Books #64, 65 and 66 were the last three in Gary Paulsen's series about Brian, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, and Brian's Hunt. I enjoyed this series very much, and I think my students will too, now that we've finished reading the first one together. "He had forgotten the most important thing about living in the wilderness, the one thing he'd thought he would never forget - expect the unexpected." In one of the books, Paulsen has an author's note where he explains some of his own experience in living and surviving in the wild, and reading that helped me understand how vivid his descriptions are, both of Brian's surroundings and of his sensations, physical and emotional.
Book #68 was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor. This is the very heavy, sad story of the Logans, a sharecropping family in Mississippi in the 1930s. It goes well with a book I read recently, The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. (I wrote about that book here.) Because of reading Wilkerson's book, I didn't take any of the Logans' experiences as fictional. They were so real, so typical of the way African-Americans lived at the time, with a maddening lack of justice and agency, as possible victims of whatever white person might happen to come along. It's not that I wasn't aware of these realities before reading The Warmth of Other Suns, but that book added context and depth and emotion.
Book #69 was Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. I liked this book (it was the second or third time I'd read it), but I'm not sure it's a great choice for eighth graders. From the crush on a much older man to the lactation-related resolution, this seems more appropriate for someone with a little more life experience, like, maybe, my age. I didn't pick it, but I'm going to teach it. I'll let you know how it goes.
Book #70 was The Mirror and the Light, the third in Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's secretary/fixer/victim. I wrote about the first two here after I read them in 2013. This was absorbing and kept me reading even though I knew exactly the tragic way it would end. ("Sometimes it is years before we can see who are the heroes in an affair and who are the victims.")
Book #71 was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I read this first when I was ten years old, then again (at least once) as a teenager, then again a few years ago when I taught it to the seventh grade (they begged for it because the movie was coming out). It didn't go very well in seventh grade; I had forgotten how static and full of philosophy it is. I'm going to teach it to the sixth grade now (again, not my choice). But oh, it's so good. I sobbed through the last chapter. If anything, the book has even more power over me than it did over my fifth grade self.