HHS English Teachers Name Their Favorite Books

Almost everyone has that one book in their life that they can go back to again and again and reread with the same joy they had when they first read it.

The thing we don’t think about however, is what books the teachers who help us understand literature enjoy to read.  English teachers help in our journey of discovering the underlying themes of classic novels and the meanings tied to each word choice, but we haven’t found what goes on inside the teacher’s mind when they read their own favorite books.

Even after a long day of examining each page with their students, these English teachers will go home and spend hours revisiting their favorite books. Some of them reread books they actually teach, while others dive into a story that we wouldn’t have expected.

Mr. Sterner: Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R Tolkien

“I remember reading it when I was about 8 or 9, and it was hard to read other fictional stories after that. Like Harry Potter, none of that stuff stuck with me. The complexity of the writing and the world is what appeals to me. The massive size of the Lord of the Rings is often a deterrent from people giving the series a try.”

But fans of the novels, including Sterner, appreciate the amount of detail and messages strewn within them. Sterner could be immersed in such a vast, interesting world for hours, something that many other books failed at for him.  

“I also like that they made a decent movie out of it.” Sterner said.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. O’Brien: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“I love the way that Lee brings a child’s innocence to tell a story of justice, but at the same time shows us innocence lost through understanding that injustice, and I just think it’s beautifully done. Also she has one of my all time favorite characters from literature, who is Atticus Finch, and I just think that he embodies all we should strive to be as an American, a human, and as a parent,” said O’Brien.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. Reinert: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Reinert would have never picked up Children of Blood and Bone since she isn’t necessarily in love with the fantasy genre. But curiosity took over when she learned that the author, Tomi Adeyemi, was nicknamed the “Next J.K. Rowling,” by reviewers, and publishing companies fought over the rights for her novel. Now the fantasy story is one of Reinert’s favorites.

“It took me a few chapters,” she said, but she became so impressed by the worlds Adeyemi created. Another thing that Reinert shies away from is alternate universes, but she was captivated by the ones in Children of Blood and Bone. She couldn’t believe how clearly she could see the different worlds.

“And each chapter alternates between three different characters, so it’s very cool to see the contrasting perspectives,” Reinert said. There is also a moment in the story, where everything comes together and connects with the overarching metaphor. “This one character suddenly said something, and I gasped.”

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. Ives: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Many wouldn’t expect a book with a grotesque monster on the cover and a title of Frankenstein to encompass deep yet delicate themes woven throughout it. But Ives said that the novel is “Beautifully written.”

She teaches this book for her AP Literature class, and she always enjoys reading and sharing the book with others each year.

Frankenstein really demonstrates the complexity about relating to others, while also trying to stay true to oneself,” Ives said. She would encourage everyone to look past the cover and give Frankenstein a try, because many would appreciate the messages and writing of the book.  

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. Balanda: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

People tend to either absolutely love “The Catcher in the Rye,” or they despise and can’t understand it. Balanda is clearly in the “love,” category, since she has  many copies of The Catcher in the Rye in her room, and a poster of the novel right outside her door.

Catcher is my favorite book because it is timeless and not in a classic literature sense,” Balanda said. She fell in love with the main character, Holden Caulfield, and felt strongly empathetic towards the conflicts he had to face. Balanda said that, no matter the time or place, one can relate to the character and events.

“The themes of teenage angst still apply today,” Balanda said. “The concept of playing the game of life still applies and will always apply.”

Balanda would definitely recommend The Catcher in the Rye to everyone, because not only is it an important classic that many continue to discuss, but also because of the powerful themes within it that readers can and will relate to.  “I believe everybody can learn something about themselves from reading about Holden’s refusals to conform to the norms of society,” Balanda said.

Catcher in the Rye is a book that was published in 1951. Some of the topics the novel deals with are ones such as innocence, identity, and connection. These ideas are brought up in a span of a few days where teenager Holden Caulfield explores the life around him and meets an array of “phony” characters. The novel also utilizes symbolism at many points to express a thought or idea like the ones just listed.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mr. Dietz: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

“Great, it’s just another famous book,” were Dietz’s initial thoughts after he first read the Grapes of Wrath in his senior year of high school. But a couple months later, he revisited the classic novel.

“I was absolutely consumed by it,” Dietz said. Now, the Grapes of Wrath is a story that Dietz always returns to.

He especially loves the symbolism that flows out of each page, and what each character represents. “Steinbeck has great insight into the average American in the Great Depression. He really captures their struggle and disparity,” Dietz said. “And he has a great balance between the narrative and his commentary of the Great Depression.” His favorite author became Steinbeck because of the novel, and he read all of Steinbeck’s other works, but the Grapes of Wrath remains as Dietz’s favorite.  

(Broadcaster/Angelina Memmi)

Mrs. West: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

There are many books Mrs.West considers her favorite but there is one that always stands out among the others, which is The Things They Carried. The author, Tim O’Brien, was a Vietnam war veteran who put together a collection of stories  that you can either read as a whole set or individually, and it basically recounts this war that we really know so little about. Tim O’Brien proves that nothing in this world is black and white as he recounts difficult, harrowing scenarios. The Things They Carried opened up West’s eyes and deeply affected her, which is why she always goes back to this novel.

“The writing is just so well done, and it just has a lot of good questions, you know, what is truth?” West said. “What does it mean to be a hero? And it tells us a lot about the people we consider to be heroes.”

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mr. Boggess: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

“I read it when I was in high school and I decided to read it because it felt like one of those books that seemed like it was important because everyone knows the title of it. I had to force myself to read it,” Boggess said.

Boggess began reading the book at one point and got bored. However, he later started reading it again the summer after he graduated high school. He also thinks the fact that he finished the book on a plane ride over Alaska while having a view of the Northern lights is another reason he likes the book so much.

“More so as I’ve re-read it, I’ve just really liked the story, and the messages in it are really encouraging,” Boggess said. One of the messages he really appreciates is the idea of how the human spirit can triumph over adversity and how what your parents have done doesn’t mean you’ll be the same way.

There is a lot that can be learned about someone just from what their favorite book is. Mr. Boggess is a firm believer in the idea of individualism and being your own person in life. Sometimes, the reasoning behind why a book is someone’s favorite is because they relate to a theme or message the book displays.

(Broadcaster/Angelina Memmi)

Mr. Bittinger: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Bittinger may have the same favorite book as Dietz, but for a completely different reason. “It was one of the first books that opened up my eyes about how good and how bad people can be,” Bittinger said. The family in the novel was simply striving for a decent life, basic human rights, yet faced so many heartless challengers and struggles, which deeply affected Bittinger.

“But I love the ending too,” Bittinger said. “It finishes optimistically, with the family prevailing and never giving up.”

He also appreciates the style of the novel. “Steinbeck includes shorter, symbolic chapters within the book, while still maintaining the grand messages and themes.”

Bittinger first read The Grapes of Wrath when it was assigned to him in college, and has reread it countless times since. “I can always relate what I see in the world to a chapter in that book,” Bittinger said. He explained that as he grows older, “and more cynical, in a sense,” he can see more connections between the novel and the world. But he encourages young people to read the Grapes of Wrath as well.

“Y’know you learn these events in history class, but you can see history through the eyes of those who lived it with this book,” Bittinger said. He even plans to include the novel in his Words Worth Knowing class once it becomes a full year course in two years. Bittinger believes that everyone should read The Grapes of Wrath, and he would also love the chance to read it again.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. True: Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“It deals with a lot of issues teens face and it’s just very honest and raw.” True said. Perks of being a Wallflower is about a socially awkward teen named Charlie. Charlie is going through a lot but is helped out by two new found friends who help guide him through life.

“It’s also very relatable,” True said.

The Perks of being a Wallflower is a typical story about a teenager trying to find/understand themself through their high school years. True actually has the luck of being able to teach her favorite book to her 12th grade english classes. It is a fitting read as these seniors finish up their high school years and head out into the real world, and that True is able to be a part of that experience.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)

Mrs. Nester: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Nester has multiple favorite books, but her most recent obsession is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The novel takes place during WW2 in France, when a blind French girl and a German boy unexpectedly meet and must face the tragedies of the world war together.

“But there are many, many other characters that are intertwined throughout the book,” Nester said. “And it’s amazing to see each story colliding all together at the end.” She also loves the historical connection to WW2 of All the Light We Cannot See.  

Nester was delighted when she had enough free time to finally relax and enjoy the novel during winter break. “The school year is just so incredibly busy, so it’s difficult to find the time to read,” Nester said. She loved how she could take a break from stress and discover of her new favorite books.

“I’d absolutely recommend the book to everyone,” Nester said. She is also looking forward to this summer, when she can catch up on even more reading.

(Broadcaster/Chris Santiago)