Skip to Main Content
The library leaders are excited about continuing our sponsored summer reading program this year!
Returning Urban students (current grades 9-11) will select a book to read over the summer from the list below. Each of these titles is sponsored by Urban faculty, staff, or student leaders. You will pledge to read a book over the summer. In the fall, we'll convene the reading groups to have a book club-style meeting that will last about 45 minutes. We hope this program will promote reading for fun and inter-grade camaraderie.
Take a look at the books on the list by browsing the titles below, and fill out this form to select a book. Reading groups will be limited to around 15 readers, so you may not get your first choice BUT THE SOONER YOU RESPOND, THE MORE LIKELY YOU'LL BE TO GET ONE OF YOUR TOP CHOICES. Please fill out the form by Friday, May 19th. Happy reading!
The Fifth Season Novel by N. K. Jemisin
Read with Danielle McReynolds-Dell, Academic Dean
This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
Read the first book in the critically acclaimed, three-time Hugo award-winning trilogy by NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself: A Novel by Marisa Crane
Read with Kristjiana Gong, History and Service Learning
In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.
Kris is a Shadester and a new mother. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, she teeters on the edge of collapse. As the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world. She can’t forget her wife, but she can make a new life for herself and the kid, supported by a community of fellow misfits who defy the Department to lift one another up in solidarity and hope.
Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree
Read with Mischa Lassow, Math
After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.
The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success ― not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.
If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone.
But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.
Manga Genre Group
Read with Paris Cardenas, Library Leader
Choose the manga of your choice to discuss with fellow manga fans in the fall. Not sure where to start? See recommendations below or get in touch with Paris.
From Bookriot: Manga, manga, manga! There’s so much manga to read. The options available in English have never been more plentiful and diverse than now. But if you’re delving into manga for the first time, maybe you don’t want to start with an epic, unfinished saga. (No shade, One Piece. You have your place in manga history, and no one will dispute that, but with 100 volumes released in Japan and 98 of those available in English, we can’t pretend the length hasn’t become a barrier to entry for folks new to the format.) That said, maybe you’ve read a few standalone, single-volume manga and want to try something longer. What are the best completed manga series out there? Click here for recommendations.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
Read with Jo de Pirul, Library Assistant
It's been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They're going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers's new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
Read with Laura Hawkins (Math) and Ruthann Betkey (History
Briseis has a gift: with a single touch she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents hope that surrounded by plants and flowers, she will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they never expected―it comes with a mysterious set of instructions, a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world, and generations of secrets. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it.
Vagabonds!: a novel by Eloghosa Osunde
Read with Courtney Rein, English
Eloghosa Osunde's brave, fiercely inventive novel traces a wild array of characters for whom life itself is a form of resistance: a driver for a debauched politician with the power to command life and death; a legendary fashion designer who gives birth to a grown daughter; a lesbian couple whose tender relationship sheds unexpected light on their experience with underground sex work; a wife and mother who attends a secret spiritual gathering that shifts her world. As their lives intertwine, vagabonds are seized and challenged by spirits who command the city's dark energy. Whether running from danger, meeting with secret lovers, finding their identities, or vanquishing their shadowselves, Osunde's characters confront and support one another, before converging for the once-in-a-lifetime gathering that gives the book its unexpectedly joyous conclusion.
Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb (Author), Tim Sale (Illustrator)
Read with Lingerr Senghor, English and Journalism
Christmas. St. Patrick's Day. Easter. As the calendar's days stack up, so do the bodies littered in the streets of Gotham City. A murderer is loose, killing only on holidays. The only man that can stop this fiend? The Dark Knight. In a mystery taking place during Batman's early days of crime fighting, Batman: The Long Halloween is one of the greatest Dark Knight stories ever told.
Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman's deadly enemy, Two-Face.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read with Rachel Herbert, Learning Services
A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a childhood friend, a new mother who wanted to know how to raise her baby girl to be a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response: fifteen invaluable suggestions—direct, wryly funny, and perceptive—for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. Filled with compassionate guidance and advice, it gets right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century, and starts a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
Read with Skyler Silverman, Science & Dean of Student Activities
Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why is gallium (Ga, 31) the go-to element for laboratory pranksters?
The Periodic Table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal, and obsession. These fascinating tales follow every element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, and in the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them. The Disappearing Spoon masterfully fuses science with the classic lore of invention, investigation, and discovery -- from the Big Bang through the end of time.
Though solid at room temperature, gallium is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. A classic science prank is to mold gallium spoons, serve them with tea, and watch guests recoil as their utensils disappear.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
Read with Hannah Graham, Science
In An Immense World, Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses, allowing us to perceive the skeins of scent, waves of electromagnetism, and pulses of pressure that surround us. We encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and even humans who wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries that remain unsolved.
Funny, rigorous, and suffused with the joy of discovery, An Immense World takes us on what Marcel Proust called “the only true voyage . . . not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.”
Inciting Joy by Ross Gay
Read with Raina Mast, Spanish and Art
In these gorgeously written and timely pieces, prizewinning poet and author Ross Gay considers the joy we incite when we care for each other, especially during life’s inevitable hardships. Throughout Inciting Joy, he explores how we can practice recognizing that connection, and also, crucially, how we can expand it.
In an era when divisive voices take up so much airspace, Inciting Joy offers a vital alternative: What might be possible if we turn our attention to what brings us together, to what we love?
Taking a clear-eyed look at injustice, political polarization, and the destruction of the natural world, Gay shows us how we might resist, how the study of joy might lead us to a wild, unpredictable, transgressive, and unboundaried solidarity. In fact, it just might help us survive.
Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
Read with Charisse Wu, History and Grade Level Dean
We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; today, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world. Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s former palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what it is about water that seduces us, and why we come back to it again and again.
An immersive, unforgettable, and eye-opening perspective on swimming—and on human behavior itself.
Folklore by Taylor Swift
Listen with Ciara Howard, class of '24
Take a deep dive into the lyrics of Taylor Swift's eighth album, written and produced during early pandemic lockdown. In the preamble to the album, Swift writes, "In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness. Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve.
Now it’s up to you to pass them down."
Listen to Music
Listen with Clementine Nelson, Library Leader
Explore new soundscapes and discuss several albums curated by library leader Clementine. Albums will explore mellow moog, funk and funk adjacent, word jazz, multi-lingual hip hop, and more. Intrigued? You should be! Come together in the fall to share opinions and more music as a group.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Read with Christopher Williams, Admissions
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park
Read with Julian Morris, English
Love in the Big City is the English-language debut of Sang Young Park, one of Korea’s most exciting young writers.
Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars where they push away their anxieties about their love lives, families, and money with rounds of soju and ice-cold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer. Yet over time, even Jaehee leaves Young to settle down, leaving him alone to care for his ailing mother and to find companionship in his relationships with a series of men, including one whose handsomeness is matched by his coldness, and another who might end up being the great love of his life.
A brilliantly written novel that takes us into the glittering nighttime of Seoul and the bleary-eyed morning after with both humor and emotion, Love in the Big City is a wry portrait of millennial loneliness as well as the abundant joys of queer life.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nobokov
Read with Rebecca Thurber, Development
An ingeniously constructed parody of detective fiction and learned commentary, Pale Fire offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures, at the center of which is a 999-line poem written by the literary genius John Shade just before his death. Surrounding the poem is a foreword and commentary by the demented scholar Charles Kinbote, who interweaves adoring literary analysis with the fantastical tale of an assassin from the land of Zembla in pursuit of a deposed king. Brilliantly constructed and wildly inventive, Vladimir Nabokov's witty novel achieves that rarest of things in literature—perfect tragicomic balance.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Read with Charlotte Worsley, Assistant Head for Student Life
1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.
1947. As the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...
A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
Read with Bethany Hellerich, Urban X Labs
Last Night at the Telegraph Club author Malinda Lo returns to the Bay Area with another masterful queer coming-of-age story, this time set against the backdrop of the first major Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay marriage.
Aria Tang West was looking forward to a summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her best friends—one last round of sand and sun before college. But after a graduation party goes wrong, Aria’s parents exile her to California to stay with her grandmother, artist Joan West. Aria expects boredom, but what she finds is Steph Nichols, her grandmother’s gardener. Soon, Aria is second-guessing who she is and what she wants to be, and a summer that once seemed lost becomes unforgettable—for Aria, her family, and the working-class queer community Steph introduces her to. It’s the kind of summer that changes a life forever.
Search History by Eugene Lim
Read with Lindsey Collins, English
Search History oscillates between a wild cyberdog chase and lunch-date monologues as Eugene Lim deconstructs grieving and storytelling with uncanny juxtapositions and subversive satire.
Frank Exit is dead—or is he? While eavesdropping on two women discussing a dog-sitting gig over lunch, a bereft friend comes to a shocking realization: Frank has been reincarnated as a dog! This epiphany launches a series of adventures—interlaced with digressions about AI-generated fiction, virtual reality, Asian American identity in the arts, and lost parents—as an unlikely cast of accomplices and enemies pursues the mysterious canine. In elliptical, propulsive prose, Search History plumbs the depths of personal and collective consciousness, questioning what we consume, how we grieve, and the stories we tell ourselves.
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
Read with Jason Feldman, Dean of Equity and Inclusion
One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house—a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn't understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone. When his mother develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library. There, Benny discovers a strange new world. He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.
And he meets his very own Book—a talking thing—who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.