Middle College at College of San Mateo - Summer Reading
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Middle College
Summer Reading 2016
Assignments are due August 15 



Summer Reading for both Juniors and Seniors 2016

All students (Juniors and Seniors) must read two books: Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and one you choose from the list below.
Many are calling the issues that Half the Sky deals with “the central moral issue of our time.” Although it deals with sometimes horrific abuses impoverished
women around the globe must face, it also presents the stories of real people taking practical steps to address these injustices—something  that you yourself
may have the opportunity to do while at Middle College. The assignment for this book:

  • Choose three women’s stories that made an impression you. Quote and discuss specific lines from the text as you explain  why they made that impression on you.
  • For the 3 women you picked, use and discuss specific quotes that you believe point to the root causes of the injustices they face and whether the action being taken addresses those causes.
  • Accomplish this in three typed paragraphs, due the first day.

Middle College has some copies of Half the Sky. Let us know if you would like to check one out. You can check out the book from your local library or purchase the book from a bookstore or on-line. If you need financial help to purchase books, contact Principal Don Scetena in the Middle College office before June 17 (dscatena@smuhsd.org).Both seniors and juniors: e-mail English teacher Greg Lance at glance@smuhsd.org if you want to discuss the novel, or if you have questions.

 ASSIGNMENT FOR YOUR SECOND BOOK: Select one book from the list below. (Rising Seniors, pick a book you did not read last summer.) Some are long, some shorter, some fiction, some non-fiction; pick what sounds good for you. Write a page (no more, no less) in which you defend your answer to this question: What message, idea, lesson or wisdom  does this book convey? Discuss several quotes from throughout the book in defense of your response. Especially, be sure to include something from the final pages. Try to show some intellectual and, if you feel it, personal engagement with the novel.  On the back of this page, please briefly discuss why you did or did not enjoy this book.

If you need financial help to purchase books, contact Principal Don Scatena in the Middle College office before June 17 (dscatena@smuhsd.org).E-mail English teacher Greg Lance at glance@smuhsd.org if you have questions.


*The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
“A visionary work that combines speculative fiction with deep philosophical inquiry, The Sparrow tells the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a scientific mission entrusted with a profound task: to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. The mission begins in faith, hope, and beauty, but a series of small misunderstandings brings it to a catastrophic end.”

The Brother’s K, by David Duncan
“This touching, uplifting novel spans decades of loyalty, anger, regret, and love in the lives of the Chance family. A father whose dreams of glory on a baseball field are shattered by a mill accident. A mother who clings obsessively to religion as a ward against the darkest hour of her past. Four brothers who come of age during the seismic upheavals of the sixties and who each choose their own way to deal with what the world has become. By turns uproariously funny and deeply moving, and beautifully written throughout, The Brothers K is one of the finest chronicles of our lives in many years.”

Daughter of Fortune, by Isabelle Allende
“An orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, vivacious young Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Entering a rough world of new arrivals driven mad by gold fever, Eliza moves in a society of single men and prostitutes with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chi'en. California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence for the young Chilean, and her search for her elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey. By the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
“We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn't. And it's what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.”

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America -- the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Chabon tells an unforgettable story.

A Place to Stand,  byJimmy Santiago Baca
The true story of Baca’s childhood of abandonment, his career selling drugs, and his time in prison, this is also an account of how an illiterate prisoner fought for the privilege to teach himself how to read--and then to write, by corresponding with a man on the outside, and by writing poems for other cons in exchange for books. This is not a pretty history, but it is an inspiration to all inspiring writers or poets and to anyone striving to overcome adversity.

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
In Tokyo, 16 year old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her 104 year old great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. A diary is Nao’s only solace — and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island, discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox —possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.


All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr(Pulitzer Prize, 2015)
A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy fascinated with radios whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.  Doerr deftly interweaves the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner while illuminating the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Peace Like A River,
“This richly evocative novel, narrated by an asthmatic 11-year-old named Reuben Land, is the story of Reuben's unusual family and their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. Charged with the murder of two locals who terrorized their family, Davy has fled, understanding that the scales of justice will not weigh in his favor. But Reuben, his father, Jeremiah—a man of faith so deep he has been known to produce miracles—and Reuben's little sister, Swede, follow closely behind the fleeing Davy. This novel is a wondrous celebration of family and spirit, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time.”

State of Wonder, by Anne Patchett
A provocative novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice set in the Amazon rainforest--a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of scientific progress, discovery and love.

An Innocent Man, by John Grisham
Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham's first work of non-fiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence--a book that no American can afford to miss..

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity, politics, and America, wrought in electric prose. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain, is a man of divided loyalties, a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent in America after the end of the Vietnam War. A powerful story of love and friendship, and a gripping espionage novel, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today..

Breaking Night, by Liz Murray
Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard. Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls' home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman's indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.