What’s on the Woodrow summer reading list

Not on the list.

While I’m thinking about picking up “The Hunger Games” series or one of the Jennifer Egan books I haven’t read, students at Woodrow Wilson High School have far more challenging books on their summer reading lists.

All incoming ninth graders have three books to read: “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson; “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho; and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.

I’d never heard of “Speak,” a National Book Award finalist, but the description has me: “Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.”

All tenth-grade English students are to read “Night” by Elie Wiesel. It’s the story of how a teenager escaped a Nazi death camp.

Pre-AP English tenth-graders are also to read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” and pre-IB tenth graders must also read “The Once and Future King,” T.H. White’s novelization of the King Arthur legend.

Tenth-graders enrolled in pre-AP world history are reading Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha.”

Incoming 11th-grade students enrolled in AP language and IB literature are reading “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid, which is being made into a film. And they’re reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” Maybe I should read that since I hated the movie (spoiled rich kid shuns family, turns hippie, lives in poverty, dies in the woods — so what?).

Twelfth-graders enrolled in AP literature must read Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” and “The Raw Shark Texts” by Steven Hall. The latter is a mystery about a guy who wakes up to find he’s been suffering memory loss for the past two years. I’m putting that one on my summer reading list for sure.

And 12th-graders enrolled in IB literature must read Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien’s collection of short stories set in the Vietnam War.

Happy reading!

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