Recommend a book about integrity from this list

My school is asking all of the students to read a book over the summer about personal integrity, with a list of suggestions (students can pick a book not on the list, but should be prepared to defend how it represents integrity). And they’re also asking all of the teachers to do the same. Here’s the list, helpfully broken down by genre:

Realistic Fiction:
Charming as a Verb, by Ben Phillipe
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, by Crystal Maldonado
Furia, by Yamille Saied Méndez
The Ivies, by Alexa Donne
Science Fiction
Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Only Good Indians, by Stephan Graham Jones
Historical Fiction
Angel of Greenwood, by Randi Pink
I Must Betray You, by Ruta Sepetys
The Paris Apartment, by Kelly Bowen
Graphic Novel
Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol
Novel in Verse
500 Words or Less, by Juleah Del Rosario
I am, I am, I am, by Maggie O’Farrell
Rigged Justice, by John Vandemoer
Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle, SJ
The Woman they Could not Silence, by Kate Moore

They’ll give me a free copy of one of these books of my choice, though of course I can probably get the others from the library, if I choose. My natural inclination is the two science fiction options, but I’m not familiar with either, and science fiction books chosen by non-SF fans often aren’t all that good, and I’d rather read a good book of some other genre than a bad SF book.

So, suggestions?

Read Dissolution by C. J. Sansom instead. Historical fiction. A murder at a monastery in Tudor England just as the monasteries and Catholicism in general are being shut down. The Protestants have been fervent but now that they’re in charge there’s more than a whiff of corruption. The person being sent to investigate (main character) may or may not have been deployed there with the true intention of getting to the bottom of this. But it appears that someone who took holy vows may be a murderer. Integrity is a strong theme running throughout.

I’ll keep that in mind, and might suggest it to the folks who made the list, but while students are permitted to choose off-list, I think it’s probably better for we teachers to stick to it. For one thing, we’re likely to be asked to lead discussions about the book we chose, and for another, they are going to be giving me a free copy of one of the books on the list, so I’d at least like some guidance on which one to get for free.

I’ve read Klara and the Sun, which in my opinion is quite good. The concept of integrity, and who does or does not have it, is a theme throughout the book.

FWIW, the Stephen Graham Jones book is a fantasy horror novel, not SF.

I haven’t read it myself yet, but I’ve heard great things about I Must Betray You and have it on my list. It tracks a fascinating period in history (Communist Romania in 1989) that I don’t know enough about.

Anya’s Ghost is an excellent graphic novel. Not entirely sure how it’s supposed to fit the “integrity” theme.

I gather that some of the works feature integrity in the negative, i.e., showing the negative consequences of a lack of integrity. But I’m not the one who made the list, so I can’t say for sure. And it’s quite possible that they felt they ought to include at least one graphic novel, but weren’t very familiar with them, and chose the best-fitting one of the graphic novels they knew.

And thank you, @Dendarii_Dame ; I think I can trust your recommendations for science fiction.

Not sure at what level you teach, but I agree you should read something from the list.

That being said, I rarely miss an opportunity to recommend the David Brooks book The Road to Character. It is not exclusively about integrity, but it is about overcoming obstacles to become ones best self. It uses short biographies of historical people (some famous, some less well known- a few connected with each other) to demonstrate how sticking with the program under difficult circumstances eventually leads to at a minimum some level of success (generally much more than moderate success). To me that is the very essence of integrity.

If you were to read it and you like it as much as I do, you will recommend it to you coworkers and it will be on the list in the future.

I read that Serpico finally got a certificate from the NYPD this year. Maybe something about him?

I teach high school. Probably mostly juniors and seniors, but the class load is yet to be finalized.

And what’s the gender breakdown in The Road to Character? I ask because my school is all-girls, and so they’d probably want heavy female representation in their reading selections.

This is my first year at this school, but I gather they do this every year with a different virtue, so something that’s not about integrity specifically might still be a good fit for a later year.

No love for The Book of Virtues? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

I enjoyed Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. Personal integrity was one of the core themes of the book, though the more common definition of integrity really wasn’t. Be true to yourself and trust your friends would be more on point. It’s a high school dating story about an overweight Latina in a mostly white neighborhood. IIRC, her bestie was a black bisexual girl, and the main character’s primary love interest is a “nice guy” type (who really is pretty nice). It’s full of the typical self-doubt and second-guessing others’ intentions that you find in high school dating books, but it was a good read.

I tend to enjoy Holiday House books. They are one of the few large publishing houses who (last I checked) accepted unsolicited manuscripts.

My recommendation is certainly not beyond High School juniors and seniors, in fact, I think it might be perfect for that time in life. As a post-middle aged man, I read it differently than they would. I used it to gauge my own successes or lack there of in my personal history, but believe it might be a perfect vehicle for a young person to chart a course for living a well lived life. It has an introduction and ten chapters which I will have to review because the Table of Contents is cryptic and my memory is feeble.

Summary: three (3) of eight (8) personalities are women.

Upon edit: One thing that I strongly recall from this book, was how one particular woman was very good at all of her subjects EXCEPT for science and she was pushed by her counselors and academic advisors to major in Biology as a result. The wisdom being that if you can survive there where you have the least natural ability-- baby, you can survive anywhere!! I did not stumble across it while looking up the other stuff, but it made me see things differently when I first read it. I cannot tell you where to find it, but I can tell you that it did remind me that my parents grew up in a whole different world than I did and that things have changed even more since my days. That realization informs me that many things that are outdated are still valuable (and I say that as a devout progressive). The entire book is about rising to face the current challenge and that is the definition of integrity by my accounting.

It starts with an introduction that I found very meaningful. He mentions the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues- something I had never considered but understood immediately. I found it touching and profound, but I am often very sentimental.

In the first chapter he brings up the fact that the United States was humbly grateful by the ending of the second World War, by our victory that was by no means assured. He contrasts that societal view how almost every American football player at every level of play celebrates and dances after even very pedestrian plays most of the time. A suggestion that we were much better when we considered ourselves part of a whole society rather than special and unique individuals. (He does allow for the reality that we can be both, but are best when we can be humble and part of all society. Or perhaps I have not so humbly assigned my own bias to the chapter.) I found it to be a convincing illustration of how our very definition of character has shifted since the late 1940’s.

Chapter Two tells the story of Francis Perkins who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire as it was happening. Her moral indignation over the business owners placing profit over human life gave her life new meaning. She moved from “genteel good works” of a wealthy woman to a tireless worker for worker safety. She was summoned for a moral task as a result of seeing so many die before her eyes. She eventually became an advisor in FDR’s White House. Political enemies later accused her of being a Communist (falsely), but Roosevelt did not want to be sullied by the scandal and did not come to her aid. Still she worked on and endured the persecutions with great amounts of grace. She was later known as “The Woman Behind the New Deal”. Her devotion to integrity allowed her to persevere and accomplish something remarkable, but it took an entire lifetime.

Chapter Three is about how Dwight David Eisenhower had to overcome a tendency to rage when things did not go his way. Eventually, he learned the Aristotelian lesson that if you act well, you will eventually re-wire your brain and become good. Apparently, all of his success were a result of practicing small acts of self control over and over. Over his entire lifetime, his success was attributed to self conquest.

The next chapter is titled: Struggle. It is about a woman named Dorothy Day and I do not recall much about it. She was very well read and sometimes worked as a journalist. In later life she joined the Roman Catholic Church and spent the middle and end of her life serving the poor. (I would hope that your students would get more of this chapter than I did!)

Chapter Five: Self Mastery is about George Marshall. He never went to school until he was nine years old and was so limited that he could not answer a single question asked to assess his abilities which embarrassed his father. Although he eventually led the US through WWII, served as Secretary of State, and won a Nobel Peace Prize, he had very humble beginnings. A rivalry with his brother first motivated him to make an all out effort at anything and he thrived at Virginia Military Institute. There he studied Plutarch and Thomas Aquinas. He always compared himself to the pinnacle, either an ideal or the most accomplished of mortals. Like Eisenhower, staff work was his particular strength and the organization of these two unassuming men was as much the reason for Allied victory as anything that Patton or Montgomery or MacArthur ever did. He never got the glory, always in the background like a wallflower – but he did organize and build the army that won the war, then rebuild Europe and made us many allies. In his old age, he was never sure if his father would have approved of him.

A. Philip Randolph was an African American civil rights activist born in 1899. He also had a connection to FDR and met with him He was able to display unmatched dignity throughout his life. He was raised in a poor but immaculate home where he was taught perfect elocution. His composure caused other men, often white men, to treat him with dignity and fairness and equality. That is chapter six.

George Eliot, a woman born Mary Anne Evans turned out to be a pretty darn successful author. The descriptor the author uses for her is: LOVE. She was melodramatic and narcissistic as a teenager, and was apparently quite severe when she went though a religious phase. She was often isolated and longed to have connection. It seems she was quite something and I am sure your students will enjoy this chapter.

Chapter Eight concerns the life of Augustine. I have never failed to meet a follower of the Church of Rome who did not refer to him as Saint Augus-TEEEEEN, nor have I met a Lutheran who did not refer to him as plain old AUGUST-in. It seems his mother was the role model for Marie Barone, from the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond- she was a bit over involved in her son’s life.

I have ten page markers in that chapter but remember little of it. It does seem that Augustine was pretty damn self centered and selfish. For someone who influenced Christendom so much, he was not very devout and I believe his conversion came on his deathbed. “Ordered Love” is the title of his chapter.

Chapter Nine: Self Examination is about Samuel Johnson who had a terrible childhood. Without doubt he went on to accomplish much, apparently as a result of self examination.

Chapter Ten: The Big Me is a summary of where we have evolved to as a society. It takes some of its lessons from the third Superbowl where Joe Namath was pitted against Johnny Unitas. Since I can recall the rivalry if not that specific game, I knew ahead of time who was on team humble and who was on team Broadway Joe. Obviously I need to re-read the book myself, but the message of this last chapter is that however wonderful and special you are as an individual-- you are really just one person, very small in the context of time and space.

So by actual count, the book features three (3) women unless you count Augustine’s mother (who did dominate his life and the life of everyone around her which was no small task in the first millennium-- still not a great role model!). Of the five men featured, Augustine is African and two more were African American. Despite not featuring women as prominently as might have been, there are plenty of good role models in this book and they all had to overcome some personal demon to accomplish what they did in their lifetime.

Summary: three (3) of eight (8) personalities are women.

Post script- seeing as how everyone in the book (excepting Augustine) is connected to FDR, I suspect Brooks was doing research on a bio of Roosevelt but found these other, peripheral characters more compelling. But that is just a guess - - - and I am never right with my guesses.

Looks like another good recommendation, @Jackmannii .

And @GreysonCarlisle , while that sounds like a good choice for the target audience, I must confess that teen dating drama has never been a genre much to my tastes.

And @Temporary_Name snuck in there just as I was about to post-- Yes, the name of Doris Day is very familiar to Catholics (it’s a Catholic school), as, of course, are Augustine and Monica.

Since my mother went to Catholic schools in the 1950’s, I need to warn you that the book does make open reference to sex and love affairs outside of marriage. I have been informed those activities – or even thinking about them (impure thoughts!) was … less than ideal. My father graduated from a Catholic University (it might have been a college at the time, not sure), but he was not as concerned about impure thoughts. When I was a small kid, he would play chess with the local priests and discuss the big questions of life- how I wish I could revisit those discussions!!

Anyway, there is sex in the book and might not make muster in Florida or Texas, so please be warned.

So, I thought I’d check in here again. I’ve read Klara and the Sun and Anya’s Ghost so far, and just checked out I Must Betray You.

Klara and the Sun is an excellent science fiction book. Integrity is definitely a strong theme in it, but faith is perhaps even more so, and it closes with a very interesting musing on the nature of the soul. I will say, though, that it was a bit of a difficult read (but worth it), both because the first-person narrator has such different thought processes from us, and because I had the sinking feeling through most of the book that something horrible was going to happen.

Anya’s Ghost was also good, though a very quick read (I suppose that’s inherent in a graphic novel). It’d almost have been worth it just for the slice-of-life it shows, and I was a bit surprised at the main character being such a, shall we say, not-model-student.

The ghost wants Anya to live the life that she (the ghost) always wanted, not the life that Anya wants for herself. Anya’s triumph comes when she realizes that, and that she wants to live her own life.