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The Winter Reading Issue — 2021

By

JIM DUVAL | REV. DIANE SULLIVAN
  • Jim Duval | Rev. Diane Sullivan

In the introduction the 2020 Winter Reading Issue, I opined that winter is the best time of year to cozy up with a good book. I know, I know: That's not exactly a hot take. But the point was to suggest that finding comfort or escape in the pages of a good book would be key to getting through the early months of 2021 "as we collectively hunker down, wait our turns for the coronavirus vaccines and for warmer, hopefully pandemic-free days ahead," as I wrote.

Not to kick off the 2021 Winter Reading Issue on a major downer, but I could probably just cut and paste those lines into this year's intro and call it a day. As we stare down the barrel of another pandemic winter, I'm regularly experiencing déjà vu. Rising COVID-19 case numbers fueled by dastardly new variants and dummies who refuse to take the virus seriously are enough to make you root for an alien invasion, if only for the distraction.

Fortunately, we don't need to be subjugated by a superior race of nonhuman overlords to experience an otherworldly diversion. The centerpiece of this year's issue is a slice of comedic science fiction by local author Aimee Picchi that imagines a bumbling crew of interstellar invaders descending on a city that bears a striking resemblance to Burlington. The short story is clever and timely — and I promise you'll never look at your cat the same way again.

If Picchi's tale has you itching for space operas, check out Andrew Liptak's profile of sci-fi author Craig Alanson. That's the pen name of Craig Odell, a South Hero man who found success in the self-publishing world after he couldn't get a book deal.

Seven Days associate editor and YA author Margot Harrison does have a book deal. But even with the backing of a publisher, she still has to promote herself, including on social media. In an entertaining and sometimes self-deprecating essay, she reveals how she learned to let go and love BookTok.

Harrison also penned a lively review of Emily's House, a new novel by Upper Valley author Amy Belding Brown about Margaret Maher, a woman who played a key role in discovering Emily Dickinson's poems.

Maybe because writers have been cooped up for most of the past 21 months, 2021 was a great year for books. Our critics chose a handful of their favorite books of the year by Vermont poets and authors.

Speaking of poetry, it wouldn't be a Winter Reading Issue without some snowy verses from Vermont poet Leath Tonino.

Groundbreaking Vermont educator Tal Birdsey published a new book in October. Alison Novak interviewed him about Hearts of the Mountain: Adolescents, a Teacher, and a Living School, which chronicles a year at the North Branch School, the independent middle school he cofounded in Ripton (page 50).

Finally, nothing pairs with a good book like good food — well, except maybe good wine. Jordan Barry surveyed local chefs about their favorite literary meals. And Melissa Pasanen interviewed Calais author Rowan Jacobsen about his new book Truffle Hound: On the Trail of the World's Most Seductive Scent, With Dreamers, Schemers, and Some Extraordinary Dogs.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Cover to Cover | Welcome to the Winter Reading Issue"