Salem Academy Summer Reading 2023

Seeking Truth

The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.

 –   Hercule Poirot in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

This year’s summer reading theme is “Seeking Truth.” Tracing its modern origins to the Auguste Dupin stories by Edgar Allan Poe, the mystery genre has become one of the most multifaceted in literature, ranging from noir to gothic to locked room to cozy to hardboiled and more. In these works, as in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the often ugly truth is uncovered in beautiful and astonishing ways. Select one of the mystery works listed below and begin seeking its ugly, beautiful truth!

Classic Mysteries

  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Contemporary Mysteries

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney
  • In the Woods by Tana French
  • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  • Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

International Mysteries

  • The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Literary Mysteries

  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  • American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Genre-Blending Mysteries

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
  • The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead


Reading is fundamental, as the saying goes, but we in the English department also want it to be fun, especially during summer break. To accomplish this, we’ve created a summer reading list that steps a little outside of established literary canon. The following list is comprised of works that may not usually be studied in school, but that are worth reading.

Select one work from the list that you have not read before. The list includes works of varying mystery types, tones, and complexity, so take these factors into consideration when making your choice. Given the selected genre, the works also tackle serious subjects and themes, including murder. Learn a bit about the various titles before making your selection so that you can select a book that works best for you.

If you can, purchase a physical copy of your selected book. A physical copy of the book provides a break from looking at screens as well as the ability to annotate if you wish to do so. Similarly, if English is not your first language, try to acquire a copy of your selected work in English to give you further practice reading and learning in the English language.

You’ll discuss your chosen book at the start of fall semester, and you may also complete an assignment (such as a presentation, creative project, or book review) about your book. Given this, you’re advised to bring your book with you at the start of fall semester. No outside sources are permitted for summer reading, including online literary supplements such as SparkNotes, Shmoop, Cliff Notes, etc. These are not permitted for any text studied during the year in English classes as the focus of all reading is to develop your thoughts and analyses of the literature, which helps to improve your reading comprehension.

Five Book Challenge

If you’re up for a reading challenge this summer, consider completing the Five Book Challenge. For this challenge, select and read five books from the list. Extra challenging challenges include reading one book from each category or reading all five books in a single category.

As you read, jot down your thoughts in a reading journal. You’re encouraged to write down your thoughts in a physical journal, but digital works, too. One suggestion for reading journal entries is to write your thoughts at every ⅓ mark: First Impressions ⅓ of the way through the book, Further Reflections ⅔ of the way through the book, and Final Thoughts at the end. The goal is to reflect on what you’ve read, so feel free to use a different structure for your journal.

All participants who complete the challenge will receive a small gift commemorating their completion, such as a bookmark or stationary. The person who reads the most books from the list (and completes the journal entries) will receive top prize: the commemorative gift as well as a Barnes & Noble gift card and a small trophy.

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