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The All-School Summer Read & Other Summer Book Suggestions
Greg Kwasnik

Looking for a good book to read this summer? Thanks to the recommendations of our own students and teachers, we've curated a list of excellent books to keep you busy all summer long.
Each spring, members of the Holderness community – students, teachers, and staff – are invited to submit proposals for the school's annual All-School Summer Read. This year’s pick, the novel “Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan, was one of the New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of 2018” as well as a Man Booker Prize finalist. The book will provide the basis of a school-wide discussion this fall. 
While only one book could be chosen as the All-School Summer Read, students and teachers submitted dozens of fascinating book suggestions. Here is a list of just 10 of those book proposals, which will hopefully provide some inspiration for your own summer reading list.
1.     “Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan

“I carried that nail like a shard of darkness in my fist. I carried it like a secret, like a crack through which some impossible future might be glimpsed. I carried it like a key.”
It is in this way, with nail in hand, that George "Wash" Washington Black walks with dread to meet his new master, Christopher Wilde. Wash was raised a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, but the death of his former master means he must now face a new one, and he does so with trepidation.
Christopher Wilde, though, is an explorer, a naturalist, an abolitionist, and eventually, a friend. But unfortunate circumstances propel the two on the lam, where they meet a mysterious hunter and a scholar of the flesh and journey from Virginia to the Arctic, from London to Morocco.
In this excellent, well-executed adventure novel, author Esi Edugyan gives us history, suspense, and heart, and posits fundamental questions about freedom and friendship.

-Proposal by English teacher and Sustainability Coordinator Elizabeth McClellan
2.     “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

This novel takes place near the end of WWII in the German-occupied town of Saint-Malo, France. The main character, Marie-Laure, lives with her father, a locksmith at the Natural History Museum in their town. Beyond the already tricky situation (Marie-Laure and her father face living in an active war zone) Marie-Laure is blind. As the story unfolds, the author delves into the resilience of the human spirit tested by adversity. Marie-Laure’s blindness becomes a metaphor for the challenges soldiers face during wartime, specifically the power of courage and adaptability. Simultaneously, the author introduces Werner, an orphan from Germany whose curiosity about radios leads him to have complex feelings toward the Nazi regime. As these two characters' paths intersect, the novel intertwines themes of survival, character, and hope through the interactions these characters have.
This novel encourages readers to reflect on how war and the fight for freedom impact ordinary lives throughout history. It quickly became a page-turner through its in-depth portrayal of WWII events and the characters' coping with this reality. This community will likely be able to have meaningful connections with the book's themes of resilience, empathy, and the power of the human spirit to endure, all of which are highlighted in our school.
-Proposal by Trace S. ’25
3.     “In Other Words, Leadership” by Shannon Mullen ’97

“In Other Words, Leadership,” by Shannon Mullen ’97, is a story about Janet Mills, Maine's first female governor, and her journey leading the state of Maine through the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is framed around the weekly correspondence between Mills and a young Maine mother and supporter, Ashirah Knapp. The author "weaves from these two women’s letters and the governor’s journal, which were never intended for publication, an intimate and compelling true story that is a celebration of civility and compassion in the face of rancor and of resolve in the face of adversity."

One of the book's standout features is its emphasis on the human aspect of leadership. Mullen highlights the significance of empathy, emotional intelligence, and fostering genuine connections with others. By focusing on building trust, understanding diverse perspectives, and creating an inclusive environment, she demonstrates how leaders can inspire and motivate their people to achieve remarkable results.

"It captures both history and humanity as it tells the life stories of the two women who faced an unprecedented crisis and how they set a course through it. It is a story of work, worry, art, faith, community, life, and hope. An instant classic.” –Heather Cox Richardson, author of “How the South Won the Civil War”

Bonus: Shannon Mullen is a Holderness Alumna from the class of 1997 and as far as I know would be the only alumni All-School Read.
-Proposal by Neal Frei ’03, Assistant Director of Major Gifts
4.     “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

I want to propose the historical fiction novel “The Nightingale” by Kristen Hannah. This novel takes place in France and tells the story of sisters Isabelle Rossignol and Vianne Mauriac during WWII. Isabelle, a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, wants to join the fight to get the Nazis out of France. She joins the resistance and embarks on a long journey where she encounters danger and finds love. She has to figure out who she can trust and try not to get caught by the Nazi guards. Isabelle’s older sister, Vianne, lives in a small, quiet village and has to say goodbye to her husband as he heads off to fight in the war. After France surrenders to Germany, the Nazis take over the village. Vianne has to live with a Nazi general in her home while keeping her daughter and herself safe. “The Nightingale” tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years of experience, ideals, and passion. Each sister has to embark on her dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in a German-occupied war-torn France. This is a beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.

-Proposal by Adie P. ’25
5.     “Running with Sherman” by Christopher McDougall

“Running with Sherman” by Christoper McDougall (author of Born to Run, another great book and possible ASSR) is the wonderfully told story of a man who adopts a neglected donkey and brings it back to life. The book speaks to the power of the connection between human and animal, but it also is funny, touching, and wildly entertaining. To rehabilitate this donkey named Sherman, McDougall encounters an Amish running club, goats, the service dog community and long-haul truckers. It ends with the craziest race in the United States held every year in Colorado.

-Proposal by Bruce Barton P’13’16, Senior Associate Director of College Counseling & Assistant Director of Major Gifts

6.     “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel

I would like to propose “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel for the All-School Summer Read. This novel is the true story of the North Pond Hermit, a man who lived alone in the Maine woods for 27 years. This biography tells the story of Christopher Knight from when he disappeared to when he was discovered and arrested nearly 30 years later. It's super interesting to get an insight into the mindset of someone who lived a vastly different life than any of us can imagine but in a place so close to us. He lived without any human interaction for almost three decades and managed to survive safe and undetected. This book deals with mental health aspects as well, with the author getting personal insight from interviews and letters with Knight himself. It is a powerful story that encourages us to examine another way of living life in nature.

-Proposal by Adelle M. ’26

7.     “I Must Betray You” by Ruta Sepetys

I'd like to propose “I Must Betray You” by Ruta Sepetys for the summer read. It's a historical thriller that takes place in Communist Romania in 1989, which is a topic I think many people don't know a ton of information about. Taking place as communist regimes across Europe are falling, 17-year-old Cristian Florescu suffers through the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear. He's blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer and betray his family, yet he chooses to risk everything and unmask the truth behind the regime, exposing to the world what is happening in his country. This book has short chapters and although it's a YA book, deals with the serious abuse and mental torture that dissenters and anyone protesting against Ceausescu's regime would endure. I read this book in a few nights and it kept me captivated towards the end, and I think it's an important and powerful novel that would serve perfectly as the All-School Summer Read!

-Proposal by Gina M. ’25

8.     “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah

An All-School Summer Read I would like to recommend is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah if you are looking for an inspiring read. This autobiography tells different stories of Noah’s childhood as the child of an interracial couple during apartheid in South Africa. I think what makes this book really captivating is his ability to find humor and light during dark times throughout his life. This book shows the complexity of identity, race, and family dynamics, and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

-Proposal by Bella R. ’24

9.     “Darius the Great is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram

This is a young adult novel about an Iranian American who struggles with clinical depression and loneliness. He travels to Iran with his family for the first time and makes a friend who helps him fully embrace all sides of himself. It sounds kind of simple, but it is such a specific story about culture and place, that also manages to be incredibly universal.

-Proposal by Chelsea Regan, Associate Director of College Counseling
10.  “Attack from Within” by Barbara McQuade

                                    - and -

     “You Are What You Click” by Brian A. Primack

I have two books to recommend:

The first is Brian A. Primack's “You Are What You Click.” It provides thoughtful insight into healthy social media consumption and what should be considered a "happy medium." Primack offers different strategies to limit social media use and get the most out of its uniqueness -- without diving into the highs and lows that social media portrays. I think this book is amazing for high schoolers because almost everyone I know uses social media frequently.

The second is Barbara McQuade's “Attack From Within.” It speaks to the challenges of democracy and how "disinformation is sabotaging America." In a world where it is extremely hard to tell what is real or fake, thanks to social media, this book offers many methods to root out what's real and what's not. Whether a student is slightly interested in politics or in AP US Government & Politics this year or the coming year, this is a fascinating read that may challenge your viewpoint of the American government.

-Proposal By Tanner S. ’25

Other All-School Summer Read Proposals 

  • "1984" by George Orwell
  • "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson
  • "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • "The Biggest Bluff" by Maria Konnikova
  • "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwamba
  • "Demon Copperhead" by Barbara Kingsolver
  • "The Fountains of Silence" by Ruta Sepetys
  • “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen
  • “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives” by Martin Ganda & Caitlin Alifirenka
  • “The Impossible First” by Colin O’Brady
  • “Killers of a Certain Age” by Deanna Raybourn
  • “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
  • “Mad Honey" by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • “Maid” by Stephanie Land
  • “The Measure” by Rachel Jastrebsky
  • “A Night Divided” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
  • “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
  • “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt
  • “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn
  • “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini
  • “The Trail” by Ethan Gallogly
  • “When Stars are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohammed

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