Seabiscuit: An American Legend

SeabiscuitSeabiscuit: An American Legend
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Courses: English 12 & 12H

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

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Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System

GomorrahGomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System
Author: Roberto Saviano
Courses: English 12 & 12H

A groundbreaking, unprecedented bestseller in Italy, Roberto Saviano’s insider account traces the decline of the city of Naples under the rule of the Camorra, an organized crime network more powerful and violent than the Mafia. The Camorra is an elaborate, international system dealing in drugs, high fashion, construction, and toxic waste, and its influence has entirely transformed life in Campania, the province surrounding Naples.

Since seeing his first murder victim, at thirteen, Roberto Saviano has watched the changes in his home city. For Gomorrah, he disappeared into the Camorra and witnessed up close the drug cartel’s audacious, sophisticated, and far-reaching corruption that has paralyzed his home city and introduced the world to a new breed of organized crime.

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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

SunflowerThe Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
Author: Simon Wiesenthal
Courses: English 12 & 12H

While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to–and obtain absolution from–a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing.  But even years after the way had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?

In this important book, fifty-three distinguished men and women respond to Wiesenthal’s questions. They are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. Their responses, as varied as their experiences of the world, remind us that Wiesenthal’s questions are not limited to events of the past.  Often surprising and always thought provoking, The Sunflower will challenge you to define your beliefs about justice, compassion, and human responsibility.

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The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy

The Miracle of CastelThe Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy
Author: Joe McGinniss
Courses: English 12 & 12H

Master storyteller Joe McGinniss travels to Italy to cover the unlikely success of a ragtag minor league soccer team–and delivers a brilliant and utterly unforgettable story of life in an off-the-beaten-track Italian village.

When Joe McGinniss sets out for the remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro one summer, he merely intends to spend a season with the village’s soccer team, which only weeks before had, miraculously, reached the second-highest-ranking professional league in the land. But soon he finds himself embroiled with an absurd yet irresistible cast of characters, including the team’s owner, described by the New York Times as “straight out of a Mario Puzo novel,” and coach Osvaldo Jaconi, whose only English word is the one he uses to describe himself: “bulldozer.”

As the riotous, edge-of-your-seat season unfolds, McGinniss develops a deepening bond with the team, their village and its people, and their country. Traveling with the miracle team, from the isolated mountain region where Castel di Sangro is located to gritty towns as well as grand cities, McGinniss introduces us to an Italy that no tourist guidebook has ever described, and comes away with a “sad, funny, desolating, and inspiring story–everything, in fact, a story should be” (Los Angeles Times).

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The Stranger

The StrangerThe Stranger
Author: Albert Camus
Courses: English 12 & 12H

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”

 

 

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Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Like Water for ChocolateLike Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies
Author: Laura Esquivel
Courses: English 12 & 12H

Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

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Demian: The Story of a Youth

DemianDemian: The Story of a Youth
Author: Herman Hesse
Courses: English 12 & 12H

The main character of this classic novel, Emil Sinclair, is a young boy raised in a bourgeois home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words that means “world of light” as well as “world of illusion”. Emil’s entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth. In the course of the novel, accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate ‘Max Demian’, he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self. The novel refers to the idea of Gnosticism, particularly the god Abraxas, showing the influence of Carl Jung’s psychology. According to Hesse, the novel is a story of Jungian individuation, the process of opening up to one’s unconsciousness

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The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories

Bus Driver.jpegThe Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories
Author: Etgar Keret
Courses: English 12 & 12H

Brief, intense, painfully funny, and shockingly honest, Etgar Keret’s stories are snapshots that illuminate with intelligence and wit the hidden truths of life. As with the best writers of fiction, hilarity and anguish are the twin pillars of his work. Keret covers a remarkable emotional and narrative terrain—from a father’s first lesson to his boy to a standoff between soldiers caught up in the Middle East conflict to a slice of life where nothing much happens.

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