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Summer Reading for Grown-ups!  

Recommendations for great reading by and for the staff of John Witherspoon Middle School. Annotations excerpted from Princeton Public Library catalog & Amazon.com.
Last Updated: Jul 6, 2014 URL: http://jw-libguides.princetonk12.org/staffreads Print Guide RSS Updates
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Fiction and Short Stories

Between Shades of Grey by Ruth Sepetys (YA)

16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, face deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Lina's great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that can--she hopes--be surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future.

The Book Thief  by Marcus Zusak   (YA)

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (YA)

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Divergent by Veronica Roth  (YA)

Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is - she can't have both.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

From the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty, Fall of Giants takes us into the inextricably entangled fates of five families—and into a century that we thought we knew, but that now will never seem the same again.… First book in the Century Trilogy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (YA)

Movie in theaters now! Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.  Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska are two more great reads from this #1 bestselling YA author.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The movie comes out this August! Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.  First book in a quartet, followed by Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother; a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.  If you haven’t already read her book The Secret History, check that out too!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (YA)

The movie comes out this August! While in a coma following an automobile accident that killed her parents and younger brother, seventeen-year-old Mia, a gifted cellist, weights whether to live with her grief or join her family in death.

Man Hunt by Janet Evanovich

This is a light, humorous romance set in Alaska. Our heroine is from New Jersey and is a highly paid executive in New York City.  She trades her high-priced condo for a cabin and a “live bait” store in Alaska. Her hopes are to marry a “boring” man, who will be content with the “simple” life with plenty of open space. This is a great beach read!

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman's magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating tale that is equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Diminutive Owen Meaney, the social outcast with the high, pinched voice, has an enormous influence on his friend Johnny Wheelwright--not least because the only baseball Owen ever hits causes the death of Johnny's mother. But as Johnny claims, "Owen gave me more than he ever took from me. . . . What did he ever say that wasn't right?" Spookily prescient, convinced that he is an instrument of God, Owen intimidates child and adult alike. Why Johnny "is a Christian because of Owen Meaney" is the novel's central mystery but not its only one...

Reconstructing Amelia:  A Novel by Kimberly McCreight

Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.



The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

This year’s Princeton Reads selection!  After Pat Peoples and his wife Nikki separate, he goes to live with his parents but everything seems changed. No one wants to talk to him about Nikki, his old friends are busy with their families, and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as therapy. He meets Tiffany, a clinically depressed widow, who offers to act as a liaison between the couple if Pat will give up watching football, agrees to perform in the Dance Away Depression competition and not tell anyone about their contract. Don’t miss his newest book: The Good Luck of Right Now, or his YA titles Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Boy 21, Sorta Like a Rock Star … all great reads!!!

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (YA)

Reading this book reminded me of watching the movie The Matrix for the first time. This fun, fast-paced, futuristic science-fiction superhero story is the first in a projected series. When David was six, an unexplained explosion in the sky caused perpetual darkness and ordinary people to gain supernatural powers. These people became known as Epics. Two years later, in a bank in what was once Chicago, now called Newcago, David witnessed Steelheart, one of the most powerful Epics of all, murder his father. In the 10 years since his father's death, David has made it his mission to learn all he can about Epics. Everyone thinks they are invincible, but he knows otherwise. He knows that each one has a weakness, and he's seen Steelheart's. Steelheart can bleed. David intends to get his revenge.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer befriends Josef Weber, a beloved Little League coach and retired teacher. But then Josef asks Sage for a favor she never could have imagined--to kill him. After Josef reveals the heinous act he committed, Sage feels he may deserve that fate. But would his death be murder or justice?

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true. Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Coming of age in middle America, eighteen-year-old Rosemary evaluates how her entire youth was defined by the presence and forced removal of an endearing chimpanzee who was secretly regarded as a family member and who Rosemary loved as a sister.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

A Masterpiece of Historical Fiction-The Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation" Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events-and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II-as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

 

Nonfiction, Essays, Memoirs

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

In his new essay collection, author and cultural commentator Klosterman (Chuck Klosterman IV) parallels Kurt Cobain with David Koresh, Weezer with Warner Herzog and Ralph Nader, and posits a future in which Unabomber Ted Kaczynski's manifesto is viewed as "the most prescient work of the 1990s." In short, there is something to excite and/or enrage any reader engaged with popular culture in the last 20 years.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth.  Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

A guy walks into a bar car and...

From here the story could take many turns. When the guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game by Allen St. John & Ainissa Ramirez

In Newton's Football, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Allen St. John and TED talker and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez explore the unexpected science behind America's Game. Whether it's Jerry Rice finding the common ground between quantum physics and the West Coast offense or an Ivy League biologist explaining--at a granular level--exactly how a Big Mac morphs into an outside linebacker, Newton's Football illuminates football--and science--through funny, insightful stories told by some of the world's sharpest minds.

Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy

The instant New York Times bestseller about the baseball legend and famously reclusive Dodgers’ pitcher Sandy Koufax, from award-winning former Washington Post sportswriter Jane Leavy. Sandy Koufax reveals, for the first time, what drove the three-time Cy Young award winner to the pinnacle of baseball and then—just as quickly—into self-imposed exile.

Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film by Emma Thompson

This engaging and beautiful book includes the complete Academy Award-winning script and Thompson's own diaries detailing the production of the film, reviewed by Stanley Kauffmann in The New Republic as "vivid, funny, and gamy."

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

An interesting and at times a humorous biography of Warren Buffett.

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, the political times much resemble present day politics. The origin of many present day companies are presented.

Warren was an entrepeneur even as a young boy. A very simple man with an amazing talent for making money. A good read.

 

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award.

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s are One by Sylvia Earle

This book tie-in to National Geographic's ambitious 5-year ocean initiative—focusing on overfishing—is written in National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle's accessible yet hard-hitting voice. Through compelling personal stories she puts the current and future peril of the ocean and the life it supports in perspective for a wide public audience.

 

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