All posts by Rupert Chen

Fictional Characters & Favorite Songs (By Layla M. ’25)

A melody sings just as profound a story as the written word speaks. Here are a few fictional characters paired with songs that I feel tell their stories, related by either emotion or physical experience. I tried not to reveal too much plot in case you haven’t read some of the books.

“Money” by Pink Floyd & Napoleon of Animal Farm by George Orwell 

“Money” describes the greed that Napoleon learned from humans, but with some extra funk and a killer saxophone solo that’s dirtier than pigs.

“No Surprises” by Radiohead & Charlie Gordon of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

In “No Surprises,” a bell chimes the main riff in thirds throughout the entire song. The simple melody is placed in thirds like a child’s lullaby, which creates an innocent, sweet mood that contrasts with the song’s lyrics of giving up by death. After gaining a normal intelligence, Charlie realized the cruelty he mistook for friendship and his childhood’s traumas. At the end of the book Charlie was just as isolated by his intelligence as he was beforehand. I felt Charlie’s sadness in his mental passage from cradle to grave in this song.

“Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd & Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir

Similarity: Space / Space

“Dark Necessities” by Red Hot Chili Peppers & the society of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This song’s bass is so clean, almost like the sterile lives of Fahrenheit 451’s world. As for the message, there’s a dark side to the sanitized version of reality.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure & Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Imagine thick, saturated drums with gated reverb punctuated by jangling guitars. Drench whatever you thought of in synths, and that is what I would make the soundtrack to Eleanor and Park in movie format. Somehow, in my mind, the lushness of 80s music translates to Park’s falling head over heels for Eleanor.

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman & Lennie and George Of Mice and Men by Ernest Hemingway

“Fast Car” carries hope of renewal and escape, like Lennie and George’s dreams of starting their own farm.

“Jeremy” by Pearl Jam & the Creature of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The bullied becomes the bully in both “Jeremy” and Frankenstein. I guess what goes around comes around, and it comes back a whole lot worse.

I hope that this article will inspire you to consider giving some new music a listen or new book a read. If this post inspired you to make your own character/song pairings, leave ’em in the comments!

–Layla M.

Celebrating AAPI Literature (By Ms. Pelman)

Out of countless prodigious options, here are four books that I’ve read recently written by Asian American authors. They each represent just one facet (of infinite) perspectives. While these books take on wildly different subject matter, each one is fascinating, eye-opening, and riveting in its own right.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

This work of historical fiction follows a group of Japanese American teens who live in San Francisco during World War II. Their lives are thrown into tumult and their bonds are tested as some of them face the decision to fight in the war, and others are sent to an internment camp. If you like books told from multiple perspectives, you won’t be let down by this vivid and moving book.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

This offbeat National Book Award winner is written in a screenplay format. Willis Wu is a Chinese American actor who hopes to graduate from the bit parts of “generic Asian man” to the ultimate role for Asian men: Kung Fu Guy. Clever, funny, and fast-paced, this book skewers Hollywood in the most satisfying way.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Another historical fiction set in San Francisco, though this one follows Lily, a shy and obedient girl living in Chinatown in the 1950s. As Lily navigates a growing discomfort with her family, culture, and best friend, she discovers truths about herself and her sexuality that will change her life forever. A lovely tribute to self-discovery amidst painful realities.

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

This nonfiction book of essays contains brilliant commentary and criticism on race in the United States as the author explores and explains her Korean American identity. It is also beautifully written and complemented by memoir-like personal experiences. A memorable experience that makes you think and feel.

Have you read any great books by AAPI authors? Share them in the comments!

Introducing: Fanfiction contest

The Harker Book Blog is hosting our first ever FanFiction Contest!! You can write about any work (book, movie, television, show, K-Pop group…). Spin the original work into anything that you want (for example: rewrite Twilight from the perspective of Jacob, or make Percy Jackson have a brain made of seaweed that zombies want to eat). There is no length requirement, but we recommend your writing be 1-5 pages long. Your story can comprise all your marvelous imaginings, but the content must be Harker appropriate. The deadline to enter is May 1st at 8pm!

Feeling shy about this secret talent of yours? Not to worry, you are allowed to submit under a pen name and can therefore remain entirely anonymous! 

We will announce winning entries on the blog. To avoid any copyright issues, submissions will only be accessible to the Harker community via protected PDFs. Feel free to email if you have any questions, or if you would like prompt ideas for your story. 

For more info and to learn how to enter, go to We look forward to reading your entries!

Judging a Book By Its Cover (By Ms. Pelman)

We’re not supposed to do it. We are supposed to understand that the literary endeavor contained between two cardboard rectangles (or after clicking/swiping past the cover) cannot possibly be captured and accurately represented by one static image. And yet. Cover art persists and it’s kind of a big deal. The major publishing houses have large art departments composed of book designers, graphic designers, and artists who determine what we see when we are deciding what to read. Cover art decisions really boil down to marketing, and all those decisions—illustration versus photo, people versus objects or designs, minimalist versus lavish—are choices meant to indicate to the reader what to expect within. Want to hear a crazy bit of trivia? Unless authors are a really big deal (think Stephen King or J.K. Rowling) they do not get to have anything to do with their cover art. That’s right, they have no say in what their book will look like. Writers must put their trust in the publisher and hope they like the result, because that’s just how the business works.

Spend enough time looking at book covers (as a librarian inevitably will over time) and you begin to have a type of pavlovian response, likely allowing yourself to be waaayyy too much of an authority on what will be contained within. After all, there are consistent formulas and trends. Looking at a cover will tell you several things: first and foremost, the intended audience as decided by the marketers at the publishing house (it’s worth noting that ‘intended audiences’ equals who-will-this-book-appeal-to-categories which are sadly reductive and often classist, sexist, and ageist, but that is another post for another time). Other obvious cover art indicators include the genre of course, but also attributes like tone and even writing style. Book cover artwork is so pervasive, evocative, and powerful, that jaded readers run the risk of smugly glancing at a book and deciding they know exactly what awaits its reader. It’s good to remember that these types of assumptions can be proven wrong time and time again.

Having said all that, I will confess that recently I chose a book solely by its cover art. Gasp. I promise you this was a serious departure for me. So much so that it inspired this blog post! I do, at times, lean on generalizations and stereotypes regarding cover art, but I put a lot more stock in summaries and book reviews. So it was weird when I was browsing Sora a few weeks back and I kept going back to a book just to look at the cover. It just spoke to me aesthetically. I don’t really know how to explain why? It was cool, exciting, and sumptuous… Anyway. Reader, I read it. And I’m not sorry I did! Did the cover give me an idea of what to expect? Sure it did. Did the cover really have anything to do with my actual reaction to the book? Not one bit. Suffice it to say, I was a moth to a flame, and I didn’t get burned. Without further ado, the book cover artwork in all its (as subjectively judged by me) splendor:

What are your thoughts about book covers? Do you have a favorite? What does the cover art tell you? Let us know in the comments!

The Best Books of 2020 (Curated by the Book Blog Leadership Team)

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what we read. The Book Blog Leadership Team has read many books this year. Which ones were our favorites?

Standalones: If you don’t want to commit to a full series of books, check out one (or more) of the standalones that we loved!

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

If you’re looking for an insightful book into the experiences of young girls and how “femininity” is pushed upon them, look no further. Cinderella Ate My Daughter is another incredible release from an author who is pretty familiar to Harker students: Her works have been featured in previous Re-Create Reading lists!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

With lyrical writing and a heartbreaking plot, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is perfect for artists and storytellers. If everyone you meet forgets you, how do you leave a mark on the world? After making a deal with the darkness, Addie becomes immortal, at a price: no one will ever remember her. Until, someone finally does.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Bri wants to become a rapper; it’s been her dream ever since her father passed away. Now that her mother has lost her job, becoming a rapper is not just a dream: It is a necessity. Following The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas’ new novel deals with race, class, and privilege.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

If you’re a fan of poetry, this is the book for you. Following two girls who discover that they are sisters, this book discusses family and loss in a beautiful way. And, if you do choose to read it, the audiobook is fantastic!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This literary fiction novel follows two twin sisters: one who lives her life as a black woman and the other who lives as a white one. Perfect for fans of family dramas and hard-hitting commentary on race and privilege.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This historical fiction novel details the experiences of Lale, a tattooist at a concentration camp during World War II. While historical fiction, the book is based on the real life romance of an individual at Auschwitz.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land follows an orphan named Odie O’Banion who is separated from his parents. He is at the Lincoln School where Native American children are sent to be educated in 1932. If you are interested in learning more about the Native American experience, this is the perfect one for you.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

After being stopped by law enforcement at a local supermarket for “kidnapping” a child, Emira is swept up into a world of people trying to help her, but perhaps not for the right reasons. This book has a really interesting and humorous exploration of performative activism.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Author Gene Yang reflects on his own experiences with basketball. As a kid, he did not understand sports. But now, he meets with members of the Dragons to learn more about basketball while finding unexpected connections.

Series: These recommendations are part of a larger series. We’ll leave information about the book mentioned and the first book in the series so you can start your journey at the beginning!

Book Recommended: Chain of Gold (book 1 of The Last Hours) by Cassandra Clare

Start With: Clockwork Angel (book 1 of The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare

In a London plagued by demons, how will the nephilim protect themselves and the mundanes? This urban fantasy series follows the children of the characters of The Infernal Devices. Because of that, we recommend reading The Infernal Devices first. But, you could just start with this one.

Book Recommended: A Sky Beyond the Storm (book 4 of The Ember Quartet) by Sabaa Tahir

Start With: An Ember in the Ashes (book 1 of The Ember Quartet) by Sabaa Tahir

A Sky Beyond the Storm is the climactic ending to the story following a slave and a soldier, who team up to fight greater evil. We recommend starting with An Ember in the Ashes, which is the first book in this series based on Ancient Rome.

Book Recommended: The Burning God (book 3 of The Poppy War) by R.F. Kuang

Start With: The Poppy War (book 1 of The Poppy War) by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War is a gritty Asian-inspired adult fantasy series about a war orphan named Rin who is taken in by a family in the opium trade. To escape an arranged marriage, Rin tries to get into a school for war. The Burning God is the final book of the trilogy, so we recommend starting at The Poppy War.

Want more recommendations? Check out these “Best of 2020” lists from other sources:

Goodreads Choice Awards:

New York Times:

New York Times Critics:

Vanity Fair:

Book Riot:


Penguin Random House:

Or, you could fill out this form ( to get a recommendation from a Harker librarian!