Winter Break Reading & Listening: 2022 Edition
It’s that time again! One of our favorite times of the year around here: our annual Winter Reading post. This year, for your listening pleasure, a few of us have also included podcast recommendations! Oh, and as an extra special surprise, we have guest contributions from a few former colleagues! So without further ado, may we present our lists…
I love to read, and that’s no secret. But what I have recently realized is that I love the actual hunt for discovering the right book. As we head into this winter, I think I have really nailed it in finding some “right books” for me.
At the top of my stack is Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. This novel sounds like an endearing story about a female chemist in the 1960’s whose trajectory takes an unexpected turn. Its description as “funny” and “feminist” has made me eye it for months. In fact, I received two copies of it from separate gift givers for my recent birthday. That hasn’t happened since I unwrapped six copies of Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume for my 12th birthday, so it must be a solid choice.
Another fictional pick is on my list is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A novel by Gabrielle Zevin. I must admit it was the beautiful and creative cover art that drew me to this book. But the story involves an intersection of love, success and video game design that sounds fascinating. Indie Bound gives it “rave” reviews. I can’t wait to crack its cover.
To satisfy my professional side, I plan to read Leaders of Their Learning: Transforming Schools Through Student-Engaged Assessment by Ron Berger, Leah Rugen, and Libby Woodfin. In part, I’m reading this book to become more attuned and aligned with a specific school district’s work and goals. But it’s compelling to me for other reasons. This book will contribute to my long-term passion project around empowering and engaging students. Its particular attention to student-led conferences, passage presentations with portfolios, and standards-based grading will be relevant and will deep my own learning.
The latest book by Maira Kalman, Women Holding Things, is also on my to-read list this winter. This is not your average book. It contains extraordinary and whimsical illustrations, paired with witty and wise words. I think this book speaks intimately to me. Kalman writes, “What do women hold? The home and the family. And the children and the food. The friendships. The work. The work of the world. And the work of being human. The memories. And the troubles. And the sorrows and the triumphs. And the love.” If you’ve never read Maira Kalman or looked at her artwork, I highly recommend that you do. Her book And the Pursuit of Happiness is one of my favorites. Happy Reading!
I write this in the throes of World Cup fever. My love of the beautiful game (soccer) is only matched by my appreciation of a good book. Throw in middle school and equity and I’m hopelessly hooked. I was long ago devoted to Front Desk series, and yet the fourth installment, Key Player, had me particularly excited. Hearing author Kelly Yang recount the famous match at the Rose Bowl between the United States Women’s National Team and the Chinese team was so fun. And then learning that this book was just as autobiographical as the others was simply amazing.
I’m currently reading Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by sister scholars Karen E. Fields (historian) and Barbara J. Fields (sociologist). The book is a collection of essays that are chock full of brilliant scholarship and exquisite writing. They challenge some of my ideas about how identity operates, about how and why anti-Black racism arose in America, and about whether ideology is about belief or, as they argue, is grounded in day to day practices. It’s good to be challenged and I look forward to reading their recommendations for action.
As I get ready to grow my To Be Read pile here at the end of the calendar year, I need to circle back to some of the books that have been in that stack throughout 2022. One of my kids pulled Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor off the bookshelf the other day to use to prop up the book she was reading. An acclaimed book by one of my favorite authors, that I had forgotten that I own? Perfect! Thank you, universe.
I’ve been working with schools in the Northeast Kingdom this year, which has made for some lengthy and very pretty drives. Here are my favorite podcasts depending on mood:
- For deep learning about race and whiteness, the Seeing White season of Scene on Radio was a life changer for me, while Teaching While White has taught me a ton and continues to put out new compelling episodes.
- For inspiration and insights about life, apparently podcasts featuring sisters are my thing. I enjoy How to Survive the End of the World with adrienne maree brown and Autumn Brown; and We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle who along with amazing guests often invites sis Amanda Doyle and wife Abby Wambach.
- For amazing journalism about crucial topics, my go tos are Reveal for investigative reporting and Throughline for historical context on contemporary issues.
- For story telling you can’t beat Snap Judgment and it’s scary story spinoff, Spooked.
- For Vermont-centric stories that are as good as anything out there, Rumble Strip is illuminating and mesmerizing while Brave Little State is a treasure. The special series Homegoings, focused on Black musicians in Vermont, is especially powerful.
I’m not always in the mood for a podcast, though. There’s live radio, music, or just sitting in silence with my thoughts. However you like to exist, I hope you get plenty of it this winter.
I confess: I’ve been quite swept away with reality TV these days. I seem to go through phases, and currently I’m not in a book phase. Actually, that’s not quite true. As a doctoral student, I’m doing a lot of reading. But it’s not the wind-down-take-it-easy kind of reading. It’s you-better-have-a-dictionary-and-deep-focus kind. Hence the current Survivor obsession. But given that stacks of books are the key element in my home design aesthetic, there are plenty around, and a few titles that have drawn me in lately.
When it does come time to snuggle up with a book, I am prepared. Not only do I have books, but I have a puppy to snuggle with. As such, Herbs for Pets is on my reading list, as well as Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, recommended and loaned to me by my friend Samantha. I also optimistically checked out a stack of books from the library as well. I’m really excited to dive into this stack, which includes The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley, and All Adults Here by Emma Straub.
Finally, because nonfiction is my jam, I’ve also got The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh and Warriors of the Word: The World of the Scottish Highlanders by Michael Newton both queued up. And, because Life can’t stop talking about it, Racecraft will be added to the stack! Phew! I better turn off the TV!
As for listening, the pandemic really crushed the commuting time during which I listened to podcasts. But I still manage to stay caught up with a few. Current favorites include Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt’s Hot Take, which keeps me current on the unfolding climate crisis with some amazing dad jokes thrown in – keeping it light, folks. When I’m up for more unsettling, I listen to Ayana Johnson’s For the Wild: An Anthology of the Anthropocene, which blends sweet music with interviews of visionary activists and changemakers. Lately though, I’ve been feeling saturated, and choose music instead. (Hello, Taylor Swift.)
I was gobsmacked by the brilliance of this book: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. It was a bit slow moving at first, but the writing is so gorgeous, lyrical, and descriptive, I’m glad I stuck with it. By the end, I was exclaiming to the woods, my cat, how these stories and worlds came together, through decades, gloriously human and beloved characters, connected to this earth, a story, and each other. I just can’t believe it. If you would have asked me if I was interested in Ancient Greek texts I’d say nope. But this? A book that is dedicated to librarians, present and future? It pulled me along and then sailed me through the last 200 pages like a fast boat ride. Books connecting people, saving people, transforming people. So much love and humanity in this. If you have read it, my goodness! Would love to hear what you thought.
Shout out to Aggie in the background. Best reading partner!
I’ve got a cozy stack of books awaiting the first snowy days, and one I’ve already begun that I’m loving. Let’s start with that one.
Ruha Benjamin was such an amazing speaker that the Rowland Foundation invited her to be the keynote at their annual conference not once, but TWICE! Her latest book, Viral Justice, is just like her keynotes: warm, personal, and beautiful but also insightful, inspiring, and revolutionary. She weaves together research, policy, science, and her own story — encouraging us to make small changes that will coalesce to make the world more just and humane for everyone. I’ve been listening to this one on audio (read by the author!) but had to have a print copy to annotate and underline. Plus – the cover!!!
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu was recommended (and loaned) to me by my friend Rhiannon. Pausing here to say I just love reading books recommended by dear friends — I love the shared experience of a book and the many conversations that follow — it’s a kind of kinship that brings me so much joy! Interior Chinatown is a satirical look at race and assimilation. It’s the perfect follow-up to the book I’m currently reading: Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts, where assimilation is policed by a patriotic America that has no tolerance for difference.
I’ve got a memoir in the stack, too: Deborah Copaken’s Ladyparts. This one comes to me via my friend Emily who assures me that it is both hilariously funny and powerfully feminist (just like Emily!).
And then there is Inciting Joy! Ross Gay is a poet, but his book of essays, The Book of Delights, is one of my most favorite books ever. In it, he conjures delight from the most mundane things: the roots of trees, pick-up basketball games, two people carrying a shopping bag together — 1 handle each. His essays, like his poems, stir deep gratitude in me and remind me to savor small things.
Here is wishing you joy this winter — in your reading, your gathering, and your resting.
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