Kenyon alumni have a lot to say — and, happily for readers, many of them say it on the page, with eloquence, imagination and expertise. Here’s a short list of notable books by Kenyon authors that appeared on shelves in recent years.
“Andrew’s Brain” | E.L. Doctorow ’52
This is the last novel that Doctorow, the nationally celebrated author of “Ragtime,” “Billy Bathgate” and “The March,” published before his death in 2015. It is narrated by Andrew, a cognitive scientist — a self-described “freakishly depressive . . . klutz” — who speaks of himself in the third person. In conversations with his psychotherapist, he recounts a tragic, convoluted life (and love) story that intersects the 9/11 attacks.
“Seven Ways We Lie” | Riley Redgate (Rioghnach Robinson ’16)
Robinson, who uses the pen name Riley Redgate, published this young-adult novel before she graduated from Kenyon. Her literary debut captures high-school entanglements in the story of seven teenagers who all harbor secrets — and each of whom wrestles with one of the deadly sins. Landing on Barnes & Noble’s monthly list of “most anticipated” young-adult books, “Seven Ways We Lie” was praised by Publishers Weekly for revealing the “hard edges” and “tender underbelly” of high school.
“Eyes” | William Gass ’47
Many critics have noted the extraordinary powers of language, its music and rhythms, in the fiction of Gass, whom the New York Times calls “our greatest living champion of the sentence.” The writer’s sentence-level virtuosity is fully on display in this collection of two novellas and four shorter stories. The pieces range from “In Camera,” one of the longer works, about the reclusive proprietor of a photography shop, to “Don’t Even Try, Sam,” in which the narrator is the aging piano from the classic film “Casablanca.”
“A Map of Days” | Ransom Riggs ’01
The latest installment of Riggs’ popular series about Miss Peregrine’s “peculiar children” takes readers back to where the adventures of 16-year-old Jacob Portman began — in Florida. In “A Map of Days,” Jacob is accompanied by Miss Peregrine, Emma Bloom, and his peculiar friends, as he delves into his grandfather Abe’s mysterious past as an operative. Once again, fantasy, suspense, linguistic inventiveness and eerie vintage photographs — this time, in full color — will captivate young readers.
“Sweetbitter” | Stephanie Danler ’06
In this beautifully written, often wrenching and wry humorous novel, Danler’s young heroine arrives in New York City in the summer of 2006, full of unfocused, self-doubting ambition, and finds a job as a “back waiter” in a fine restaurant near Union Square. She begins, clumsily at first, to develop a refined palate even as she struggles to define her own needs, to rely on herself and to make the city her own. Danler is at her best in evoking the backstage rush and urgency of restaurant work, the conflicts and colorful characters, the afterhours bonding and the anxious energies of young people trying to find their existential footing in New York.
“Turtles All the Way Down” | John Green ’00
Green’s first book since the best-selling “The Fault in Our Stars” (2012) centers on 16-year-old Aza Holmes, a high school student living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and her search for a fugitive billionaire. The popular young-adult author plumbs the depths of his own struggles with mental illness to create one of his most memorable characters to date in Aza, who shares his diagnosis. The reader spends long stretches inside Aza’s head — listening to her repetitive, intrusive thoughts that she calls “light-swallowing wormholes” — and becomes invested in her complicated relationships with best friend Daisy and potential love interest Davis.
“Enter Helen” | Brooke Hauser ’01
Hauser traces the career of the famous and sometimes infamous Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan. Based on numerous interviews and extensive research in Brown’s papers, “Enter Helen” is really the story of a tumultuous era of social change — an era that embraced the March on Washington as well as the topless bathing suit, the 1964 World’s Fair and the 1967 Summer of Love, both the rise of modern feminism and the heyday of the Playboy Club, the “career girl” of Cosmo and the liberated woman of Ms.
“Unbroken” | Laura Hillenbrand ’89
Hillenbrand’s second book and worthy successor to her runaway hit “Seabiscuit,” “Unbroken” tells the story of another ’30s athlete, Louis Zamperini. His legendary running career was interrupted by his World War II Army Air Forces service as a B-24 bombardier. When his plane went down in the Pacific during a rescue mission, he and the pilot survived a record 47 days on a raft, only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and subjected to unspeakable pain for the remainder of the war. The story of survival and forgiveness, which was adapted into a feature film, is both gripping and inspiring.
We asked which titles are topping your high-school reading lists, and you answered. From classic novels to contemporary page-turners, here are the books you can’t put down.
“They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us” | Hanif Abdurraqib
Emma J., Charlottesville, Virginia
“Call Me By Your Name” | André Aciman
Asvena S., Columbus, Ohio
“Alias Grace” | Margaret Atwood
Emma P., Terre Haute, Indiana
“Feed” | M.T. Anderson
Sam U., Winnetka, Illinois
“Persuasion” | Jane Austen
Madison D., Lexington, Kentucky
“Beartown” | Fredrik Backman
William E., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“The Idiot” | Elif Batuman
Natalia P., Guilford, Connecticut
“Wuthering Heights” | Emily Brontë
Lydia L., Irvine, California
“Braving the Wilderness” | Brené Brown
Michael B., Montgomery, Alabama
“The Plague” | Albert Camus
Becca G., Kensington, Maryland
“We Were Eight Years in Power” | Ta-Nehisi Coates
Danielle J., Carteret, New Jersey
“All The Light We Cannot See” | Anthony Doerr
Carolyn S., Los Angeles, California
“The Black Penguin” | Andrew Evans
Maggie E., Andover, Massachusetts
“American Gods” | Neil Gaiman
Natalie K., Hong Kong
“Blink” | Malcolm Gladwell
Cassie C., Stuart, Florida
“The Fabric of The Cosmos” | Brian Greene
Benjamin C., Brooklyn, New York
“Black Like Me” | John Howard Griffin
Lina L., Louisville, Kentucky
“Dune” | Frank Herbert
Richard S., Glencoe, Illinois
“The Kite Runner” | Khaled Hosseini
Anvitha C., Fairfax, Virginia
“A Prayer for Owen Meany” | John Irving
Samantha G., Wellesley, Massachusetts
“Captains Courageous” | Rudyard Kipling
Benjamin M., Edwardsville, Illinois