Book #47 of the year was As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner. This is a historical novel about the Spanish Flu pandemic of a century ago. I enjoyed the book, though it asks the reader to accept a pretty big coincidence at the center of the plot. Well, coincidences do happen. I always like stories about people healing from trauma, and I think ultimately that is what this story is about.
Book #48 was The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller. I loved this post-apocalyptic, post-pandemic novel even though it is violent and profane to a degree I don't usually choose. But it's so very well-written and puts you right there in this heartbreaking, destroyed world. And it is full of birds and poetry. I loved it so much that as soon as I finished it, I went looking for more by this author, and book #49 was his 2019 book The River. In this one the crisis is more localized and not quite as dramatic, but still plenty dramatic. Again, lots of violence. Again, many little perfectly-described bird sightings. Again, outdoors and survival and being pushed to the very limit. And more poetry! Here's a little snippet: "Last night's freeze had taken care of the mosquitoes. Wynn heard the knock of stone as Jack moved outside, and he also heard the slow creek making the faintest ripple. He thought of the Merwin poem about dusk that he loved so much. Merwin describes the sun going down believing in nothing, and how he hears the stream running after it: It has brought its flute it is a long way. It killed him. The one and only sun without belief in anything and the little stream believing so hard, believing in music even. What he loved about poetry: it could do in a few seconds what a novel did in days. A painting could be like that, too, and a sculpture. But sometimes you wanted something to take days and days." I've got more by Heller on hold at the library. Hope it takes days and days to read.
Book #50 was Sky in the Deep, by Adrienne Young. This is a YA title set in a Viking-like world where Eelyn is a teen-aged warrior. Very violent, this book is nevertheless a gripping story of family and clan and being at home.
Book #51 was A Vow So Bold and Deadly, by Brigid Kemmerer, the third in the Cursebreaker series, a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I read the first two books in December and January, and I've been waiting (none too patiently) ever since for my hold on the third one to come through from the library. I liked the third installment, especially the insights into what it's like to lead, not just to be in charge but to manage people, with all their expectations and needs.
Book #52 was a teaching book and a reread (for the third time - here's what I wrote about it in 2011), The 9 Rights of Every Writer: A Guide for Teachers, by Vicki Spandel. This is a great book for teachers. I really love the way it refocuses what exactly we're trying to do when we teach writing. I especially enjoyed the chapter on why we shouldn't teach formulas for writing. Some curriculum teaches writing that way and I just hate it. No, good writing is never formulaic. "I know the argument: formula is better than no organization at all," writes Spandel. "This is like saying that thinking in a confused way is better than not thinking at all. Is it? Formulaic writing will take our young writers to the upper limits of mediocrity. . . . We cannot possibly create enough formulas to fit every situation. Nor should we. The very presentation of a formula or outline suggests a belief that writing is simple and reductive, when we ought to be teaching just the opposite. We ought to tell students the truth: that writing is complex, and that every single writing situation is different, and must be thought through as carefully and sensitively as a conversation with someone one has never met but would like to have for a friend." This last section is underlined in my copy and my handwriting in the margin says "Yes!" To the extent that I have ever allowed myself to be drawn into this whole horrid formula nonsense (and, in my defense, it wasn't all the way), I repent and make a new commitment not to do it again!