OISE Reads - 2023 Holiday Edition

Banner image for Holiday Reads 2023 including book covers

As the Fall 2023 semester wraps up here at OISE and across U of T, the OISE Library team is pleased to present our fifth annual Holiday Reads list! This year, the list highlights contributions from across the OISE community: students, staff, and faculty have come together to share what they will be reading and watching over the break.  

This year’s list was a pleasure to curate. We love seeing which books our OISE colleagues and friends are planning to read and which shows they are planning to watch! We hope the list provides some inspiration and that this holiday season brings everyone time to read, rest, and reflect on the successes of the year. We have provided links to U of T Libraries copies (where available) so that curious readers can get more information.  

We wish everyone a restful and peaceful holiday break. Happy reading! 


Book cover for Weapons of Math Destruction

After a busy first year at OISE, Dr. Erica Walker, OISE Dean and Professor, plans to re-read Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (2016). In this book, author Cathy O'Neil sounds the alarm on the negative impacts of mathematical modeling and challenges all of us to ask the critical and tough questions required to “uncover the truth, and demand change." Dr. Walker says: “I have been wanting to revisit some of these critical questions in light of generative AI and the implications for education, teaching, and learning — and the new problems and solutions created.”

Book cover for The Forgotten GardenMadelaine Panoulias, Director, Human Resources at OISE recommends The Forgotten Garden (2010) by Kate Morton. This epic book is an inter-generational saga set in Brisbane and Cornwall, that includes twists and turns and a satisfying reveal at the end. Madelaine says: “I found this to be a captivating and enjoyable work of historical fiction. And with over 500 pages, an excellent choice for those who need to pass the time while travelling over the holiday season."

Book cover for YellowfaceDesmond Wong, Outreach Librarian and Liaison Librarian for the Centre for Indigenous Studies at OISE, is reading Yellowface (2023) by R.F. Kuang this holiday! Desmond says: “I enjoy satirical books and I am excited to engage in a book that comes from my own community that will poke fun at some of the experiences that I have had as well. With my job, I don't get to read a lot of fiction, so this book will feel like an extra restful treat. Though I haven't read it yet, I have followed Kuang for a while on social media and I have enjoyed their insightful and often acerbic sense of humour so I am excited to read it in book form!"

Book cover for A Synthesizing MindYoonsuh Lee, an M.A. student in Curriculum and Pedagogy, is hoping to finish the book A Synthesizing Mind: A Memoir from the Creator of Multiple Intelligences Theory (2020) by Howard Gardner. Yoonsuh says she is looking forward to returning to this book because she is inspired by Gardner’s thinking—which Gardner identifies as a synthesizing mind. “I am intrigued to read about Gardner’s life's journey that has led him to the development of his Theory of Multiple Intelligences.”

Book cover for RuLenora Huỳnh, Master of Information student and Toronto Academic Libraries intern, plans to read Ru (2012) by Vietnamese-born Canadian author, Kim Thúy. In celebration of the newly released film and in honour of her Vietnamese refugee parents, Lenora is excited to learn more about her family’s journey from Sai Gòn to the Malaysian re-education camps, which later led them to Canada. Lenora shared that: “A professor of mine once suggested this book to me, as they knew I was interested in researching and writing about Vietnamese-Canadian history. I wasn’t able to bring myself to read it, until recently, another friend suggested that I must. Perhaps it is about time that I explored my own history."

Book cover for Decolonizing DesignLeah Scherk, Director of Space Planning & Management at OISE, is looking forward to having the time and quiet to finally sink into Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook (2023) by Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall. When Dr. Tunstall became Dean of Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), she described herself as “the first black and first black female Dean of design anywhere." Leah has had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Tunstall speak several times and “cannot wait to dive into her guidebook to learn and think more about this topic and how we can change our design practices.”

Book cover for All We Can SaveDr. Hilary Inwood, Instructor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning and Coordinator of OISE’s Sustainability & Climate Action Network, will be reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (2021). All We Can Save  is an anthology of essays, poems, and visual art from 60 women at the lead of the climate action movement. Dr. Inwood says: “Continuing to read this anthology is on my reading list for the holidays – I’m inspired by learning from the wisdom of sixty diverse women who are envisioning a new path to address the climate crisis rooted in compassion, connection, creativity and collaboration.”

Show cover for FargoAndrea Zdzylowski, Technology Adoption Consultant at OISE’s Education Commons, is excited to catch up on the newest seasons of Fargo on FX and Slow Horses on Apple TV. Andrea says: “These shows are nearly perfect, with fantastic acting and numerous cliffhanger endings that will leave me talking about them long after the winter break.”

Book cover for Trespassing Across AmericaRyan Lahti, Technology Adoption Consultant at OISE’s Education Commons, will be reading Trespassing Across America (2017) by Ken Ilgunas. Ryan says: “I’m excited about this book because I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction books that involve a long-distance hike, canoe, or wilderness adventure. This book is about hiking the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route and the effects the pipeline could have on climate change.” This title is not currently available through the U of T Libraries. However, it can be found through the author’s website.

Book cover for Mammoths at the GatesNat Johnson-Tyghter, M.I. student at the Faculty of Information and Graduate Student Library Assistant at the OISE Library, is excited to read Mammoths at the Gates (2023) by Nghi Vo. This is the fourth instalment in The Singing Hills Cycle. Nat says: “While I’m always a big fan of fantasy fiction, particularly stories set in non-Western European settings, The Singing Hills Cycle is a unique delight to me as an archivist. The series focuses on storytelling as memory-keeping and history-making, and the ways in which individual experiences can change memories, change stories, and as a result, change recorded histories. I’m looking forward to returning to Nghi Vo’s world this winter!” This title can be found through public libraries and the publisher’s website.

Book cover for Ada BlackjackTess Barclay, Executive Coordinator in the Office of the CAO will be reading Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic (2003). The book tells the story of Ada Blackjack, an Iñupiat woman who survived alone for two years on the uninhabited Wrangel Island, after the men she was travelling with perished. Tess picked this book up from a local bookshop while on a camping trip through southeast Alaska last summer, but she hasn't had a chance to sit down with it yet! Tess says, “I’m looking forward to reading this account about a woman who battled the elements to survive on an uninhabited island.”

Book cover for Finding MeAfter recently completing her candidacy (congrats Cherie!!) Cherie Daniel, a Ph.D. Candidate in Social Justice Education, is planning to read Finding Me (2023) by Viola Davis. Cherie says she is “excited to read the book because I appreciate Viola Davis as an actor/actress, I am interested in learning more about her story, and to read something non-academic for a bit of a break.”

Book cover for Game On!Jeananne Robertson, Assistant Director, Student Experience & Student Success Counsellor, will be digging into a couple titles over the break. First up is Game On! (2023), an anthology of short sci-fi/fantasy exploring games and gaming. Jeananne says she looks forward to “relaxing and unwinding over the holidays with these short stories that offer a break from reality as we know it and inviting my imagination to wander beyond the predictable and explore some creative perspectives on games and gaming – play is important!” Jeananne will also be reading Double Eagle (2023) by Thomas King. It is the 7th book in the DreadfulWater Mystery series and if you like murder mysteries, Jeananne recommends this series! She says she is “totally hooked, and I eagerly jump into each new DreadfulWater book as soon as it is published.” This title is available through public libraries and the publisher’s site.

Book cover for An Immense World Julia Duncan, Director of OISE’s Education Commons, is looking forward to reading Ed Yong’s book An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (2022). “As a lover of nature and every living organism, this book intrigued me by unveiling how others around us my feel and learn the world around us. And how they might be doing better than humans.”

Book cover for The Covenant of WaterOver the break, Helen Huang, OISE’s Chief Administrative Officer will be reading The Covenant of Water (2023), by physician and author Abraham Verghese. The novel tells the story of an Indian family in southwest India with an epic story that spans three generations, from 1900 to the 1970s. Helen is excited to immerse herself in the lives of the characters and “embrace all the love and belonging through heartaches and tragedies.”

Book cover for My Mother's BackDr. Njoki Wane, Professor and Chair in Social Justice Education at OISE, recommends her book, From My Mother’s Back:  A Journey from Kenya to Canada. She describes the book as an honest memoir, in which she “shares her own journey from her parents' small coffee farm in Kenya, where she helped her mother in the fields as a child, to her current work as a professor here at OISE.” Dr. Wane writes: “If we could take a moment and reflect on who we are as humans, we would be able to accomplish a lot in tackling racism in this country.” Dr. Wane’s book was featured on CBC’s Canada Reads 2022 longlist.

Book cover for Moon of the Turning LeavesToronto Academic Library Inter and M.I. student at the Faculty of Informationn, Nicole Slattery, plans on reading Little Weirds (2019) by Jenny Slate and Moon of the Turning Leaves (2023) by Waubgeshig Rice. Nicole saw Waubgeshig speak about his new book this fall at the Toronto Reference Library and has had it on her bedside table ever since! She says she is "very excited to have the chance to sit down with it. This is a sequel to his book Moon of the Crusted Snow which follows a small northern Anishinaabe community as they struggle to maintain order, and return to tradition to survive through a looming apocalypse." Nicole has heard that Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds is "a strange, rambling and wonderful book of essays full of vulnerability, heartbreak, loneliness, love and reflectios on growing older." Nicole is also very excited to sit down with it this holiday break. 

Book cover for TrustOver the holidays, Emily Hector, Liaison Librarian at the OISE Library, is excited to finally read Trust (2022), by Hernan Diaz, which won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. “It seems like everyone was talking about this book, and I’m late to the party! But better late than never, right? I must confess I don’t really know much about it – New York in the 1920s, I think – but I’ve heard it has a unique and surprising narrative form, and that’s enough to hook me!"

Book cover for Pollution is ColonialismJenaya Webb, Director of the OISE Library, is planning to finish a book she started earlier this year titled Pollution is Colonialism (2021), by Max Liboiron. Jenaya says: “I’ve read the first chapter and I already know this book is going to shape my own research and practice.” Jenaya is also planning to spend time reading with her young nieces over the break. One book they’ll read together is Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian! The book’s tag line is: “Saving the world with the right book at the right time!”

Thank you to all the contributors to this year’s list for taking the time to tell us about the books you love and the books that you hope to love by the end of the holidays.

A special thank you to Lenora Huỳnh, graduate student intern at the OISE Library, who assisted with the curation and design of the list. If you have any questions about accessing the titles above or borrowing from the University of Toronto Libraries, please reach out to the OISE Library at oise.library@utoronto.ca