Books are a wonderful thing to give and receive. In a season of giving, please accept this gift of recommendations from Randolph's librarians, faculty, staff, and administrators, for readers of all ages.
Eva Anderson, Upper School Librarian
The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (Armand Marie Leroi). The author explores Aristotle's theories in biology, showing how relevant they are to today's scientists, and how the study of life forms informs "matter, form, purpose, and change." The book was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. (Available in the Upper School library)
The Land of Dreams (Vidar Sundstol), brings the Scandinavian murder mystery phenomenon to Lake Superior in Minnesota. True to the genre, this novel is dark and brooding and, while set in America, involves the death of a Norwegian tourist, a plot conceit that allows a Norwegian police detective to partner with an American police force. This is the first in a trilogy; it, and the second installment, are in the Upper School library. The third book will be released next fall.
Girl Defective (Simmone Howell), named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews: "Funny, observant, a relentless critic of the world's (and her own) flaws, Sky is original, thoroughly authentic and great company, decorating her astute, irreverent commentary with vivid Aussie references; chasing these down should provide foreign readers with hours of online fun. (Fiction. 14 & up)"
And two for the art lover:
Rendez-vous with Art, (Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford). The authors, one an art critic, and the other the retired director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, met in six countries, on two continents to look at and talk about art. The result is a refreshing view of what one sees and feels when one looks at and experiences paintings and sculpture.
Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World (Philip Hook). Going from the "How do I feel about this painting" to the "How much do you suppose this work is worth" aspect of art and art collection, Hook explores art and commerce in this entertaining look at individual artists, the –isms of art, the effect of luck, and time, on the value of art. Subjects include "merciless realism," "banality," size, and football.
Kim Simpson, Lower School Librarian, starts her recommendations with two websites that are good for finding books for boys. Author James Patterson developed Readkiddoread.com because his own child said he hated reading. Author Jon Scieszka runs Guys Read and Guys Listen.
Her book recommendations are of favorite books, authors and series by grade.
Some favorites in Kindergarten are: I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; The Book With No Words, Biscuit books; Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and others by Mo Willems; the Ollie stories; anything by Dunrea. First Graders like: The Marley stories by Grogan, Henry and Mudge series, Poppleton series, Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Fly, Diary of a Spider by Cronin. Second Graders like anything by Robert Munsch, Roald Dahl or Cynthia Rylant; Sports Illustrated Kids series; Dino-Sports series by Lisa Wheeler; Captain Underpants by Pilkey; and the I Survived series by Tarshis. Third Graders like anything by Patricia Polacco or Roald Dahl; Magic Tree House series by Osborne; Baseball Card Adventures by Gutman. Fourth Graders like: Origami Yoda series by Angleberger; My Weird School series by Gutman; Pokemon series; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Kelly Kessler, Middle School Librarian, recommends books in the following categories for middle grade readers:
- Sisters by Raina Telgemeier and its companion novel, Smile are great stories full of humor and heart.
- Escape from Lucien is the latest in the bestselling Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. Outstanding artwork and imaginative characters make this series a winner.
For younger middle school readers
- The Spirit Animals series has been very popular. This fantasy adventure series written by several popular children’s authors has an online game that ties into the series.
- The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer is a bestselling series centered around fairly-tale adventures.
- The Legend series by Marie Lu offers compelling characters and an intricate, well-paced plot.
- The Maze Runner series by James Dashner and his new series, Mortality Doctrine are good bets for sci-fi fans.
I Am Malala by Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai tells the story of this remarkable young woman who stood up for the rights of girls to be educated.
Jenna Pirani also recommends this: "Reading this book gave me insights in to the Muslim culture from an educated, level-headed voice (Malala’s), and I enjoyed her fresh and honest perspective. Because she is a teenager, I think others her age will appreciate hearing her story."
By why should librarians have all the fun? This is a place where everyone reads, so I asked others to share some book picks, too.
Jenna Pirani '85, College Counseling Administrative Assistant/Registrar
I loved The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, so that’s why I picked up The Invention of Wings (by the same author.) This book is fiction, but based on the relationship between real characters: a young Charleston girl and a slave in her home during the pre-Civil war days. The story is narrated by each girl, giving a variety of perspectives to the events which unfold over many years. This was a book I did not want to put down, and the afterword by the author is very interesting as well! -
Nathaniel Gee, Upper School English
My new favorite book of all time is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s about the first human mission to a new planet populated with an alien species, but it’s really about God’s relationship to human meaning. It’s a real page turner, but also one of the most philosophical books I’ve ever read.
Jay Rainey, Head of School
I am hoping to read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Jeff Hobbs) very soon. It’s nonfiction, but I have heard it compared to The Great Gatsby: The author, Jeff Hobbs, stands in for Nick Carraway, and Robert Peace stands in for Jay Gatsby. That’s all it took to intrigue me! (Nonfiction. Target age = 14+)
I recommend As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner) to anyone with patience for a novel that doesn’t care about its reader. If you approach it as a puzzle, it rewards you exceedingly. (Fiction. Target age = 15+).
The Orphan Master’s Son (Adam Johnson), set in North Korea, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Published in 2012, it won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. (Target age = 16+)
Finally, I’m very interested in Redeployment (Phil Klay), 2014 National Book Award Winner. It’s fiction, but barely. The author is an ex-Marine who served in Iraq. I love short stories, and I’m very interested in literature being written by veterans of America’s recent and current wars. (Target age = 16+)
Communications Associate David Brown looks forward to reading the 2008 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky of Tolstoy's War and Peace, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, 2014 Man Booker Prize winner.
Meade Davis, 3rd Grade Teacher
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) is told in prose poetry form from the main character’s perspective. Ivan, a gorilla trapped for twenty-seven years in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, has a powerful and emotional voice that explores the absurdity of human instinct to complicate our own existence. The book is filled with rich vocabulary, nuances, and complex relationships that illustrate a larger message: life can be vague and circumstances that arise rarely yield explicit outcomes. This would be an excellent book to read with your children, and is sure to spark meaningful conversations (Age 8-12).
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg). As you plan for the new year and develop goals and resolutions, I would highly recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Duhigg presents the science behind habit formation and challenges the reader to identify patterns that shape his/her own life. By understanding our behaviors as patterns that generate rewards, Duhigg presents a simple solution: understand the cues that lead to specific rewards, keep these cues and rewards, but deliver a new routine. This is based on his understanding that habits cannot be eliminated, but can be replaced.
Deb Silvia Brink, Director of Information Services
I really enjoyed Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's probably best suited for high school students or mature middle schoolers. It's dark and has some mature subject matter. It's about a man remembering some magical and frightening events from his childhood that he had forgotten until he visits home for a funeral. Like most of Gaiman's work, it incorporates mythological archetypes, but is original and imaginative.
Rebecca Moore, Director of Communications
Every time I am asked to review something to improve the customer experience, see someone wearing a "wearable," or hear of an online retailer contemplating delivery by drone, I think of The Circle (Dave Eggers), a dystopian utopia of life in the cloud, a funny, acute and disturbing look at how our lives are being lived more and more online.
A long car trip at Thanksgiving was punctuated by phone calls from Adnan Syed, an inmate at the Maryland State Correctional Facility. Serial, a weekly podcast from the makers of "This American Life," is the unfolding of a true story of a 1999 murder of a teenager and the ex-boyfriend of the victim who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he maybe didn't commit. Sarah Koenig retraces the components of a day that is remembered or disremembered, in search of a coherent account of what really happened.
One of my favorite things to read is The Best American Short Stories anthology. I love the introductory essay by a guest author, the assortment of stories themselves, and the short explanations by the authors, of what sparked the stories, that follow. A broad range of fictional territory and diverse voices take me to places in the world and in the human heart I hadn't known before.
Laurel Shockley '89, Assistant Head of Lower School
Every member of my family has been enjoying the many Bricks books that are out there. These books could be fun for the very young to the very old. Who doesn’t love legos? We discovered the books several years ago when my daughter’s youth group leader used The Brick Bible illustrations in a presentation. After purchasing this book as a Christmas gift for my husband, we began finding more and more brick books. Some of the brick books that we have enjoyed are The Brick Greek Myths, Revolution! The Brick Chronicle of the American Revolution, Brick Fairy Tales, and Brick Shakespeare. Lego brings new life to familiar stories through the creative use of Legos. For me, these books are also a source of creative inspiration. They are an example of approaching something in a delightfully different way than it has been thought of before.
We could go on, but we'll stop here. If you'd like to the share your own recommendations, please leave them in the comments.