East Literature Book Recommendations

East Literature Club is a club at Cherry Hill East dedicated to people who love reading.

Eric Li ('23)

East Literature Club is a club at Cherry Hill East dedicated to people who love reading.

April showers bring…May’s reading recommendations! These are the best things students at East read during the months of March and April for your perusal. As it gets warmer, grab a book, head outside, and enjoy a day in the sun with some good reading material, courtesy of East Literature and your book loving peers.

Jamie McManmon: The Feather Heist by Kirk Wallace Johnson

On a quiet night in 2009, in a seemingly random town in England, a college student breaks into a museum and steals 299 dead bird specimens. This bizarre story raises a million questions in the reader’s mind. Who’s this kid who stole them? Why’d he do it? Why are there so many bird corpses in a random museum? Kirk Wallace Johnson had all of these questions and more when he first heard this strange anecdote. This book, The Feather Thief, is the result of the truly gigantic amount of research he did to answer all of these questions.

The Feather Thief is not just an explanation of a strange heist, it’s a story of mankind’s obsession with the beauty of the natural world. Johnson manages to lay out a full chronology of everything having to do with the feathers that college student, Edwin Rist, stole that night in 2009. He begins with the little-known story of the self-made naturalist who first observed the Birds of Paradise, famous for their incredible plumage, and from there moves on to talk about the various individuals, including Rist, that grew obsessed with the otherworldly beauty of these “divine birds.” Johnson’s story at times feels like a nature documentary, at other times a biography or a heist movie or a law drama, and it succeeds at all of these. This book contains stories about malaria fever dreams, golden flutes, and Sacha Baron-Cohen’s cousin, but on every single beat Johnson manages to keep the reader engaged and focused. He creates a sprawling narrative about just how far humans will go for beauty while driving home the real, heartbreaking cost of this endless, and sometimes incredibly stupid, pursuit.

Katherine Li: Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller is a renowned American novelist, best known for her books The Song of Achilles and Circe. Born on July 24, 1978, in Boston, Massachusetts, Miller grew up in New York City and Philadelphia to classicist parents who instilled in her a fascination with ancient Greek mythology that would later inspire her literary career. In The Book Smugglers blog, she reported that inspiration for her award-winning novels The Song of Achilles and Circe originated at childhood with her mother’s bedtime readings of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey

Miller received her BA and MA in Classics from Brown University, where she studied under Mary Lefkowitz, a renowned scholar of Classics. After completing her studies, she taught high school Latin, Greek, and Shakespearean literature for several years before pursuing a Ph.D. in Classics at Yale University; during this time, she began writing her first novel, The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the myth of Achilles and his companion Patroclus. With directing, teaching, and her studies on her plate, she was left with little time to actually write, and the writing process for her first novel spanned ten years. After years of revising with the help of her now-husband Nathaniel Drake, Miller finally published The Song of Achilles in 2011 to critical acclaim. The novel went on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.

Following the success of The Song of Achilles, Miller began working on her second novel, Circe, which was published in 2018. The novel tells the story of main character Circe, goddess of sorcery in Greek mythology, who is banished to a deserted island for using her powers to turn a mortal into a god. Another critical success, Circe was named as one of the best books of 2018 by numerous publications.

Anthony Vadurro: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a dystopian science-fiction novel by Harlan Ellison. First published in 1967, it depicts a world in which a supercomputer named AM has destroyed humanity and kept five survivors alive to torture them for all eternity. The story is disturbing and bleak, exploring themes of powerlessness, cruelty, and the nature of consciousness. The five remaining humans are utterly at the mercy of AM, who controls every aspect of their existence. They are subjected to sadistic and grotesque punishments, physically and mentally twisted to suit AM’s whims. Ellison’s writing is vivid and visceral, with each character’s inner turmoil and pain laid bare. The story also delves into the deeper questions of what it means to be alive and conscious, and how much control we truly have over our own minds and bodies. Despite its short length, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is a haunting and thought-provoking read. The story will linger with you long after you finish, leaving you questioning the very nature of existence. It’s not a book for the faint of heart, but for those who can stomach it, it’s a must-read for any science-fiction or dystopian fan.

Andrew Langmuir: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is an exceptional literary work that deserves all the praise it has received over the years. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the novel is a gripping tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption.

The book opens with one of the most famous lines in literature, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” which sets the tone for the rest of the story. Dickens masterfully portrays the dichotomy between the two cities of Paris and London at the time of the French Revolution.

Each character in the novel possesses a distinct realism, each with its own flaws and strengths. Sydney Carton, one of the most memorable characters in the book, is a drunken lawyer who undergoes a profound transformation over the course of the story. Throughout the novel, Dickens uses Carton to exemplify a true dynamic hero. His selfless act of sacrifice at the end of the novel captures one’s heart and squeezes tears from their eyes.

Furthermore, the love story between Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette provides a contrast to the violence and chaos of the revolution. Lucie’s unwavering faith and love for those around her is a shining example of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Moreover, the themes of justice, sacrifice, and redemption manifest themselves universally. The story speaks to the human experience in a way that few other works of literature can. The novel’s exploration of the corrupting influence of power and the enduring power of love and sacrifice resonate with readers who will themselves push past Dickens’ verbosity.

Overall, A Tale of Two Cities is a masterpiece of literature that deserves all the praise it has received. Charles Dickens’ eloquent writing poignantly paints a passionate piece that resides permanently in the minds of countless readers.

Eric Li: The Scientists by John Gribbin

Written by the astrophysicist John Gribbin, The Scientists provides readers with a comprehensive, compelling, and engaging history of science by chronicling the lives of the most famous and influential scientists from the age of the Renaissance to the modern era. In addition to enjoying the rich biographical and scientific lives of luminaries such as Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Michael Faraday, and Albert Einstein, readers will gain several valuable life lessons.

In its opening chapters, The Scientists highlights the importance of independent thinking, rather than accepting received wisdom uncritically. Rapid scientific progress in Europe during the Enlightenment only began with the rejection of scientific wisdom that had been accepted as true for more than a millennium. For example, Nicolaus Copernicus’s proposal of the heliocentric model of the universe, later confirmed by the astronomical observations of Galileo Galilei, upended the previously accepted geocentric model of the universe. Similarly, Galileo’s discovery that all objects fall to the ground at the same speed disproved Aristotle’s assertion that heavier objects fall at faster speeds.

Additionally, The Scientists presents the theme that, with adequate passion and determination, one can overcome all obstacles. The life of Michael Faraday represents this truth. In an age when university education was standard for all aspiring scientists, Faraday, living in poverty with little formal education during his childhood, seemed to have little hope of achieving his ambition of becoming a great scientist. However, the young Faraday’s curiosity and inquisitive nature impressed the local bookbinder George Riebau, who offered him an apprenticeship at his bookshop, which Faraday accepted. During his apprenticeship, Faraday showed his curiosity and enthusiasm for science by keeping books with detailed notes for his scientific experiments, impressing a man with connections to Humphry Davy, one of the most eminent scientists of the era. This man later offered Faraday the opportunity to attend one of Davy’s famous scientific lectures. In quick succession, Faraday attended one of Davy’s lectures, became Davy’s assistant, and eventually discovered electromagnetic induction, earning the reputation as one of the greatest experimental scientists in history.

Overall, The Scientists, with the highly-applicable life lessons it presents, is a phenomenal book for any reader interested in science, technology, history, or self-improvement.

Akshay Anand: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick tells the story of Hugo, a young orphan on a quest to unravel the mystery of a broken automaton left behind by his father. Living inside the walls of a train station in Paris, Hugo steals food and even toys as he bobs and weaves through vents and hatches to escape security. The first part of the novel delves into Hugo’s current life at the train station while the second part jumps into his past, and reveals his connection to a mysterious automaton that he is trying to fix. The third part of the book brings together all the threads from the previous chapters and leads to an unexpected twist at the end, leaving readers feeling satisfied with the outcome of the story. To illustrate Hugo’s journey from a broken orphan to a cinematic master, Selznick uses a mix of vivid texts and hand-drawn images. While the 500 page book may seem like a daunting read, the incredible plot and well written characters keep readers wanting for more, and the mix of images and text makes the book go by fairly fast. Another notable aspect of the novel is the unique combination of historical events and fictional characters. This creates a fascinating blend of reality and imagination, making the story more engaging for readers. Overall, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a captivating book that appeals to readers of all ages.

Pranav Palle: Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan was born Richard Russell Riordan, Jr. on June 5, 1964. He attended North Texas State University before transferring to University of Texas Austin where he received bachelors degrees in both history and english. He also received his teaching certification from the University of Texas in San Antonio. 

Riordan began his professional writing career with an adult mystery series centring on private investigator Jackson (“Tres”) Navarre which won him several literary awards. However, he is most notably known for the Percy Jackson series, about a kid with both ADHD and Dyslexia who happens to be the son of a god. The inspiration for this greek mythology series came from his own son, Haley, who suffered from both ADHD and dyslexia.

Four sequels, two movies, one disney+ show all proceed from this first series. Rick continued to write this time incorporating Roman mythology into the Heroes of Olympus series. He also wrote the Kane Chronicles based on Egyption mythology and Magnus Chase based on Norse mythology as well as several crossovers between the characters as seen in the short stories, The Crown of Ptolemy and The Son of Sobek. 

Today, over 190 million copies of his books are in print worldwide, and rights have been sold into more than 37 countries. Rick and his wife Becky are both executive producers overseeing TV/film adaptations of his works including Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles and Daughter of the Deep.

Rick still continues to write new novels revolving around the Percy Jackson universe and has also launched “Rick Riordan Presents” which is an imprint to “focus on diverse, mythology-based fiction by new, emerging, and under-represented authors” and helps to bring forth new stories from mythologies around the world.