Summer Reading 2017

Each department at Brooks School has its own summer reading requirements for students. Current students and parents can access those lists by logging into their OnBrooks accounts and navigating to Groups > Summer Reading & Assignments. Below, we have posted the English Department summer reading expectations, so you can get a sense of what our students will be doing over the summer. Click on the book titles for additional information.

The teachers of the Brooks School English Department believe that reading is a fundamental part of a student’s education, and it is our responsibility to communicate our joy in reading books of all types. While we acknowledge that reading for school involves a unique set of needed skills, we also understand that reading for pleasure is perhaps more important to becoming a life-long reader.

The English Department’s summer reading program attempts to blend the pure joy of choosing one’s own book to read at one’s leisure, and the skill of close reading for an academic setting.

Students must choose two (2) books from the following titles to read before the opening of school in September. The books have been organized into categories to make the decision easier. One (1) of the books must come from the category Classics, but the second book can be chosen from any of the lists.

To aid in students’ decisions, books marked with an (*) are offered with younger readers in mind, though we place no restriction on choice. We hope that this process will prompt discussion at home about reading and literature!

English classes in the fall will devote an early writing assignment to the analysis and review of these summer books.

The English Department would also like to introduce the Summer Reading Challenge! Students who read four, eight or twelve books from the lists will receive prizes and be recognized publicly for their enthusiasm and accomplishments! We will also recognize the student who has read the most books from our lists: the Summer Reading Champion!

*NOTE: AP English Literature students are required to read three (3) books: two (2) from the Classics category, and one from any of the other categories. Students in non-English AP courses (any grade level) that require summer work may limit their required English Department books to one, chosen from any of the categories. This must be cleared with the English Department Chair.



By George Orwell
This classic dystopian tale introduces the idea that our government may have the power – and the desire – to keep its citizens under close surveillance…very close. How many of us hear the echoes of Big Brother in the various elements of our digital life today?


By Toni Morrison
Sethe, born a slave but escaped to Ohio, cannot break free of the memory of bitter slavery and the beautiful farm where such horrible things happened. Suspenseful and poetic, Morrison’s classic novel tells the tale of a woman fleeing the demons of her past and the ghost of her baby, who died nameless. Morrison confronts grand themes like slavery and the internal conflicts of her protagonist with the same powerful prose.

Bless Me, Ultima*

By Rudolfo Anaya
Antonio is six when Ultima comes to stay with his family. Considered a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic, she takes Antonio under her wing where he discovers himself in magical secrets as real as the Catholic tradition in Latin America. Set against family and community turmoil in New Mexico, Anaya’s prose is lyrical and haunting.


By Joseph Heller
Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

By Ernest Hemingway
This classic has it all: love, honor, courage and defeat. Perhaps the greatest war novel of all time. Hemingway packs this novel with stuff like, “No animal has more liberty than the cat, but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist.”

Invisible Man

By Ralph Ellison
Ellison’s novel offers a nightmare journey across the racial divide, telling unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators. One of the most audacious and dazzling novels of the 20th century.

Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen
A shrewd and witty satire that doubles as a tale of rural romance set in the English countryside. This book has become one of the most beloved books in the English language.

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath
An intense, emotional novel about a young woman’s descent into insanity caused by the suffocating expectations of society. Plath at her grittiest and most emotionally intense.

The Call of the Wild*

By Jack London
Follow Buck, a domesticated ranch dog, as he is stolen and introduced into the violent, primitive world of sled dogs in Alaska. Buck is forced to adapt and tap into primal instincts in order to survive.

The Souls of Black Folk

By WEB Du Bois
This groundbreaking book is a founding work in the literature of black protest, playing a key role in developing the strategy and program that dominated early 20th-century black protest in America. This collection of essays affirms the idea of dignity and human decency as a human right.

Native Son

By Richard Wright
This powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.


By Mary Shelley
The story of Victor Frankenstein's terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense. Considering the novel's enduring success, it is remarkable that it began merely as a whim.

Mystery and Suspense

Everything I Never Told You

By Celeste Ng
A teenage girl goes missing and is later found to have drowned in a nearby lake, and suddenly a once tight-knit family unravels in unexpected ways. A common story type with a unique perspective examining stereotypes.

Mystic River

By Denis Lehane
A gritty Boston tale of an unspeakable crime coming back years later to haunt three men. Lehane’s intricate detective story reveals truths about human nature – some that are difficult to face. A tragedy of Shakespearean proportion, set in Brooks' backyard.

Road Dogs

By Elmore Leonard
From the quintessential master of smart dialogue, Leonard pays out a tight plot and unforgettable characters. No one does this genre better than Leonard.

The Count of Monte Cristo*

By Alexandre Dumas
Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo, and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure, using it for a complex plot of revenge.

The Cutting Season

By Attica Locke
Locke confronts matters of race and conscience in this powerful novel. Intertwining two mysteries, one contemporary and one a hundred years old, Locke tells us the story of Caren Gray, rooted to a Louisiana plantation by her family and by a murder investigation into which she is reluctantly drawn. What family secrets will she learn?

The Whites

By Richard Price
Back in the 1990s, when Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a ten-year-old boy. Branded a cowboy, Billy spent years in one dead-end post after another. Now, called to a fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, his investigation uncovers connections to the former members of the Wild Geese. The bad old days are back in Billy’s life with a vengeance.

Blanch on the Lam

By Barbara Neely
A middle-aged, African American woman is on the run and unwittingly caught up in a murder mystery. Neely’s protagonist is sassy, sharp and unique.


Brown Girl Dreaming*

By Jacqueline Woodson
In vivid, image-rich free verse, Woodson tells the story of growing up in both the South and the North in the 60s and 70s, facing the remnants of Jim Crow with a growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

Citizen: An American Lyric*

By Claudia Rankine
Rankine’s work has been described as groundbreaking, urgent, and vital to our discussion of race in this country -- quite an accomplishment for poetry!

Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf*

By Ryokan
Despite the gulf of time and culture, Zen monk Ryokan’s spare snapshots of the natural world and the human one from his hermit’s perspective strip life down to its most basic, and resonate even today, centuries later.

Donkey Gospel

By Tony Hoagland
Hoagland's generous effervescence and jujitsu cleverness sparkle through line after line as he confronts negotiation and compromise, gender and culture, sex and rock music, sons and lovers, truth and beauty. This often funny and always thoughtful book of poems offers fresh, surprisingly frank meditations on the credentials for contemporary manhood.

Dream Work*

By Mary Oliver
Poet Mary Oliver has been called “the indefatigable guide to the natural world,” and has turned her attention in these poems to the solitary and difficult labors of the spirit, to accepting the truth about one's personal world, and to valuing the triumphs while transcending the failures of human relationships.

Let Evening Come (collected poems)

By Jane Kenyon
Jane Kenyon’s deceptively simple poems are almost meditations; they succeed in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Kenyon’s work is so accessible as to lull the reader into considering the meaning of our very lives.

Open House*

By Beth Ann Fennelly
These poems, like those of Robert Frost, rely on deceptive simplicity to offer a feast for the thoughtful reader. Any of her volumes of poetry are worth reading.

Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996*

By Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is a master poet who connects nature, emotion, and even plot, in a brilliant and particularly Irish poetry. These poems elicit a reaction that begins at emotional imagery, veers into thought, and ends up touching your soul.


By Elizabeth Bishop
The themes in Bishop’s poetry are geography and landscape -- from New England, where she grew up, to Brazil and Florida, where she later lived. Her poems look at human connection with the natural world, questions of knowledge and perception, and the ability or inability to control chaos.

The Coyote's Trace*

By Ekiwah Adler-Belendez
Mary Oliver writes in the introduction: “His poems exist beyond the empirical, the rational, the obedient, the quiet, or, even worse, the quieted.” Belendez, from Amatlan in Central Mexico and confined to a wheel chair by cerebral palsy since birth, has produced an incredible collection of work that deftly explores the boundaries between our physical and spiritual worlds.

The Rose That Grew in Concrete*

By Tupac Shakur
Discovered only after his death, this handwritten collection reveals deeply personal reflections on Tupac’s contradictory world. The poems are ultimately hopeful while at the same time exploring dark emotions.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

By Langston Hughes
Acclaimed, groundbreaking poet Hughes reflects on both his personal experience and the African American experience in this comprehensive collection.


By Nikki Giovanni
A collection of eighty all new poems, Acolytes is distinctly Giovanni, but different. Not softened, but more inspired by love, celebration, memories and even nostalgia.


Eleven Seconds*

By Travis Roy
A devastating injury just eleven seconds into his college hockey career left Travis Roy in a wheelchair for life. This is the story of a remarkable spirit of determination, courage and perspective.

Every Day I Fight*

By Stuart Scott
In his posthumously released memoir, the ESPN anchor chronicles the battle with cancer that ultimately claimed his life but never took his spirit. There is no quit in Stuart.

Into Thin Air*

By Jon Krakauer
Journalist-climber Jon Krakauer chronicles his attempted ascent of Mt. Everest, abruptly thwarted by storm and tragedy. Krakauer sorts through complex emotions including guilt and anger over the lost lives of friends and rivals. A riveting and honest memoir.

King of the World

By David Remnick
Remnick’s masterful biography of the man behind the myth and stereotype: Muhammed Ali, perhaps the most controversial and greatest boxer of all time.


By Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his demanding father, Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth and fame by the age of twenty-two. A treat for ardent fans, it is also a wrenching chronicle of Agassi’s lifelong search for identity and serenity as he wrestles with a sport he comes to resent.

The Art of Fielding

By Chad Harbach
A college baseball star, Henry Skrimshander seems destined for the big leagues until a routine throw goes disastrously off course. In the aftermath of his error, the fates of five people are upended, and they are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties and secrets.

The Power of One*

by Bryce Courtenay
In 1939, hatred and the seeds of apartheid took root in South Africa. There, a small, weak boy was born. He spoke the wrong language: English. He was nursed by a woman of the wrong color: black. His childhood was marked by humiliation and abandonment. Yet he vowed to survive and gained strength through boxing, ultimately becoming champion of the world.

Wait Till Next Year

By Doris Kearns Goodwin
The story of a young girl growing up on Long Island in the 1950s, weaving a number of levels of experience: Catholicism, friends, neighbors, and family. Her mother teaches her a love of books, and her father teachers her a love of baseball. A lyrical story that deals with big issues like love, death and growing up.

Literary Fiction

A Prayer for Owen Meany*

By John Irving
In the summer of 1953, an eleven-year old boy hits a foul ball that kills his best friend’s mother. The batter doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens next is extraordinary: beautifully written, hilarious, and heart rending.

All the Light We Cannot See*

By Anthony Doerr
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller. A blind French girl and a German boy collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Doerr’s lyrical use of language makes for gripping prose packed with striking metaphors.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu, a Nigerian immigrant, struggles with her adjustment to the U.S.: the culture shock, the hardships, the racism. Irreverent and sharp, Ifemelu begins a blog exploring what she calls “Racial Disorder Syndrome.” Adichie is a fantastic writer, exposing stereotype and facing issues head-on.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

By Julia Alvarez
Alvarez’s debut novel tells the story of four sisters growing up across two cultures as their family flees tyranny in the Dominican Republic and arrives in New York City in 1960.

Interpreter of Maladies

By Jhumpa Lahiri
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this collection of short stories follows the emotional journeys of characters seeking connection beyond the barriers of cultures and generations. Lahiri insightfully captures the lives of first-generation Indian Americans and immigrants with subtlety and clarity.

The Ciderhouse Rules

By John Irving
Set in rural Maine in the first half of the last century, this is the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch -- saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. A deeply moving and compelling story that explores the abortion debate with humor and evenhandedness.

The Orphan Train*

By Christina Baker Kline
Molly is getting too old for the foster care system, and performing community service is the only way to stay out of juvie. Through that service, Molly forms an unlikely friendship with the elderly Vivian, and their two stories become inextricably and fascinatingly intertwined.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower*

By Stephen Chbosky
This cult-favorite coming of age story is honest, hilarious and heartbreaking, navigating the troubled waters of loss, love, friendship and relationships in the world of an eclectic collection of adolescents.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven*

By Sherman Alexie
This collection of short stories has been described as a cultural love story, a hilarious and heartbreaking ode to Alexie’s Coeur d’Alene Native American background.

The Hours

By Michael Cunningham
The Hours tells the story of three women, including author Virginia Wolff, set in three cities: London, NYC, and LA. By the end of the novel, these three stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace.

Another Brooklyn

By Jacqueline Woodson
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory in motion, transporting August to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August, Brooklyn was a place where she believed she was beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to her. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dark and dangerous place.

99 Stories of God

By Joy Williams
Williams presents us 99 flash fiction stories with God as the thread. Some are absurd, some poignant, some puzzling – but all will challenge us to think about the nature of God in our lives.

Non-Fiction and Memoir

Between the World and Me

By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates gives a profound and disturbing meditation on what it’s like to be black in America. The title is taken from a poem by Richard Wright.

I Am Malala

By Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. When she was 15, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala's recovery has taken her on a journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings*

By Maya Angelou
Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. Angelou’s debut work captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right.

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote
Capote reconstructs a small-town Kansas murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, generating both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. This is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Steve Jobs*

By Walter Isaacson
The complex story of a man who changed the world and who now stands among the greatest inventors and thinkers in history. This biography sheds light on Jobs’ strengths, weaknesses and contradictions.

The Color of Water*

By James McBride
The author’s mother, a Polish immigrant and daughter of an itinerant rabbi in the South, flees to New York and lands in Harlem, where she meets and marries a black man in 1941. The author realizes that the key to finding peace within himself is exploring the story of the most interesting person he has ever known: his own mother.

The Glass Castle*

By Jeanette Walls
Walls details with loving sensitivity her nomadic childhood, including poignant and sharp depictions of parents suffering from mental illness and alcoholism. You’ll be amazed at Walls’ determination to rise above incredible challenges to become a successful writer and television producer.

The Other Wes Moore: Two Names, One Fate*

By Wes Moore
Two Wes Moores, born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grow up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods; both hang out on street corners and run into trouble with the police. How, then, does one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ends up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence?


By Andre Dubus III
After his parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III grew up with his overworked mother in a depressed Haverhill, Massachusetts saturated with drugs and everyday violence. Ultimately, he decided to take up his pen and write his way up from the bottom and into a new relationship with his famous father.


By Laura Hillenbrand
This mesmerizing book tells the story of Louis Zamperini, who channels his delinquent tendencies into running, discovering a talent that carries him to the Berlin Olympics. But when the athlete becomes an airman it leads to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survives, adrift on a foundering life raft. But his challenge after that might be even greater.

We Should All Be Feminists*

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

By David Sedaris
Humorist Sedaris moves to France and chronicles his adventures learning the language, while continuing to turn his laser wit on his family along with the rest of humanity. Sedaris’ language and graphic situations make this a book for the mature reader.

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Brave New World*

By Aldous Huxley
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Huxley's ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present.

Ender's Game*

By Orson Scott Card
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. Ain this skillful coming of age story, the title character battles loneliness, fear, and his complex relationship with his sister.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children*

By Ransom Riggs
As a child, Jacob lived for his grandfather's stories. After his grandfather's death, 16-year-old Jacob receives a mysterious letter that propels him to visit the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the stories -- alive and well. Part mystery, part fantasy, part adventure, this novel is a great read for the grown up Harry Potter fans who likes their beach reads a bit dark.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

By Seth Grahame-Smith
A clever send-up of Austen’s classic tale. A deadly plague spreads across the English countryside, wreaking havoc with love and romance.

Station Eleven*

By Emily St. John Mandel
In one night, a flu pandemic begins to devastate the world’s population, and a Hollywood actor dies on stage during a production of King Lear. Follow Kristen, the young child actor on stage that night, into the dystopian aftermath of the disease.

The Antelope Wife

By Louise Erdrich
Pulitzer Prize finalist Erdrich is known as a chronicler of deep themes within the Native American community. This classic novel has enthralled readers for more than a decade with its powerful themes of fate and ancestry, tragedy and salvation. Weaving together multiple storylines and generations, Erdrich ingeniously illuminates the effect of history on families and cultures, Ojibwe and white.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings*

By JRR Tolkien
The Hobbit, a simple but groundbreaking children’s fantasy, set in motion the writing and publication of one of the most popular books ever published in the English language: The Lord of the Rings. Read The Hobbit as prologue, and we bet you won’t be able to stay away from LOTR.

The Magicians*

By Lev Grossman
This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels (most obviously, those of J. K. Rowling and C. S. Lewis) in order to upend them, and tells a darkly cunning story about the power of imagination itself. As much a coming of age story as a fantasy tale, this book lets us know that our imaginary worlds are not so different than our real ones.

The Martian*

By Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. Drawing on his ingenuity and his engineering skills, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next.

The Passage

By Justin Cronin
Do you like zombies? Vampires? Dystopian tales? Cronin’s literary take on these classic horror tropes is riveting and downright terrifying, exploring humans’ innate fear of disease, the dark, and monsters. It makes The Walking Dead look like Dr. Seuss.

Oryx and Crake

By Margaret Atwood
At once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Phillip K. Dick
A masterpiece ahead of its time, this dystopian novel is at the same time a prescient rendering of a dark future, a mystery, and a reflection on the dangers of artificial intelligence. The inspiration for the blockbuster film Blade Runner!