English 11 Honors Summer Reading List

Honors English 11 Summer Reading List


Welcome to Honors English 11!  My philosophy on summer reading is that it is necessary for your brain and your soul; consistent reading is crucial to improve reading, and reading different texts is crucial to developing your opinions and values.  So, if you want a brain and a personality, read some books this summer – not just the ones on the list!


  1. Listen to 3 episodes of a podcast and do the assignment below.
  2. Read a book on List 1 and prepare for an in-class essay the second day of school (be sure to keep a list of quotes as well as some notes).
  3. Read a book on List 2 and prepare for an in-class essay the third day of school (be sure to keep a list of quotes as well as some notes).

Podcast Assignment

Choose a podcast to listen to this summer. You can listen to almost anything you want (there are podcasts on almost every subject). Check out http://www.teenvogue.com/story/best-podcasts or https://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/21-podcasts-for-every-personality?utm_term=.ue4lxpgxxX#.oaAl95g99M to get you started. Or, google a topic you are interested in and see if you can find a podcast about it. Please do not listen to Serial…..we will listen to that in class.

Listen to THREE episodes of the same podcast. For each episode, write a one page TYPED response that answers the following questions: Why did you choose this podcast? What did you learn from this? How effective was the storytelling (give concrete examples)? Did you find the narrator to be reliable? What questions did this raise for you?


Students enrolled in this course will be required to read TWO (2) selections, one from EACH list below.    You will write an in-class essay for each book the first week of school. I will give you the prompts the first day of class, but you must be prepared to write an essay for each of your books over the following two days.  These books may be obtained at a bookstore or the library.  However, you will need QUOTES to support the arguments in your essays, so PLEASE be sure to either mark the book or keep a list of quotes (and page numbers) if you get the book from the library. I would suggest 20-30 quotes. If you are reading an ebook, be sure to look up how to cite a quote (generally by chapter).

If you have any questions, you can email me at chood@tfd215.org .  Be advised that I check my work email just a few times over the summer, so the sooner you send an email, the better.

Consider the following as you read, and take notes/collect quotes for each category:

  • Choose at least three themes. What is the author trying to say about life? How is the theme evident in the book?How does the author use character development or conflict to illustrate this message?
  • Consider the genre or category of the novel.Is it a mystery? Realistic fiction? Historical fiction?Dystopian (a book that shows an imaginary world that is a terrible place such as The Hunger Games)?Once you have decided on the genre of your novel (you can look on www.amazon.com to find this out), you may want to look up the features of the genre to help you focus on certain characteristics while reading. For example, in a historical novel, how well is the era conveyed?  In a mystery, how effective are clues and use of suspense?  In a dystopian novel, who is punished in the society and why?
  • Consider the characters. How did they change? Why? Focus in particular on relationships between characters. How do they affect each other?Is there redemption for any characters? When you consider character development, one of the best things to look at is the choices a character makes. Why did the character make that choice? What were the consequences (positive or negative)? What motivated the character to make that choice?
  • Consider structure. Is it chronological (in time order)? Does the narrator use flashbacks or multiple points of view? How is foreshadowing used? Perhaps the author uses an unusual format such as letters or use of primary historical documents, such as an actual newspaper article about the event.
  • Consider language and style. Was dialogue realistic? Was language poetic? How would you characterize the author’s style? How would you compare it to another author you have read?

List 1:  Young Adult Novels (all reviews are from amazon.com or goodreads.com)

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

        Eleanor, 15, is the new girl at school and bullied because she's overweight and dresses in a flamboyant manner. Park is a half-Korean boy who has lived in Omaha, Nebraska, all his life but still feels like an outsider. This is a story of first love, which very slowly builds from the first day Eleanor sits next to Park on the school bus. First they ignore each other, and then they slowly become friends through their love of comic books and 1980s alternative music. Park is the only good thing in Eleanor's life. Her home life is a miserable exercise in trying to stay out of her abusive stepfather's way, and finding new ways to wear the same clothes repeatedly since there is no money for anything extra. Park adores everything about Eleanor, and she finds refuge at his house after school with his understanding parents. Things finally explode at Eleanor's house and Eleanor and Park's relationship is truly tested. The narrative points of view alternate between Eleanor and Park, adding dimension to Rowell's story.

2. I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Seventeen year-old Sam and his twelve year-old brother Riddle were kidnapped by their father -- a murderer and a thief -- a decade ago. Maintaining their anonymity over the years, their father has regularly moved them from place to place around the country (and sometimes out of it), keeping his truck equipped with a supply of stolen license plates, and packed as to be ready to leave at a moment's notice as he settles briefly in town after town to then live off of his break-ins into cars and houses.  Sam meets Emily Bell and a string of events change the lives of all the characters forever.

3. Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña

Danny is constantly out of place, or at least that's how he sees it. He has a gift for pitching-his lanky arms can throw a baseball fast enough to get noticed by any coach or college scout-but he loses his cool on the mount. His mother is a blue-eyed blonde, but the color of his skin sets him apart at the private school he attends in San Diego, where he isn't "white enough." He isn't "Mexican enough" for the barrio either though. He looks Mexican so everyone assumes he speaks Spanish, but he doesn't. He can throw a baseball 95 miles per hour but isn't on any team. All in all, he is out of place. When he spends the summer with relatives in his dad's old neighborhood, Danny becomes convinced that if he saves up enough money he can go to Mexico and find his father. Danny is desperate to find his place in this world and develop a sense of self, longings that will ring true with any teen.

4. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.  The first book in a series.

5. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

At almost 16, Felton hits a huge growth spurt, finds he has athletic talent, begins to think of himself differently, finds a girlfriend, and deals with his mother’s mental breakdown.  It’s about a boy.   It’s about sports.  It’s about being a serious dork.  It’s about a paper route.  It’s about bullying and the opposite.  It’s about a girl.  It’s about hair growth.  It’s about a little brother.   It’s about piano.  It’s about a depressed mother.  It’s about learning to be who you are.  It’s about not hiding.

6. The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace) by Erin Bow

Talis's first rule for stopping war is to make it personal. The powerful AI ensures the world's leaders know the exact cost of any declaration of war by taking their children hostage as Children of Peace. If war is declared, the lives of both nation's hostages are forfeit. Greta Gustafson Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederation, is a seventh generation hostage at Precepture Four where she has lived most of her life. She embodies the ideals of the Children of Peace and knows to follow the rules even with her country on the brink of war. New hostage Elián Palnik refuses to accept any of the tenets of the Children of Peace, causing Greta to question everything she believes. Masterful, electric prose and wit make even the hardest moments bearable in this work as Greta and her friends endure countless hardships with the grace and aplomb befitting the world's future leaders. Bow weaves together science, ethics, and humor in this science fiction novel that delves deep into the human condition and questions the nature of choice and what must be sacrificed for the sake of the greater good. This book is further strengthened by a diverse, memorable cast of characters with realistically complicated relationships (romantic and platonic), brilliant plotting, and shocking twists. Guaranteed to have high appeal on many levels. VERDICT Bow delivers a knockout dystopian novel that readers will devour with their hearts in their mouths.

7. All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

An enigmatic, nameless narrator and her best friend, Aurora, have known each other since birth. Their mothers lived together, carrying on their intoxicated party lifestyle until Cass, the narrator’s mother, decided to give it all up when the girls were young and raise her daughter soberly, making a small living as a fortune-telling witch and taking in Aurora whenever the teen’s home got out of hand. Now 17, the narrator and Aurora mirror each other, light and dark: Aurora is a flighty and sweet contrast to the narrator, with her surly demeanor and goth style. But when Jack, an adult guitarist, comes into their lives, their differences come to a head. Jack and the narrator fall in love, while Aurora plays games with Jack’s scary boss, a man named Minos, who eventually convinces Jack to leave the small Northwest town for fame in California—and Aurora goes along. McCarry’s beautifully rich narrative is as smooth and seductive as Aurora and Jack can be, effortlessly dropping references to authors from Rousseau to Block. Goths and romantics both will eagerly await the second installment of a planned trilogy to find out what becomes of the girls, Jack, and the other well-drawn players in this magic-tinged cast. 

List 2:  Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

  1. Toms River by Dan Fagin

What was in the water in Toms River? A seemingly high number of childhood cancer cases in the New Jersey town prompted the question, but there turned out to be no easy answer. As Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) investigated the tragic impact that unethical scientific pursuits had on a family, Toms River unravels the careless environmental practices that damaged a community. The book goes beyond the Toms River phenomenon itself to examine the many factors that came together in that one spot, from the birth of the synthetic chemical industry to the evolution of epidemiology to the physicians who invented occupational medicine. Former Newsday environmental journalist Fagin’s work may not be quite as riveting in its particulars as Skloot’s book, but it features jaw-dropping accounts of senseless waste-disposal practices set against the inspiring saga of the families who stood up to the enormous Toms River chemical plant. The fate of the town, we learn, revolves around the science that cost its residents so much.

2. City of Thieves by David Benioff

Having elected to stay in Leningrad during the siege, 17-year-old Lev Beniov is caught looting a German paratrooper's corpse. The penalty for this infraction (and many others) is execution. But when Colonel Grechko confronts Lev and Kolya, a Russian army deserter also facing execution, he spares them on the condition that they acquire a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. Their mission exposes them to the most ghoulish acts of the starved populace and takes them behind enemy lines to the Russian countryside. There, Lev and Kolya take on an even more daring objective: to kill the commander of the local occupying German forces. A wry and sympathetic observer of the devastation around him, Lev is an engaging and self-deprecating narrator who finds unexpected reserves of courage at the crucial moment and forms an unlikely friendship with Kolya, a flamboyant ladies' man who is coolly reckless in the face of danger. Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age, and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser.

3. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s best-sellers, such as The Tipping Point (2000) and Outliers (2008), have changed the way we think about sociological changes and the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Here he examines and challenges our concepts of “advantage” and “disadvantage” in a way that may seem intuitive to some and surprising to others. Beginning with the classic tale of David and Goliath and moving through history with figures such as Lawrence of Arabia and Martin Luther King Jr., Gladwell shows how, time and again, players labeled “underdog” use that status to their advantage and prevail through the elements of cunning and surprise. He also shows how certain academic “advantages,” such as getting into an Ivy League school, have downsides, in that being a “big fish in a small pond” at a less prestigious school can lead to greater confidence and a better chance of success in later life. Gladwell even promotes the idea of a “desirable difficulty,” such as dyslexia, a learning disability that causes much frustration for reading students but, at the same time, may force them to develop better listening and creative problem-solving skills. As usual, Gladwell presents his research in a fresh and easy-to-understand context, and he may have coined the catchphrase of the decade, “Use what you got.”

4.    The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates grew up in a tough Baltimore neighborhood, subject to the same temptations as other young black boys. But he had a father in the household, a man steeped in race consciousness and willing to go to any lengths—including beatings—to keep his sons on the right path. With sharp cultural observations and emotional depth, Coates recalls an adolescence of surreptitiously standing on corners eying girls, drinking fifths, and earning reps, mindful of his father’s admonition about the Knowledge. Central to the Knowledge was the need to confront fears and bullies and beat them in order to live in peace. For a while, his own style was to “talk and duck”; later he found places to be himself in African drumming and writing. The Knowledge focused on alternative paths for race-conscious black men, respectful of the broader culture, but always a bit on the margins. His father had balanced his own life between square jobs and a black book publishing enterprise. As Coates grew up, he replaced his comic books with his father’s collection of classic literature on the race struggle and found his own way. A beautifully written, loving portrait of a strong father bringing his sons to manhood.

5. Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out by John Calipari, Michael Sokolove

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory. At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players—what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone. The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

6.  Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson

In this fascinating and eye-opening Revolution-era novel, Octavian, a black youth raised in a Boston household of radical philosophers, is given an excellent classical education. He and his mother, an African princess, are kept isolated on the estate, and only as he grows older does he realize that while he is well dressed and well fed, he is indeed a captive being used by his guardians as part of an experiment to determine the intellectual acuity of Africans. As the fortunes of the Novanglian College of Lucidity change, so do the nature and conduct of their experiments. [...] Readers will have to wait for the second volume to find out the protagonist's fate. The novel is written in 18th-century language from Octavian's point of view and in letters written by a soldier who befriends him. Despite the challenging style, this powerful novel will resonate with contemporary readers. The issues of slavery and human rights, racism, free will, the causes of war, and one person's struggle to define himself are just as relevant today. Anderson's use of factual information to convey the time and place is powerfully done.

7.    Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.