Valley library directors and staff shared some of their favorite new books published since 2023, in “Summer Reading in the Mad River Valley” – a video segment that can be found on MRVTV’s website.





Joslin Memorial Library program director Shevonne Travers recommended “Birding to Change the World” – a memoir written by Trish O’Kane that explores what birds can teach people about social change and protecting the environment.

O’Kane, who currently teaches in the Environmental Program at the University of Vermont, worked as an investigative journalist for two decades, until her New Orleans home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. After moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to pursue a PhD in Environmental Studies, O’Kane becomes obsessed with birds, spending her time bird-watching in Madison’s Warner Park – a biodiverse municipal park near Lake Mendota. When the park became threatened by a development project, O’Kane and her neighbors organized to stop it.

Warren Public Library director Marie Schmukal recommended the novel “James” by Percival Everett – a reimagining of Mark Twain’s 1884 novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The story is told from the perspective of Jim, an adult who flees slavery and travels with Finn in the original novel. Schmukal said she listened to an audio version of the book and enjoyed the narrator’s performance, with changes in tone and rhythm, and the presence of code-switching, or adjusting one’s language and behavior to fit into an environment, which has long been a strategy of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (POC) individuals in navigating interracial interactions. 




Schmukal also recommended the thriller novel “What Happened to Nina?” by Dervia McTiernan. Set in the Mad River Valley and Stowe, the story delves into the aftermath of a young woman’s disappearance, with her boyfriend framed as a suspect. Schmukal said the book juxtaposes the power and wealth of the two families in how they respond to Nina’s disappearance – with her boyfriend’s family drawing on their wealth to construct a narrative of what transpired.

Moretown Memorial Library director Cory Stephenson suggested “Hula” – a novel by Jasmin Iolani Hakes. The main character Hi’i, who is proud to come from a family known for its contributions to hula in her hometown of Hilo, Hawaii, finds there’s a lot she doesn’t understand about her family, never having met her grandmother or father. Stephenson said the book is a family’s story set against a larger background of a community struggling to survive, with the author offering “a unique perspective on the indigenous culture of the island, and the continuing scars and divisions from the arrival of the United States government.”  

“Plus,” Stephenson said, “the imagery of Hawaii is beautiful this time of year.”

Other book recommendations included the historical novel “The Frozen River,” inspired by American midwife Martha Ballard’s journals, which detail colonial life in 18th century Maine, and “The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth” by Zoe Schlanger – a popular science book that highlights recent research on plant intelligence. Schmukal also reviewed “The Rom-Commers” by Katherine Center – a “fun, light, fluffy, sit-by-the-river read,” she said.