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The List: Books for Heading Back to School
What better way to ring in the new school year than with a back to school list of books! All of these are perfect for fall reading as students of all ages head back to the classroom.
Let’s jump right to it.
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
I know I’ve mentioned HP a lot lately; I’m in the middle of The Order of the Phoenix (book five) and have been continually impressed with not only Rowling’s storytelling, but her ability to change the mood/tone of the book based on Harry’s age. Books one through three are pretty fun and light-hearted; book four gets a little more intense and grown up (especially near the end); and in book five, Harry is annoyingly moody, just like every other teenage boy you’ve ever known. It’s a fascinating progression. Given that each book covers a school year, it’s perfect for this time of year; Rowling crafts delightful fall and winter scenes of school-time activities and adventures.
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
This is a novel that has really stuck with me and grown better in my memory in the last few years. A group of four very tight families are eager—nearly rabid, in fact—to get their children (of varied ages, but mostly middle schoolers) into a new public school that’s opening just for the “gifted.” There are tests, interviews, resumes, and projects. It quickly becomes clear that the parents will do just about anything to show, whether in reality or as an illusion, that their kids are gifted. It’s delightfully entertaining, full of gossipy dialogue and characters (in a fun way, I think!), and compulsively readable. Read my full review here.
Educated by Tara Westover
Memoirs are decidedly not my favorite genre, but when they’re good, they’re really good. Educated is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, period. Tara Westover grew up in a strange home driven by both a cult-like culture and the dangerous mental illnesses of family members. She got out of that home and ultimately into Oxford. Westover is a brilliant writer, compassionate writer. Required reading, in my opinion.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The ultimate brooding mystery set on a New England college campus. This is a rare book where I’ve actually found the Amazon description to be just perfect: “Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.” Been a long time since I’ve read this one and I’m excited to give it another go next year.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The ultimate coming-of-age buddy novel. It wasn’t actually written for an adolescent audience, but often finds itself tagged as YA these days. Set at a boarding school during WWII, it starts as sort of an opposites-attract story. Quiet Gene and outgoing Phineas seem unlikely friends, but one eventful year will prove that perhaps they’re just as different as you’d imagine. First published in 1959, this story is a classic for a reason.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Horbach
A college baseball player—an extraordinarily gifted shortstop—gets the yips. Just as he’s on the verge of breaking a record, Henry Skrimshander commits a disastrous error on a throw to first base. From there, everything spirals out of control. A young man struggling with his identity, a baseball team on the verge of greatness, and a campus trying to reconcile with itself . . . Horbach has crafted a great story here.
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