8 books for Winter Break

Posted by Patricia Kuhn - 11 December, 2015

The gift of a good book recommendation is priceless. With days or even weeks of vacation on the horizon you may find time to read. We asked Patricia Kuhn, Randolph's Dean of Student Research and Library Resources, to share some books she has really enjoyed recently, plus a few she can't wait to start. Here is what she recommends. Her comments, in italics, are followed by the book descriptions on Amazon.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

brainA Randolph Book Club favorite, this memoir is both fascinating and a bit scary. It could happen to anybody!

An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity. When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?"

2. The Red Sparrow: A Novel  (Audio Book) by Jason Matthews

redThe first of an excellent spy series written by an ex-CIA agent. I listened to this book and found extra motivation to walk an extra mile just to hear another chapter.

In the tradition of John le Carré, the bestselling, impossible-to-put-down, espionage thriller that is “a primer in twenty-first century spying” (The New York Times Book Review), written with the insider detail that only a veteran CIA operative could know—and shortlisted for an Edgar Award. Taking place in today’s Russia, still ruled with an iron fist by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Red Sparrow displays author Jason Matthews’s insider knowledge of espionage, counter-espionage, surveillance tradecraft, recruiting spies, interrogation, and intelligence gathering. As the Washington Post hails, this is a “sublime and sophisticated debut…a first-rate novel as noteworthy for its superior style as for its gripping depiction of a secretive world.”

3. The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

The witchesAn incredibly well researched volume about a time in American history which baffles us to this day. Despite the scholarly treatment of the subject, Schiff writes in a beautiful and readable manner.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra, the #1 national bestseller, unpacks the mystery of the Salem Witch Trials.

It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.

The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.

As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, The Witches is Stacy Schiff's account of this fantastical story-the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historians.

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

lightThis winner of the Pulitzer Prize is on my to-read list. I haven’t met a soul who hasn’t loved it. I can’t wait to carve out time during the holiday break to dive in.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

5. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

evil I am a fan of J.K. Rowling, but was hesitant to try her detective series under the pen name Robert Galbraith. That said, the first in this series, The Cuckcoo’s Calling had me at hello. I love the characters. I love the brisk style. I love the mystery. Career of Evil is the third in the series and definitely the darkest, most intense story yet. It’s great fun.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible—and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them...

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

6. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

full seaAnother on my “must read soon” list, this book has been described as “transcendent,” “sublime” and “gripping.” I’m waiting for a quiet moment when I can get lost in Lee’s vision of the future.

On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee’s elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.

In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.

7. The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

evolutionAn immensely interesting, accessible and often funny book about – everything!

Check out this most recent review.

The Evolution of Everything is about bottom-up order and its enemy, the top-down twitch—the endless fascination human beings have for design rather than evolution, for direction rather than emergence. Drawing on anecdotes from science, economics, history, politics and philosophy, Matt Ridley’s wide-ranging, highly opinionated opus demolishes conventional assumptions that major scientific and social imperatives are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or morality. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Patterns emerge, trends evolve. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to, and termites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning can happen without teaching and morality changes without a plan.

8. The Boys who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose

BoysA great read for both Middle School and Upper School boys, who may be picky readers. The true story of a brave group of teenagers.

At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation's leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys' exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phillip Hoose's inspiring story of these young war heroes.

Randolph ReadsThe Upper School has asked faculty and staff to share book recommendations, attached is a picture of the bulletin board. Stop by and see what they are reading.




We snagged all the book cover images from Amazon, so it seemed only fair we linked back to the book listings there.

Topics: books, library, reading, the world, Upper School, writing, People

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