January Book Club

The high school Book Club met last week for a cozy evening discussion of what we’ve been reading. Ms. Melinson opened with a book called Season Creep, authored by Elana Mallov, a friend of Ms. Melinson’s daughter. Season Creep is a book of poems and observational drawings the author made while walking around Philadelphia in 2020 as the seasons all seemed to meld into one.

As longtime Book Club members might remember, January is when Ms. Melinson talks about what new cookbooks she’s reading. This year, it’s I Hate to Cook Book 50th Anniversary edition, a sassy book that focuses on recipes for people who might prefer to have cocktails with friends rather than cook! Ms. Melinson also discussed The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, a cookbook she’s on the fence about. She loves the idea of the book because it features Black chefs and others in the food industry, but the recipes are by the author himself and not the people he showcases, which works when it’s a food justice advocate. But when it’s a chef, she’d rather see a recipe by that chef.

Samhita shared that she hasn’t been reading as much, but has been listening to audiobooks of books she’s previously read. She’s currently listening to the Alex Rider series, a guilty pleasure, she says. Samhita then asked about books similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, an atmospherically dark and scary book. Some suggestions include:

  1. One of Us Is Lying and the sequel One of Us Is Next/McManus
  2. Two Can Keep a Secret/McManus
  3. The Cousins/McManus
  4. People Like Us/Mele
  5. Inheritance Games/Barnes
  6. Hand on the Wall/Johnson

Adam read some ‘weird’ books recently, which lead to a discussion of other weird books. He read Welcome to Monkey House stories and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, both by Kurt Vonnegut. Other weird books discussed include House of Leaves, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Priory of the Orange Tree.

Mrs. Strong read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and really liked it, although she needed to take frequent breaks due to the subject matter. She also started reading The Memory Police, a dystopian novel that Adam also read and enjoyed. Mrs. Strong tried reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier but couldn’t get into. Ms. Melinson said classics are often best read over the summer so there’s enough uninterrupted time to get into it.

We discussed other favorites and classics and Adam gave The Night Circus the best compliment it will probably ever get, calling it “a banger book.” Samhita still hasn’t read it, but read the author’s other book, The Starless Sea, and said it has too many commas in it, to the point of it taking her out of the story.

December Book Club

We had a cozy final Book Club of 2020 on Wednesday with Ms. Melinson, Mrs. Strong, and Samhita in attendance. Ms. Melinson shared that she planned to read How to Connect, another book in the Mindfulness Essentials series (previously she shared How to Fight, a book not about actual fighting). Ms. Melinson said this book is perfect for right now because it discusses digital overload and not being able to connect in person. She then talked about some winter reads: Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao (it’s like the YA version of Crazy Rich Asians); The Bear and the Nightingale (suspenseful and wintery) by Katherine Arden; and Uprooted by Naomi Novik (high fantasy).

Samhita shared that she read I Hope You’re Listening, a mystery with a true crime podcast twist. She also recently read Rent a Boyfriend and found it cute. Mrs. Strong talked about A Fire Story, a graphic novel about the author losing his home in the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa. She said it was good, but had to take frequent breaks due to how sad it was. She’s also planning on reading How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective over break for her upcoming class on women and gender studies.

Ms. Melinson brought up the upcoming Writer’s Night hosted by Mr. Hinojosa and featuring Country Day alum discussing their books, of which we have several in the library. She also mentioned her new favorite winter holiday, Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic tradition where you spend Christmas Eve reading and eating chocolate. Ms. Melinson asked what books we might be giving as gifts this year, with her top choice being a book from the Mindfulness Essentials series. Mrs. Strong said she doesn’t give books unless she knows for sure the person will enjoy it and Samhita said she’s not thinking about Christmas gifts until Christmas Eve.

President Barack Obama released his top reads for the year, as he does every year. They’re always great picks, although Ms. Melinson and Mrs. Strong agree that he should read some YA. Check out our Goodreads page to see all the books we’ve discussed in Book Club this past year and in many previous years. And if you’re need of reading suggestions, we have several Padlets for you!

October Book Club

It was a small group for this month’s High School Book Club at the end of a very busy week! We had a good discussion though. Ms Melinson is reading Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and listening to Pachinko by Min Jin Lee on audiobook. Samhita has been “indulging” in classics that she loved from years past including the whole series of Anne of Green Gables. Ms Melinson has a former student who refers to these books as “comfort books”–similar to comfort foods, they soothe the soul. Ms Reynolds is reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. She says she is learning more about Churchill and that his wife is a stronger character than some historians have depicted her. 

Ms Melinson asked if anyone has had any changes in their reading habits during this pandemic as she has been finding it a great relief to listen to books at the end of a day rather than have to use her eyes to read. Eliana says she’s been reading a lot less due the large amount of work she needs to do each day. Samhita is reading more to escape and using those “comfort books” to do so. Ms Reynolds is liking audiobooks before bed, but realized she needs to set a time so she doesn’t fall asleep and miss a few chapters! She’s also reading books that have been assigned to classes and really enjoyed Poet X. Fun fact: some years there is a book so popular at that it gets mentioned at every book club meeting for a year as more and more people read it—Book Thief was one of these. Poet X seems to be moving into that category as well!

Capital Books, which is where the library orders most of their books, has finished renovation on their second floor adding more books as well as the Flamingo Lounge. The Lounge is not open yet, but Ms Melinson is looking forward to a cup of tea one evening while overlooking the Crest Theater marquee in the Flamingo Lounge as soon as this pandemic is under control. In the meantime, Capital Books is allowing people to schedule private appointments for their families to shop together in the empty shop. If you ever wanted to be locked into a bookstore, this is your chance (although I don’t think they actually lock you in;-)

Have you heard the back story for Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s book, Inheritance Game? When the author Ms Barnes was in college, her parents decided to build a dream home, and they asked her what she’d want in it. Of course she said she wanted a secret passage (because who wouldn’t?) and her dad built it for her. Their library, which is filled to the brim with books, has one bookcase that disappears into the wall to reveal a secret passage. She always wanted to write a book that included something like that, and now she has! This book is available as an ebook in Sora if you would like to check it out.

Banned Books Week 2020

It’s Banned Books Week! We celebrate Banned Books Week by having the freedom to read what we choose. The theme for this year is “Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read.” Visit the following padlet for information on frequent reasons why books are challenged or banned from schools and libraries as well as some related activities.

Made with Padlet

Visit this padlet for a list of frequently challenged and banned books. Also featured are books for middle and high about censorship, available for curbside pickup or as an ebook.

Made with Padlet

September Book Club

Welcome back! Our first Book Club of the new school took place earlier this month – virtually. Whether remote or in-person, Book Club will happen!

Ms. Melinson started us off by sharing what she read over the summer. She listened to The Poet X audiobook (those who have listened to it agree that it’s incredible. It’s read by the author, Elizabeth Acevedo – check it out on Overdrive) for the high school read. She also started reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s second book, With the Fire On High, and is enjoying the book’s setting of Philadelphia where she grew up. The book takes place just blocks from where her mother grew up. Ms. Melinson finally read Educated: A Memoir. She found it compelling, if possibly unreliable, but is on the fence about whether or not she enjoyed it.

Top to bottom: With the Fire on High, The Poet X, Me and White Supremacy, The Fire Next Time, The Fire This Time, Begin Again, Good Talk

Ms. Melinson also completed Eddie Moore’s 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge, which inspired her to-be-read pile: Olivia read Eating People is Wrong. She liked the first few pages, but overall found it to be outdated and wrong. She also read Confessions of a Mask and liked how well-written and poetic it was. Mrs. Strong read The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel and didn’t like it, mainly because of the art. Samhita read The Starless Sea and couldn’t put it down. She re-read Dread Nation because the sequel was recently released and The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds, which she described as “really good and really long.” Eliana read Divergent and started the sequel, Insurgent. She also read To Kill a Mockingbird, but found it kind of boring.

Mr. Wells read Station Eleven, and found its premise a little too close to home currently (it’s about a global pandemic). When he was looking for options for the all high school read, he read I’ll Give You the Sun and thought it to be “un-nuanced”. Mr. Wells also read Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, describing it as a thoughtful and humanizing approach to war.

Then Ms. Melinson asked how people are doing with reading during the pandemic. Some said it was easier due to having more free time, while others said they actually had more to do so reading was hard to find time for. One person responded that reading is easier for escapism because of the lack of activities and sports on tv while another person said they use reading as a way to rest from all of the screen time.

For more information on the books we discussed and the books we’ve discussed at previous book clubs, check out our Goodreads page!