Brendan Largay, Head of School

BrendanLargay, Head of School

My Summer Reading List

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” –Jhumpa Lahiri

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and so I offer one of my favorite annual traditions: my summer reading list. What follows is shared with you in the hopes that this year–for the first time–I might be successful in reading a book a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Thirteen weeks. Thirteen books. (My record remains at 11.5.)

Interestingly enough, the community has offered evidence to suggest that this tradition is a worthwhile one to continue as my spring is regularly dotted with recommendations from colleagues and parents who have come to be an invaluable resource as I seek to enter summer with a diverse, intellectually challenging, and joyful collection of texts to read. As you will see below, this year is no different. I am so grateful to everyone who gave me a title to consider (whether it made this year’s list or not!) and I hope everyone can find a moment to do some traveling without moving their feet this summer.

Think Again, Adam Grant

Care to join the faculty for a summer read? Everyone in the schoolhouse will be reading Grant’s latest, Think Again, this summer as we engage in a conversation about all of the ways in which Belmont Day has grown through COVID and beyond and how we might account for a school that holds onto its past and imagines its future in the same breath. In order to do that, what Grant calls the skills of rethinking and unlearning will be pivotal.

The Last Beekeeper, Julie Carrick Dalton P ’08, ’12, ’15, ’19

One of the leading new voices in climate and environmental fiction, Julie Dalton has done it again. Building off the success of her debut novel, Waiting for the Night Song, she is back with a slightly more dystopian rendition of what a future without bees might mean for us all. A BDS parent who once explained that the bulk of her first novel was written in the school’s carline, I have little doubt that Julie’s second novel will be equally compelling.

Little Monsters, Adrienne Brodeur P ’23

We have other NYT Bestselling authors in our community, too! Adrienne Brodeur, whose son will graduate next month, will spend the first part of her summer anticipating the release– scheduled for June–from, I suspect the setting of the novel itself, Cape Cod. After watching Liam present his Capstone on the threat that climate change poses to the Cape, it is clear this is an important place to the author. Little Monsters takes on the beauty, difficulty, and complexity of family and of the Cape itself.

Winter Counts, David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Admittedly, I am arriving to this crime fiction novel (a favorite summer genre for me) a bit late, but when a recommendation comes from Blair Fross, I would be a fool to pass it up. This look at life on a South Dakota reservation where Virgil Wounded Horse offers justice when the American legal system or the tribal council does not. I suspect this one will read quickly, and I can’t wait.

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
On the heels of our eighth graders’ trip to the Southwest, I was given this recommendation by Hannah and Andy S, and it was quickly echoed by several faculty as a must read of one of the leading voices of environmental stewardship set in the very location our eighth graders spend a pivotal week in the spring. Abbey’s voice has, for a half-century, sounded the clarion call of environmental sustainability, and Desert Solitaire was among his first, published in 1971.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport

With thanks to Alex M for the rec here. As someone who proudly touts my ADHD diagnosis as something of a superpower, I suspect Cal Newport may have some suggestions to curtail the kryptonite. The world is profoundly distracted and distracting and as someone inclined to listen to the rustling in the trees, I could use a refresher on strategies to help me do the deep work of school leadership.

The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, Daniel Pink

A nice counterbalance to Grant’s Think Again, Daniel Pink is another of my Mt. Rushmore thought leaders (his A Whole New Mind revolutionized how I think about teaching). In a world where I think regret tinges for many of us what the last three years of pandemic-related living felt like, I’m glad Pink has arrived with a thought or two about how to use that feeling more productively. I should add here that I also could read these pop science texts on education, psychology, and metacognition all day long, so I’m glad to have a list that mixes things up a bit.

Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton

Any book that quotes Shakespeare’s Macbeth is virtually a guaranteed nomination to this list (see Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow which was one of my absolute favorites last year). More than that, the idea of a murder mystery set in New Zealand regarding a horticulturist whose company, the aforementioned ‘Birnam Wood,’ was simply too good to pass up. The fact that the author has previously won the Booker Prize seals the deal.

Rough Sleepers, Tracy Kidder

Always nice to see a new faculty member come through with a powerful recommendation as well. Courtesy of Mrs. Bettinelli, this recommendation speaks to the homeless experience in Boston, and as a school that partners annually with Pine Street Inn, the opportunity to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the experience of the homeless can only help.

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Subtitled “Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” Kimmerer, a botanist and indigenous scientist in her own right, weaves together several threads that remind me of Belmont Day: a trip to the southwest for our eighth grade students, a commitment to the environment, our community garden, and a desire to honor differences. In this case, Kimmerer’s voice and subject matter have similar resonance.

Remarkably Bright Creatures, Shelby Van Pelt

As our family readies itself to send our eldest off to college (!?!) this summer to study marine biology, a fictional novel about a loving connection between a human and an octopus feels like a good primer for our son’s upcoming journey. Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus  is a recommendation from the archives of the Scoop from several years back, and Remarkably Bright Creatures seems to carry with it the same measure of delight and joy.

An Immense World, Ed Yong

After the pleasure of serving as a Capstone mentor to Quincy, whose work on animals and music opened my eyes and ears to the beautiful and complex world of animal behavior, reading Yong’s text seems like a natural next step to take. The book is subtitled “How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden World Around Us,” and so it feels like an extension of all I learned from my mentee this year.

The Sense of Wonder, Matthew Salesses

Thank goodness for Jen James. This is a sentiment I express several times a day as a Head of School, but beyond that, she has become a go-to resource for book recommendations. Of the several she gave me as I pondered this summer’s reading list, it is this The Sense of Wonder that taps into my love of basketball and globalism that is sure to make for a compelling read.

Honorable mention (or, the list of titles that might just as easily have made the cut, and if–by some miracle–I get through the 13 here, the next set of books I’d pick up!)

Babel, R.F. Kuang

Invisible Child, Andrea Elliot

The Captain Class, S.A.M. Walker

Leadership on the Line, R. Heifetz

Flux, Stephen Baxter

The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai

Thanks for humoring me everyone, and wish me luck! Again, may you all find plenty of time this summer to travel without moving your feet. Happy reading!

BrendanLargay, Head of School

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