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August 27, 2006

-- Insider's Guide to High School --

Must-have books for high school

By Michel Lee

As a wise, weathered senior, I've seen them all. Blue and red, hardcover and paperback.  Ugly and attractive. Easy, cheap reads and dense, thoughtful tomes.

Here's the cream of the crop, nice additions to your library that will supplement any bored student's education. (Okay, I'm a geek. But they're great for impressing your teachers.)  I've limited myself to one per subject. 

Spanish

501 Spanish Verbs
By Christopher Kendris, Ph.D. and Theodore Kendris, Ph.D.

For about $15, this book wasn't a bad buy. While it's certainly not bedside reading material, 501 contains almost all of the verbs and conjugations you'll ever need for Spanish class. The authors also include an explanation of all the verb tenses, an index, and writing exercises. I especially enjoy reading the notes at the bottom of each page, which contain words that are related to the conjugated verb. Nonchalantly throw them into conversations with la maestra for some fun. 

English

The Great Gatbsy
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is incorporated into most high school curriculums, but if you haven't been forced to read it yet by your English teacher yet, you should.

Broaching an era of American history that is too often relegated to stereotypes, Fitzgerald's book is a quintessential work of fiction. It's also chock full of color imagery, symbolism, and complex themes. Sound daunting yet? It shouldn't be, since Gatsby is an easy read. I was able to pick up quite a few interesting complications my first time around.

Themes and ideas presented in the book can easily be incorporated into an SAT essay or writing test. (Things to look for:  the use of yellow/gold imagery, the multiple meanings of the color green, the portrayal of women, and word choice.) 

Science/Health

Fast Food Nation
By Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation is, as The New York Times says, “a fine piece of muckraking.”  Schlosser delves into the dark abysses of food processing plants and Chicago's meat district. The result is an eye-opening, somewhat grisly and candid explanation of what REALLY goes into our mouths.

I received extra-credit in my honors biology class for reading this book. It addresses the production of fast food on the political, legal, social, and biological levels, but most importantly, it is an application of science to current events that is hard to come by in the standard chemistry or biology textbook. 

Math

12 Practice Tests for the SAT
By Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

Yes, it really is possible to find a supplementary book for math. But what does the SAT have to do with it? A lot. After spending an entire summer poring over the math sections of the practice tests in this Kaplan book, I'm proud to say that my grades in math class have considerably improved.

Practicing basic algebra will sharpen your math skills and make you more sensitive and insightful when it comes to solving new problem sets. A good score on the PSAT and SAT wouldn't hurt, either. I received near perfect math scores on both. 

History

The Royal Diaries Series
By Scholastic

Okay, so they're not exactly written for high school students, but The Royal Diaries Series, a fictional set of diaries supposedly “written” by princesses and queens like Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth I, are a nice way to become familiar with historical periods without slogging through the history textbook (not that you shouldn't read the main text).  Because they're easy to read, learning takes place subconsciously. Gosh, that sounded awful. But they're good. I've gone through some of them dozens of times. Impress your teachers with all the little pieces of information you pick up in these well-researched books.

Insider's Guide to High School


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