“Once you know how to read, then it is up to you to read and read well. A learned man, a learned lady, is someone who not only knows how to read but who has read well. This means that you will have to spend time by yourself with books, not just with machines of various sophistications lost in horizontal relationships of the now.” —James Schall, S.J. How are we to live in this broken world, Thursday, 25 May 2017. (1)
“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors…The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.” —C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism. (2)
As we prepare to open the doors of Ozark Catholic Academy in August 2018, I am pondering what could students and parents read over the summer that will begin laying the groundwork for this new adventure. This post focuses on what I would suggest students dive into if they are entering grades 7, 8, and 9 in August 2017.
Seeing through the eyes of others or walking in their shoes, are phrases or notions that have been told to us by our parents, mostly our moms. In recent years, we’ve heard this from Everlast through the lyrics of “What It’s Like ” and more recently from Pope Francis when Roman Catholics meet sinners where they are. Opening and expanding our imagination through reading is a necessary step for us to be able to see reality for what it really is–reality. C.S. Lewis understands that readers desire to see through the eyes of humanity, but even that is not enough for them. For me, to walk in one’s footsteps, that is to understand or know someone, is to ask about what book he or she is reading and then be able to converse over it.
As your eyes peruse the list of books below, know that it is not meant to be “a list” but a spring board to inspire summer reading. The lists below are by no means dogmatic but do have a theme. In Fr. James Schall, S.J.’s opening quotation a distinction is made between reading and reading well. “Reading well” is an inference for possibly the following ideas.
First knowing how to read well, is about getting the most out of the fiction or non-fiction book you are engaged in. An example of this, even with a novel for enjoyment, is to underline or highlight key lines that make you laugh, cry or leave you with wonder. Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, is the key text that can give you the tools to further enjoy what you read.
Second in Schall’s understanding of “reading well,” can be taken as reading books that are understood to be good. Such a notion does not mean there is one list that you should read by the time you leave high school, or even pass from this life to the next. But rather there are books that truly expand our sight or our experience by allowing us to see through the eyes of others or to walk in their shoes. The list below reflects just that. There are books worth reading that have been recently published, but perhaps the true enjoyment of such books can come about when one has read well those worthy of reading that have come before.
Of course, these books are only suggestions but I hope they will engage the imagination of students whether, it is poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. And by all means the lists below can be read and appreciated by adult readers. Parents reading books along with their middle school or high school child is a step that we all can take and enjoy a hearty conversation over dinner, whether that dinner is around a camp fire, the beach or while visiting grandparents this summer. Just a reminder that this reading does not supersede any reading you have to do for the school you are currently attending.
Also, I know local libraries offer programs for children to read during the summer and even bookstores, like Barnes and Noble offer reading challenges to young readers. Visit your local library or even better, a used bookstore and ask if they have such a program or that they might even begin one to bring in young readers.
Enjoy the summer and whatever adventure you have planned or those unplanned; either way, carry a book with you and you may possibly have two simultaneous adventures!
Entering Seventh Grade
- Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
- O’Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins
- Serraillier, Ian. The Silver Sword
- Armstrong, William. Sounder
- White, E.B.. Stuart Little
- Currie, Eve. Madame Currie: A Biography
- Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins
- Burnett, Frances Hodgeson. The Secret Garden
- Speare, Elizabeth. The Bronze Bow
- Fitzgerald, John. The Great Brain series
- Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island
- Portis, Charles. True Grit
Entering Eight Grade
- Stevenson, Robert Louis. Kidnapped
- Verne, Jules. Around the World in Eighty Days
- Wyss, J.D.. Swiss Family Robinson
- Herriot, James. All Creatures Great and Small
- Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life
- L’Engle, Madeleine. The Austin Family Chronicles
- Twain, Mark. The Prince and the Pauper
- White, T.H. The Once and Future King
- Morris, Willie. Good Old Boy
- Tarkington, Booth. Penrod
- McCullough, David. 1776
- Orwell, George. Animal Farm
- Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken (Young Adult Adaptation)
Entering Ninth Grade
- Sienkiewicz, Henryk. Quo Vadis
- Douglas, Lloyd C. The Robe
- de Wohl, Louis. The Last Crusader: A Novel about Don Juan of Austria
- Rawicz, Slawomir. The Long Walk
- Austen, Jane. Emma
- Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility
- Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451
- Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop
- Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels
- Sutcliff, Rosemary. Silver Branch
- Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth
- Lewis, C.S.. Space Trilogy Series: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra. That Hideous Strength
- http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/05/28/how-are-we-to-live-in-this-broken-world/ found on June 7, 2017.
- https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/11/26/c-s-lewis-literature-reading-books/ found on June 8, 2017.