Eight Great Books to Read Over the Holiday Break

With the holiday break coming up, you may be looking forward to curling up with a good book. We recently asked some of our Prep administrators to recommend their favorites for you. Enjoy!

Eddie Mensah, Head of School
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
One of my favorite books of all time. It’s historical fiction that comments on the racial politics of the 1900s but also addresses women’s empowerment, challenging traditional gender roles and comments on how we handle the vicissitudes of life.

Sharon Vanella, Head of Early School
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver is well-known for her fiction work, but this is a non-fiction account of a year of her life in which she and her family relocated from Arizona to Virginia to live off the land. She and her family committed to eating only what they could grow or source locally and in season. Along the way, she shares recipes and anecdotes about the challenges and joys associated with growing one’s food. Kingsolver’s whole family participated, with her husband adding some facts about sustainability and the farming industry, while her older daughter shared her experiences and recipes, and their youngest took it upon herself to raise chickens and turkeys to contribute to the effort. This book gives “food for thought” as it makes one reconsider just how important it is to have ripe strawberries in December, for instance, knowing all of the transportation costs involved in making that happen.

Vicky Wilkison, Director of Enrollment & Co-Interim Head of Lower School
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink
This book speaks to the importance of educating not just the left brain, but the right brain as well. It is the creative, holistic, artistic, storyteller inventors who possess a distinct advantage in the future compared to left brain thinkers who dominated in the past. The book further explores six specific aptitudes that will be essential in this new time: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

Mimi McKeon, Lower School Director of Curriculum & Co-Interim Head of Lower School
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
The book takes you on an international journey following three teenage students. As these American students embed into educational institutions in countries that in recent history have produced some of the world top students, the author relays their experiences and individual journeys. From these stories, the reader can glean insights into the “why” and “how” of the educational successes of students.

Evan Kurtz, Head of Middle School
What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper
This is a gripping but ultimately uplifting tale of a Holocaust survivor. What I learned that I did not have much knowledge of previously was how after the concentration camps were liberated they remained open as sites where camp survivors bonded together to regain their lives, as the majority of them had nowhere to return. The camps turned into places where, as survivors’ bodies strengthened, hope strengthened as well.

Profiles In Courage by John F. Kennedy
Written by Kennedy when he was a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts, this contains eight essays on historical senators who made unpopular but, in Kennedy’s opinion, courageous decisions while in office. I picked up this book this past summer when I visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Despite growing up nearby, I had never visited, and my entire family truly enjoyed the experience.

Katie Edde, Middle School Dean of Students and Administrative Assistant
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
I heard Stevenson speak at the People of Color Conference in 2016. I was moved by what he had to say regarding compassion and mercy toward human beings and wanted to know more. Like him, I truly believe a person is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. Bryan Stevenson is a social justice activist and lawyer. He is a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Melissa Guarnaccia, Guidance Counselor
Parenting with Love & Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
I love this book because it offers practical and incredibly helpful advice on parenting that you can begin implementing immediately. The primary purpose of the Love & Logic philosophy is for us to take care of ourselves as parents, and therefore model positive and empathetic behaviors for our kids. This philosophy helps to improve communication with kids and avoid power struggles, all while making parenting a bit more fun.

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