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UVA’s Recommended Holiday Reads: Part 2

Written by Sarah Lawson, Assistant Director, Virginia Center for the Book

Whether you’re looking to curl up with a tome or need last-minute holiday gifts, recent and forthcoming books by UVa faculty and alumni promise something for everyone. What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to meet these authors at the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book, March 22-26. Keep reading for a selection of the Festival’s recommended reads by UVA writers.


Already making headlines as a bestseller and major motion picture, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by alumna Margot Shetterly explores the phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations fueled some of America’s greatest achievements in space. It’s an inspiring and feel-good read for the holidays, complete with a Young Reader’s Edition.


If you have a soft spot for historic fiction, Festival headliner Christina Baker Kline promises to please. Since receiving her MFA from UVA, Kline has written and edited more than ten books, including bestselling Orphan Train. Her forthcoming novel, A Piece of the World, is a stunning story of friendship, inspired by an iconic Andrew Wyeth’s painting. It doesn’t publish until February, but it’s available for pre-order and Orphan Train can keep you busy while you wait.


Nine Island by Creative Writing director Jane Alison is another excellent choice in fiction, offering an intimate peek into the life of a woman, her cat, and a lifetime of mishaps when it comes to romantic love. The result is uniquely philosophical and darkly humorous.


The debut novel by alumna Elizabeth PolinerAs Close to Us As Breathing, explores the effects of one summer on a tightly knit family. It’s another great pick for readers interested in thoughtful meditations on love and tragedy.

Tackling similar themes through the lens of memoir, Vista Del Mar: A Memoir of the Ordinary by alumnus Neal Snidow juxtaposes black-and-white photography with the author’s meditations on family.


For readers of young adult fiction, the latest book by alumna Maria Padian, Wrecked, is a must. School Library Journal says, “This isn’t just a book that all young men and women should read; it’s gripping and human enough that many will want to.”



Poets and those who enjoy the form would do well to dive into the work of English professors Debra Nystrom and Lisa Russ Spaar. Nystrom’s Night Sky Frequencies and Selected Poems conjures sweeping landscapes within its pages, while Spaar’s latest, Orexia: Poems, delves into more sensual longings.



Nonfiction readers will enjoy the Festival’s diverse selection of nonfiction offerings. Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination by Media Studies assistant professor Jack Hamilton uses rock stars to illustrate how racial and musical ideologies inform one another.


Another nonfiction standout is 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence by alumnus Howard Means, which tells the story of this iconic American moment through oral histories.


Other nonfiction reading from the 2017 Festival include New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South by History associate professor Claudrena Harold; City Power: Urban Governance in a Global Age by Law professor Richard Schragger; Failure & Hope: Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced by Batten School associate professor Christine Mahoney; Between Samaritans and States: The Political Ethics of Humanitarian INGOs by Politics associate professor Jennifer Rubenstein; Lived Theology: New Perspectives on Method, Style, and Pedagogy by Religious Studies professor Charles Marsh; and, Shantytown USA: Forgotten Landscapes of the Working Poor by Institute for Public History director Lisa Goff.


To browse other participating speakers for the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book, visit The 2017 Festival schedule will be announced in mid-January.