Summer Reading


The titles for the summer of 2018

For incoming freshmen (Coming Of Age)

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Connections to freshmen curriculum / Rationale: A recurring theme in the freshmen year is the “Coming of Age” story, which we feel is well suited to students who are embarking on their first high school experience. Freshmen will see characters in modes of deep self-discovery in To Kill a Mockingbird, The House on Mango Street, Lord of the Flies, and Romeo and Juliet. The protagonists in these stories end their journeys with a much greater self-awareness than they had on the first page. The protagonists in our summer reading selections gain a similar self-awareness as do Scout Finch, Esperanza, Romeo Montague, or Ralph and Piggy.

To find out more about each title, click on the links below
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
I am Malala by Malala Yousefzai
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

For incoming sophomores (Mystery)

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Connections to sophomore curriculum / Rationale: The emerging theme in our sophomore curriculum is variety in perspective and style. Our sophomore year covers the greatest range in the chronology of its core texts, going from classical Greek plays up to 21st century fiction. We have also enhanced the number of cultural perspectives with the addition of novels such as The Kite RunnerThe Interpreter of Maladies, Life of Pi, American-Born Chinese, and Persepolis. The sophomore year also includes the greatest variety in the ways that writers write, ranging from traditional novels and plays to short story and poetry units, graphic novels, and what are arguably our most experimental works. This selection of summer reading titles are equally varied, and include an autistic narrator, a 19th-century novel, and a 21st-century novel, the plots range from a traditional “whodunit” to a more nuanced examination of culture delivered through the tale of a mass murderer, and the settings span three continents and over 100 years. Also, several of our core texts in the sophomore year present the question of the reliability of the first-person narrator, and so we have selected mysteries, since that genre lends itself incredibly well to the discussion of the unreliable narrator.

To find out more about each title, click on the links below
Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

For incoming juniors (American Literature)

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Connections to junior curriculum / Rationale: With these titles, we aimed to find some important American voices and styles that have not found a home in our American Literature class. These books include four non-fiction titles, including what might be the lone book in our four years that you might properly classify as comedy. Our two fiction titles feature two of the most distinct American voices of the last 100 years.

To find out more about each title, click on the links below
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Citizen by Claudine Rankine
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Color of Water by James McBride
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

For incoming seniors (British Literature)

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Connections to senior curriculum / Rationale: For this list, we aimed to offer a few dystopian titles, to make curricular connections to George Orwell’s 1984, which we introduced to the senior year in 2014. Among our four dystopias, we’ve chosen two classics (Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale both appear on Neal Bowers’s list of the Top 100 Novels, based on all sorts of various sources) and two contemporary dystopias, one of which was published in 2010, making it one of the most contemporary works of fiction that we offer at BHS. For the other two titles, we selected a classic 19th-century novel, since the 19th-century novel has fallen out of our four-year curricula, and a further contemporary British novel, to aid bringing our British Literature course into the present day.

To find out more about each title, click on the links below
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Beach by Alex Garland
The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


Why does BHS have summer reading?

Summer reading is not unusual – in fact, in 2013, BHS was in the minority in NOT requiring summer reading of all of its students. Here’s a map of the towns in Middlesex county. The towns in blue had mandatory summer reading for all students as of the 2013-14 school year. Towns in red did not. (The Ayer-Shirley school district stated that it required summer reading, but we could not find proof of it)

Summer Reading Map

This isn’t merely about jumping on a bandwagon however. Studies show that summer reading programs have been linked to the lessening (or elimination) of the learning drain that occurs during summer months. These programs also diminish the performance gap between higher and lower-performing students.

What about students enrolled in AP classes – they already have a summer reading requirement.

Students enrolled in our AP Language (grade 11) or AP Literature (grade 12) classes do not have to read the books listed above. They are the only students who are exempt from this requirement. If a student starts the summer enrolled in an AP class, and then switched to an Honors or CP level during the summer, the expectation is that the student will complete the summer reading assignment for the non-AP class.

What are the assignments attached to these books?

Starting in 2017, the summer reading assignments have been streamlined. In each grade, students will be asked to write an in-class essay that responds to one of a short list of writing prompts that have been selected by the teacher. This writing assignment will take place during the first week of the school year. Juniors and seniors no longer have to provide annotations of any section of their novel, although all students, especially students entering grades 10-12, are encouraged to annotate their copies of their texts.

For More Specifics on the Assignments, Please Click on the Link at the Top of this Page

Teachers also reserve the individual right to give a single reading-check assessment at the beginning of the year, and information about these titles may be included on the course’s midterm exam.

In our research of various Massachusetts schools, and from what we have heard from BHS students themselves, we found our assignment to be far less onerous than nearly every other school district’s, yet without sacrificing accountability. Our goal is to focus on a text and a theme, not on a project, presentation, or full essay that accompanies it.

How do students get a copy of the book? From the school? On their own?

Students will be responsible for acquiring a copy of this book. The Burlington Public Library has our list and has picked up copies of these titles. We have put in a request to both Barnes & Noble and to the Used Book Superstore in Burlington to pick up copies (shop local!) – the ones at Barnes & Noble will be new, but the ones at the Used Book Superstore will be a reduced cost, and their books are generally in very good shape. If you buy a new copy at the Super Used Bookstore, and you keep the receipt, they will buy the book back from you at any point for half of the price that you paid. You can also go to The Book Oasis in Stoneham – they are great.

For online shopping, we suggest (requires an ebay account) and Alibris (used book store online) – at either location, you can almost always find a used paperback copy of our titles for under $5, which includes the shipping cost. And the used copies are usually in pretty decent shape. But we in the English Department support real, brick-and-mortar bookstores! 

Also, any student in need is entitled to a free copy of the book, courtesy of the English Department. Unfortunately, with the expansion of titles in 2015, it is impractical for us to purchase on-hand copies of every title, since we have no idea what the demand will be for each. If you require a reimbursement, or if you would like a book ordered and shipped to your house, please see the department head with your request.

Why not let students have free choice to read whatever they want?

For three main reasons.
1) We have selected books that connect to the themes of our four years of study at BHS
2) We found that the schools that provide free choice of any book claim to do so to encourage a “love of reading,” but that the impossibility of assessing student work ironically creates a loophole so large that many students avoid the work entirely, thus setting reading up as something to avoid, not love.
3) We feel that we have selected books that have literary merit, and that (we hope) students will sincerely enjoy.

Will these always be the BHS summer reading books?

No. If we find that they aren’t useful, or if nobody is selecting some  of the titles, we’ll change them.

What if I, as a parent, do not approve of the book choices?

With six titles to choose from, we are sure that you will be able to find a title that is palatable. If you have any questions about the material, we encourage you to look up a summary. Some of our selections contain uncomfortable material, but we have also selected titles with significant literary merit.

We hope this clarifies the rationale behind this update to what we teach at BHS. We will add information to this page as needed. If you have further questions, please contact the English Department Head

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9 thoughts on “Summer Reading

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