Heights Books: A list of truly great and very good books for young men.
While other excellent reading lists exist for students, this compilation of titles is different in that all of the recommended books, in some way, complement a Sparhawk education. The titles found within these pages will broaden the horizons of those who read them. Many directly correspond to what students are studying in class and can powerfully engage the imagination of a boy. Some are the type that become a life-long companion, meant to be read and re-read, contributing to the formation of the man one becomes. What cannot be found here are the types of books—a product of very recent times—that have been written to promote reading as a form of entertainment, a mere distraction, to compete with video games, the internet and television, leaving little to the imagination. Instead, these recommended titles require the cultivation of a certain amount of interior silence and strength to retreat into a world where the written word works with the imagination to give life to an adventure. As such, it will be an effort for some to become immersed in these books. Nonetheless, the aescetical struggle to cultivate the interior silence necessary to enter these imaginative worlds (both fiction and nonfiction) will undoubtedly be richly rewarded.
Many of these books are meant to form the basis for a conversation, to serve as an entry way into a generations-old dialogue on matters pertaining to the most important human realities: true love, suffering, sacrifice, heroism, evil, good, and the possibility of an ultimate meaning more powerful than death. While a student who reflectively reads and discusses selections from Heights Books with his teacher can earn extra credit, the greatest reward will be in the human enrichment that results. As a mountain naturally invites one to climb all the way to the top, so these lists naturally present a challenge to these young men to strive for completion, a challenge to which we hope, with proper encouragement from both faculty and parents, many Sparhawk students will rise.
A Partnership with Parents
Any educational endeavor that seeks to accomplish something truly great, such as promoting a counter-cultural culture of reading, requires a partnership between faculty and parents. We are grateful to faculty of The Heights School in Potomac, MD who put a great deal of time and effort into the Heights Books project—critical input, careful study and many conversations. Likewise, this project serves as a great summer reading assignment for the faculty, especially the English and History teachers.
So how can parents help?
- Encourage the cultivation of silence necessary for reading and study in your homes.
- Ensure that electronic distractions, especially screens, do not impact the tone of home life.
- Foster family times of quiet study, especially on weekends and holiday.
- Challenge your sons to read these books as a way to grow as a student and as a person. Set an example of study and reading yourself.
- Make these books available to your sons, either as additions to your family library or as books borrowed from the local library.
- Encourage your sons to take advantage of the extra-credit opportunity that reading these books presents.
To Earn Extra Credit
- A student reads a book from the appropriate list. Books need not be read in a particular order.
- The book must be read during the academic year (September through May). If a student has already read a book from the list, he must re-read it during the school year to earn credit.
- Students may read books from earlier grade lists, but will not earn credit from these books. For example, a 5th grade student is welcome to read books from the 3rd or 4th grade lists but he will not earn credit for doing so.
- No credit will be awarded for reading books above a student’s current grade level without the prior approval of the student’s mentor.
- After finishing the book, the student should schedule a time to discuss the book with his English or History teacher.
- In discussing the book, the teacher will determine if the student has read the book with a spirit of reflection and engagement.
- For books in the upper grade lists, the teacher may direct the student to have a conversation with another faculty member, likely the faculty member who recommended the book and has a genuine passion for the work.
- Following the discussion, the teacher will award extra credit. This extra credit can raise the student’s grade, but not so much that he can neglect his regular class work. Indeed, for the extra credit to fully count, a student must be current on his regular class assignments.