A Few Fun Ideas for this Summer
Summers at the Academy are extra-long to give you plenty of time to follow your interests (and recover from Greek philosophers.) I hope you have lots of fun planned for the break ahead, but we put together a list of some ideas you might want to explore if you are looking for something to do.
Things to Read
Books related to ancient Greece and Rome
- Jo Walton’s Thessaly trilogy (beginning with The Just City) imagines what it would be like if Athena decided to actually start a city based on Plato’s Republic. Honestly, it’s worth reading the whole series just to listen to Athena try to explain consent to Apollo.
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves is a little salacious, but if you wish we had dug a little deeper into the antics of the imperial families, you will love this fictional history written by the unassuming emperor Claudius.
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a retelling of the Iliad by a high school classics professor, focused on the relationship between Achilles and Patrocles. (I haven’t read her new book Circe—about the sorceress from the Odyssey—yet, but I am really looking forward to it!)
- C.S. Lewis retells the Psyche/Cupid myth in Till We Have Faces, an odd little fairy tale that may surprise you if you’ve only read his Narnia books.
- Some people think The Ides of March is a little over-intellectual—Thornton Wilder has created a fictional tale based around imagined letters, diaries, and other invented primary sources that recounts the turbulent last months of Julius Caesar’s life. I kind of love it, though.
Books that connect to the Enlightenment
- A Tale of Two Cities is the perfect book to read for next year: It’s a Victorian novel written about the French Revolution, which was a climactic moment for the Enlightenment.
Books that help reinforce specific skills
- I am always recommending How to Read Literature Like a Professor to students who want to practice closer reading in lit class, so I am recommending it here, too.
- If grammar is your nemesis, Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English is a highly entertaining way to get a little more comfortable with it.
- If you ever feel like the math you do in school has no relevance out in the real world, you might enjoy The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, which explains the (often complex and always interesting) role that math and math theory play in The Simpsons television series.
Books that you may just enjoy
- The Golden Compass was one of our book club books, but if you haven’t read the other two books in the trilogy—The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass—you are missing out.
- Shelly did not get to lead her book club discussion on Haroun and the Sea of the Stories, but it is a fantastic book and one definitely worth reading.
- According to my 10th grade book journal, my highest-rated books-for-pleasure for that year were The Name of the Rose (which features a lost work by Aristotle!), The Remains of the Day, and A Prayer for Owen Meany. They have all three stood up to repeated rereading if you want to check them out!
Things to Watch
Movies related to ancient Greece and Rome
- O Brother, Where Art Thou may be the best adaptation of The Odyssey you’ll ever see. (The Coen brothers transpose the action to the Depression-era South, and seeing how different characters and events are changed to suit the time is so much fun.)
- The 1961 adaptation of Antigone is perfect, but it follows the ideal of Aristotelean drama by eschewing special effects and letting Sophocles’s language shine through.
Television series we talk about all the time
- If you aren’t watching The Good Place, you are missing the best comedy about ethics on television! (The fact that it is the only comedy about ethics on television does not make it any less awesome.)
- I mean, by now you should know that Shelly and I are always going to make Buffy the Vampire Slayer references in class.
Things to Do
- The Shakespeare Tavern is running Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from July 7-28—it’s a comedy, so it’s completely different from Julius Caesar, but its whimsy and humor are definitely signs of changes in the literary world that will come to fruition in the Enlightenment. (They’ve also got a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in August that is a hilarious (if bawdy) romp through Shakespeare’s work.
- If you want to see some real-life Greek and Roman art, the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory is probably the nearest place to get your fix.
- I look forward to The New York Times Summer Reading contest for teens every year. Maybe you’d like to participate this summer?
- You can also sign up to do a medieval studies seminar or an essay writing workshop at the Academy in August if you want to squeeze in a little bonus learning.
Whatever you decide to do this summer, we hope it's a great one!