For this summer of 2024, we are continuing two annual traditions: offering a summer book club and sharing our UVEI faculty & staff summer reading list.


Summer 2024 Book Club

We invite our community to join us in reading and discussing School Communities of Strength: Strategies for Educating Children Living in Deep Poverty, by Peter Cookson. Discussions will follow a loose protocol and will take place every Tuesday, 9-10 am, from July 2 through August 6. Join in person or on Zoom, for any or all of the discussions. Email to participate.


Summer 2024 Reading List and Book Recommendations

This year we are each sharing one book recommendation and one book that we are planning to read. Please feel free to contact any of us via email if you have thoughts on any of these books.


Adam Norwood

Recommendation: The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories by Anthony Marra. This book was on my summer reading list from this past summer but I didn’t get around to reading it until recently. It’s a series of short stories that are cleverly woven together and take place within the Soviet Union. Uplifting? No, but some very interesting writing with unexpected intersections along the way.


Planning to read: The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World by Patrik Svensson. This book comes recommended by my son who is reading it for the 2nd time. Who knew that eels were so cool?


Chris Ward:

Recommendation: Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds by Dorothy Holland et al. This is an amazing book that helped form my thinking of how people make meaning and understand themselves as they participate in specific cultural practices. The book uses specific cases (such as developing an identity through participating in Alcoholics Anonymous) to illustrate how culture and agency interact to develop people’s identities.  


Planning to read: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. My daughter and I just started reading the first of four books in this series. So far it’s very mysterious! And the characters are funny and clever. We’re looking forward to getting to it!


Elijah Hawkes

Recommendation: James: A Novel, by Percival Everett. I’m about halfway through this novel now and I recommend it!  It is the story that most of us know as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, told through the eyes, heart, mind, dreams (the dreams are fascinating!) of the man Huck calls Jim and who calls himself James. If I was still teaching HS English, this would definitely be on a syllabus.  


Planning to read: Publicization: How Public and Private Interests Can Reinvent Education for the Common Good by Jonathan Gyurko.  I heard about it on the “Have You Heard” podcast.  Based on what I heard from the author, I think I’ll encounter some new ideas.  Not sure if I’ll agree with them all, but I’m looking forward to it because of this essential question in the publisher’s blurb: “How public are America’s public schools?”


Kristen Liu

Recommendation: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. This is my favorite book that I read this past year. I laughed, I cried, and when I finished reading, I felt like I had just been hugged by a giant blanket. Set in our universe, with the addition of magic and witches, Mika, the main character, tutors three young witches and learns about herself. It was very uplifting and just a lovely cozy read.


Planning to read: Unearthing Joy by Gholdy Muhammad. This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, as Cultivating Genius is one of the foundational texts of the year one literacy program, and I find Dr. Muhammad incredibly inspiring. 


Marie McCormick

Recommendation: This is three recommendations in one: the Lady Astronaut series (The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky, The Relentless Moon) by Mary Robinette Kowal. This is an alternate history series, focused on the progress of space flight in the aftermath of a meteor strike on Washington DC. Taking place in the 50’s and 60’s, characters grapple with sexism and racism, and political turmoil that is not entirely unlike things we are dealing with today. Definitely read them in order -these are hard to put down!


Planning to read: I’m cheating a little bit because this is a book I have already started: Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America by Angie Schmitt. This book takes a deep look at the area of road design and urban planning and the impact that our car-centric decisions have on vulnerable populations. As a member of the City of Lebanon’s Pedestrian & Bicyclist Advisory Committee, I am finding a lot to think about and question, even here in the more rural Upper Valley.


Monica Nachemja-Bunton

Recommendation: Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. This is the newest novel by Celeste Ng, which I was anxious to read after reading her other two (Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere). This story asks the reader to imagine what could happen if members of a society choose “safety and security” which privileges one group over others, in this case Chinese Americans. It is deeply disturbing, told through the eyes of a 12 year old, but leaves us with a sense of hope and inspiration about how we can come together to make change and prevent such injustices from occurring in the first place. 


Planning to read: Inciting Joy by Ross Gay. One of my best friends recommended this book to me last summer, and it has been sitting on my shelf since I bought it after seeing Ross Gay speak in October. I’m really interested to see how this book enters into conversation with Muhammad’s Unearthing Joy (see Kristen Liu’s recommendation above), and honestly would LOVE to see Gay and Muhammad in an actual conversation. I’m interested to see how this book expands by conceptualization of joy, and how we move into joy in classrooms, schools, at UVEI. and in our own lives. This feels especially pressing given how difficult being in education is right now, and how many of us are dealing with multiple dimensions of grief every day. 


Page Tompkins

Recommendation: Improvement in Action: Advancing Quality in America’s Schools by Anthony Bryk. In his follow up to Learning to Improve, Bryk uses stories of schools and organizations to illustrate how educators have effectively applied the principles of continuous improvement in practice. I’m fond of saying that “initiatives” are bad, and that schools should instead normalize continuous, incremental improvement. This often elicits looks of incredulity. This book reinforces for me that it is possible, effective, and less taxing to approach improvement this way, and it inspired me to keep pressing in this direction.


Planning to read: Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River by John Maclean. History, stories behind some of my favorite fiction, western rivers, and fly fishing… What else could I ask for?