children’s book is an excellent way to introduce Bible stories to young children.

Gertrude Chandler Warner. The Boxcar Children, No 1. Morton Grove, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Company, 1942.

Easily confused perhaps with Nesbit’s Railway Children because of the similarity in title and subject, The Boxcar Children remains an extremely popular children’s novel even though it has been in print for more than 75 years. The book centers around four orphaned children who make a home in an abandoned boxcar (railway car) in the forest.

Dorothy Edwards. My Naughty Little Sister. London: Egmont, 1956.

A little girl (whose name will go unmentioned) recently recommended this classic British story to my older daughter. Written on a second/third grade level, this 184-page illustrated book tells how much trouble one little sister can cause.

Ella K. Lindvall. Read Aloud Bible Stories.

This book, intended for the very young, contains very simple text and very simple but accessible illustrations that my children found riveting when they were just wee ones (for first graders).