Category Archives: Literature

10 Jun 2020

More Summer Reading Suggestions

Making the transition from reading for school to reading for pleasure can be a tricky one. Are you looking to get the most out of this unique summer by bulking up on your reading? We hope you’ve checked out our last blog post, where you’ll find our summer reading suggestions that double as SAT / ACT test prep. Maybe you’ve already exhausted that list or perhaps you’re looking for something different. In any case, we’ve pulled together some suggestions for the fiction lovers, scientists, history buffs, and future doctors out there… 

Looking to dive into some fiction?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: Set in Ireland, this novel explores the relationship between two people who meet in high school and their ensuing on-and-off romance, complicated by social and socio-economic divisions. **Note: this book includes some adult content. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This beloved 1937 classic chronicles the life and love story of Janie Crawford, a fiercely independent African American woman who discovers herself through three marriages and the hardships of poverty in the South. 

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: In this darkly satirical postmodern, sci-fi-esque novel, the narrator sets out to write a book entitled “The Day the World Ended.” On his journey, he explores a zany world of science, technology, religion, and the arms race. 

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: In this web of magical realism, Allende weaves together the triumphs and tragedies of the Trueba family, spanning decades while exploring the personal and the political. 

How about nonfiction? 

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer: In this riveting account, Krakauer details his experience in the epic 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm. 

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer: In this Pulitzer Prize-winning true crime novel, Mailer depicts the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing: In this memoir, Laing shares her experience of moving to NYC where she confronts loneliness on a daily basis and explores the city through art. (This book feels particularly poignant in this time of self-isolation.)

Thinking about a college major or looking to explore new academic subjects? Check these out as a place to start… 

Economics

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins: In this partly autobiographical book, Perkins describes how he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Using an economics lens to explore the riddles of everyday life, the authors expose the inner workings of a crack gang, the secrets of the Klu Klux Klan to crime, parenting, sports, and beyond.

History

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari: Harari offers a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond: Diamond chronicles the ways in which the modern world has been shaped by geographical and environmental factors while dismantling racially based theories of human history. 

Science / Medicine

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: Gawande, a practicing surgeon, tackles his profession’s ultimate limitation (mortality) and argues that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: In this profoundly moving memoir, a young neurosurgeon facing a terminal cancer diagnosis attempts to answer the question: What makes a life worth living?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: In this work of investigative journalism, Skloot dives into the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine.

And, if your summer travel plans have been canceled, discover new places with these picks…

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton: After getting his heart broken, Knighton sets out to explore every national park in the USA. The result is this delightful sampler of the country’s most magnificent natural wonders. 

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva: La Cerva captures the joys of both travel and food in this global culinary exploration, which traces our past and present relationships to “wild foods.”  

If you don’t see something on this list that piques your interest, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more personalized suggestions! We want to ensure that you have a productive and meaningful summer, even if that means spending more time at home with your nose in a book — which doesn’t sound so bad, right? At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

03 Jun 2020

Summer Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation

Summer Reading for SAT / ACT Prep

In many ways, the world is an unnerving place right now. If you’re having difficulty sitting down and focusing on your studies, you are not alone. Perhaps getting lost in a book sounds more appealing. For those of you looking to prepare for your upcoming SAT, ACT, or SAT II Literature exam, we have pulled together a list of suggested reading that may resemble some of the passages you will encounter on the test. These novels, short stories, and poems seem to be favorites of the folks behind the SAT and ACT. We’ve sourced this list from previously released official exams, pulling out content that has appeared multiple times or has been written by notable authors. Encountering an unfamiliar, difficult-to-understand passage on an exam can be very intimidating. By bulking up on independent reading that is in the style of typical SAT / ACT reading passages, you may feel more at ease on test day. So, if you’re looking for something to read this summer, why not kill two birds with one stone? Check out these SAT / ACT favorites and boost your confidence on test day! 

Fiction

A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell: A 1935 novel that tells the story of Dorothy Hare, a clergyman’s daughter, whose life is turned upside down when she suffers an attack of amnesia. 

Middlemarch by George Eliot: A 19th century novel in eight installments set in a fictitious English town addressing social, political, and religious issues of the time period. 

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding: An 18th century satirical novel detailing the life of underworld boss Jonathan Wild. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe: An anti-slavery novel published in 1852 addressing the injustices facing African Amercans in the U.S. during the 19th century.  

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster: A darkly satirical revenge tragedy, written as a play set in 16th century Italy.  

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee: A novel set in the 1980s about a young Indian woman who changes her identity in order to adapt to American society. 

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: A novel written in 1985 detailing the young life of a girl growing up in Antigua, an island in the Carribean.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens: Dickens’ last novel, published in 1865, combining satire and social analysis. 

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett: A novel published in 1908 following the lives of two very different sisters from their youth through old age. 

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan: A mother-daughter novel about love and grief set in contemporary San Francisco and a Chinese village.

Lily Nevada by Cecelia Holland: The dramatic tale of a strong-willed woman who flees her dark and violent past to make a new life and name for herself in San Francisco at the dawn of the Gilded Age. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan: The reflective story of a young English girl in 1935 who witnesses an event during her childhood that spurs unintended, catastrophic consequences over the course of her life. 

The Master by Colm Toibin: A beautifully written novel set in the 19th century about a man who leaves America to live in Europe amongst artists and writers. 

Nonfiction

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: An autobiographical travel book about the author’s unforgettable journey through the backroads of America. 

Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature by David Quammen: A collection of essays discussing bats, octopuses, crows, dinosaurs, animal rights, hypothermia and more. 

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks: A collection of seven paradoxical tales of patients adapting to neurological conditions including autism, amnesia, the restoration of vision after congenital blindness, and more. 

Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage by Deborah Cramer: The account of a scientific voyage from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Barbados that brings the reader through the science and history of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Predicting by Philip E. Tetlock: Named one of the best books of the year by The Economist in 2015, this book draws upon finance, economics, psychology, and other disciplines to share how experts and lay people can make more effective and intelligent predictions. 

Short Stories

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin: A short story about a black algebra teacher in 1950s Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery.

The Music School by John Updike: A collection of Updike’s short stories about people who find their ways in the modern world. 

Feel like reading some poetry? Check out these poems as a jumping off point… 

“Heart, take no pity on this house of bone” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Before the Birth of One of Her Children” by Anne Bradstreet

“Prosody 101” by Linda Pastan

“The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” by Robert Frost

“To the Memory of Mr. Oldham” by John Dryden

“The Dance” by Cornelius Eady

“In Memoriam” by Alfred Tennyson

“The Mountain” by Louise Glück

“To Marguerite: Continued” by Matthew Arnold

“The Young Author” by Samuel Johnson

Who knows? You might find yourself taking the SAT or ACT and come across a passage that you’ve already read. And if not, these reads will still add some thought-provoking variety to your literary repertoire. We hope you enjoy our suggestions! Stay tuned for next week’s blog post if you’re still eager for more book recommendations. We hope everyone is safe and able to find solace in a book, or elsewhere, during these unsettling times. As always, we are here to help.

16 Oct 2017

A (Fallen) Hero: Atticus Finch, Legacy, & The Common App Essay

Since 1960, the year Harper Lee first published To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch has figured prominently in the hearts, minds, and college essays of America’s youth. Atticus – the staunchly principled Southern lawyer (who heroically defends Tom Robinson, a black man unjustly accused of rape) – helped Mockingbird win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. He stood as a model of moral courage and unflappable resolve in the face of injustice and racism. And now, the literary icon thousands of students have surely written about to help them get into college, is the subject of dismay, confusion, and disappointment.

On July 14, 2015, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, a previously undiscovered Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, was released to the public. It appears that Watchman was actually a first draft of Mockingbird – a fact which makes the book all the more shocking; readers are confronted with a very different Atticus. The Watchman Atticus belongs to a group closely tied to the KKK, and is thoroughly unwilling to change with the times. What makes this discovery so surprising is that Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, which begs the question: how could this be the same man? How could this heroic father become as bigoted and backwards as the very people he stood up against in Mockingbird?

In some ways, though, Watchman makes To Kill A Mockingbird, and more specifically Atticus Finch, all the more extraordinary. Mockingbird was written through the eyes of Atticus’ six-year-old daughter, Jean-Louise, who understandably saw Atticus, her father, as a hero among men. His moral failings, therefore, went unacknowledged. But much of Atticus’ actions in Mockingbird, even in light of Watchman’s revelations, still prove heroic; Atticus did defend Tom Robinson, a black man in the South, from an unjust hanging; he did sit outside Robinson’s cell one night with a shotgun to protect him from a violent KKK mob; and, most significantly, he did manage to put aside his archaic personal views when it was called of him. Though in the wake of Watchman, our perception of Atticus may have changed, Lee’s two novels combine to form a powerful message: We can put aside personal beliefs, however strong they might be, to do what is righteous in the end. As such, Atticus Finch’s integrity may even be more praise-worthy today than it was 55 years ago, given the intensity of his troubling convictions. For college-gazing high school students who, until Watchman, were thinking of writing about Atticus on their Common App, maybe there is still something there worth exploring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Nov 2012

10 Sexiest Works of Classic Literature

Who says classic literature can’t be sexy? Believe it or not, romance, tension and sexual morality were all seriously interesting themes to the classic authorial mind. The spiciest of such authors even occasionally penned explicit scenes. If mama asks, you’re just reading to improve your vocabulary, worldly knowledge and reading comprehension skills…

…She’ll never know you’re really reading steamy classiXXX!

1.)

 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Banned in 1857 for obscenity, Madame Bovary tracks Emma Bovary’s attempts to escape the banality of married life by having numerous, passionate extramarital affairs. Although not the most graphic book on this list, Madame Bovary was certainly a titillating piece of work for its time!

2.)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Now we’re getting graphic! Lady Chatterley’s Lover tracks the tortured dissatisfaction of Constance, a young married woman, whose upper-class husband was paralyzed in World War I. Constance’s frustration eventually leads her to have an intense and ecstatic physical affair with a member of the working class. More than just a work of smut, however, the novel is an intriguing investigation into the importance of both intellect and physical pleasure in happiness, spirituality and love.

3.)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Can we even call this book sexy? Lolita tells the story of a twisted love affair between Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man, and Lolita, a 12-year-old girl. Unembarrassed about Humbert’s aching desire for Lolita, the novel is certainly steamy and will make you question the definition of honest, acceptable and mutual love.

4.)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

We all know the story here. While never truly explicit, Romeo and Juliet is a play full of sexual charge. The play traces the marriage and tragic downfall of two fatally attracted, secret lovers. What could be sexier?

5.)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Will Jane Eyre’s quest to find love end blissfully or in despair? Either way, Jane’s tale will enthrall you in the tension of attraction between a homely girl and a dark, powerful and all but unattainable man.

 

6.)

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Set in France during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tropic of Cancer centers on the sordid life of a bohemian writer, describing his experiences with sex, homelessness, hunger and despair. The book was first published in 1934 in France, but was banned in the United States for its many vivid descriptions of sexual encounters. Still, Tropic of Cancer is a noteworthy meditation on the human condition—a poignant critique of conformity and hypocrisy. Think: Fifty Shades of Grey for the philosophical crowd.

7.)

Just about anything by Sappho…

As many soon-to-be college freshmen will learn, Sappho is the sauciest Greek poet in town. Sappho lived from approximately 612 to 570 BCE, and wrote numerous poems about both gay and straight passion and love. Sappho’s poetry is, in fact, so suggestive that the word “lesbian” derives from the name of her native home-island, Lesbos.

8.)

 Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Oh, the longing of poor Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw! Wuthering Heights is a story of tormented love, thwarted by circumstance again and again. Once young and inseparable lovers, Heathcliff and Catherine are torn apart by jealousy, family drama and Catherine’s own preoccupation with social status. Wuthering Heights is sure to make you feel the agony of obsessive love, forever unfulfilled.

9.)

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Even though it has long been considered one of the greatest works of American literature, Howl is chock-full of sexual imagery! The poem faced an obscenity trial in the United States in 1957 due to its graphic and often disquieting depictions of both gay and straight sexual practices. To boot, Howl is also brimming with references to illegal drugs.

10.)

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Like many works on this list, The Sorrows of Young Werther is a tale of love that ends in tragedy. Herein, Werther falls in love with Charlotte, a beautiful woman who, to Werther’s dismay, is already engaged to another man. Unable to let go of his love, Werther cultivates a close, torturous friendship with Charlotte—an act of masochism that ultimately becomes too much for Werther to bear.

 

Such are the scandalous books of the olden days. I hope this list will inspire you to read more classic literature!

 

Glossary
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Poignant: affecting or moving the emotions
Conformity:
compliance with social standards and practices.
Hypocrisy: a quality of acting like one possesses great virtue or moral principles that one does not actually have