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All-School Read

Fostering Community Through Shared Intellectual Experience 

In a world where the 24- hour news cycle, online gaming, and social media constantly distract and compete for our attention, the faculty here at Northwood School believe in the power of reading to instill compassion, creativity, mindfulness, and well-being in our students.   

Countless studies show that reading promotes empathy, imagination, neuron stimulation, and heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex.  

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist.  We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense.  Now we’re seeing that something else may be happening biologically.” 

---Gregory Berns, Researcher and Director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy 

Watching film adaptations or reading online summaries like SparkNotes, while potentially interesting and time-saving, cannot compare to engaging with and connecting to the texts themselves.  Students will be cheating themselves, as well as infringing upon the Northwood Honor Code, by substituting these sources for actual reading.  In other words, you are required to read the books.  If so preferred, electronic (e-books) are acceptable for completing the readings.  

With this in mind, we offer you this summer’s list of required reading for returning and incoming Northwood School students.  Please note that all students are required to read the All-school Read as well as the books specific to the English course they are entering. Any questions can be directed to Noël Carmichael, Dean of Academic Affairs.


Northwood School's All-School Read is designed to foster a sense of community by encouraging a shared intellectual experience across the school. The All-School Read tradition at Northwood has been in place for more than thirty years. Recent titles have included The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates (Wes Moore), The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives (Dashka Slater), Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand), Where You Go Is Not What You'll Be (Frank Bruni), The Bridge of St. Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder), Freakonomics (Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner), and I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai). Each spring, a committee of faculty, staff, and administration selects a book to be read by all members of the school community before arriving the academic year begins. 

Our theme for the 2021-2022 school year is Resilience. 

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

For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.    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. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest. 

See more at: 

There is an audiobook version available on Audible: 

There is a Young Adult version of the book by the same title which students can choose to read:  

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