The leap from eighth grade to high school can be a difficult one, but it can be made easier with the help of a good book. We asked several notables to recommend a good summertime read for incoming high school freshmen. Their suggestions:
1. Rennie Sparks, author, artist and half of The Handsome Family (with husband Brett), an alternative country band:
"The Report," by Cabeza de Vaca (sometimes translated as "The Account"). This is the true chronicle of shipwreck, slavery and starvation written by a Spanish conquistador in the 16th century. He was lost in the Florida swamps, enslaved by indigenous people, forced to sacrifice his only clothing to make a raft that quickly sunk, then ended up walking naked across the Gulf Coast to New Mexico.
In comparison, high school won't seem scary at all.
2. Jerry Springer, TV host:
I would suggest "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. Its central themes of overcoming prejudice and racism — not to mention its beautifully written story of courage, goodness, heroism and innocence — it's all a wonderful foundation for starting high school, not to mention life.
3. Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society:
My suggestion is "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," by T.S. Eliot.
Not only would this book introduce eighth-graders to the whimsy, charm and variety of feline personalities, but it would also give them a taste of a literary master from another era, but with a very digestible style.
4. Dana Delany, actress:
I think one of the best books ever written — very powerful and you're never too young to read it — is "The Power of Now," by Eckhart Tolle.
I didn't read it until I was in my 40s. I wish I read it when I was younger. It's one of those books you can read over and over again and it will have different meanings at different times of your life. Just what it tells you about being present and being kind, and in the end I think those are the only two things that matter.
5. Leon Lederman, physicist and Nobel Prize laureate:
(First response:) Being totally objective, I offer the one book I know best for now: "Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe," which Chris Hill and I thatched together with the hope that it would work for ninth- and 10th-graders and even more geeky eighth-grade science buffs. (Second response:) After more thinking and discussion, I now believe that my earlier book, "The God Particle," which has sold over 100,000 copies since 1993, may be a better high school prep for kids with an interest in science.
6. Willie Nelson, musician and activist:
"God's Little Acre," by Erskine Caldwell. A great book about life. I think it would be a hit for all ages. Nothing's changed again.
7. Anders Henriksson, professor of history at Shepherd University and author of "College in a Nutskull":
My choice would be Chaim Potok's novel "The Chosen." This is a compelling coming-of-age story which explores the relationship between faith and the secular world and which places the experience of two American families in the context of global events.
8. Todd Anton, member of the board of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and a high school history teacher:
Well, if I can be so bold to suggest my books "No Greater Love: Life Stories from the Men Who Saved Baseball" and "When Baseball Went to War." Many of my students have read these and love them. I also suggest Stephen Ambrose's book on WW II for young adults, "The Good Fight." "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," by John Boyne, is an excellent read, too. I really love E.B. Sledge's book, "With the Old Breed." "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," by Ted W. Lawson … I can go on and on too.
9. Nancy Grace, HLN host and host of the upcoming series "Swift Justice":
"To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. Atticus Finch was the first attorney I ever "met" — and he influenced the rest of my life.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun