The value of summer reading is widely known. But there is a difference between assigning a text and offering freedom of choice. Students don’t typically respond as well to books that are assigned as they do to books they choose on their own.
In addition, research suggests the latter can have as much academic benefit as any “required reading” over the summer.
Besides, it’s not just the academic benefits of summer reading that the Coginchaug English department faculty is interested in. We also know that reading is fun. Readers can travel, explore, discover, and encounter all sorts of interesting people, places, and things from the comfort of a couch, a beach chair, or backyard swing.
And so we tell our students to read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and web articles about anything that interests them. Librarians and booksellers are excellent resources for identifying personalized selections.
The English teachers at Coginchaug have also put together a list of summer reading suggestions that are particularly relevant to Coginchaug students. This list is based on a balance of three factors:
1. Interest and readability
We considered books that students would be able to enjoy independently—without an English teacher as a guide—and that might appeal to the particular interests we see among students today.
2. Literary merit
We considered books that have some leaning toward literary merit. There’s a difference between good literature and everything else. And there’s nothing at all wrong with reading things from the ‘everything else’ category. But there is also benefit to books that offer depth of insight, crisp language, or a significant contribution to the art and history of literature.
3. Curriculum relevance
We considered books that match what we are teaching next year. The curricula for grades 9-12 are structured around resonant and challenging themes. The selection of books for each grade particularly lines up with one or more of the themes in that year’s curriculum.
This list is neither exhaustive nor permanent. These are just the titles we generated at this moment. And some are more challenging than others. One title may have difficult or mature content you may want to be aware of before you get started, for example, or another title might strain your independent reading ability.
So the best thing to do is get to the library, review some of the books listed here, check them out with your librarian and parent, and then choose something that strikes a balance with your wants and needs.
However you do it, get it done. Reading is good.
Kris Nystrom, Chair
Department of English
Coginchaug Regional High School
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Vandover and the Brute, by Frank Norris
His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Different Seasons (four novellas), by Stephen King
Letters from the Earth, by Mark Twain
The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
My Antonia, by Willa Cather
Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko
The Complete Stories, by Zora Neale Hurston
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
Shane, by Jack Schaefer
Ellen Foster, by Kay Gibbons
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexi
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
R.U.R., by Karel Capek
Poetry 180, by Bill Collins
The Translator, by Daoud Hari
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
The Swallows of Kabul, by Yasmina Khadra
Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer
No Easy Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, by Kenzaburo Oe
Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse-Anderson
Geronimo Rex, by Barry Hannah
Burial at Thebes, by Seamus Heaney
Hiroshima, by John Hersey
Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein
Mythbusters, by Keith Zimmerman