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Winter Break Wolfpack Reads

Exterior photos of the James B. Hunt Library on Centennial Campus. Photo by Marc Hall

Feeling like you really need to escape over winter break but still not ready to venture out into the pandemic pandemonium? A great book can take you on the adventure of a lifetime without leaving your comfy couch. The Office for Faculty Excellence (OFE) and DELTA are here for you to provide staff recommendations of books to add some variety to your break.

While there are many book lists available online to help you choose a good read, there is just something special about a recommendation from a colleague that might assist you in finding the right book for you. Someone who lives and works in your local area often can provide a narrower framework of recommendations that are more relevant than the generic booklists found online.

We relied upon the #books and #facultysupport groups on the DELTA Slack channel app to gather the recommendations for this list and discovered that if you are an avid reader, this is the place to be. And, you may pick up other helpful ideas in the #books group like the one from Executive Team Assistant Janna Martin. Her bookshelves were overflowing, so she decided to bring some of them into CTE 230 and create a little free library area for her DELTA co-workers.

Winter break can also be a great time to get a jumpstart on your spring to-do list. You can knock off a few items like reading your Reading Circle book of choice. If you are not familiar with Reading Circles, they are small, self-regulated groups of faculty members who meet synchronously to discuss a common book. These groups provide a platform for sharing ideas with colleagues across disciplines who are at varied stages of their careers. Registration is announced (fall and spring) in the OFE Newsletter, which you can receive as a subscription.

Fun Reading Recommendations


By Madeline Miller

“Since I studied a lot of Greek Mythology while attending University, this is one of my favorite books which I read this year. It is a take on Greek Mythology but specifically about the Odyssey from the witch Circe’s perspective. I really enjoyed it as both a coming of age/finding yourself type of novel and for the feminist take on one of the oldest classics of all time. And, you don’t need to know the Odyssey for this to be a good read.”

Janna Martin, Executive Team Assistant, DELTA 

The Book Thief 

By Markus Zusak

“Although it states in the description that this book is “for teens”, the setting, time period, and twists in narration are spellbinding. This is a wonderfully easy read that touches your soul.”

Star Moretz, Instructional Designer, OFE

Book Description: As for me, I had already made the most elementary of mistakes. I can’t explain to you the severity of my self-disappointment. Originally, I’d done everything right: I studied the blinding, white-snow sky who stood at the window of the moving train. I practically inhaled it, but still, I wavered. I buckled—I became interested. In the girl. Curiosity got the better of me, and I resigned myself to stay as long as my schedule allowed, and I watched. Twenty-three minutes later, when the train was stopped, I climbed out with them. A small soul was in my arms. I stood a little to the right. The dynamic train guard duo made their way back to the mother, the girl, and the small male corpse. I clearly remember that my breath was loud that day. I’m surprised the guards didn’t notice me as they walked by. The world was sagging now, under the weight of all that snow. Perhaps ten meters to my left, the pale, empty-stomached girl was standing, frost-stricken. Her mouth jittered. Her cold arms were folded. Tears were frozen to the book thief’s face.

Turtles All the Way Down 

By John Green

“This is one book I’ve read recently that affected me powerfully. This is partly because I related so well to Aza, the protagonist, who works hard to be out there engaging with her world while also managing a significant anxiety disorder. It’s clear that John Green understands and has great empathy for the internal narratives that are a constant companion for many folks living with anxiety or with obsessive thinking, and it felt good to me, as someone who also lives with a version of that, to see those thought patterns rendered with such nuance. But what also pulled me in were the friendships and relationships among Aza and the other characters in the book. The way that Green tells their stories was a vivid reminder to me, especially in the context of the isolation and disconnection of the pandemic, that even though they are at times challenging or even painful, human connections are always worth it, and that when we reach out to others, it’s wise to do so with respect for each person’s vulnerabilities and challenges and with admiration for their unique strengths, even (or perhaps especially) when we are struggling ourselves”

Katherine E. Stewart, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs

Klara And The Sun 

By Kazuo Ishiguro

“With people like Mark Zuckerburg talking about unimaginable places like the Metaverse, this book is very timely. It had me questioning how ‘human’ a robot with advanced artificial intelligence could be and how robot-like humans might become. Kazou Ishiguro, a Nobel-Prize winning British author of Japanese descent, tells this story through the eyes of an Artificial Friend (AF) Klara. It takes awhile to get used to the robotic narration, but is worth the effort for the underlying story. I read this with my neighborhood book club and a fellow member made the most interesting observation. She said, ‘Hmmmm, a poignant Japanese author telling a tale about an American invention that is unleashed into the world – underlying warning about what we should learn from past mistakes like Hiroshima?’ This book made for an excellent discussion about many topics including technology and motherhood.”

Helen Velk, Communications Specialist, DELTA 

A Darker Shade of Magic 

By V.E. Schwab

“This is another book I really enjoyed this year. It explores a fantasy world where a magician can travel between alternate universes of London during the 18th century. One is referred to asRed, Grey, White’ and the other is ‘Once upon a time, Black. The magician travels between them as both a diplomat and smuggler. When one of his deals goes awry, it sets off a chain of events that breaks the boundaries of each world and threatens all three versions of the London universes.”

Janna Martin, Executive Team Assistant, DELTA

Mike Nichols: A Life 

By Mark Harris

“Mark Harris’ 2021 biography of director/producer/comedian Mike Nichols charts the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner’s journey through, and influence on, American comedy, movies, theater, and television in the second half of the 20th century. Nichols worked during periods of rapid change in all four mediums, from his groundbreaking improv comedy partnership with Elaine May, his influential work as theater director (including a long association with Neil Simon), his decades-long success as a Hollywood film director beginning with Oscar-nominated films Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, and even, towards the end of his career, directing television movies for HBO during a period of time where that channel was setting benchmarks for what we now call “prestige TV.” Because of this, the book is as informative about the development of method acting, the history of improv comedy, New Hollywood, and a variety of other topics as it is about Nichols himself. Harris’ prose is highly readable and weaves in candid quotations from dozens of Nichols’ famous friends and collaborators, such as Meryl Streep and Stephen Sondheim.”

Jonathan Holloway, Program Director, OFE

No Cure for Being Human 

By Kate Bowler

“In her book, Kate explores our collective, terminal condition of being human. Kate recounts her experience of being diagnosed at 35 with stage 4 cancer and she gently, but firmly, takes to task using platitudes such as ‘Everything Happens for a Reason.’ Kate mines for a different and deeper way to make sense of tragic events that befall us and our loved ones. While reading her book, I alternated between laughing and crying and even did both simultaneously. Your heart may break open, reading Kate’s story, but I promise you that this book will nurture your soul and remind you what matters most.”

Stacy Gant, Interim Senior Director, DELTA

Self-Help Reading Recommendations

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters 

By Priya Parker

 “This is a great book for anyone who runs any kind of gathering, from a work meeting, to an event or conference, to a dinner party, and beyond. I’m reading it from a work perspective for the teams I’m on and meetings I am responsible for running. It includes tons of examples from both professional and personal settings, and really prompts the reader to reconsider the purpose of their meetings and how the meeting will be facilitated. We have lots of meetings and events here at DELTA, and this book would benefit anyone who is involved in the planning or facilitation of those meetings, especially those who are looking for a way to make their meetings more meaningful, engaging, and impactful. As a bonus, I am now well prepared for any dinner party or social gathering I may host in the future too! ”

Caitlin McKeown, Instructional Designer, DELTA