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Posts Tagged ‘summer reading’

Our summer reading recommendations for English teachers (by English teachers) continue. Check out these fiction and non-fiction picks:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by Jon Irving

“I fell in love with the characters, all of them, and spent days thinking about the book after I’d closed the cover. Strong, beautiful, thoughtful language and imagery.” –Gina Voskov

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Storm in History by Erik Larson

“This is a story of science, nature, and the power of water, all wrapped up in a love story. Or the other way around. It documents the massive flood in Galveston, TX in 1900 that killed thousands. Absolutely gripping.”  –Gina Voskov

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Join us as we add to our list of summer reading recommendations by English teachers and for English teachers!


brian-boyd-lyricsCorinne Viglietta, an English teacher with BASIS DC in Washington, DC, offers these selections:

- My first pick is Brian Boyd’s Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We all love the plays, but Boyd reminds us why Shakespeare’s sonnets are worth teaching, too. Drawing on psychology and history, Boyd argues that the sonnets reject narrative form in order to explore “the possibilities of verse without stories.” What I like most about Boyd’s approach is its emphasis on close, line-by-line reading, especially reading for patterns. Students working on explications of complex verse can look to this book not just for exemplars but for a celebration of the power of the lyric.

- My second pick is Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones. DC teachers will recognize the street names and landmarks in this now classic collection of short stories (often compared to Joyce’s Dubliners), but every reader can relate to these profoundly human tales of hope, loss, and community. “The First Day” is an unforgettable walk in a young student’s shoes. I remember feeling extremely honored to be an English teacher after I first read that story.


Mark Miazga, an English teacher in Baltimore, recommends these books:

- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — a page-turning reflection on race, immigration, and identity. It feels like one of the first great novels about the internet age (blogging is a key component), yet it also has a timeless feel to it. Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet is a recent discovery as well–a moving, sprawling Australian family saga built with beautiful, lyrical language.

- A non-fiction book I recommend is the 2011 collection of James Baldwin’s writings released under the title The Cross of Redemption. It contains his essay “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”, which is great, but, in general, I think he’s a major under-appreciated voice whose writing, especially his non-fiction, can be riveting and life-changing.


See our blog post from Tuesday for even more recommendations, and tell us about your own favorites in the comments below.

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Now that summer is here, we’re rounding up some summer reading recommendations–from English teachers, for English teachers. Let us know in the comments what you’re reading this summer and what you recommend.

Here are four recommendations from Jill Burdick-Zupancic, who is in her sixth year of teaching and currently teaches Honors English and AP Art History at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. She is a Teaching Shakespeare Institute (TSI) alumna from 2012.

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We’ve told you plenty about our new favorite books: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare and A Horse with Wings, both of which were featured presentations by the authors during our Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom this week. Now that you’re in “summer-mode,” though, maybe you’d prefer a little something more to explore your favorite Shakespearean characters or history? Something just for YOU. I’ve got you covered.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion shocked me with its insight and emotional impact. Post-Zombie Apocalypse, the world is pretty much divided between the struggling surviving humans and the remaining zombies. One zombie, R, (he can’t remember his whole name), experiences moments from the life of one of his victims after eating his brain, and finds himself changing in ways no one expected. He protects a human teenager, Julie, and together they find a way to adapt to the new world in which they live. The danger from both sides is still very weighty, but these future star-cross’d partners have hope on their side. The bonus to this book is that there has already been a good-looking movie adaptation to compare!

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Very rarely do I see novel adaptations of Shakespeare’s comedies. Lisa Klein’s Love Disguised isn’t necessarily an adaptation of one comedy, rather it is an imagined set of circumstances in Shakespeare’s young life which exposes him to all of the elements and characters he can use and re-use later when writing the comedies. Spunky female heroines, cross-dressing, twins, wrecks, inn-yards, mechanicals, bad luck, and even the legal system play a part in inspiring the future bard. The author knows her stuff, and has such fun with this premise that reading the book flies!

ImageSpeaking of potential inspiration in Shakespeare’s lifetime, Kathryn Johnson’s The Gentleman Poet uses the historical account of the shipwrecked Sea Venture, which had been en route to America in 1607 and went down in the Bermudas. Miraculously, most of the passengers and crew survived and were able to rebuild well enough to hobble to Jamestown about a year later. The news captivated Shakespeare’s England, and may have inspired The Tempest. While this is a fictional account, the details of island life are unbelievably true.

ImageFor a stretch, I also recommend the insightful, and maybe disturbing, account of a family falling apart from the perspective of the family dog in Matt Haig’s The Labrador Pact. With shades of Shakespeare’s Henriad, Prince the dog tries to resist temptation and remain the true, devoted family member he believes he was destined to be by birth and training.

I also highly recommend a couple of audiobooks (also available in print) which provided me with hours of entertainment and wonderful education:

Macbeth by A.J. Hartley, David Hewson narrated by Alan Cumming – the subject matter is very dark, but if you’re experiencing a heat wave, this chilling account of the Scot’s events will cool you right off. (By the way, has anyone gotten to see Cumming’s turn on Broadway in the almost-one-man conceptual staging of Macbeth? How was it?!)

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell narrated by Charles Keating – Henry V’s great war is the subject of this novel, and the author does not shy from the horrors of war in the 15th century. However, like The Gentleman Poet, this book builds on the history of the era to create an inspirational human experience worthy of Shakespeare’s pen.

Enjoy your summer, and let us know what you’re reading!

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…when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds:
~Julius Caesar I.iii

It certainly has been a tempestuous beginning to the summer!  DC has seen lots of rain, we had our first ever George Didden Capitol Hill Children’s Festival, and we open our newest exhibit Lost at Sea next week!

One of Shakespeare’s favorite plot devices was a shipwreck (see Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale, or especially The Tempest and Pericles).  It sets his characters in new places that they’re not always ready to be, and makes for exciting adventures for them!

I’m banking up some summer reading of books based on The Tempest: Indigo by Marina Warner, Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez, and Ariel by Grace Tiffany.

The summer is a great time for performing outdoors – perhaps an impromptu Midsummer in the woods, a Twelfth Night in a swimming pool?  What sort of activities do you plan to encourage your students to do this summer?

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