Sunday, August 19, 2007

Latin School Picks

For the first couple of months of the seventh grade, I attended Girls’ Latin School, which has since been renamed Boston Latin Academy. The founding of the school in 1877 was the result of citizen and parent participation and the intention to establish college preparatory training for girls. A plan to admit girls to Public Latin School was formed by the Massachusetts Society for the University Education of Women and Henry Durant, president of Wellesley College. In 1972, (the year before I began seventh grade), the School Committee recognized a state law that ended sex discrimination in the two Latin Schools. Soon after, boys were accepted into the school and the name was changed to Boston Latin Academy.

Shortly after I began Latin School, a series of events occurred that resulted in my moving to a suburb of Boston and changing schools, but I always look back at Girls’ Latin School at that time as a shining example of what a public school education can be, despite the fact that the time I attended was when bussing began in Boston and the buses were stoned every day for the first week or so.

I was thinking about the school, about the rigorous liberal arts curriculum that did, of course include Latin, French, Art and Music and wondering what the school would be like today. Now, as it was when I briefly attended, admission is based on an admissions test and students are accepted either in the seventh or the ninth grade.

I did find some great information on their website that relates to the question I posted last week about works that might endure and be taught in schools. There is a summer reading list for each grade, seventh through twelfth with fairly lengthy selections listed and I thought it probably indicative of those works that will probably endure. I was impressed that the list includes many multi-cultural works, as well as quite a few genre selections. Links to all of the reading lists can be found here.

The following is the summer reading list for 2007 for students entering grade twelve. Returning students are required to read five books. This is the list for that grade:

Required Reading: 1984, by George Orwell


Killer Angels, Michael Shaara

*Going After Cacciato, Tim O’Brian

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brian

Perfect Soldiers (9/11 hijackers), Terry McDermott

A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah

*Terrorist, John Updike


The Natural (baseball), Bernard Malamud

Eleven Seconds (hockey), Travis Roy

Friday Night Lights (football), H.G. Bissinger

The Teammates (baseball), David Halbertstam

Moneyball (baseball), Michael Lewis


Paula, Isabel Allende

Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston

October Sky, Homer Hickman

Gifted Hands (YA), Dr. Ben Carson

Under and Alone, William Queen

Young Adult

In Country, Bobbie Ann Mason

Ceremony, Leslie Silko

Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

*Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides


Kite Runner (Afghanistan), Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

Women of Silk (China), Gail Tsukiyama

The Samurai’s Garden, Gail Tsukiyama

Albuquerque, Rudolfo Anaya

*The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid

*Life of Pi, Yann Martel

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desani

By the Light of My Father’s Smile, Alice Walker

*The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

Monkey Bridge, Lan Cao

Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros

*The Man in My Basement, Walter Mosley

Snow in August, Peter Hamill


*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon

Dance Hall of the Dead, Tony Hillerman

The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare, Lilian Jackson Braun

Bad Business, Robert Parker

Q is For Quarry, Sue Grafton

The Intelligencer, Leslie Silbert

The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl


*Empire Falls, Richard Russo

All Souls, Michael MacDonald

Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins

Eternal Hostility, Frederick Clarkson

Inside the Wire, Erick Saar

Presidential Courage, Michael Beschloss


*A Brief History of Time (non-fiction: science), Stephen Hawking

The Immense Journey (non-fiction: science), Loren Eiseley

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

The categories and parenthetical notes are all taken from the web site and there is a huge list of other selections for each of the other grades. I'm guessing the categories refer to the themes, and not publishers' categories. I was surprised, but impressed with the number of new books included. There are some of the older classics scattered throughout as well, but some of the authors that are conspicuously absent include Joyce, Faulkner, Melville, Hawthorne and Austen.

I've asterisked the books I've read and I own a number of others listed that I haven't gotten to yet. Of those that I have read, I did enjoy them so Boston Latin Academy's book list may be my new source for recommended reads!

It will be interesting to see how many of these books do stand the test of time.


kristen said...

I also recognized one or two selections from your post about contemporary works that may become classics in the future.

This is a great reading list. Certainly a cut above what my public school required going into 12th grade. In fact, I don't even remember having summer reading lists back in the late seventies. Either I was at the wrong school, or this is a relatively new thing? Even my soon-to-be 1st grader had a summer reading list this year!

Lisa said...

I don't remember having them either, but Latin school is one of only three in the Boston Public School System that requires an admission test, so I suspect they levy more on the students there than they do in some of the other schools. I think it's great though. I always thought that from purely an educational standpoint, summer vacation was a little too long. I think kids lose lot on a long break and it takes a lot of time to get that "thinking" momentum going again.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf