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Book-Music Pairings

Book-Music Pairings

Some books just scream for the perfect playlist or song to go with them. Sophia Y. ’19 has your back.

kentuckyclubThe book: Everything Begins And Ends At The Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The song: Love Love Love by Of Monsters And Men

Everything Begins And Ends With Love:
Benjamin Alire Sáenz is one of my favorite authors. Both his language and books are indescribably thought provoking and gut wrenching. He has an amazing ability to connect to people, no matter the story. Everything Begins And Ends At The Kentucky Club is a collection of short stories, and like most of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s books, it steals your heart from your chest and shatters it. The seven short stories all have commonalities that tie them together. Firstly, they all have The Kentucky Club in them, hence the title. You could argue about the other commonalities, as they are all thematic. Nevertheless, love being taken, or violated, or treacherously navigated is something that beautifully plays across all of the stories, tying them once again all together.

Of Monsters And Men’s acoustic ballad Love Love Love fits with this book in many important ways. One was the bittersweet and tender feel of the music, which for me encapsulated the brokenly gentle loving quality of the book. This song also contains the lyrics “And these bright blue eyes/Can only meet mine/Across a room/Filled with people that are less important than you/All ‘cause you Love Love Love when you know I can’t love,” which I once again felt matched the themes of the stories excellently. Throughout the course of the song the music starts sadly and quietly becomes a bit more hopeful in the middle and then fades out sadly like the beginning. This narrative of music also hinted at the search or grasping of hope in some of the stories, which just added to my joy at finding how perfectly I believed this breathtakingly beautiful song lined up with this shatteringly amazing collection of stories.

wintergirlsThe book: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The song: Dark Storms {Acoustic Version} By Our Last Night

A Dark And Stormy Winter:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of those novels that will stay with you for a long time. This story of one girl’s life deals with life-shattering guilt, grief, and the struggle of battling anorexia. Lia’s former best friend, Cassie, dies alone in a hotel room after calling her thirty-three times. Believing that she alone is responsible for the death of Cassie, Lia starts to see Cassie’s ghost and begins a downwards spiral getting more and more buried underneath shame, remorse, isolation, and a deep sadness.

Our Last Night is, sadly, a relatively unknown band. Their song Dark Storms is moving and powerful regardless of whether you listen to the regular version or the acoustic version. The more toned down acoustic version to me fit better as it seemed more regretful, and lonely. Lyrics for this song fit seamlessly with the book. Both the book and the song complement each other incredibly well with an overall quality of guilt, and a summary of struggling and pain captured within each.

avalavenderThe book: The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
The song: Clouds by Zach Sobiech

The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of The Clouds:
Distinctively, The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is one of the few books that spans the stories of four generations. Written in breathtakingly beautiful language, this story with its slight magical realism and themes of love is ineffably gorgeous and simply heartbreaking. Raw and powerful, this novel starts with the story of Ava Lavender’s great-grandmother, Maman, and ends with her own story. Ava Lavender is a girl born with wings, and her story along with her ancestors’ is one of family, passion, love, grief, obsession, and flight.

The song Clouds was written by Zach Sobiech as a kind of parting gift after he was informed that he had about a year to left to live. Sadly, Zach Sobiech did die in 2013, about five months after he released this song at the age of eighteen. The bittersweet and resigned sorrowful quality of the music really expressed the overall tone of the narrative of Ava Lavender. The theme of flying in the clouds was an added bonus, matching the eloquently woven metaphor of flight in the book perfectly: “We’ll go up, up, up/But I’ll fly a little higher/Go up in the clouds because the view’s a little nicer/Up here, my dear/It won’t be long now/It won’t be long now.”

yourfathersThe book: Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers
The song: Wrong Side Of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch

The Wrong Side Of Forever:
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers is an incredibly unique book, filled only with dialogue. The book starts off with a NASA astronaut, Kev Paciorek, waking up after being kidnapped by a man who he at first does not remember. Thomas, the kidnapper, reveals that he went to collage with Kev. We later learn that Thomas kidnapped him in order to talk with him about life, and struggles. Thomas is, in his own way, trying to understand the universe. Throughout the book Thomas kidnaps many more people in his quest to cope with events in his life and grapple with his understanding of people and life in general. Although Thomas’ kidnappings are considered from a normal societal point of view, very wrong, this book does an interesting job of getting you to understand Thomas and sympathize with him. To his credit, even though Thomas threatens many of his captives, he doesn’t actually hurt anybody under his care. I believe that this book provides a really amazing window for examining human morality, and your own morality, as at the end of the book I still really connected to Thomas despite his many crimes.

Wrong Side Of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch was inspired by the band’s dedication to raise awareness for veterans and for the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder. The theme of the music as well as the lyrics and the inspiration of the song really fit with this book. Some of the lyrics from the chorus are “I’m no hero/And I’m not made of stone/Right or wrong/I can hardly tell/I’m on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell.” This song to me really helps portray the mixed morality of Thomas and his choices in the book as well as staying within the same themes of wrestling with life and coping in general.

CAUTION: This final entry necessarily contains spoilers for the book. Are you ready?










WeWereLiarsJacketFinalThe book: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The song: Arsonist’s Lullaby by Hozier

A Liar’s Lullaby:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a book with many twists that keep you on your toes, and a plot that demands you read the entire thing in one sitting. Told out of chronological order, Cadence’s riveting narrative will have you desperately trying to piece together the full story.

There were two main things that drew me to chose Arsonist’s Lullaby by Hozier as the quintessential counterpart to We Were Liars. The first thing was the perfect title. The second thing was the perfect lyrics. This is a book where one could argue that the climax is the committing of arson. The whole story is basically dedicated to that event/what caused it and the recovery afterwards, so I literally cannot think of a better title than Arsonist’s Lullaby. You could interpret the lyrics of Arsonist’s Lullaby in many different ways, but my favorite interpretation was always that the song is about schizophrenia and hallucinations, which Cadence experiences throughout the story.

By Sophia Y. ’19

**Slider image by Jeff Golden.

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Non-Perishable Food Drive by WWS Club-Part of the Edible Book Festival

Non-Perishable Food Drive by WWS Club-Part of the Edible Book Festival

wws photo

Do you remember the Edible Books Festival that the library hosted last year? Well now it’s back, in all of its glory, but with an awesome, community action themed addition! The We Won’t Stop Club, working in collaboration with the library, is hosting a book themed food drive, with proceeds going to the Ecumenical Hunger Program.

You, the students, will be able to give back to the community by voting for your favorite books, through your food donations. To vote, simply drop your canned or boxed nonperishables into the container representing the book that you like best. We will have competitions between Out of My Mind and Wonder, Divergent and The Hunger Games, and the ultimate competition between The Fault in Our Stars and Harry Potter. The food collection containers will be outside of the library, middle school lobby, and the green doors.

The foods most needed by the Eccumenical Hunger Program are canned soup, boxed milk, nuts, vacuum tuna or tuna salad kits, ready-made meals, pop top cans (especially chili and soup), oatmeal, and crackers.

The food drive will start on March 16th, and finish the day of the Edible Books Festival, March 30th. Get excited to show some literary spirit and contribute to a fantastic organization!

by Sophie N.L. ’19 and Claire S. ’19

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Why I Love JSTOR

Why I Love JSTOR

ASIOne of my best sleepover memories involves JSTOR, the amazing database you might have used for a C&C project or, if you’re like me, you frequent with search terms and curiosity. Some of you may be surprised or a lil grossed out by this. Who would want to read articles filled with unfortunate amounts of academic jargon for fun? Why get scholarly at a sleepover? If this is the case, I totally understand any bits of judgement. I personally have trouble with the fact that scholarly databases and articles are largely inaccessible; there are big words and complex theories and dense language that take some time to chew on, and often this removes them from a relevant and helpful context — not to mention how these databases have a paywall. Luckily our own library here at school and public libraries provide us with this resource so that the world of higher academia is not as limited and exclusive. Scholarly articles are valuable for learning in a lot of ways; they are writings that represent original research and exploration of a wide range subjects; they delve deep into specific topics with impressive amounts of analysis and references. JSTOR has tons of articles that explore worlds and books and concepts we are exposed to daily, some with enlightening specificity, some with pretentiousness and silliness we can laugh at, a lot with both — but all of them create a web of information and words that excite and inspire and are meant to be harnessed for any purpose you see fit.

“Dancing on Bela Lugosi’s Grave: The Politics and Aesthetics of Gothic Club Dancing” is an article I dug up at a sleepover one night. While scrolling through Tumblr my friend and I found ourselves laughing at a post about how “Goth privilege is not having to separate your laundry loads by color.” The next logical step was obviously to enter “goth identity politics” into JSTOR. The subject matter is a little silly, I must admit; parsing out a subculture and analyzing the role of Christian imagery for kids who are really into vampires is pretty funny; and so I did a dramatic reading of it much to the amusement of my friend. Another part of me though really admires these grad students and professors who will do extensive research and write long papers about anything and everything. It reminds me that there is so much to learn and be said about all that we interact with. Each article is a microcosm of our infinitely complex and strange world. And of course, JSTOR is full of articles of perhaps more relevance (sorry to place this sort of judgement value); about literature, feminism, science, art — you know, all that great stuff that creep their way into our brains and lives.

Reading scholarly articles instructs us about writing as well. What does the author do to illustrate complex ideas that I find digestible and relevant? What pieces of information are essential and play a key role in their analytical argument? What are the different ways they explore and address their thesis? Papers can go in various directions; they can follow rules, break them, they can be organized or all over the place, and each option has its pros and cons. Watch out, English teachers, you may be getting an essay that disregards the five-paragraph format sometime soon.

It’s also amazing just how much information is on this five-letter database. So many intellectual pathways to take when discussing just one line of Shakespeare! People have so many ideas about the importance of monsters and ghosts! There is so much historical context to Kanye West’s lyrical choices! JSTOR reminds me that so much out there is fascinating, that there are worlds behind even a small two-word phrase I’ve underlined in a book.

So whether you are doing research for a class or fulfilling your brain’s desire to learn and read, JSTOR is a great database to use. It isn’t brilliant because it is full of genius authors (although it has some of those too), but it is brilliant because of you. You are magical because you care about the contents of the articles you are reading and you want to learn, and because you can articulate the takeaways (whatever you happened to take away; there is no right and wrong way of reading) in an accessible and important way. Let’s transform scholarship to be whatever we want it to be; to help us with research papers, to make us laugh, to inspire us, or anything else.

By Kiana B. ’16

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Bibliophiles’ Mutual Aid Society: Finding time to read

Bibliophiles’ Mutual Aid Society: Finding time to read

"Minute to Midnight" by Gunter on

“Minute to Midnight” by Gunter on

Last week members of the Casti community gathered to brainstorm strategies for having a rich life as a pleasure reader. Here are the ideas shared by students and adults in our community. We would love to hear your strategies for finding time to read in the comments below!

Finding time to read:

In addition to the recent post, Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading, community members suggested:

  1. Listen to audio books while commuting, exercising, etc. (check them out from your public library)
  2. Sit on the heating vent–very cozy!
  3. I schedule time on my calendar.
  4. I have a Goodreads account, so I can look for books that I want to read and mark books I have already read.
  5. I use Novelist (through the library databases page) to find new books, and the library Pinterest page, too.
  6. I am attempting to read 50 books in 2015–setting goals helps.
  7. Do the library reading challenges.

How to stop reading when the time is right:

    1. Don’t plan to stop at the end of the chapter. It will be a cliffhanger. Instead, plan to stop mid-chapter.
    2. Set a timer to ring when you need to stop. Leave it across the room, so you need to get up and turn it off. Put the book down when you get up to turn it off.
    3. If you are the kind of person who reads random pages in a book before you even start, read the end of the book when you know you are going to need to stop in the middle. That breaks you of the “need to know” and will allow you to enjoy the rest of the book at a reasonable pace.
    4. Read different types of books at different times-ones that are interesting but can be read in small chunks during the week/school weeks, a whole pile that I cannot put down for weekends/vacations.
    5. If you are eReading, use an app like Time Out to grey your screen and make you stop.
    6. Play some non-booky music. (Maybe set a device to start playing it when your reading time is up?)
    7. I always read over breakfast — it’s a short time span, with a hard stop, as I must get up and come to Casti! I’ve ceased worrying about making it to the end of a chapter, who cares.
    8. Listen to audio books while commuting, exercising, etc. (check them out from your public library).
    9. Read in a public space like The Circle or a community area in your home like the living room or kitchen-where distractions will come up and you’ll be reminded to look up and smile at someone getting a snack, say hi to a family member, or admire the beautiful blue sky.
    10. When you want to stop reading, take a break to do a mindfulness activity (such as a short meditation, apps like Stop, Breathe, & Think can help; Headspace is another) to get yourself out of the book, calm your mind, and ready yourself to shift gears.

Sometimes, if I really need to read for relaxation, I:

  • Re-read books I have read before;
  • Read something that I want to read, but know will not hold my attention for long; or
  • Read humorous essays that are just a few pages long, short stories, poems.
  1. Opening the shades and get lots of light in the room.
  2. Set page limits.
  3. Put an action item on your bookmark–get up and get a snack, do ten jumping jacks; you can list all the things you want to get done.
  4. Put a timer on your reading lamp.
  5. Choose books with dense action–even when you read a bit, you feel like something happened!
  6. Read when I have time to sit down and do it!
  7. Read realistic fiction–there is no action, so no suspense!
  8. Come to the library, and leave the book there when you leave–what you read in the library, stays in the library.
  9. Read with a buddy, parent, sibling – you can discuss the book, and you won’t want to get ahead of the other person.
  10. Read aloud (as a family) over dinner.
  11. Stop reading when you feel tired.
  12. Read a mixture of different genres–poems, short stories, essays, and magazines (that you can now check out from the library) are all things that are short.
  13. Take the train to school! That gives you time to read in both directions!


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Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading

Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading

Reading!What does it mean to make an intentional practice of reading? For me, it’s a way of life. When I was younger, I absolutely loved to read all the time. In elementary school, after I finished an assignment I would tuck my latest read inside a workbook and proceed to read about the BFG while the rest of my class worked on multiplying. This didn’t always go well. “Alex, what is there to read in your math book?” my teacher would ask. “There are only blank times tables in there!” As I got older and my homework load increased, I found less and less time to read. I could no longer bank on free time during school or afternoons without sports practices. Instead, I had to make time, and my intentional practice of reading was born.

Adopting an intentional practice of reading is easier and more fun than it sounds! It’s about being thoughtful in your reading choices and planning ahead to enjoy your picks. Here are my five tips for trying it out:

1. Make a list

I often find someone will give me a book suggestion, and by the time I go to the library I’ve forgotten the title. Making a list of authors and titles is a great way to avoid confusion and can help you remember to check out cool reads you wouldn’t otherwise come across.

2. Try something new

One of my favorite literary discoveries in high school was the essay. No, it’s not what your thinking! I’m talking about reading essays – fun, interesting, strange, mystifying, awesome essays – which are, unsurprisingly, much shorter than books. You can also check out books that are essay collections, and read one piece at a time. For a fun introduction, I suggest Bossypants by Tina Fey.

3. Schedule

Once you’ve found a book, article, or essay, make time to read it! You don’t need to finish the whole thing in one sitting – 15 minutes before you go to sleep is plenty of time to dive in.

4. Sit Back, Relax, Enjoy

Explore different reading environments, like your local park, a new café, or even your own backyard to see what works for you.

5. Invite A Friend

Create your own informal book club! Discovering a great book is that much more fun when you can discuss it with a friend over snacks.

by Alex Z. ’15

Image sources: School Librarian’s Workshop; Pietro Magni – The Reading Girl (La Leggitrice), model 1856, carved 1861 (photo by takomabibelot on; Fragonard, Jean-Honoré French Young Girl Reading c. 1770 (photo by The National Gallery of Art)

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Casti Senior Anna Caltabiano’s New Book Is Here!

Casti Senior Anna Caltabiano’s New Book Is Here!

misshatfieldNow that the new year is upon us, it seems appropriate to feature on of Casti’s very own students, who has a not-so-secret life as an author!

After swallowing the remains of my crumbled granola bar, I cautiously stepped into “Mr. Smoot’s room – the one with the dog bed” and spotted my victim immediately.

Anna Caltabiano speaks deliberately, hands constantly gesturing as her voice rises when she emphasizes a point. She moves comfortably, at ease with the cold in her red and blue striped sweater. I had the opportunity to interview her regarding her newest book, The Seventh Miss Hatfield, the first book in an overarching trilogy. I started off by asking her about her inspiration for the plot and the characters. She thought for a moment; her eyes shifted to a corner of the room. The conclusion: the book gradually stemmed from Henley, the male protagonist and the romantic interest of Miss Hatfield. We talked a bit about All That Is Red, her first novel, and she thought that writing the aforementioned book was harder and more personal than writing about a time-traveling immortal. When asked about the following books in the trilogy, she smiled secretively, and casually mentioned that the book comes out one year later than it does in England. Off the record, I was let in on a top-secret, but you will have to read the book and wait for the sequels!


Anna Caltabiano

After chatting about the work she has produced thus far, I asked her about how she came about getting a start as a “real” writer. I sheepishly admitted that I had perused several of her articles before interviewing her. She apparently wrote All That Is Red surrounded by sketches, beautiful phrases, and her iPad after promising to write a novel to avoid being sent to a slew of summer camps. Anna added, as an afterthought, that she supposed her position at the Huffington Post stemmed from her two previous novels. As she uttered these words, I visualized a boulder being rolled down a hill – painfully slow at first, but then gradually picking up speed. I shifted in my seat; the chairs in the Writing Lab have always been uncomfortably curved. She laughed, gesturing to the rectangular space packed with chairs and desks, “I practically spent 10th grade in here.”

When asked about how she juggles her life as a renowned teen author and a student, she shrugs. “To me, writing is like a sport. You practice for a few hours; for me, I write during those few hours.”

Her parting words? Write. Just write. Even if it sounds bad in your head, write it down. She maintains that it is her solution for writer’s block as well.

I wave goodbye; she heads back into Mr. Smoot’s room, presumably to write more.

Anna’s book is available for checkout in the library!

By Sho Sho H. ’19

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