Faculty Book Reviews

There are so many amazing books in our schools! Let some of our incredible teachers offer suggestions here with recommendations of their favorite books.

Aaron Approximately: A Novel

by Zachary Lazar

Recommend by Mr. Defendini, Superintendent

In 1998, I had the good fortune of taking a creative writing class with Zachary Lazar, author of Aaron, Approximately. The class and the book changed me forever. At the start of that semester, I was a math teacher in the making. It was my favorite subject in school and I was good at it. I was going to follow in the footsteps of my father who taught mathematics for 34 years. By the end of the semester and after reading this book, there was no doubt that I was changing majors. Within weeks, I was in the student center at Hofstra University changing my major to English.

Aaron, Approximately is a coming of age novel about a young man reminiscing about his childhood days. In the novel, Aaron reflects on the struggle that adolescents face in a sometimes unforgiving and uncompromising world. In the end, Arron is faced with a difficult decision to either confront his current reality which is fraught with alienation and isolation or suffer the pain of losing his loved ones. You will undoubtedly be enthralled with the relatable characters and the stimulating plot in Aaron, Approximately.

The Stand

by Stephen King

Recommended by Dr. Anisansel, Director of English

I loved Stephen King's The Stand! Never before had I experienced such a sprawling saga about the end of the world. This was the kind of book I thought about when I wasn't reading it. This story starts at a gas station: a flu-like virus has escaped a military installation and is about to wipe out most of the world's population. Some people, though, are immune. This is their story of survival and about an epic battle of good vs. evil. There is an element of realistic fantasy, too, as the world order is changed. Oh, and don't be put off by the length (800+ pages)...you'll be sorry when it ends.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1)

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommended by Mrs. Dalton, Math, HMS

How could having more than 2 children per family be against the law? Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the first of a 7-book science fiction series. Luke is our main character, and he has never been to school. Can you imagine? He has never gone to a birthday party. He’s never been to a friend’s house. He doesn’t even have a friend.

Luke is a shadow child. “Shadow children” are the forbidden children as defined by the Population Police. Luke has lived his entire life in hiding, and now he’s not even allowed to go outside in his own backyard. As he angrily walked up the stairs to his room - his father’s voice lurking inside his head, “No noise allowed,” - he perched on a crate to peer out the bedroom window. “...and then out of the corner of his eye, Luke caught a glimpse of something behind one window of the Sports family’s house. A face. A child’s face in a house where two boys already live. To find out just how Luke handles this new discovery, you’ll have to read Among the Hidden by: Margaret Peterson Haddix. For those who can’t get enough from the Shadow Children Series, try Haddix’s Missing series.

Spinning Silver

by Naomi Novik

Recommended by Ms. Harwood, English, HMS

I’ve never been very good at picking favorites, but Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik blew the rest of the competition away for my favorite book of 2018. Set in an alternate Russia, this story turns the idea of Rumpelstiltskin on its head. The story shifts between three young women in very different social circles trying to survive in circumstances as challenging as an abusive father or being kidnapped by a powerful magical king. I loved the twisting of popular troupes, the different conflicts, and motivations of the characters -- but the best part was the satisfying way the conflicts resolved while leaving me wanting more from the characters and that world.

Peace Like a River

by Leif Enger

Recommended by Scott Karp, English, FHS

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in recent years. Narrated from the point of view of Reuben, a boy in the upper Midwest in the mid twentieth century, this part crime drama and part character study is engaging from the opening scene when Reuben’s father saves his life. Told with a charm similar to Scout Finch’s, Reuben’s storytelling as he and his father pursue (and are pursued) will have you quickly turning pages to see what happens next. The characters are multi-faceted and richly drawn, and the plot leads to a climax both satisfying and poignant. This novel has been my top “go-to” recommendation for years now. Five stars!


by Gary Paulsen

Recommended by Mrs. Muscatello, Librarian, FHS

A classic survival story packed with action, adventure and most all... hope. The unthinkable happens when 13 year old Brian boards a small plane with only him and the pilot aboard on a trip to visit his father. The pilot has a heart attack while in flight and dies, leaving Brian to “land” the plane in the Canadian wilderness. Brian is left to fight for his survival while braving the elements with only the clothes on his back and the hatchet his mother gifted him before he left. What challenges will he face? Will he be found in the vast wilderness? Read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to find out!

I am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai

Recommended by Ms. Hallahan, English/SS, HMS

In this memoir, you will learn about an empowering young lady who stood up for her right to be educated, Malala Yousafzai. She was just 10 years old when the Taliban invaded her once peaceful region of Pakistan. On a bus ride home from school in 2012, Malala was shot! Nobody expected her to survive. Now, she is an international symbol of peaceful protest. I highly recommend this inspiring story that teaches us that young people truly have the power to change to world!!

Have a Hot Time, Hades

by Kate McMullen

Recommended by Ms. Ribeiro Marzillier, English/SS, HMS

So, you read Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Now what? How about reading about the “true story” behind the myths? You might think you know the real story behind the Greek myths, but think again. Most people only know what Zeus wants them to. But the truth is, Zeus is a total myth-o-maniac. Hades, King of the Underworld, is here to set the record straight on how he ended up as Ruler of the Underworld and Zeus became King of the Gods.

When Hades and his siblings were born, their father Cronus swallowed them whole because of a prophecy that said one of his children would be mightier than he. Can his brothers and sisters overthrow their big, bad dad? This is Book One of the “Myth-O-Mania” Series.

Red Kayak

by Priscilla Cummings

Recommended by Ms. Gatti-Nelson, English/SS, HMS

Priscilla Cummings does an awesome job writing a suspenseful story that incorporates the friendship of three teenagers that are caught in a wicked web of deception. Brady, a thirteen year old son of a Chesapeake Bay water man, has a tough decision to make; keep a dark secret and be loyal to his best friends or do the right thing. Once you have opened the book, you can’t put it down!

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended by Ms. Oldham, English, FHS

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a great introduction to the post-apocalyptic sub-genre of science fiction literature. The story focuses on a pandemic that wipes out most of the population of planet Earth. Arthur Leander is a world famous actor who is on his third wife and who suffers a heart attack at the beginning of the novel. As the Georgia Flu outbreak hits Canada, Arthur is performing as King Lear in a stage play. Fast forward 20 years after the outbreak, and we follow the lives of several characters connected to Arthur: one of his ex-wives, a girl who was a child actor in King Lear at the beginning of the outbreak, a man who tried to save Arthur during his heart attack, Arthur's best friend, and a mysterious religious zealot. In this frightening future where "survival is insufficient," a group of musicians and actors call themselves The Traveling Symphony. The group, which includes the young girl who acted with Arthur, aspires to keep the arts alive and to keep humanity humane. The story ping pongs back and forth to Arthur's past and to the future, where humanity is on the edge of extinction. The novel is fast paced and gripping, and the many narrative voices provide interesting variety. Fans of The Walking Dead and The Road will find this book a compelling read.