If there’s anything English teachers love more than reading, it’s turning everyone in their orbit into a bookworm too. Now in her 14th year of teaching world literature and English language composition at Region 16’s Woodland Regional High School, Connecticut 2020 Teacher of the Year Meghan Hatch-Geary is always on the lookout for great titles to share with colleagues and students.
Many of her book choices reflect her own personal interest in diversity, equity, and social justice and her understanding that books have the power to not only reflect the world we live in but also change it for the better.
Beyond the classroom, Hatch-Geary has advised numerous clubs, including The Gay-Straight Alliance, Preserving Our Histories, and One Region, One Book. She is also a founding member and co-advisor of Woodland Worldwide, an extracurricular organization that promotes social justice and empowers young women locally and globally through leadership opportunities and activism.
Here are her top reading recommendations for this summer. For more, visit mrsgearyreads.com or follow #mrsgearyreads.
The Violin Conspiracy, by Brendan Slocumb
I devoured this book in about 24 hours! The Violin Conspiracy is a compulsively readable, page-turning mystery that will fascinate you and open your eyes to the world of classical music and the insidious racism that infects its elitist history.
Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise who discovers he has inherited a priceless Stradivarius violin. Soon after he realizes what his family heirloom actually is, the instrument is stolen. This shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover this most treasured possession—his great-great-grandfather’s legacy—on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.
The novel is both a mystery and a history, and the details of both are enlightening and riveting. A perfect summer read!
Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong
This collection of essays is absolutely brilliant. My teacher soul inhaled and savored these fascinating, provocative, and probing essays about Asian-American identity, history, life, family, culture, and oppression. This collection explores so much, and the feelings here are everything but minor. A reckoning indeed.
Hong’s work challenges our ideas, preconceived notions, established systems, and assumptions about all of those things. And she forces readers to confront their own biases and prejudices along the way. Her diction is powerfully direct, her imagery expansive, her tone unapologetic.
These essays are meant to be read, discussed, and read again, so I look forward to finding ways to incorporate Hong’s work into my classroom. I know they will raise questions for my students, and while I definitely do not have all the answers, I believe working through complex texts like these is how we help our students seek and answer these questions on their own.
The Cutting Season, by Attica Locke
Set on a museum plantation in modern-day Louisiana, this complex and layered murder mystery is compelling, well-plotted, atmospheric, and engaging, and it centers Black American voices, history, and perspectives. I was totally hooked! The audiobook is wonderful and captures the many voices of the story. After reading this, I am hoping and praying for Attica Locke to write a young adult novel with similar settings and themes—I’d use it in the classroom in a heartbeat!
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty
A math-loving main character struggling to find her circle of friends, shelter dogs in need of love, and a community-minded team of tweens looking to make a difference in the world—this book has so much to make it unforgettable!
Fantastic, joyful, thoughtful, heartwarming, and nuanced, this middle-grade novel will delight all ages…even us non-math folks! I absolutely fell in love with Lucy—the girl struck by lightning—and her story. It would be a fabulous family read-along this summer.
Notes on an Execution, by Danya Kukafka
Long after finishing this lyrical, horribly beautiful novel, I was still holding my breath whenever I thought about it.
In brief: This book is superb. Every single thing about it, from its purposeful intent, to its epic observations, to its smallest sentence, is perfect. This book is a remarkable work of fiction unlike any other serial-killer-mystery- thriller I have ever read. It is so unique, and so well (pardon the pun) executed, that I could barely put it down. And yet, I savored it for days, pausing to sit in its lush, aching, and lyrical melancholy; flipping back to reread many passages that both mesmerized and moved me. This is a story both heavy and fragile at once.
The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune
“Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard.”
We should all read this humanizing, heart-lifting allegorical book. Voyage into the sunshine and fall in love with Linus, Arthur, and all the magical youth who live in this unique orphanage by the sea. It’s a wonderful thing when a book about creatures can teach us so much about how to be better humans.
This one is on my “required human reading list” and is perfect for readers of all ages.
Dominicana, by Angie Cruz
I felt completely transported in time and place because of Cruz’s fabulous descriptions, which are simultaneously vivid and sparing. This is a glorious coming-of-age story that feels both exotic (for me!) and yet completely and authentically American.
Moving from the Dominican Republic to New York City in the 1950s, Ana is a captivating character who transforms and grows from a teenage girl into a woman—from a “dead fly” into an irrepressible and glorious bird in flight.
Subtly political, overtly honest, historically poignant, this novel is a snapshot of history distilled into a relevant struggle, and it is a joy to read. We need these feminist, immigrant, and humanist stories more than ever.