The Clocktower Collection
Flintridge Prep is a thriving community of readers, both in and out of the classroom. The Clocktower Collection is a student-recommended list showing the various interests and great reads from all corners of the Prep campus. Here is a taste of what they’ve been reading lately, and what they think you might enjoy, too.
This list is periodically updated based on student interest. All students and clubs are encouraged to share books with Dr. Tyke O’Brien, English Department Chair.
Ms. Cooper was very taken with this one recently: Donna Gephart, Lily and Dunkin The cover could fool you. It looks like a children's book, but in fact it's for anyone who wants to understand the humanity in other people. Lily Jo McGrother is a transgender eighth-grade girl who gives Norbert Dorfman the nickname "Dunkin." Norbert takes meds for bipolar disorder and moved to Florida recently to live with his grandmother. I don't want to ruin the novel with more details, but I will say that The Lorax plays a crucial supporting role. You won't forget this story. Mrs. Pattinelli recommends to all on and off the soccer field or in or out of the pool to read: Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman Do you ever wonder what makes some people super competitive while others couldn't care less if you keep score or even enforce the rules? If yes, then this is the book for you. This book describes the science behind the desire to win. Much research has been done in an attempt to figure out why competition motivates some people and discourages others. The competitive spirit is not limited to the sports field. The authors of Top Dog include studies on competition in athletics, in the classroom, in business, in the art world and more. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt the desire to win or who has ever been stuck in a relationship with a "competition junkie". You will either gain some insight into yourself or the people around you. Recommended for 7th and above. Dr. Morgan was enchanted by this modern take on a classical epic: Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks A lot of people aren't sure whether to call themselves feminists because, to be honest, they aren't exactly sure what feminism is actually about. My grandmother was an evangelical Christian feminist who used to go on these Christian radio shows and explain feminism to people who said they were strongly against it. But when grandma was done with them, they would be shocked and say "but wait, that means I'm a feminist!" My grandma's not around anymore, but the next best thing is to read bell hooks' classic "feminism is for everybody." Author hooks provides an evaluation of the successes and failures of contemporary feminism. Maybe you'll decide you are a feminist! Or maybe you'll start spelling your name with lower case letters like she does! Either way, everybody should take an afternoon to read this book and decide for themselves. Dr. Morgan was enchanted by this modern take on a classical epic: Madeline Miller, Song of Achilles You need not be a lover of The Iliad to be pulled into the enchantment of Madeline Miller's novel. Told from what many might considered a minor character, Patroclus, the tale fills in the gaps left by the epic. During the siege of Troy the Greeks' fate lies in one man—Achilles, the "best of the Greeks." However, Miller demonstrates that the balance of the war really lies in the hands of Patroclus, a minor prince and Achilles' lover. Beautifully written, the novel draws you into a world of gods, magical creatures, battles, and fully realized characters. Hannah Pitney is a big fan of this page-turner: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan. This book is very suspenseful and does a good job at incorporating Ancient Greek mythology into a modern world. I think anyone form middle schoolers to adults would love it. Ms. McDonnell is always surrounded by thousands of books, but these three stood out to her recently: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens I could not put this down! Written in beautiful prose, this book has it all – murder, mystery, celebration of nature, and the trials of growing up in alienation. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng I enjoyed Ng’s second novel just as much as her first ( Everything I Never Told You). Little Fires Everywhere explores complicated relationships between mothers and their children, teenage love, one woman’s lifelong devotion to her art – and the price she pays for it. I couldn’t stop reading, fueled by a desire to understand each character’s actions and the journeys that had brought them there. The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah What better location for a survival story, than the rugged terrain of unforgiving Alaska in 1974? This Historical Fiction book follows one family’s journey – a Vietnam veteran who battles PTSD, his wife who will do anything for the man she loves, and their daughter, who is desperate to find connection and a feeling of belonging. I was captivated by this story and this family – I couldn’t put the book down until their fight for survival reached a resolution. Kendal Kully dove deeply into this recent work of fiction, and thinks you should too: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus. This book is a fantastic parallel to Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe in its discussion of colonialism and masculinity. This book tells the story of a young girl growing up in Nigeria in an extremely religious household. She deals with the harshness of life at a young age and learns from it the beauty of family and love. Ms. Lee is a great lover of books, and has been reading widely lately. She thinks you should give these a go: Madeline Miller, Circe. Madeline Miller retells the story of many Greek myths with a simple and elegant twist: they are retold from the perspective of Circe, the witch of Aiaia. This book will capture the attention of anyone who is fascinated with Greek mythology and the power of perspective in storytelling. I couldn't put the book down once I opened it. Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers. This novel explores the life of two friends as they navigate the Chicago AIDS Crisis in the early 1980's. Makkai characters lead readers through an emotional journey of love, loss and acceptance. This story draws you in and doesn't let you let go. Every time I put it down, the book creeped back into my thoughts and I couldn't wait to pick it back up. Susan Orlean, The Library Book. This book is an ode to the beauty and magic of libraries, especially libraries of LA. If you are a bibliophile, love the smell and feel of books, and find solace when you're walking among books then this is a book is a love letter to you. You will meet the quirky librarians that have shaped the legacy of this loved institution and learn about what librarians do when they're not helping us find a book. Dr. Williams strongly suggests this for those of you who aren’t afraid of the dark: Michael Farber, Under the Skin. A fascinating and horrifying glimpse into the view of humanity through the eyes of a true predator. Rises above it's simple and effective plot to become something truly haunting. If you like your horror with a side of dread, it's for you. Mr. Perlman wants to offer up this positive look into what goes on behind the scenes of some government operations: Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk. Over Winter Break I enjoyed reading The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short. If you've ever wondered what the government really does with billions of taxpayer dollars in opaque bureaucracies such as the Department of Commerce, you'll be pleasantly surprised by these inspiring vignettes of unsung heroes working within the government to make our daily lives safer and more prosperous. As we enter what might become the longest government shutdown in modern history, this is a great reminder of the creativity and idealism that motivate many of those folks who are no longer receiving their paychecks. Ms. Malmberg loved this read she describes as “completely enjoyable”: Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow. This gently humorous, human and completely engaging novel follows the improbable adventures of a charming, raffish and resourceful Russian Count confined to Moscow’s Hotel Metropole for decades, beginning in the turbulent 1920s. He manages to make his exile both delightful and purposeful, and the novel is determinedly and unapologetically old-fashioned, peopled with memorable characters and set against the dramatic backdrop of mid-20th century Russia. And she highly recommends this “lifestyle of a novel” too: Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy. A doorstop novel set in a fictional north Indian locale in the early 1950s, A Suitable Boy runs nearly 1,000 pages but the investment of time is worth it. (I have read it twice!). It’s Dickensian in scope, takes on huge issues of family, religion, class and caste, and is a wonderful way to spend a few months immersed in the lives of people confronting the reality of living in a just free country, with new rules, frightening events and first-time freedoms throwing everyday choices into stark relief. Strong, fascinating characters from every walk of life, funny scenes, heart-breaking moments and devastating observations. Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Mark Salzman was utterly fascinated by this New York Times bestselling study of human behavior: Robert Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst. 2017. What in our glands, our genes, and our childhoods explains our capacity for both altruism and brutality? I thought this was one of the most fascinating -- and, believe it or not, entertaining -- non-fiction books I've ever read. Just to give you an idea, here's one chapter title: "Biology, The Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will." Dr. O'Brien spent her break in a cozy wooded cabin (well, imaginatively speaking) with this one: Jennifer M. Volland and Bruce Grenville, Cabin Fever. 2018. This book is a stunning visual and theoretical survey of the one material possession I want most in the world and might have to wait many, many years to own (or build): the diminutive, off-the-grid cabin in the woods. Compiled by curator/scholars and featuring a fascinating array of essays and works of fiction by writers from Twain to Thoreau to deTocqueville, this book examines the cabin through three distinct phases, as: shelter, utopian vision, and "cabin porn" (Instagram-era voyeurism). It is as much about stacked logs and roaring fires as it is about human consciousness through the ages. Dr. O'Brien reread this much-loved writer's work recently and wants to share: Robert Walser, Berlin Stories (published 2012, but written in the early 1900s). At the turn of the century, Swiss writer Robert Walser joined his theatrical designer brother in Berlin, and immediately took to penning his observations on modern life in the German capital in one of its most dynamic periods. With a wry, witty, and wide-eyed style, Walser chronicles his adventures through and ideas about the arts, personalities, and urban life. Walser is idiosyncratic in the most charming way, and this book (and his writing in general) always reaffirms life's joys to me. Mr. Ishii offers this compelling suggestion to us, combining his love of math with reading: Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. Though I'm not usually a fan of provocative titles, Professor Ellenberg’s book is an excellent demonstration of the utility of mathematical and statistical tools in solving difficult, concrete problems. Ellenberg writes about topics ranging from mind-reading fish and lottery-winning strategies to the philosophical foundations of mathematics. If you’re interested in the primary lessons of mathematics: “that there is structure in the world; that we can hope to understand some of it and not just gape at what our senses present to us,” then you’ll find this book worth the effort. Reid Fritz was deeply moved by this novel: Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper's Wife. 2007. This non-fiction work tells the story of Antonina and her husband Jan as they work save the lives of their human and animal neighbors during WWII. Ackerman builds a poignant story from Antonina's clear-sighted observations of life and human nature in occupied Warsaw. I felt awe and hope in seeing courage of individuals striving to do what is right against the hatred and evil of the governing regime. I recommend it for high schoolers and adults, and to middle schoolers who wouldn't shy away from the topic. Anya Rose recommends this light read for everyone: Paula Yoo, Good Enough. 2012. Good Enough is about a teenage girl stressed out over college applications as well as trying to balance a social life and still having time to play her violin. This book is about stress, passion, friends, love and heartbreak, and is very relatable, as well as being well-written. I'd say this book isn't the longest or most complex read, but it's perfect if you are looking for something light, easy, and fun for all ages Lauren Ginn was riveted by this true crime classic: Truman Capote, In Cold Blood. 1966. At two a.m. on November 15, 1959 in the rural town of Holcomb, Kansas, the four Clutters, a stereotypical American family, were roused from their sleep, bound, gagged, and then brutally murdered by two young men who—though entirely ineffectual apart—are a deadly combination. After the two assailants' capture, the judge's verdict, and imprisonment prior to execution, the investigators find themselves trying to unearth why such a senseless act was committed. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a chilling murder mystery that tells the parallel tales of the puzzling police investigation and the murderers' flight from crime. This book is a must-read for those high school students who enjoy a classic tale of mystery, but it has a little of everything - action, horror, and even romance. Lara Friedman was intrigued by this one: Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 2013. This novel takes place in England and follows a man returning to his childhood home where he is suddenly and painfully overwhelmed by memories of a dreamlike struggle between entities you think you would only find in a fairytale. Gaiman intricately interweaves childlike fantasy with mystery and adult experiences, making this a poignant and unforgettable read. Those who are fans of magical realism should definitely check this book out, particularly upperclassmen. Stiles White was a big fan of this late 60s classic: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five. 1969. Kurt Vonnegut will pull you right into his finest creation, Slaughterhouse-Five, with a comical and witty writing style that fits perfectly with this tragic and beautiful war story. Join Billy Pilgrim as he tries to understand his futile life after fighting in WWII and lays unconscious in a hospital bed after an accident. Slaughterhouse Five is a journey through time and space and the depths of the human brain. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes classic science fiction and anti-war stories such as Johnny Got His Gun or Night. Sinclaire Ledahl recommends you press pause on The Notebook and take a look instead at: Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor and Park. 2013. The love in this book is tangible. It is one of the most successful dual perspective narratives I have ever read, and both characters jump off the page into life. It’s a story about not fitting in, about the dangers of falling in love, and about the beauty of human connection. It is heartbreakingly honest and Rowell writes words that sing. Recommended for readers ages 13 or older. Dr. Van Arsdall found this gem over the summer: David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. 2017. This book tells the chilling story of the Osage Native Americans in present-day Oklahoma and their quest for justice after several prominent members of the tribe were murdered for their rights to oil drilling in what is known as the Reign of Terror, from the early 1920s to the mid 1940s. The book spans two worlds and two centuries, and explains how the birth of the modern detective methods sprang from the most unlikely of places- the gritty and generally lawless American frontier boom towns. Using newspaper clippings, declassified FBI files, and court testimonies, Grann retraces a vast murder conspiracy involving cover-ups, false evidence, and orchestrated by mastermind who could only be stopped by a team of outsiders working undercover. This one is one of Ms. Cooper’s recent favorites: Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X. 2018. The main character of Poet X, Xiomara ("See-oh-MAH-ruh," as she explains), practically burns off the page. She's devoted to family, especially her brother, while also doing everything she can to live a life different than her Latina Catholic mother wants for her. Written in poetry, describing a girl who ultimately finds freedom through words, this book begs to be finished in one or two sittings. Colin Ng was informed and inspired by: Angela Duckworth, Grit. 2016. In this book, the author has researched the secrets to success, and divulges them. She explores the main components to success: finding a passion, doing it with a purpose, and developing it through deliberate practice. Duckworth gave me clear guidance on how to find what I love, and how to work hard to achieve success. This book is highly recommended to those who wish to find and develop their own passion. Chase Sullivan got so much from this brilliant book: Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. 1970. The Bluest Eye is a poetic novel written by Toni Morrison that discusses physical beauty and how racial profiling can affect someone’s life. The novel talks about repetitive cycles of malice and how when there is a lack of love in our lives, it becomes even harder to love ourselves. The main character Pecola’s life is riddled with many different issues. Pecola thinks that if she has blue eyes, then all of her problems will go away. Of course, however, this is naive and the book shows us how complex our sense of self really is. This is a fascinating book that would be appropriate for students in high school. Recommended by the Book Club: Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings. 2014 This is a wonderful story that follows both a young African American slave and a young white girl as they journey through the injustices of early America. Sarah and Hetty, the slave, travel through life together, learning of and eventually fighting for women's rights. The Invention of Wings is a poignant, well-written, and profound story that we would recommend for upperclassmen. Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees. 2001. This novel follows Lily Owens, a young girl abused by her father and haunted by the death of her mother. After running away from home, Lily comes into the company of three miraculous women, where she learns the language of bees, finds out more about her deceased mom, and finds her place in life. This is a wonderful read for high schoolers. Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. 2012. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a well-written and poised novel. Taking place in the 1990s in Montana, it explores the life of Cameron Post, a young woman who is put through conversion therapy after her aunt finds out about her relationship with another girl. The book demonstrates the importance of acceptance and understanding among our peers’ general community. The Spectrum Club thought this book was amazingly good: Kim van Alkemade, Orphan #8. 2015. Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before. This is such a compelling book because of its dual narrative and it allows for its main character to be gay without being only about her sexuality. Catherine Zheng loved: Paul Kalanathi, When Breath Becomes Air. 2016. When Breath Becomes Air is an absolutely amazing memoir about Paul Kalanathi finding his way through life. It chronicles his journey from a medical student to his career as a doctor and, finally, his role as a father and a terminal cancer patient. The novel reflects on the ideas of morality and identity as Kalanathi realizes what is most important in life and his identity. I'd recommend this book to all upperclassmen. Conrad Oakes thinks you should consider: Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. 2000. This is a novel that experiments heavily with mixing up the format of the page (words will move around the page, often in a way that mimics the events of the story). The main part of the story is an academic analysis of a fictional movie, but there are also two other side stories that are intertwined with the novel. I'd recommend it because, in addition to having a riveting and unsettling story, the amount of codes and hidden messages ensures that it has plenty of reread value. Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. 2016. Book 1 of 4 in the Terra Ignota series. Too Like the Lightning is a novel set in the far future, in a utopian society where humanity has outgrown the need for geographic nations due to improved methods of travel. Instead, people are linked by Hives (groups that share a common ideology and laws, and to which admittance is voluntary). The book follows Mycroft Canner as he witnesses and participates in events that start to destabilize this world. I highly recommend this book mainly due to the excellent world building and lore. Every facet of the world is riveting, and seeing the interplay of relations between the world's leaders is fascinating. The Stock Market Club enjoyed this vintage gem: Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. 1949. Benjamin Graham, one of the most famous investors of the 20th century and the mentor of Warren Buffett, details the fundamental principles of achieving success in investing in the stock market. This book teaches readers the value of thinking in the long term, minimizing risk, and focusing on the safe and steady. An essential read for anyone interested in investing, it is no surprise that the legendary Warren Buffett calls it the best book on investing ever written. Girl Up Club would like to recommend: Mark Zusak, The Book Thief. 2005. This novel tells the gripping story of a young German girl who is given up by her mother shortly before World War II. The Black Student Union was taken by: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. 2015. This book is written as a letter to the author's son about "the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates American history and explains to his son the 'racist violence that has been woven into American culture.'" We recommend this book because it really gives insight into to the consciousness and mind of a black male in America and the struggles of being black. We think it would best be enjoyed by students in high school (ages 14 and up). These books made The Yell laugh a lot (submitted by Izzy Wachtel and Roland Martin): David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day. 2000. A compilation of comedic essays, David Sedaris' book drew inspiration from his move to Paris from New York City. The book is broken into two parts; the first revolving around Sedaris' life prior to the move, and the second part regarding his new life as a Parisian. Each chapter is a story in and of itself, not necessarily relating to the one prior. Perhaps this is what keeps the reader so invested, as each story is short enough to get through if you lose interest (which you won't) and long enough to keep you laughing until the next chapter rolls around. Me Talk Pretty One Day is both appropriate and recommended for readers of all ages! Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. 1969. It is about a man named Billy Pilgrim. Most of the novel centers around Billy's time as a soldier during World War Two, his abduction by the alien Tralfamadorians, who have transcended the concept of time, and his obsession with the fictional science fiction author Kilgore Trout. Slaughterhouse Five takes place in an often violent and depressing reality, but its absurd characters and circumstances give the novel humor. Vonnegut uses fantasy and ridiculousness to indirectly mock our ideals and institutions, something that The Yell tries its best to imitate. Georgia Yamamoto loved this creepy read: Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. 1962. Here is a chilling story about two young women and their uncle who are outcast from their village due to tragic murders that happened in their house six years before. After being acquitted of the murder charges, the main characters reveal who should be at fault for the heinous crime. This book is perfect for people who can take a little bit of horror and are okay with it leaving them a bit uneasy. Alyssa Christopoulos enjoyed reading more than usual with this one: Ernest Cline, Ready Player One. 2011. Last summer, my dad introduced me this book he read in the last year, but being the "I hate reading" girl I was, I wasn't really interested until I turned to the first page. Ready Player One, now an upcoming movie directed by Steven Spielberg, is a futuristic novel about a high school boy living his life in a virtual reality game to escape the dystopia he lived in. The creator of the game was a multibillionaire and decided to give his fortune and company to whoever could find the Easter egg he hid in his game. The book explores the adventures of the main character, Wade, as he competes to find the egg, changing his life in the process. I was surprised to be so captivated by the novel, hardly putting it down. I believe any Prep student could enjoy this book. Ryan Huntley wants you to think about reading this new classic: Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers. 2008. Outliers is a fascinating and unexpected insight into the true nature of success. Have you ever heard of Bill Gates or the Beatles? Probably, but do you know how they became so famous? In this book, Gladwell uses examples of well-known outliers like these to illustrate how success stories aren't what you think they are. The truth is very surprising, and it will radically change your outlook on what exactly it means to be successful. Alyssa Christopoulos also loved it, adding: Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers. 2008. As I read Gladwell’s Outliers, I found myself having a very hard time putting this book down. This “story of success" explains why certain people or certain things (such as Bill Gates or Korean Airlines) are extremely successful, or why they are outliers. Giving examples from Candian hockey players to practical genius to the ethnic theory of plane crashes, this book will keep you incredibly interested. In fact, it is is definitely the most intriguing book I have ever read. Gladwell explains with very credible and supportive evidence why certain things happen at certain times and places. The book can even make you feel less bad about yourself. And this book is so popular that Sofia Echavarria ALSO recommends it: Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. 2012. I recommend this to an audience that wants to help open their eyes to an experience of a gay character and to give a story behind the big idea. I would recommend this to people who are anti-LGBTQ, if that is because of religious reasons, or other ideas. I would want them to read it all the way through and possibly make them think twice about their close-minded beliefs. I would also want to give this book to someone who is gay or questioning. I would give it to that community because with a feeling like this it seems terrifying to face it alone and if you know that there are other people who have gone through similar events, it could help lift a heavy heart. Finally, I would recommend it to someone who wants a detailed, fascinating book that immerses you in diverse, complicated characters and their emotions. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an influential, powerful book that has the ability to have a significant effect on our community. Miranda Zhang recommends: Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You. 2014. Lydia Lee is a 16 year-old girl living with her parents and her brother, Nath. But being the only non-white girl in the school with half Asian blood and her mother's blue eyes is undoubtedly going to change her life. In her parent's mind, Lydia is docile and easy to please--- she says "Yes, please" to whatever they give her and her eyes flash with joy simultaneously; she's got tons of friends, spending tons of time on the phone each night and often bursting out in laughter. But suddenly, everything is too late--- Lydia is dead, and everyone searches for reasons why. Her father doubts his choice to marry someone of a different race; her mother went mad, holding onto the idea that someone must have killed her daughter; and her brother also desperately searches for evidence to help him get revenge for his sister. In the process, Nath never has any idea how deep and wide a cut he is making on the hearts of the living. And everything Lydia "never told" this family will be sealed under the deep dark lake with her forever.