On the morning of Monday, September 13, the Island was alive with engaging conversations and meaningful dialogues about ideas, issues, and discoveries found in the 22 books chosen for this year’s school-wide Summer Reading Book Chats.
In addition to the usual grade-level summer reading requirements and the all-school read, Loomis Chaffee students were instructed to choose from a list of Book Chat titles, read the book during the summer, and come prepared in the fall to join group discussions on that book. The Book Chat list was created with input from departments and centers across campus.
“Our students are so busy throughout the year that it’s really nice to take an hour out of the schedule at the beginning of the year to just talk about books and talk about reading,” noted Emily Ziemba, instruction and outreach librarian at the Katharine Brush Library and the summer reading coordinator.
On Monday, discussion groups met in venues across campus with faculty members facilitating the conversations. The groups ranged from 134 to four readers, with the larger groups separated into smaller subsets to allow everyone to participate in the conversations.
In Gilchrist Auditorium, an energetic question-and-answer session was held on the memoir Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline Chen ‘82, an accomplished surgeon, author, and contributor to The New York Times and a former Loomis Chaffee Trustee. Dr. Chen began the session by reading an excerpt from her book and discussing the ideas she contemplates in her memoir.
“Some of the themes of the memoir are death, mortality, and vulnerability,” Dr. Chen said. “Sometimes we don’t get it right, as hard as we try. … It’s about the journey of trying to get it right, not only for ourselves, but for the people around us.”
Facilitated by Environmental Science teacher Betsy Conger, students asked questions of the author. Their queries varied from the specific medical descriptions used in the book to life at Loomis Chaffee in the 1980s. Junior Sam Tishler enjoyed the discussion, which, she said, allowed her “to gain insights on the medical field and end-of-life care as a whole.”
In the Lyon’s Den on the third floor of the Scanlan Campus Center, students discussed The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christi Lefteri. Director of the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, Marley Matlack, and Associate Director Megan Stoecklin asked students to think about the impact the ideas in the book might have on future projects related to global and environmental issues. For inspiration as they moved around the room to brainstorm, students sampled honey harvested from the honeybee hives on campus.
In a Book Chat session in the Pearse Hub for Innovation (PHI), students engaged in a discussion of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. Written by Reed Hastings, the chief executive officer of Netflix, and business professor and author Erin Meyer, the book details the unorthodox business practices used at Netflix that allowed the company to become an industry leader. For the discussion, faculty members Scott MacClintic ’82, Jen Solomon, and Andrew Hutchinson asked students to form small groups and move around the room to six different stations centered on whiteboards, where they answered questions on the ideas and themes of the novel.
Senior Reed MacMillan, who joined the discussion, said he was excited to “see all the different interpretations and takeaways of the book” from the students. The discussion broadened his thinking about management and best business practices, and he said he could see how the ideas in the book could “benefit our lives and Loomis.”
Head of School Sheila Culbert led a Book Chat session on the novel Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro in Founders Chapel. During the one-hour session of lively interaction, Sheila posed several questions to the students about the characters, themes, mood, and setting of the book, to which students responded with personal opinions, observations, and reflections.
Central to the novel is a debate about what it means to be human. During the discussion, Sheila asked the students to think about where Ishiguro stands “on that line between being human and non-human.” She went on to advise students that “the best novelists explore the difficult questions” and make us think about those questions and our lives in new ways.
For more information about the school's summer reading program or this year's Book Chat selections, connect to the Katharine Brush Library page of the Loomis Chaffee website.