At Gunston, we believe that reading broadens your background and strengthens verbal and writing skills. It is also a way to discover new ideas and philosophies. As the acclaimed novelist and short story writer Richard Bausch has said, “To my mind, nothing is as important as good writing, because in literature, the walls between people and cultures are broken down, and the things that plague us most—suspicion and fear of the other, and the tendency to see whole groups of people as objects, as monoliths of one cultural stereotype or another—are defeated.”
We advise you to read many books, but require at least four books this summer.
Book 1: Your grade level's required novel
Book 2: The community-wide novel
Books 3 & 4: Choose any two novels from the list
Your English teacher will give you an assignment on your required grade-level reading once you return to school.
9th Grade: We ask our students to read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye because it asks us to think about questions of self-identity, purpose, and the individual’s role in society. We also discuss why Salinger was such an cultural iconoclast and how The Catcher in the Rye can be read as a novel responding to World War II.
10th Grade: George Orwell’s 1984 has long been the required sophomore read on our list and has recently returned to the top of bestseller lists along with other works depicting dystopias. Politically relevant, the novel questions the degree of influence a government should have in its citizens’ lives, but perhaps more importantly, it explores the nature of truth, and how truth is represented (or not) in language.
11th Grade: Students should read either: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; OR The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara. AP US History students should read: Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe Abraham Lincoln called Stowe “the little lady who started the war”. This book was a major factor in making northerners aware of the evils of slavery and has become one of the most popular books of all time.
- Killer Angels by Michael Shaara An in-depth telling of the Battle of Gettysburg that gets into the minds of the major, and minor, players of one of the most important battles in American history and the turning point of the Civil War.
- Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick AP U.S. History students will get a head start on their studies by reading this account of the first 75 years of settlement in New England. Philbrick tells the complicated story of the natives of New England and their encounters with the colonizing English. Conflicts within both societies, and with each other, will lead to the first major war between colonists and natives in King Phillip’s War.
12th Grade: Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy recounts the author’s work as a lawyer working in the field of social justice and in particular, the incarcerated poor. Using several of the cases he was personally involved in, Stevenson exposes the systemic racism embedded in the criminal justice system in the United States and makes a powerful argument for reform.
Your English teacher will give you an assignment on the community read once you return to school.
This year, our community-wide read is Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Always the popular literary figure amongst high school hipsters (and Stranger Things heroes), Vonnegut's writing invites his readers to reconsider their relationship with reality. In particular, Cat’s Cradle is not only a critically humorous and relevant examination of our relationship with technology, science, and freedom, but the novel is also one of his finest. Vonnegut himself gave the book an A+.
For the two books you choose to read from the Reading List, we ask that you write a journal response of at least 500 words for each book. You may use first person (“I”) in your responses. Your journal entries should be Times Roman, 12 point, double spaced.
Here are some suggestions for writing about different components of the books:
- Personal reaction to characters, events, themes, recurring imagery and/or symbolism
- Pose questions and attempt to respond to themIdentify significant quotes and comment upon them
- Imagine you are one of the characters and then write from his or her perspective
You should avoid plot summary in your responses. Summer reading journals will be assessed in relation to the depth of engagement, as well as clarity of writing.