Literary madness selects summer reading


Alex Vaccaro

Final four books displayed in the glass hallway; students voted each week over the duration of March, narrowing it down from 32 to 4 books

The votes are in! The four winning titles of the 2023 Summer Reading March Madness book draft have been announced after a number of close calls. Titles include I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes, and The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell. BHS students will read one of the selected titles, followed by a book of their own choosing, and must fill out a graphic organizer focusing on a component assigned to their grade level.

All winners were chosen over fourteen other books from their respective sections. Project Hail Mary, one of the fiction selections, fell short of a victory in last year’s March madness Bracket, reaching one of the final rounds in the competition. This year, however, several students have agreed that it is the front-runner of the two fiction choices. Project Hail Mary follows Ryland Grace, a middle-school teacher turned astronaut who wakes up from a coma in space. Remembering nothing, Grace learns that he is left completely alone to man the spaceship, and that the fate of earth lies in his hands. The other fiction title, I Must Betray You, is a historical thriller set in 1989 Romania. Its protagonist, Christian Florescu, is a seventeen year old kid who lives under strict rule from the communist dictatorship of Romania. In a turn of events, Christian gets blackmailed into becoming an informant for his tyrannical government, causing him to betray everyone he loves and giving him the opportunity to undermine the evil dictator that ordered the mistreatment of his people.

Although the other winners are non-fiction, they do not lack the same amount of excitement and action as the fiction winners. The Bomber Mafia examines a close-knit group of US military Precision bombers who helped assert American dominance in World War II. Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases is written by the award-winning detective who caught the golden state killer. In the biography, he recounts the large portion of his life solving the world’s toughest to crack unsolved cases.

This year’s compelling selections can be credited to Bernards’ own March Madness-style book selection. The competition gives students the chance to vote on their interests, increasing the chances of their interest in the book, as well as the chances that reading will actually be done.
English teacher Mrs. Snyder believes the effort put into the summer reading bracket is unquestionably worth it. “Though vetting and researching books for the initial 32 choices takes a lot of time and energy, student engagement and getting to read and talk about great books make it all worth it.” The bracket concept, thought of and designed by the English department, has been in effect for seven years now. Its importance is felt by students and teachers alike.

“Studies show that if students don’t read over the summer, [students] are apt to lose some of the achievement gains made the previous year. We also know that when students select reading materials and read for enjoyment is when they make the most progress in areas like comprehension, critical thinking, grammar, and writing skills. This summer reading program, which the BHS English department designed, addresses both. We read, but we read with student choice and voice in mind,” Snyder adds.

Also set forth by the English department, inter-grade discussion about summer reading awaits students in the beginning of the following school year. These discussions allow students to reflect on their choice books more extensively than they would while leisurely reading These discussions also lets students of all grade levels get to know each other, helping us welcome the new freshmen to the BHS family.

While some students roll their eyes at the thought of having to read during their break, the system is carefully crafted to maximize the experience for its students. The summer reading options for this school year are bringing mass excitement to the enthralling reads and discussions of BHS students.