The Annual TIIE Winter Reading Round Up

Dear Readers,

We are rolling into that time of year when we hope that you find time to get cozied up to a good book. These short amounts of daylight should beckon us to find warm and bright spots within our homes. For many of us at TIIE, that means getting into your favorite chair and curling up with something wonderful to read. Here are some of our winter reading recommendations for keeping the bookworms warm and cozy.

Emily Hoyler

What are my reading preferences, if not eclectic? Truth be told, I am still working my way through some of the books that have been in my to-be-read pile throughout the pandemic. So many books and so little reading time. Perhaps my progress is so slow because my time is so divided. I am reading no less than six books at present, and that’s just what I can remember right now! Here’s to winter reading!

Two titles that have risen to the top of my ‘up next’ pile are Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky, Connie Burk, Jon R. Conte (Contributor) which invites us to bring mindful presence to our care work and offers strategies and practices to do so. I certainly need that these days! And while I’ve read Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown, it’s time to return to  brown’s wisdom to guide me in navigating our work.

Unsettling is also a theme in my reading lately. Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War by Lisa Brooks which tells the tale of the “first indian war” – now known as King Phillip’s War through the stories of a woman called Weetamoo who was a female leader of the Narragansett anong a couple of others. What’s most fascinating is how scholar Lisa Brooks is able to interpret land and documents to bring forward an indigenous perspective.

In the same vein, I’m working my way through An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Debbie Reese (Adaptor), Jean Mendoza (Adaptor), Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. I’ll be honest, this is tough to read. And it’s also very important to me to better understand the legacy of settler-colonialism, which is also why I’m also looking forward to reading The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations by Shirley Hager, Mawopiyane. This book has come highly recommended from two people whose recommendations I trust.

My Kindle is what I turn to in the wee hours when I can’t fall back to sleep. Perhaps it would make sense to read romance novels at this time of day, but no, not me. Instead, I’m reading Mothertrucker: Finding Joy on the Loneliest Road in America by Amy E. Butcher, which follows the author as she joins the now deceased Alaskan Ice Road trucker Joy “Mothertrucker” Wiebe in a true story about redemption, overcoming fear, and domestic violence. (Huh, maybe that’s why I can’t fall back to sleep?!)

Finally, on the lighter side, I’m looking forward to cozying up in front of the woodstove to read The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature by Peter Wohlleben, planning some tasty winter menus with Chungah Rhee’s Damn Delicious: 100 Super Easy, Super Fast Recipes (her blog is excellent and I’ve loved everything I’ve ever made from it, like this sheet pan shrimp boil and these Korean beef power bowls). And I’m excited to be inspired by Christi Johnson’s Mystical Stitches: Embroidery for Personal Empowerment and Magical Embellishment. Embroidery has been a pleasure and I’m eager to learn Johnson’s approach to embroidery.

Life Legeros

For the past year, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the question of how humans can work toward collective goals. Because clearly we have some problems, and the only way things are going to improve is by creating a better future together.

Facilitating school change is my jam, and adrienne maree brown has taught me so much about holding space and ushering transformation. Her book Holding change: The way of emergent strategy facilitation and mediation is a collection of powerful voices extending and actualizing the Octavia Butler-inspired emergent strategy approach. I’ve heard a few of the guest authors on the podcast that brown does with her sister, To Survive the End of the World, so I’m looking forward to reading these essays, poems, and recipes. 

I love the central thesis of Peter Block’s book Community: The structure of belonging. He proposes that the fragmentation of our society can be cured one community conversation at a time. I so very much want this to be true. But if nothing else, I find this mindset makes it easier to approach each conversation and opportunity to connect to my community with the vital presence they deserve.

For fiction fun, I’m enjoying The sentence by Louise Erdrich, though I suspect that I’ll be haunted by a bit more than the ghost at the center of the story since it spans November 2019-November 2020. The Ojibwe narrator is a strong, funny, and intriguing voice with plenty of excellent book recommendations or her own.

I can’t wait to delve into Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong punches a hole in the sky. I’ve had my eye on this book for quite some time and now the only question is whether I’ll read it on my own or with one of my daughters.  

I look forward to finding what human connections, including books of course, await in 2022.

Robin Merritt

If you are like me, reading choices are a direct reflection of the many hats I am wearing. Recommendations from trusted friends, colleagues, and family are providing new titles upon my nightstand and filling my curiosity niche right now. I am finding that curated reading is providing me with more than just a good book. They are also providing me with a much needed connection to friends, family, and my community. A special shout out to my colleagues and friends, Jeanie Phillips and Life LeGeros, who have recommended two of my winter reading titles! Always trust a librarian and Life. 🙂 
So here is what is in my winter reading stack, with credit given of course!

“The Widows of Malabar Hill” by Sujata Massey

When speaking with my Tarrant friends, I mentioned wanting something good to read. It could be a piece of literature, historical narrative – just something well written. Jeanie and others immediately recommended some titles. As a little surprise on my swing through, Jeanie left this book on her porch for me to borrow. The story is set in 1920s Bombay with a female protagonist. She is one of the first female lawyers in India. I am excited to delve in and be transported in time. 

“Kindred” by Octavia Butler

This is another recommendation from a trusted colleague, Life LeGeros. I was in luck when my local library had it available. I haven’t started reading this yet, but am so intrigued by its genre. It’s described as science fiction, as well as a “slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction.” Hmm, it’s a curious combination. But reviewers indicate it to be a successful merge. 


“Hey, Kiddo” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Our one room local Winooski library is filled with gems and friendly librarians. They know our family by name and continue to introduce a variety of genres onto our shelves. Prominently displayed in our library, “Hey, Kiddo” is a story of one kid’s experience with family addiction and mental health. I picked this up because my 10 year old has been interested in exploring various challenging topics through graphic novels. After bringing “Hey, Kiddo” home from our library, I placed this book in his room. He flew through this story and then recommended that I read it afterwards. I love reading books that my kids enjoy and having discussions about the messages we each took away. And check out our #vted Reads segment on Hey Kiddo here! 


Audiobook of “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio

Again, a recommendation from my 10 year old who read “Wonder” in school and then watched part of the movie. And Winooski Library for the win again! While browsing titles prior to a road trip for break, my son asked to listen to this as a family. I am rediscovering the power of a great audiobook once again.  


Percy Jackson and the Olympians” by Rick Riordan and “The Complete Guide to Greek Myths” by Heather Dakota

And lastly, my 7 and 10 year old sons have asked me to read the Percy Jackson series aloud to them before bedtime. We are always looking for a good series to read together. This sparked an interest in Greek mythology and prompted our purchase of “The Complete Guide to Greek Myths.” My kids had the idea to cross reference each god or goddess that Percy comes across with the Greek Myth book. We pause to read the background story of the god/goddess he meets. It’s a great introduction to cross-referencing that will make any librarian proud.

Happy reading!

Rachel Mark

My reading picks for this winter are heavy on the fiction side. I do love a good story!

I recently finished The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare about a teenage Nigerian girl. While she ends up as a maid, she really aspires to go to school. Adunni’s strong and vibrant narration is infectious and inspiring. As Jenna Bush Hager said on television, she will “break your heart and then put it back together again”. I loved this book and learned so much about contemporary life in Nigeria. I could see teachers giving this book to upper middle school and high school students, too.

My daughter has me reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Van Glaser. Because I love to read along with her, I agreed. It’s a cute story about some eccentric children trying to save their families’ brownstone apartment rental. They have eleven days at the end of December to convince their Scrooge-like landlord to renew their lease. The children must convince him to let them stay in the only home they have known. Something about this book has me wanting to see Wes Anderson bring it to film fruition. I can picture the quaint, cramped and messy New York City apartment brimming with these charming characters.

To satisfy my mystery obsession, I plan to read State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny. It seems like I read about one Louise Penny book a winter. Probably so that I can spread them out and make them last longer. This political thriller is co-written by Clinton. Naturally, it features a new female Secretary of State. She finds herself scrambling to handle a terrorist crisis and an internal conspiracy. While the possible real-world connections may be unsettling, I suspect I’ll enjoy flipping through every page.

For nonfiction pleasure, I’m planning to read The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph. I have heard so many friends recommend and rave about this book. I also love that it’s written for a young adult audience. Hopefully, there are passages and nuggets of wisdom that I can share with schools and students. And this book has some of the best cover art that I have seen – huge credit to Zharia Shinn.

Lastly, I’ll admit that I hope to begin “reading” this Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion and Embrace Who You Are by Megan Logan. Truthfully, I am terrible at doing things for myself. As a middle-aged woman who works, studies, and manages a family and life, all sorts of things come before taking care of me. It’s likely that these patterns have gotten even worse over the pandemic. And yet I willingly let that happen. It’s way overdue for me to spend some time working on my own self. I look forward to this workbook and guide for self-exploration.

Jeanie Phillips

I love to give books as gifts. And I also adore browsing local independent bookstores. It delights me to select the perfect (to me at least) book for each recipient. And I most especially love when they call/text/write to tell me how much they enjoyed reading it!

This year the recipient of my book giving is going to be ME!  And I have thoroughly enjoyed selecting these titles for my winter reading!

Picture books are one of my favorite gifts for folks of all ages. I listened to the audio of The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (thank you libro.fm for the free copy!) and now I HAVE TO HAVE the picture book. The text is so powerful, I can’t wait to spend time with the illustrations.

The Marrow Thieves is one of my all time favorite reads, and Cherie Dimaline has published a companion book. I am so looking forward to spending more time with French and his chosen family. My copy of Hunting By Stars is waiting for me at Phoenix Books – but I think I’ll leave it there until the Solstice because once it is in my house I won’t be able to resist it.

Finally, I cannot wait to dive into Louise Erdrich’s newest book. I’ve been reading her for decades and she has made me cry countless times, but from the excerpts I’ve read of The Sentence, this book promises to make me laugh out loud. Louise has a bit part in this one, which delights me as a long time fan. 

Whatever you read this winter, I hope it’s delicious and warming and good for your soul, and I’d love to hear all about it!

Author

Rachel Mark

Rachel Mark joins the Tarrant Institute as a Professional Development Coordinator in the southern part of Vermont. Prior to working with TIIE, Rachel was a middle school literacy and social studies teacher at Tarrant partner school Manchester Elementary-Middle. As a teacher, Rachel loved exploring new content and new methods with inquisitive young adolescents. She thinks middle schools are the most dynamic learning centers in the state. Rachel is passionate about supporting teachers and helping them overcome obstacles; it’s her mission to break down the barriers that teachers face in implementing change. She is interested in student reflection and portfolio based assessment, inquiry and project-based learning When she's not reading, researching and supporting teachers, Rachel loves to play. She balances her life shuttling three busy kids around by getting sweaty and zen - yoga, exercise, and being outdoors are how she recharges her metaphorical batteries.

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