Suggested Summer Reading


You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” —James Baldwin


This list of suggested reading for the summer and beyond comes from the Putney School English Department. Our aim each May is to share some of our favorite books with students and the wider school community by creating a short and varied list of possibilities. Read these books! They will wake up your mind and expand your world. Whether you prefer print or audio, read, get connected, grow your brain and your heart.



This book tells the fictional story of one Brooklyn project but also a broader story of race and religion, getting by and getting out, and how grudges and alliances become embedded in the foundations of our neighborhoods. An incredibly satisfying read. Funny, too!  A mystery story, a crime novel, an urban farce, a sociological portrait of late-1960s Brooklyn. Andrea Gibson’s latest collection is a masterful showcase from the poet whose writing and performances have captured the hearts of millions. With artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family, Lord of the Butterflies is a new peak in Gibson’s career. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.– Button Poetry  Johnson is a writer and activist based in New York. They have written on race, gender, sex, and culture for Essence, the Advocate, BuzzFeed News, Teen Vogue, among others. The New York Times called this book “an exuberant, unapologetic memoir infused with a deep but cleareyed love for its subjects.” At the time of publication, George used he/him pronouns. 

This collection showcases emerging and seasoned writers telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange.  The story is set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea and centers on a young mage named Ged, born in a village on the island of Gont. … During a magical duel, Ged’s spell goes awry and releases a shadow creature that attacks him. The novel follows his journey as he seeks to be free of the creature. Starring Abraham Lincoln. This novel asks the question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?  Turning Japanese is a comic memoir that chronicles MariNaomi’s experiences working in illegal hostess bars in San Jose and Tokyo while attempting to connect with a culture that had eluded her since childhood. It’s about contradictions and opposites, but also how someone can be and feel two things at once.  Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
Omari’s response to racism at his boarding school sets this contemporary drama in motion. His mother Nya, a public school teacher, struggles to understand her son as she wrestles with the structural inequality of educational systems. Morriseau uses the power of poetry to critique the school to prison pipeline. Margery Benson is trying to get through life, surviving on scraps. One day, she reaches her breaking point, abandoning her job and small existence to set out on an expedition to the other side of the world in search of her childhood obsession. When she advertises for an assistant to accompany her, she ends up with Enid Pretty in her tight-fitting pink suit and pom-pom sandals.Together, these two find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all expectations and delivers something neither of them expected to find: the transformative power of friendship. Nine high school girls, one soccer team…The Wolves. This hyper-realistic play, written in overlapping dialogue, unfolds as the team warms up for a series of games. “A portrait spilling over with humor, insight and, in the closing stretch, searing pathos — all of it undiluted by the distorting filters of the male gaze.” – Hollywood Reporter

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