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Alumni, Faculty Suggest Books for Lions' Summer Reading
Alumni, Faculty Suggest Books for Lions' Summer Reading

What could a Lion read this summer? Recently, a small group of current St. Mark's faculty and SM alumni leaders shared some of their favorite books as suggested summer reading for Lions with time on their hands. Here are some of their recommendations.


The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Who's recommending: John Warren '74, Head of School

Why they love it: Mukherjee, a professor at Columbia University's Medical Center and practicing physician, explains how the gene was discovered, the relevance of genetic research for us all, and the ways knowledge about inherited characteristics has been used for positive purposes and for nefarious purposes over the past 150 years. Presenting many fascinating details, Mukherjee makes a very complicated topic accessible and compelling.

Open, by Andre Aggasi

Who's Recommending: Barbara Talcott, Chaplain and Religion Teacher

Why they love it: This was recommended to me and I was genuinely surprised to find myself loving it. It is the autobiography of a super-achieving athlete that is jaw-droppingly honest, reflective and moving. Agassi's emotional journey is complex and fascinating, and the book is extremely well-written. It helped me understand the kind of pressures brought to bear on young athletes, as well as on super-driven and super-talented youth in general.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Who's Recommending: Jeniene Matthews, English Faculty, Dept. Chair

Why They Love It: Henrietta Lacks, referred to as HeLa to present-day scientists, is best known for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and those cells still live decades after her death; they also were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects, among many other advancements. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave. This book reveals the progress between science and human lives, ultimately forcing us to ask what we're willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Kraken, by China Miéville

Who's Recommending: Jeniene Matthews, English Faculty, Dept. Chair

Why They Love It: Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things. Kraken is an amusement park wild ride of a read. You won't regret picking up this book.

Beneath A Scarlett Sky, by Mark Sullivan

Who's Recommending: Tarah D. Breed '00, Trustee, AEC President

Why They Love It: I love reading historical fiction, particularly in the summer months. Beneath A Scarlett Sky is based on the real life (and untold) story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager during World War II. Pino is brave in the face of evil, leading Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. He later spies on the Nazis while serving as the driver for a powerful German general. The book offers a rarely highlighted view on life and hardship in Italy during World War II. In addition, the story prompts readers to ask themselves what they would have done in the face of atrocities -- be silent or speak up.

Wish Lanterns, Young Lives in New China, by Alec Ash
Who's Recommending: Bruce Morgan '70, Annual Fund Chair, AEC Member
Why They Love It: Short, fascinating chapters profile six young women and men born after 1985 who tell their own stories from childhood to their late twenties. From different parts of China and various socio-economic backgrounds, each struggles to make sense of his / her life in a nation trying to balance its central autocracy and emerging individual freedoms, the old and the new. Vast differences in wealth among very young Chinese, universal resistance to the older generation's age-old pressure to marry and have children, and common fluency with the internet despite government control and censorship. All six share behavior, clothing, hair styles (and some ink), which seem similar to those of American Millennials (about whom I have much to learn). Their views of America are a lesson in itself. Lively writing style makes this almost a beach read.

The House of Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Who's Recommending: Elaine Harvey '06, Young Alumni Leadership Co-Chair

Why They Love It: Reading Hawthorne is both a challenge and a joy as his superfluous writing style keeps me focused and satisfied as a reader. My favorite element of the book is that the House of Seven Gables becomes a character in and of itself. You can visit the house, still standing today in a Salem, to see the splendor of Colonial and Georgian architecture and place the many key moments from the novel. The home and the story alike are both a journey into a time before ours, a reminder that our history is never far from our present, for better or for worse.