English Teachers Refresh Your Book Reccomendations


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

POV: A camera pans to you sitting at the fireplace, reading a book recommended by your English teacher.

The English Department has evaluated all of their favorite books and compiled a list of their most esteemed recommendations for every occasion. As we enter the holiday season, these recommendations enable us to live out our dreams of curling up next to a fire  with a good book.

Kaitlin Naccarato lists her favorite books, subjectively the best one being the book “Circe,” by Madeline Miller, whose plot entails a “retelling of the Odyssey through the lens of the sorceress Circe,” she said. For the kids whose life revolved around Greek mythology because of Percy Jackson, here is your segway into adulthood.

“The novel details the life of an outcast woman and her eventual rise to power and strength in spite of what the world has given her. There’s plenty of magic, vengeance, and tragedy. It takes the original Greek Mythology tale and spins a more deserving tale of the struggle of womanhood and overcoming the alienation many face when society deems them inferior. It’s an empowering book all around. And it gave me one of my favorite quotes ever: ‘You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.’ That line is all you really need to understand why I love this novel,” said Naccarato. 

Aside from the personal bias exhibited in this article with the order chosen to list the recommendations, Naccarato actually began her recommendations with the book “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett, a family book. 

‘Good Omens’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

— Kaitlin Naccarato

“This book is just downright fun. It’s a cheeky, clever, and comforting fantasy novel. Most might be aware of the mini series, but the book has layers and layers of humor and heart that doesn’t translate to screen. If you like tales of found family, reluctantly good hearted demons, the subversion of the ‘chosen one’ trope, and plenty of humorous footnotes – then this book is perfect. It’s always my go-to recommendation. I can’t explain why I love it so much – other than the fact that it’s just a great comfort read and loaded with brilliant quotes and heartwarming characters. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Neil Gaiman.”

Moving into coming-of-age stories, Naccarato, Flint, and Thara Foster all gave recommendations: “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell from Naccarato, “Everything Leads to You” by Nina LaCour from Flint, and “One of Us Is Lying” by Karen McManus from Foster. 

“I connected right away with the main character [of ‘Fangirl’], Cath – an introverted girl who loves to write about her favorite characters and worlds, pushed out of her comfort zone when she moves away for college. With excerpts from fanfiction about Simon Snow and his wizarding adventures (think ‘Harry Potter’, but not, for copyright reasons), it’s a different approach to storytelling than other YA. You can even read the story Cath writes in its entirety in the Carry On series. I read this book in one sitting – legitimately sat on the couch in the morning and didn’t put it down until later that night. If you’re curious to know what Naccarato was like in high school/early college – well – here ya go!” said Naccarato. 

‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell from Naccarato, ‘Everything Leads to You’ by Nina LaCour from Flint, and ‘One of Us Is Lying’ by Karen McManus from Foster.

— Kaitlin Naccarato, Flint, Thara Foster

“I had to add at least one light YA romance. [‘Everything Leads to You’ is] the story of a young woman working as a set dresser in Hollywood as she seeks to uncover the secret of a famous actor’s long lost granddaughter and I loved every second of it,” said Flint. 

Katie Wegner recommends a book near and dear to her heart, the fiction novel “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck, romance included. 

“I read it for the first time my junior year (which is the grade level I NOW teach), and it felt like a warm hug because it takes place in my hometown area, Salinas & Monterey, California. It discusses the complexity of human nature, our tendencies toward and battles between good and evil, and our ability to make the world a better place,” she said. 

Flint also suggests “Jitterbug” by Tom Robbins, a comedic fantasy fiction novel, although they say the genre is indeterminate. 

“It’s hard to describe the genre of this book or how it fits into the world of books as a whole, so I’ll just say that it’s got an immortal Mesopotamian king, a perfume battle between Paris and New Orleans, the world’s smartest waitress, the quest for a perfect taco, and a smelly mythological god with goat legs,” they said. 

Naccarato also named a reference work, “The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger,” a nonfiction novel. A reference book allows readers to refer to information for confirmed facts when needed.  

“For anyone who likes storytelling and structure as much as I do (in both film and literature), this is an interesting way to analyze plot structure and themes. In this book, Gail Carriger creates an outline for an opposing structure to the Hero’s Journey utilized in the majority of storytelling, suggesting the Heroine’s Journey – a plot structure that outlines stories that displays character arcs focused on found family, making friendships, and accepting help from others, rather than the traditional Hero’s Journey that focuses on isolation, physical strength, and pride. For any future literature majors out there, this is a hot take that I push on all of my friends who enjoy reading,” she said. 

Jason Reynolds’s novel ‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You’ and Patti Digh’s ‘Life is a Verb.’

— Katie Wegner

Also by Carriger, Naccarato encourages readers to look into the “Parasol Protectorate” series. 

For a more thought-provoking and self-reflective reading list, Flint recommends “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Wegner lists both Jason Reynolds’s novel “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” and Patti Digh’s “Life is a Verb.”

“An author you might recognize from her TED talks, Adichie tells a story of a Nigerian woman who attends college in the US. A genuine and thoughtful novel that gripped me the whole time, it’s a great read for older students,” said Flint.

“’Life is a Verb’ was inspired by the sudden, tragic death of her stepfather after he had only received a diagnosis of cancer 37 days prior. Each short chapter includes a heart-warming, often silly story of how we can better appreciate the limited days on this earth. This isn’t the kind of book to read in one sitting; instead, it’s a perfect piece to thumb through when we need a lift in spirits,” said Wegner.

“‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You’ was a fun and eye-opening read of a more accessible version of Ibram Kendi’s challenging “Stamped from the Beginning,” which discusses the often overlooked racist practices in America’s history. It makes a point to state that it is NOT a history book; it doesn’t read as one, that’s for sure. I learned so much,” she continued. 

Whether it be comedic fantasy fiction or nonfiction novels, the English Department has given us all the books we need to last us all throughout the holidays into the new year, all of which have above a 90% rating from Google Users!