Recommended Reading and Film


  • Chains

    by Laurie Halse Anderson Year Published: Easy Reading

    "As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight… for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom."

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  • Life of Pi

    by Yann Martel Year Published: Average

    The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?

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  • Little Bee

    by Chris Cleave Year Published: Challenging

    "This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again - the story starts there ..." **This book deals with mature subject matter.

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  • Sarah's Key

    by Tatiana de Rosnay Year Published: Average

    "Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released. Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own future. In Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay offers up a mesmerizing story in which a tragic past unfolds, the present is torn apart, and the future is irrevocably altered."

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  • The Art of Racing in the Rain

    by Garth Stein Year Published: Easy Reading

    Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals. A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

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  • Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    by Anne Lamott Year Published: Average

    "Lamott's ( Operating Instructions ) miscellany of guidance and reflection should appeal to writers struggling with demons large and slight. Among the pearls she offers is to start small, as their father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was agonizing over a book report on birds: ``Just take it bird by bird.' Lamott's suggestion on the craft of fiction is down-to-earth: worry about the characters, not the plot. But she's even better on psychological questions. She has learned that writing is more rewarding than publication, but that even writing's rewards may not lead to contentment. As a former ``Leona Helmsley of jealousy,' she's come to will herself past pettiness and to fight writer's block by living ``as if I am dying.' She counsels writers to form support groups and wisely observes that, even if your audience is small, ``to have written your version is an honorable thing.'"

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  • Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Year Published: Easy Reading

    From the best-selling author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists comes a powerful new statement about feminism today–written as a letter to a friend. A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.      Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

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  • Having Our Say

    by Sarah A. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany Year Published: Average

    Warm, feisty, and intelligent, the Delany sisters speak their mind in a book that is at once a vital historical record and a moving portrait of two remarkable women who continued to love, laugh, and embrace life after over a hundred years of living side by side. Their sharp memories show us the post-Reconstruction South and Booker T. Washington; Harlem's Golden Age and Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson. Bessie breaks barriers to become a dentist; Sadie quietly integrates the New York City system as a high school teacher. Their extraordinary story makes an important contribution to our nation's heritage—and an indelible impression on our lives.

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  • My Lobotomy

    by Howard Dully Year Published: Average

    "In 1960, Howard Dully became a part of medical history. At the tender age of 12, he was lobotomized, making him the youngest of Dr. Walter Freeman's 10,000 patients on the receiving end of the transorbital operation. Freeman's procedure was not only barbaric (he inserted an ice pick three inches into each eye socket), it was perilous: Fifteen percent of his patients died. Forty years after Freeman effectively derailed his life, Dully set out to discover how he became a guinea pig for one of American medicine's worst crimes. An astonishing memoir of self-recovery. " ~Barnes and Noble

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  • We Should All Be Feminists

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Year Published: Easy Reading

    The highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller—a personal, eloquently-argued essay, adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah. Here she offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

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Resourceful Reads

  • Crafting Authentic Voice

    by Tom Romano Year Published: Average

    In a compelling and manageable text, the author makes the case for giving special time and attention to voice as a means to get students involved and improve their writing.

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AP Book Titles

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns

    by Khaled Hosseini Year Published: Average

    "A Thousand Splendid Suns is a story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding—that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. A Thousand Splendid Suns recounts the experiences and emotions of two Afghani women, Mariam and Laila, whose lives become entangled with the history of recent wars in their country. Mostly bleak and heartrending, their story does offer the promise of hope and happiness in a land ravaged by warfare, gender conflicts, and poverty."

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  • The Kite Runner

    by Khaled Hosseini Year Published: Average

    The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies. A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

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  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

    by David Wroblewski Year Published: Average

    Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm—and into Edgar's mother's affections. Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires—spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward. David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.

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  • Lion (2016)

    by Garth Davis (Director) Year Published:

    A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

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  • The Great Debaters

    by Denzel Washington Year Published:

    A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

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Websites and Blogs

  • The Essence of Storytelling

    by Christopher Vogler Year Published:

    Chris Vogler travels around the world teaching his 2-day Masterclass to sold-out audiences in film capitals like LA, NY, Paris and Toronto, and regularly serves as a consultant to top Hollywood studios and filmmakers. He's helped guide the storytelling of many successful films over the last 20 years, including NOAH, THE WRESTLER, BLACK SWAN, THE LION KING, THE THIN RED LINE, FIGHT CLUB and more. This site provides information about his masterclass.


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TED Talks and Video Clips

  • Before Avatar ... a curious boy

    by James Cameron Year Published:
    James Cameron's big-budget (and even bigger-grossing) films create unreal worlds all their own. In this personal talk, he reveals his childhood fascination with the fantastic — from reading science fiction to deep-sea diving — and how it ultimately drove the success of his blockbuster hits "Aliens," "The Terminator," "Titanic" and "Avatar."

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  • Do We See Reality As It Is?

    by Donald Hoffman Year Published:
    In his extraordinary TED Talk, "Do we see reality as it is?," cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman explains his research, which suggests that the purpose of sight is not to accurately portray some objective reality (if there is such a thing) but instead to further the evolutionary goals of survival and reproduction. Put another way, our minds are less concerned with getting it "right" than they are with getting it "useful." Our visual system is designed, Hoffman argues, to augment the information about the world that we perceive with our eyes, not to faithfully represent it. Hoffman's talk is inspiring. He exemplifies the indefatigable drive of human curiosity, the power of the human mind -- and the limitless potential of their nimble conspiracy. At the same time, the talk is humbling and cautionary because it exposes the fragile vulnerability of our most basic knowledge, what we think we know of sight itself. Above all else, however, I find great optimism in Hoffman's message. If we can understand how our minds create personal, virtual realities that we perceive as truth -- in our sight and otherwise -- we can live with awareness of our role in the creation of those realities. With that awareness, we can choose to hold ourselves accountable and choose how we want to live our lives in every moment.

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  • How to Live Before you Die

    by Steve Jobs Year Published:

    Of this speech, James Veitch wrote: "Of all the many things Steve gave to the world, it's this speech, "How to live before you die," given two years before the iPhone was announced, that I am most grateful for. As a commencement address it stands out by virtue of looking backwards rather than forwards. Like the best TED Talks, the three stories he tells -- "No big deal, just three stories ..." -- seek not to teach new knowledge but to invoke that which has been forgotten. Under the dazzling California sun, marine-blue jeans showing underneath his gown, Steve Jobs tells the students not to change. It's a sentiment reiterated in every Pixar movie and one that remains a part of Apple's DNA. With a Dumbledore glint in his eye, Steve's final appeal: stay hungry, stay foolish."


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  • The Art of Misdirection

    by Apollo Robbins Year Published:
    Street artist JR writes, "Art has the ability to change perceptions. It can show what is obvious yet not considered, and it can change the way we see the world because what we see changes who we are. Apollo Robbins's TED Talk, "The art of misdirection," makes visible something important. I'm always amazed by how people can be so easily distracted. Playing around on our phones and computers, we aren't able to pay full attention to what's happening around us, and we lose track of each other. We forget to talk to and listen to each other; we forget that only human contact can save us. I'm certainly guilty of being distracted, too. Still, it's hard to imagine how we leave so many doors open to manipulation. I surround myself with magicians because I'm fascinated by their ability to manipulate our minds. That's why I think Apollo's talk is so great: because seeing a pickpocket act live and in front of everyone, tricking a full audience with just a little misdirection, is pure art. May it give us a new kind of awareness and remind us to pay attention." Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch. In a hilarious demonstration, Robbins samples the buffet of the TEDGlobal 2013 audience, showing how the flaws in our perception make it possible to swipe a wallet and leave it on its owner’s shoulder while they remain clueless.

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  • The Ethical Dilemma of Designer Babies

    by Paul Knoepfler Year Published:
    Creating genetically modified people is no longer a science fiction fantasy; it's a likely future scenario. Biologist Paul Knoepfler estimates that within fifteen years, scientists could use the gene editing technology CRISPR to make certain "upgrades" to human embryos — from altering physical appearances to eliminating the risk of auto-immune diseases. In this thought-provoking talk, Knoepfler readies us for the coming designer baby revolution and its very personal, and unforeseeable, consequences.

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