The Heights | Upper School Summer Reading

Upper School Summer Reading


Each student entering 9th grade is to read three books (see below) in preparation for an oral examination by his English teacher. This oral examination will take place on or soon after the first day of school, will be approximately ten minutes in length and will be geared to determining whether the student has read each work carefully and reflectively. Top marks will be given to students who are able to demonstrate that they have read each book with a reasonable attention to detail and have, more importantly, thought about the important themes in each work. The summer reading grade will stand as a significant grade for the first marking period.

Three books are required:

  • Two required books – read both of these books:
    • The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas (978-0395957752 or other edition)
    • The Last Crusader by Louis de Wohl (978-1586174149)
  • Third Book – choose one of the following books:
    • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
    • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
    • The Sea Wolf by Jack London
    • The Bounty Trilogy by Nordhoff/Hall
    • Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, translated by Jeremiah Curtin (146624528X, 1612031102 or other edition)
    • Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
    • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    • Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors

Students entering grades 10 through 12 are to read three books and write one essay. The book options are on the lists below.  

The summer reading essay is not a “book report.” Rather, it should be an interpretive essay that answers the following question:

According to the ancient Greeks, kairos is the supreme and decisive moment in which action leads either to success or to failure. In each of the summer reading texts, illuminate the kairos. In your essay, explain the factors leading up to it, the decisive action(s) taken during it, and the consequences that followed because of it.

The summer reading essay should be 750 to 1000 words in length (about 3-4 pages typed and double-spaced in a standard 12 point font). Grading will be based on how well reasoned the essay is, how well it incorporates detail from the books to convey its points and on use of proper grammar and style. The best essay will read as a unified whole, comparing and contrasting the way kairos is manifested in each work of literature. Standards, of course, will be based on the respective grade level of the student. The mark will stand as a significant grade in the English class for the first quarter.  

Summer reading essays are due on the first day of school.

Tenth Grade

The following book is required:

  • Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts by Carl J. Richard (0742556247)

Choose two books from the following:

  • Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry
  • American Cicero by Brad J. Birzer  (ISBN 193385989X)
  • Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper
  • A Separate Peace, Jonathan Knowles
  • Voyage to Alpha Centauri, Michael O’Brien (978-1586178321)
  • The Chosen, Chaim Potok

Eleventh Grade

The following book is required:

  • The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex by Owen Chase (the other version by Thomas Nickerson is also fine)

Choose 2 books from the following:

  • Viking Age Iceland by Jesse Byock
  • Saint Francis by G.K. Chesterton
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by G.K. Chesterton
  • Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
  • The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz
  • Sailors to the End by Gregory Freeman
  • Rescue at Los Banos by Bruce Henderson
  • Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger
  • War by Sebastian Junger
  • Apollo 13 by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
  • Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie
  • The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
  • Billy Budd, Bartleby and Other Stories by Herman Melville
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • Gallipoli by Alan Morehead
  • Tree of Salvation: Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North by Fr. G. Ronald Murphy, S.J.
  • Leviathan: The History of Whaling by Eric Jay Nolan
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
  • The Mayflower: a story of Courage, Community, and Warby Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • The Hot Zone, Richard Preston
  • The Long Road Home by Martha Raddatz
  • Dante: The Story of His Life by Marco Santagata and Richard Dixon
  • The Snakebite Survivors’ Clubby Jeremy Seal
  • Macbeth or Othello by William Shakespeare (one, not both)
  • The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606by James Shapiro
  • Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
  • With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge
  • The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • The Vinland Sagas (various editions)
  • Volsung Saga (various editions)
  • Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer
  • Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
  • April 1865: The month that saved America by Jay Winik
  • Anabasis (The March Up Country) by Xenophon
  • The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks

 Twelfth Grade

The following book is required:

  • The Quiet Light by Louis de Wohl (ISBN: 0898705959)

Choose 2 books from the following:

  • The Consolation of Philosophy by Ancius Boethius
  • Witness by Whittaker Chambers
  • The Great Terror by Robert Conquest
  • Stalin: Breaker of Nations by Robert Conquest
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • The Shadow of His Wings by Gereon Karl Goldmann
  • Memoirs by U.S. Grant
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Face of Battle by John Keegan
  • The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
  • Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation by St. Thomas More (recommended edition updated by Mary Gottschalk)
  • The Silence of St. Thomas by Josef Pieper
  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
  • Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker