Our Favorite English Teachers Tell Us Their Favorite Novels
English teachers are remarkable people. Not only do they deal with the everyday rigors of being a high school teacher, but they also have to read the same books year in and year out. Many of these books are classic high school reading, with long page numbers and complex wording. However, English teachers aren’t bound to the books that they read in school, so many of them read and have preferences for their books. These are some of their favorites:
Mr. Marvin – Why Fish Don’t Exist, Lulu Miller
Why Fish Don’t Exist is a history book and autobiography of sorts. Author Lulu Miller takes the story of scientist and taxidermist David Jordan as he discovers and restores almost a thousand of his discoveries from lighting, fire and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Jordan would be credited with almost a fifth of known fish. From his story, Miller takes heed of Jordan’s continuous optimism and desire to put forth order in the world.
For Mr. Marvin, the book was an eye-opener. “I now think permanently differently for reading it,” he says. Mr. Marvin is putting Why Fish Don’t Exist up for consideration into the curriculum. He believes that technology is placing us into categories, and controlling where in life we will go, who we raise and lower, and what we like and don’t like. This is a book that cracks that controlling grasp, that makes us question who is at the controls, and how to subvert it.
Mr. Annear – Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon is a fictional account of Macon “Milkman” Dead’s life. Born in Michigan, Milkman’s youth is aimless and empty, most of his early life spent torn between his aunt’s and father’s lifestyles. Then Milkman embarks on a journey of discovery as he searches for his inheritance. Song of Solomon is the third book by renowned Black author Toni Morrison. The book is one of Mr. Annear’s all-time favorites as it explores and amplifies “hope, complicated love, and supernatural soul of our confounding and passionate lives.” Mr. Annear plans to submit Song of Solomon for consideration for the booklist.
Mr. Ford – Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
Cannery Row is a humorous book based around the real-life location of the same name in Monterey, California. The story follows Mack and his group of unemployed young men as they throw a party for their close friend Doc. The book has many characters, some of which are introduced through a series of connected vignettes, which are short pieces of writing meant to capture a moment in time. Mr. Ford says Cannery Row contains “observations on friendship and what it means to be successful in life” despite its simple plot and humor. He would endorse the book being on the curriculum and believes the book is thought-provoking, and most importantly fun.
Mrs. Eaton – The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Mrs. Eaton doesn’t have a favorite book, which is no surprise because she’s read so many! She did, however, single out The Bluest Eye as a book she would like to add to the curriculum. The Bluest Eye is the story of Claudia and Frieda MacTeer, and Pecola, a girl who the MacTeers briefly board. Pecola believes that to be pretty she must be white and blue-eyed. The book follows these young kids as they are exposed to the world in an unrelenting way, perfectly described by Morrison’s incredible storytelling. The Bluest Eye is one of Toni Morrison’s most famous books, and deservingly so.
Mr. Kuykendall – The Speaker for The Dead, Orson Scott Card
The sequel to the brilliant Ender’s Game, The Speaker for the Dead follows the main character Ender Wiggens as he helps resolve conflict in the world of Lusitania. Events from the prior book haunt Ender, as he deals with miscommunication between species, issues surrounding human colonization of other worlds. The Speaker of the Dead touches on aspects of the human soul and the effect of trauma. Mr. Kuykendall recommends the whole quintet, Ender’s game, The Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Dead, but singles out The Speaker for the Dead for opening his eyes to what science fiction could be.
Mrs. Koby – Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
From the Stone Age to the present time, author Yuval Noah Harari brings the reader though thousands of years of human evolution. He examines the scientific limitation put up by earth sciences, and how social sciences shaped what happened within those confines. Sapiens was received to wide acclaim and has been translated from its original Hebrew to English. Mrs. Koby says that the book opens one’s eyes to things they didn’t really think about, like how money is a construct and how close government is similar to religion. Sapiens is much more like a history book rather than a English book. It faces an interpretation of the history of humanity rather than narrative or literary techniques. Regardless, Sapiens is an interesting read, ready for anyone interested in humanity.