Summer Reading for Rising Juniors (American Literature (Honors))

    COMMUNITY BOOK. You must read the following community book. The community book is one which is read by every member of the class. Parents are also invited to read the community book. During the first week of school, your English teachers will review, conduct, or oversee projects, presentations, and group seminars -- all in an effort to generate a sharing of ideas as a community.



    Colson Whitehead

    The Underground Railroad. A vital book that forces us to reckon with the brutalities of slavery. This is a work of postmodern “historical fiction,” as Whitehead reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual system of trains and tracks running beneath 19th-century America. We follow the interconnected lives of several runaway slaves who trudge a phantasmagoric, yet oddly real version of America during the time of slavery. This adventurous and highly readable novel will surely spark lively conversations among students.


    INDEPENDENT CHOICE: Read one book from one of the lists of literary prize-winners. Be sure to choose a book which you have not already read for another school assignment, and be sure that this book is written by an American author.



    ENGLISH DEPARTMENT CHOICE: You must also read one book from the following list.



    Maya Angelou

    All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes. The author, her son, and several friends travel through Ghana discovering the real country and the author’s dreamed-of ancestral “homeland” – touching anecdotes and great description.

    James Baldwin

    Go Tell It On The Mountain. One day in the life of a fourteen-year-old – as well as the past, dreams, and desires of his family – reveals the development and search for identity of an African-American boy.

     Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me. This work of nonfiction, by celebrated Atlantic Monthly columnist Coates, is written as a long letter to his son and explores race in contemporary America. Lyrical, brutal, and more than relevant

    Kate Chopin

    The Awakening. This is a daring novel which shows the transformation of Edna Pontellier from a young wife and mother to a woman who declares her freedom and spiritual rebirth.

    E.L. Doctorow

     Ragtime. Doctorow's work is a captivating and uniquely American story. Set at the turn of the 20th century in New York, this novel features historical figures like J.P. Morgan and Harry Houdini rubbing shoulders with Doctorow's fictional characters. A truly mesmerizing look at American history through the lens of fiction.

    Pat Frank

    Alas, Babylon. Published at the height of the Cold War, this is the chilling story of the members of a north Florida community suffering – and surviving – a nuclear war.

    John Gardner

    Grendel. The monster Grendel from the classic English epic Beowulf retells, from his point of view, the story of his life prior to his battle with the Great Prince, as well as the battle itself.

    William Gibson

    Pattern Recognition. From the author who created the term ‘cyberspace,’ a mystery set just a few years into the future. Narrated by Cayce Pollard, this novel questions the true nature of faith, art, and community.

    Ernest Hemingway

    A Farewell to Arms. A tragic love affair set during World War I realistically discusses the disillusionment felt by some individuals in the modern world.

    Barbara Kingsolver

    Animal Dreams. Set in the American Southwest, this novel’s blend of realism, memory, and dreams begins the search for identity in a young woman who unwillingly comes home to live in a town full of traditions and mystery.

    Annie Proulx

    The Shipping News. Can one find happiness, security, and identity in remote Nova Scotia? The unlikely hero of this novel overcomes physical and emotional obstacles to try to do this.

    Sylvia Plath

    The Bell Jar. This is an autobiographical novel about an ambitious and brilliant young woman’s search for values and her eventual breakdown.

    Chaim Potok

    The Chosen. A baseball game brings together two boys from different backgrounds. As they become friends, they learn how different Jewish beliefs and traditions influence their lives and their futures.

    Mark Twain

    The Innocents Abroad. Humorous letters Twain wrote to a San Francisco newspaper while traveling in Europe with a group of naive fellow Americans compiled into a funny travel narrative.

    Margaret Walker

    Jubilee. This Civil War novel chronicles the life of Walker's great-grandmother, and through her, a white plantation owner and his beloved black mistress. Through her narration of events, the author captures the spirit of freedom over bondage.