Eight books to read over break


Photo by Ellie Albin

With so much time off from school, now is a great time to read, whether you are an avid reader or looking to become one.

There has never been a better time to sit down and read a good book. With people practicing social distancing and school being canceled, schedules can be adjusted to make time to read books you have always wanted to enjoy. If you do not have an ongoing list of books to check off, though, fear not; here is a list of books for a wide array of interests. 

Please note that both the Fishers and Noblesville Hamilton East Public Library locations will be closed until at least April 13 due to coronavirus concerns. However, the books listed can be downloaded as eBooks on many platforms. If these books do not interest you, Project Gutenberg is a great place to search for eBooks, and Norton, the security service, verifies that it is a safe source to download books from. 


For the realistic fiction lover: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Michael has moved many times in his life. He has never gone to a Catholic school before, though, which becomes a bit of a problem due to one thing: he is an atheist. He makes a friend on his first day, Lucy, a devout yet forward-thinking Catholic, who introduces him to a club no one knows about – Heretics Anonymous. He instantly finds a place he fits in and soon persuades the group to try and help him challenge the authority of the school. 

The best part of this book is the way the friends challenge each other. Though it leads to constant bickering, they genuinely hold each other to certain moral standards and call each other out for breaking those standards. The characters bring unique perspectives on religion that many kids would usually back away from. Even Michael, an atheist, provides deep insight as to why he believes what he believes, and, through his perspective, we are able to understand and respect why others follow what they follow. 


For someone who likes the concept of Heretics Anonymous, but maybe wants something a little darker: Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

St. Michael’s, a Catholic school, is encompassed by corruption, declining enrollment and a poor reputation. When three freshmen, Peter, Noah and Lorelei, try to combat intimidating upperclassmen who spend their time torturing and bullying underclassmen, they are met with no help and support from fellow students, staff or their families. 

Brutal Youth explores the controversies of Catholic school like Heretics Anonymous, but it does so with a much darker, more disturbing tone. The main characters are all incredibly flawed – not a single one comes from a completely stable background – making for a heartbreaking book. The novel focuses on schools having the so-called “tradition” of torturing underclassmen, but the students take it many steps too far. So, if you really want to read a fictional book about Catholic school but want something a bit darker than Heretics Anonymous, this is the way to go. 


For the person in the mood to root for the underdog: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior lives on a Spokane Indian reservation. He spends most of his life being bullied for his stutter and lisp, coping with his parents’ alcoholism and a distant sister. When freshman year begins at Wellpinit High School, an incident involving Junior and a teacher causes him to be suspended. Junior soon after begins life at a new school in the very white town of Rearden, which is 22 miles from home – and he travels there every day.

I have never read a book that is so full of equal parts bitter and sweet. Even though it really is cheesy to say this, Junior’s perseverance is emotional to read about. Junior faces betrayal, violence and bullying in a manner that everyone can applaud and love because he battles it so well. Oh, and he loves to draw cartoons, which are often featured in the book – and play a vital role in his life.


For the fantasy lover: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

During his final year at Watford School of Magicks, Simon Snow, a magician, tries to cope with encounters with the Humdrum, the villain of the story, who happens to look just like him. Along with Humdrum problems, Simon’s girlfriend, Agatha, breaks up with him, his roommate Baz is missing and the ghost of Baz’s mom, Natasha Grimm-Pitch, asks Simon to avenge her death.

I love Harry Potter, but I love getting a different take on what a “magical” world, of sorts, would look like. Rowell’s book has dark moments, like much of the Harry Potter series does, but it does a nice job of counteracting that with humor and the relatable awkwardness of the characters. 


For someone seeking a throwback to elementary school: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody “Bod” Owens was raised in a graveyard by ghosts. Bod spends his childhood within the confines of the graveyard until he eventually reaches a point in which he wants to venture out into the world and find people like him.

I know that many of you probably read this in elementary school, but I am struggling to believe that a fourth grader would actually feel the emotions this book supplies on the same level that a high schooler would. I remember in elementary school that The Graveyard Book was always checked out, hence the reason I just recently read it (and because I put it on the back burner for many years), but the only reason kids seemed to like it was because the concept was cool. And, yes; I agree. Being raised by ghosts because you need to be protected from a murderer who killed your family is a unique concept. But, really, and I did not expect this, the book pulled at my heartstrings. It is definitely a young adult novel that deals with growing up and leaving home; I think it is a book we could all use as many of us prepare for the next steps in our lives.


For the philosopher: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Pirsig uses the story of a father and son taking a summer motorcycle trip across the U.S. to examine how we, as individuals, share different perspectives on quality and quality of life. Though the story often revolves around the trip, the narrator ties in stories from his past. He refers to his past self as “Phaedrus,” a teacher who was obsessed with determining what the definition of good writing is. The topics that are covered in the book are referred to as “Chautauquas,” which is in reference to the Chautauqua education and entertainment lectures of the early 20th century.

This book makes me feel unbelievably uncomfortable with my own existence. I read this in the summer of 2019 going into senior year after a friend suggested it to me. I told him I would read it – so, I did. And I still think about it. A lot. Honestly, I think I will leave it at that. Just know that I wanted to bookmark almost every page in this book; every page provided some sort of insight that I wanted to flip back to and re-read. It sticks with you. It forced me to analyze what makes something “good” and what makes something “bad” – but, sometimes, it pushed me to obsessive limits. So, beware. It is a great book, but it is unexpectedly intense.


For the memoir lover: On Writing by Stephen King

For someone seeking a memoir, On Writing is an exploration of Stephen King’s personal experiences with writing. He also provides advice for aspiring writers throughout the book. A year before the book was published, King was involved in a car crash. After it occurred, he was not able to write, and he described it in an NBC interview as “…starting over again from square one.” This was the first book he published after the crash.

A lot of students do not seem to be aware of this memoir’s existence, and I think a lot of that is because of the obvious reason: they think King only writes horror novels. This definitely strays from that genre and it is incredibly refreshing. He provides advice that everyone can use, not just writers, to appreciate writing in a new way.


For the essay lover: 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology (Fifth Edition) by Samuel Cohen

This is probably not a book many students want to see on a list that is supposed to be about reading for pleasure. As many of you may know, this book is used in FHS’ AP Language and Composition course as a textbook of sorts. 

Yeah, I know. I kind of just recommended a textbook. Well, not “kind of.” I did. But you have the choice on how you view this anthology. You could look at it as if it is just meant for school, or you could look at it for what it is on a fundamental level: a compilation of really great essays. They come in different lengths, too. Some essays are fairly short, some are fairly long, but they can all be read in one or two sittings. It is a mix of classic essays, like Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and contemporary essays such as David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day.”

This one might be harder to find as an eBook. So, rather than trying to find an eBook of all these essays, reference this list of all the essays included in the book. Most of them, if not all of them, will be simple to find as individual PDFs.