Portable Magic

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Portable Magic”: Summer Reading List 2015

JSerra Catholic High School

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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey


Casey travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer; including rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958.

Sickler, Lebeda

The Boy on the Wooden Box  by Leon Leyson


Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis forced his family to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. This, the only memoir published by a former Schindler’s List child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable.

Brown, McKeagney, Vandenberg

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway


*Recommended for, but not exclusive to, AP Lit students

Based on Hemingway's early writing career, 1920s Paris, cafe life.

Forster, Plaia, deBoisblanc, Dale, Amrein, Hirsch, Stehney

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl


A psychiatrist’s memoir of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. May be of special interest to students who found Elie Wiesel’s Night moving.

Sickler, Plaia, Telles, deBoisblanc, Vandenberg,

Moran, Taylor

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke


Irene Gut was just 17 in 1939, when the Germans and Russians devoured her native Poland. Just a girl, really. But a girl who saw evil and chose to defy it.

Vandenberg, Hemphill

Seal of God, by Chad Williams


Days before Chad Williams was to report to military duty, he turned on a television and was greeted with the horrifying images of his mentor, US Navy SEAL Scott Helvenston, being brutally murdered on the roads of Fallujah, Iraq. Williams followed in Scott’s footsteps and completed the US military’s most difficult and grueling training to become a Navy SEAL. Witnessing the horrors of war up close, Chad shares his own radical conversion story and talks about how he draws on his own experiences as a SEAL to help others better understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and love.

Vandenberg, Holligan, Taylor

Harrell, N.

The Wilder Life – My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House in the Prairie, by Wendy McClure


If you loved the Little House on the Prairie books and have always wanted to visit “The Big Woods,” “Plum Creek,” “Tableland,” or trace the path of the Ingall’s covered wagon, this book is for you. The author visits all known “Laura” locations and explores the history, the television show, and the little known facts about one of my favorite authors.

Crafts, Miraglia

With God in Russia, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.


Few return from the dead, even among those only presumed to be dead by the living. This autobiography is the astounding story of an American-born Jesuit priest who, in the service of God, survived for twenty-three years, unknown to family or friends, in the controlled society that exists in the Soviet Union.

Sr. Carmen Therese, Lagalante

Sr. Maria Corazon

He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.


Captured by the Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a "Vatican spy," American Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent some 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. He here recalls how it was only through an utter reliance on God's will that he managed to endure.

Sr. Carmen Therese, Lagalante,

Sr. Maria Corazon

Stradivari’s Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection, by Toby Faber


The skill of Antonio Stradivari—the greatest instrument builder in history—has never been replicated, even by modern technology. This wonderful book tells the story of this genius and tracks six of his instruments, five violins and one cello, across the gulf of history.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown


It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler.

Crayton, J Harrell

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard


At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.


Non-Fiction / History / Business

Colleges that Change Lives, by Loren Pope


Forty schools that will change the way you think about college.

Huie, Taylor, Ricks

Tattoos on the Heart, by Fr. Greg Boyle


A priest works with gang members to change their lives for the better, but in actuality, they end up changing the priest's life so much more.

Huie, Vandenberg, Dale, N. Harrell

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester


An extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. As definitions were collected, it was discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

Sickler, Plaia, Stroupe, J Harrell, Stehney

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that

Changed America, by Erik Larson


The story of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's overcame numerous obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable.

Sickler, Hemphill, Amrein, J. Harrell, Sulick

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson


A vivid portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign, brought to life through the stories of two people: William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his daughter, Martha. Dodd’s growing misgivings about Hitler’s ambitions fall on deaf ears among his peers. Martha, on the other hand, is mesmerized by the glamorous parties and the high-minded conversation of Berlin’s salon society.

Sickler, Hemphill, Amrein, J. Harrell

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer


“A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and heart-breaking heroism.” The stuff of classic adventure tales.

Sickler, Lebeda, McKeagney, Dale, Stehney,Kahl, Kennedy, Vandenberg, Taylor

Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame, by Jim Dent


In the 1960’s, Notre Dame’s football program was in shambles. Little did anyone know, help was on its way in the form of Ara Parseghian, a controversial choice for head coach—the first one outside of the Notre Dame “family.” It was now his responsibility to rebuild the once-proud program and teach the Fighting Irish how to win again. But it was no small task.


Remember Why You Play by David Thomas

Non-Fiction, Sports

Sports columnist and author David Thomas followed the team for a full season, recording a story that will inspire readers to understand that relationships are more important than winning. One of the key events was a game that Faith Christian played against the Gainesville State Tornadoes, a school for convicted juvenile offenders. This true story makes a strong statement about the impact of compassion and sportsmanship.


Pele: Why Soccer Matters, by Pele and Brian Winters

Non-Fiction, Sports

The world’s greatest soccer player reflects on the “beautiful game” and how it has changed the world. Since his playing days in the 1950’s through the 70’s Pele has been the world’s best ambassador for the sport. His recollections and insights shed a new light on today’s game in the 21st century.


1776, by David McCullough


America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

Desmond, Misiow,

J Harrell

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard


A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Fullerton, deBoisblanc, Sickler, Borowski, Misiow, Taylor, Stehney

Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 193, by Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley


A concise and informative overview of the evolution of American foreign policy from 1938 to the present, focusing on such pivotal events as World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and 9/11. The book examines everything from the Iran-Contra scandal to the rise of international terrorism.

Borowski, Misiow

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose


Riveting account of the journey of Lewis and Clark across the unchartered frontier of the West at the turn of the 19th century.    

Meyer, Stroupe

Good to Great, by Jim Collins


For anyone interested in understanding why some great organizations endure the test of time while others rise and fall, this is a must read.

Meyer, Vandenberg, Miraglia, Perkes

The Closing of the American Mind, by

Allan Bloom

Non-fiction, political commentary

Bloom accounts for the demise of openness among American universities and ascribes it to the actions of the liberal elite whose moral relativism, ironically, crowds out true freedom of thought and speech.


The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin


*Recommended for, but not exclusive to, AP Lit students

Focusing on the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and his successor, William Howard Taft--one-time colleagues and friends who later became sworn foes--Goodwin chronicles the birth of an activist press, which occurred when five of the nation’s best-ever journalists converged at McClure’s magazine and helped usher in the Progressive era.

D. Summers, Hirsch, Fullerton

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman


Discusses the dangers of overexposure to electronic media and society's addiction to entertainment.

Forster, Sickler, N. Harrell

The Road to Middle Earth: How Tolkien Created a New Mythology, by Tom Shippey


Fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will be interested to know how Tolkien invented Middle Earth and its inhabitants.


The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, by Jonathan Harr


When a graduate student discovers a painting that may or may not have been made by that Italian master Caravaggio, an artistic detective case ensues that examines the worlds of art dealership, forgery, and forensic science and technology.


Theology / Spirituality

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Pope Benedict XVI


This may be Pope Benedict’s greatest legacy to the Church, but certainly his greatest teaching legacy. One cannot read this text without growing closer to the Lord.

Telles, Lagalante, Sr. Maria Corazon

The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM,
by Gereon Goldmann 


Here is the astonishing true story of the harrowing experiences of a young German seminarian drafted into Hitler's dreaded SS at the onset of World War II. Without betraying his Christian ideals, against all odds, and in the face of Evil, Gereon Goldmann was able to complete his priestly training, be ordained, and secretly minister to German Catholic soldiers and innocent civilian victims caught up in the horrors of war.

Lagalante, Miraglia

The Story of a Soul, by St. Thérèse of Lisieux


Be prepared to be astounded as St. Thérèse, under obedience, writes of her spiritual development from childhood. Guys, this is perhaps one of the best books in the world for learning how to be a father.

Telles, Lagalante, Taylor, Miraglia,

Sr. Maria Corazon

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp


How do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long--and sometimes even dark? How is God even here? This book invites readers to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God's gifts.

Lagalante, Chenault

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis


C.S. Lewis dissembles the beauty, mystery, and logical reality of Christianity in a series of true-life informal radio talks to the British citizenry during WWII's "Battle of Britain," the Nazi's all-out air assault.

Kahl, Sickler, Telles, Misiow, Lagalante, Moran, Taylor, Hirsch, N. Harrell, Perkes

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander


A first-person account of the author’s near-death experience which will reassure afterlife believers and possibly convince skeptics.

Vandenberg, Sulick, Lebeda

J Harrell

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, by Matthew Kelly


What four things did Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, John Paul II, Therese of Lisieux, and Ignatius Loyola have in common? They all practiced the four signs: prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization.

McClellan, Vandenberg, Lagalante, Moran, Perkes

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven, by Peter Kreeft


Forget the boring image of endless cloud-sitting and boring harp music; philosopher Peter Kreeft asks the questions that sometimes seem off-limits: What will we do in heaven? Where is heaven? Is there really a hell?

Telles, Lagalante, Taylor

Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic, by Patrick Madrid


Powerful testimonies of Evangelicals who became Catholic These eleven personal conversion accounts are unlike any you've ever read. They're packed with biblical, theological, and historical proofs for Catholicism.

Taylor, Telles, Lagalante, Misiow, Taylor, Miraglia, Sr. Maria Corazon

Rhythm of Life, by Matthew Kelly


In this classic bestseller, acclaimed author and speaker Matthew Kelly offers inspiring, take-charge strategies to help you discover your deepest desires, identify your unique talents, and lead a life filled with passion and purpose.

Moran, Miraglia, Perkes

Rediscover Catholicism, by Matthew Kelly


In this unique and timely book, he proposes that Catholicism is not a lifeless set of rules and regulations , but a way of life designed by God to help each person reach his or her full potential. With remarkable insight, Kelly dispels dozens of myths that surround the rejection of Catholicism today and provides a profound and practical vision of what will lead the Catholic Church to thrive again in the future.

Moran, Miraglia

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Science Fiction

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier

British Literature

A young woman finds herself married into the British gentry and discovers her greatest adversary is the ghost of her new husband’s previous wife.

McKeagney, Sulick, deBoisblanc, Taylor, N. Harrell

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Science Fiction

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics. Winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards.

Sickler, Taylor, J Harrell

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Graphic novel

A graphic novel that depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father, whom he finds old and frustrating, about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the novel, Spiegleman depicts Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and non-Jewish Poles as pigs.

Sickler, Hemphill, McKeagney, Amrein, Hirsch

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Historical Fiction

An inspiring novel about a young girl sent away from her family to the quarantined leper colony of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i. Based on true stories, you follow her struggles, sadness, and joy among a group of people forgotten by society.

Crafts, Sulick, McQueen, Taylor

The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis


Follow the author of The Chronicles of Narnia on a mind-blowing journey through the afterlife!

Telles, Morales, Moran, Taylor, Hirsch, Sr. Maria Corazon

Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis


Imagine being abducted only to wake up and find you’re on board a ship to the red planet of Malacandra; the first in a trilogy by C. S. Lewis.

Telles, Lagalante

An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser


The book follows a young man with great aspirations through the course of his life. The decisions he makes as a young man impact the way his life unfolds in unexpected ways. One theme of the novel centers around the complex question of “does the end justify the means?”

Crafts, Sulick, deBoisblanc

House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende


*Recommended for, but not exclusive to, AP Lit students

This classic of magical realism tells the story of the Trueba family across four generations, tracing the social and political upheavals of Chile.

McQueen, Hirsch

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles


This novel describes the inner turmoil of a student at a New England prep school contending with the death of a friend.

Stroupe, Plaia, Forster, Sulick, Misiow

Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut

Science Fiction

An outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’s a catch to the invitation–and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell

Kahl, Plaia, deBoisblanc

My Antonia, by Willa Cather


*Recommended for, but not exclusive to, AP Lit students

A great love story that winds its way through the great Midwest during the late nineteenth century. Cather’s brilliant storytelling style carries the reader along a tale of love and hardships on the prairies of the American frontier.

Plaia, Hirsch, Vandenberg, Lagalante, Kennedy

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Paperback,

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.

Taylor, McKeagney, Vandenberg, McQueen, Taylor

Possession, by A.S. Byatt


Possession is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.

Taylor, McQueen

The Chosen, by Chaim Potok


It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again.

Kennedy, Plaia, Sickler, McKeagney

O Pioneers, by Willa Cather


Young Alexandra Bergson’s dying father leaves her in charge of the family and of the Nebraska lands they have struggled to farm. In Alexandra’s lifelong fight to survive and succeed, Cather relates an important chapter in the history of the American frontier, evoking the harsh grandeur of the prairie.

Stroupe, Hirsch

Pudd’nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain


Switched at birth by a young slave woman attempting to protect her son from the horrors of slavery, a light-skinned infant changes places with the master's white son. A compelling drama that contains all the elements of a classic 19th-century mystery: reversed identities, a ghastly crime, an eccentric detective, and a tense courtroom scene.

Everett, J Harrell

The Scorch Trials or The Death Cure, by James Dashner

(Choose one book)


Books 2 and 3 of The Maze Runner trilogy: Thomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment. The original group has been in "the glade" for two years. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change.

Sickler, Vandenberg, Chenault

Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson


Sara Louise Bradshaw is sick and tired of her beautiful twin Caroline. Ever since they were born, Caroline has been the pretty one, the talented one, the better sister. For once in her life, Louise wants to be the special one. But in order to do that, she must first figure out who she is . . . and find a way to make a place for herself outside her sister's shadow.

Sickler, Lebeda

Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler


Marlowe's about to give up on a completely routine case when he finds himself in the wrong place at the right time to get caught up in a murder that leads to a ring of jewel thieves, another murder, a fortune-teller, a couple more murders, and more corruption than your average graveyard.

Hirsch, J Harrell

The Complete Father Brown Stories, by G.K. Chesterton

(This is a collection of five stories; you must read three)


In the genre of the finely crafted English detective story, Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories are wholesome and stimulating detective tales. Father Brown's simple manner makes you quick to underestimate him, but the startling flashes of brilliance that spill from beneath his humble exterior soon make you realize that he has a firm grasp on the truth of a situation when you are as yet frustratingly distant from it.

Sr. Carmen Therese

J Harrell

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline


Set between modern day and the Great Depression, this novel weaves the story of two young girls’ lives. Vivian is sent West to find a family on “the orphan train”- a little known chapter in our own American History. The train carried orphans from the East Coast to the bustling farmlands of the Midwest. Her life story comes to modern day as she interacts with a rebellious teenage girl of the 21st century.


The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic, by Allan Wolf

Historical Fiction

Taking the Titanic disaster as his subject, Alan Wolf makes good use of his poetic style the retells history from alternating points of view (this time even the famous iceberg gets its say).


Monster, by Walter Dean Myers


African American teenager Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. His experiences navigating a prejudiced society are chronicled in his journals and the screenplay he writes as his trial unfolds.

Amrein, Hemphill

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