The Book Report: October 2023

Book picks from Mr. Potter, Mr. Ingmundson, Ms. Mann, Mr. Felty, and Mr. Hibson, and Mr. Olsen.

The Book Report: October 2023
Images via Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Rakuten. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Welcome to The Book Report, a monthly round-up of book reviews and recommendations from the students and staff of MSMHS. In this edition, book picks from Mr. Potter, Mr. Ingmundson, Ms. Mann, Mr. Felty, and Mr. Hibson, and Mr. Olsen.

Mr: Potter's Pick: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Image via Rakuten. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom about an elderly man who dies and goes to heaven. In heaven, he meets a group of five people who all had a significant impact on his life; the individuals then help him to find and understand his own significance in life.

Mr. Potter says: "My girlfriend loved the book and recommended it. I enjoyed the book and think others should read it because it brings up a lot of questions about the afterlife and life in general, and the concept of making good use of our time and even the question of ‘why we are here?’ It also got me thinking about ‘am I here for a reason?’. It was a book that made me view time and meaning differently because the story focuses a lot on what we are supposed to do and regret for things we have done. It made me evaluate what I have done in life thus far."

Mr. Igmundson's Pick: The Secret Life of Bees

Image via Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: The Secret Life of Bees is a novel by Sue Monk Kidd that tells the story of a young girl who escapes her abusive father and finds refuge in the company of her three beekeeping sisters. The novel is set in the 1960s and explores themes of family, love, and racial injustice.

Mr. Igmundson says: "I picked it up and took it with me on a camping trip. I didn't know much about it but I was intrigued by the title. I was curious because my dad's a beekeeper and I wanted to see what role the bees played in the story in terms of its metaphor.

"It's a wonderful modern contribution to Southern Gothic literature and it's a great successor to Harper Lee's book, To Kill a Mockingbird in terms of talking about issues of race in America. I think in Lee's book, you see elements of what you would call the “white savior” narrative, where people like Finch are the ones who try to save colored people's lives and fail. Whereas the bees in this novel are very strong characters who are portrayed as women of color and the story truly celebrates their strength and puts them at the center of the plot as opposed to the edges."

Ms. Mann's Pick: Demon Copperhead

Image via Barnes and Noble. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: Demon Copperhead is a novel by Barbra Kingslover set in the mountains of Appalachia. It is a meditation on a boy born from a single teenage mother living in a mobile home, with nothing from his father beyond his looks and copper hair. The book conveys themes of love and neglect, the opioid epidemic, poverty, and hard work.

Mrs. Mann says: "I loved everything about this book, from the characters, to the writing, to the issues it raised about what it’s like to live in America. I did have a little trouble getting into the book at first; I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I’m so glad I stuck with it. As much as I try to imagine the lives of others, I am perpetually stuck in my own experience.

"This book gave me a chance to see America from a totally different lens and also to consider the human impact of the opioid crisis. After reading this, I have a more nuanced (but still totally inadequate) idea of what it would be like to grow up in Appalachia. I’m not sure it changed my life, per se, but I do think it helped me develop more empathy — a goal I am always pursuing."

Content Note: This book contains serious topics that may be triggering to some readers, including scenes dealing with the opioid crisis, drug overdoses, and sexual assault.

Mr. Felty's Pick: Seveneves

Image via The Seattle Times. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: Seveneves is a thrilling science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson. It conceptualizes a catastrophic event where the moon explodes into pieces, causing an impending apocalypse on earth. As humanity faces extinction, the novel follows efforts to save a community of people by sending them into space to survive. 

Mr. Felty says: "I read it because it was a Hugo Award nominee for best sci-fi and I heard good things about the author. It's a great book, because in the realm of good sci-fi, it takes real science principles and extends them five thousand years into the future to what they may be capable of. It also does a great job touching on the morals of genetics and human personality.

"I absolutely think people should read this if they are looking for a science fiction book. It helped inspire me to read more and reminded me of how enjoyable books can be. It's a great book to take you out of a reading slump!"

Mr. Hibson's Pick: The Astonishing Color of After

Image via Kobo. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: The Astonishing Color of After, by Emily X.R. Pan, is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love. The story follows the life of Leigh, a teenage girl who believes her mother had been reincarnated into a bird after her suicide. Determined to prove her idea, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her grandparents and learn her family’s history. The book explores grief, identity, and the power of art.

Mr. Hibson says: "So, I read about this in the New York Times and it sounded great. The title grabbed me and that's what drew me into the novel as I started reading it. The writing is incredibly fluid, which I’m sure the author meant to do, but she interjects colors throughout the entire story in such a subtle way, a way in which isn’t like she just like she threw the color in. It takes you on her grieving journey and the journey of her relationship. It is an entirely different view of a family dynamic after the passing of a loved one. I highly recommend it as it is the debut novel of the author."

Content Note: This book contains serious topics that may be triggering to some readers, including scenes that deal with grief and suicide.

Mr. Olsen's Pick: All Souls

Image via Kobo. Illustration by Kaiden Chandler.

Synopsis: The book All Souls by Michael MacDonald is a powerful memoir that explores the author's experiences growing up in South Boston during the 70s and 80s. Macdonald dives into the complexities of race, class, and identity, in addition to the impact of poverty and violence on his community. 

Mr. Olsen says: “I chose this book because it is a great entryway into topics around social class for those without a formal sociological background. It is a gripping read that doesn’t sugarcoat poverty. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to others. I would especially recommend it to people who have the privilege of never needing to think about their own socioeconomic status. In other words, those in the middle-class, upper-middle class, the upper class, and the elite.

"This book is a powerful memoir about MacDonald’s experiences growing up in a white Irish Catholic family in the Old Colony housing project of South Boston in the 1970s. MacDonald tells a story of death, drugs, gangs, racial violence, economic violence, and hope. This book gave me a more nuanced understanding of the backlash against busing policies in the 1970s."

Thanks for reading The Book Report, a publication of The Current. Join us next Thursday for an interview with Ms. Archer in Survival Kit!

-Gracie Peil, Editor of The Book Report